Wednesday, December 07, 2005

God would be an atheist

Why can't we all be Japanese?
Several weeks ago, a ground-breaking study on religious belief and social well-being was published in the Journal of Religion & Society. Comparing 18 prosperous democracies from the U.S. to New Zealand, author Gregory S Paul quietly demolished the myth that faith strengthens society.

Top of the class, in both atheism and good behavior, come the Japanese. Over eighty percent accept evolution and fewer than ten percent are certain that God exists. Despite its size – over a hundred million people – Japan is one of the least crime-prone countries in the world. It also has the lowest rates of teenage pregnancy of any developed nation.

At the other end of the scale comes America. Over 50 percent of Americans believe in God, and only 40 percent accept some form of evolution (many believe it had a helping hand from the Deity). The U.S. has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and homicide rates are at least five times greater than in Europe and ten times higher than in Japan.

All believers learn that God holds them responsible for their actions. So far so good, but for many, belief absolves them of all other responsibilities. Consciously or subconsciously, those who are "born again" or "chosen" have diminished respect for others who do not share their sect or their faith. Convinced that only the Bible offers "truth", they lose their intellectual curiosity and their ability to reason. Their priority becomes not the world they live in but themselves.

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