A study by the Journal of Religion & Society (2005) concluded: “Higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies... Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional.”
The Cambridge Companion to Atheism came up with similar findings. High levels of atheism are strongly connected with high levels of societal health: low homicide, poverty, infant mortality and illiteracy rates, high levels of educational attainment, per capita income and gender equality.
In a 1999 study, George Barna, found the percentage of people who have divorced as follows:
Jews = 30%
Born Again Christians = 27%
Mainstream Christians = 24%
Atheists/agnostics = 21%
Ron Barrier, Spokesperson for American Atheists commented: "These findings confirm what I have been saying these last five years... It stands to reason that our families would be dedicated more to each other than to some invisible monitor in the sky. With Atheism, women and men are equally responsible for a healthy marriage... Atheists reject, and rightly so, the primitive patriarchal attitudes so prevalent in many religions with respect to marriage."
James Veverka, in "The moral hypocrisy of the Bible Belt," remarked: "We hear an awful lot from conservatives in the Bible Belt and on the TV about how we all should be living. Certainly a culture that teaches the conservative religious values of the Christian right must have clean living written all over it... It doesn't. Far from it... Joining its history of Biblically correct bigotry and discrimination, it is an area with the highest divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates in the nation. As a region, the Bible Belt has the poorest health care systems and the lowest rates of high school graduation."
Sex and religion:
James A. Haught: “Western religions have spent millenia inflicting shame, guilt, repression and punishment upon human sexuality... The West presents... a long chronicle of religious hostility to lovers -- for no rational reason... Every censorship effort, every attempt at sexual repression, still comes from religion.” (“Sex and God: Is Religion Twisted?” Free Inquiry, Fall 1997)
Episcopal priest Raymond Lawrence wrote in a national United Methodist journal: "The churches are in danger of evolving into havens for the sexually suppressed or, worse, communities of profound hypocrisy." (Quarterly Review, summer 1985)
Dan Barker, former evangelical minister and current co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation contends that when religious zealots spend so much time thinking and preaching against sex and homosexuality, they become obsessed with it, and eventually they cannot control their sexual urges.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, another co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation) wrote Betrayal of Trust, Clergy Abuse of Children (1988), which chronicles hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by priests, ministers and rabbis in the U.S. I can't help but think that her husband Dan Barker (above) was right.
When an avalanche of accusations against priests, for sexual misconduct, hit my local area, the newspapers were filled with letters to the editor blaming the church for not allowing priests to marry. However, priests who like young boys are not interested in adult women. Others were saying that pedophiles were joining the church to have easy access to children. But one psychiatrist who had treated some of the perpetrators wrote an article that made more sense to me. He argued that men who were Catholic and knew they had a problem, chose to become priests because they thought that if they prayed enough, were pious enough, read the scriptures enough, they would be cured. We see how well that worked.
I was astounded to learn that some bishops were directing priests to deny communion or even recommend excommunication to church members who were openly pro-choice, while at the same time pedophile priests were merely slapped on the wrists and allowed to move to other parishes.
The news media have covered extensively the sexual scandals of Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, and Jimmy Swaggert, all three ministers who were either morally bankrupt or, at the least, hypocrites. Thus I will not go into the details here. However, suffice it to say they preached often about moral weakness and sin, then did exactly what they were preaching against.
Morality and politics:
I know our lawmakers cannot be perfect and I don’t expect them to be. But when they campaign on moral issues, then disappoint us, then they are hypocrites.
U.S. Representative Mark Foley (Catholic & Republican) who was known as a crusader against child abuse and exploitation, resigned following a scandal involving teenage male Congressional pages. His replacement, Tim Mahoney (United Methodist & Democrat) ran on a platform of restoring morals to Washington. What did he do? He had a two-year affair with a former staff worker. Just about the time that hit the news, it was discovered that he had been cheating on that mistress with a second mistress. Larry Craig (Methodist and Republican) who repeatedly voted Nay on gay rights issues was caught in an airport restroom, apparently soliciting men for sex.
Religion and crime:
There have been many notorious criminals who were church members. You may remember a serial killer who called himself BTK (Bind, Torture and Kill) in Kansas. David Rader, who killed at least 10 people, was a Deacon and the Congregational President of his Lutheran Church.
David Ludwig, the Pennsylvania teenager who killed his girlfriend’s parents was a home-schooled Christian. Mark Chapman who murdered John Lennon had been described by his friends as a “Jesus freak.”
In a report from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (1997) approximately 80% of the U.S. population claimed some affiliation with a religious group and 80% of the U.S. prison population stated a religious preference. Logical, right? But then why, if (at that time) 10% of the general population claimed to be atheist, only 0.2% of the prison population said they were atheists? There are many religious people who argue that prisoners choose to say they are religious because there are benefits to doing that in prison. If that is so, then our prison system is violating the church/state separation provision of the Constitution.
Steve Allen: “It is frequently argued that a return to formal religion is the solution to the problem [of corruption.] But the prescription leaves something to be desired, for one finds practically no formal humanists, agnostics, or atheists in the ranks of the corrupt. Most of the embezzlers, swindlers, con-men and thieves... are card carrying members of one religion’s denomination or another that formally pays respect to the Old and/or New Testament.” (Ripoff, a look at corruption in America, 1979)
I repeat, I’m not saying all religious people are immoral. These cases represent very few people among the religious. What I am saying is that being religious is not a guarantee of moral conduct.
William Lobdell: “To the chagrin of evangelical pollsters and leaders, Christians–for the most part–don’t act any differently than atheists. And, in fact, in some categories (divorce rates and racism) evangelicals act worst.”
I know most religious people are good, honest, ethical people. Most non-religious people I know are also good, honest and ethical, yet they aren’t that way because they fear retribution in the afterlife.