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Divinity Of Doubt


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Just read a book written by Vincent Bugliosi entitled “Divinity Of Doubt”. Mr. Bugliosi is a self-labeled agnostic who states that most of the bible stories are mythical and that, in his opinion, those who believe the myths are factual are either stupid or ignorant. He has no respect for atheists either, so he calls himself agnostic. Mr. Bugliosi is a lawyer who has served as a prosecutor in the LA District Attorney’s office for several years. IMHO he could have said everything he had to say in less than fifty pages, but I am sure that his publisher told him to expand it to at least 250 pages. I did think the Gregory Paul study was very interesting and worthy of repetition. If anyone has any more information on the Gregory Paul study I would appreciate your putting it in this thread.

 

Here is Mr. Bugliosi’s philosophy in a nutshell from page 254: “If we must have religion, the seminal test as to the value and merit of any religion worth its salt has to be not what you believe, but what you do ---- that is, how you treat your fellow man. The only thing that counts is the Golden Rule.”

 

Pages 224, 225:

One of the most devastating indictments of religion in the overall moral, social, and economic health of a nation was published in the online journal Evolutionary Psychology in July of 2009. Titled “The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions,” and with a reference bibliography of 155 sources ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Sociological Review, and the World Health Organization, to the Journal of Religion and Society, the International Social Survey Program, and the United Nations Human Development Report, the study by researcher Gregory Paul sought to answer the accuracy of two competing hypotheses: one, that religion is a necessary component of societal health and prosperity, and two, that higher degrees of non-religiosity are more apt to be associated with better socio-economic conditions in a nation. Seventeen first world nations (average per capita income of at least $23,000) were studied.

Using criteria such as a belief in God, biblical literalism, prayer, evolution, and heaven and hell, as well as attendance at religious services and the number of atheists and agnostics, the research showed that overall the United States was the most religious of all seventeen nations. Numbers two, three and four were Ireland, Italy, and Austria, respectively. The least religious nation was Sweden, followed by Japan, Denmark and France.

Testing the dysfunction of a nation by, among other things, the per capital number of homicides, incarcerations, suicides, abortions, infant mortality, life expectancy, marriage duration, divorce, alcohol consumption, corruption, income, income disparity, poverty, and employment levels, the study found that the United States, the number one religious nation, also ranked number one as the most dysfunctional of all the nations. Australia was number two (ranked ninth out of seventeen in the most religious of nations), followed by New Zealand and Spain tied for third (ranked tenth and twelfth in the most religious of nations) and Ireland at number four (ranked second in the most religious of nations). The nation that was ranked number one as the least dysfunctional was Norway (seventh out of seventeen in the least religious of nations), followed by Denmark at number two (ranked third in the least religious of nations), Sweden at number three (number one as the least religious nation), and Holland at number four (eighth in the least religious of nations).

This study clearly shows a correlation between religiosity and the dysfunction of a nation. And the lowest rates of dysfunction are found among the most irreligious of countries.

 

Hal

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I haven't read the book but I have heard several interviews with Bulgiosi and so far I'm not impressed. Like he makes this absurd argument that evolution isn't true because he finds it hard to believe that a microbe could magically turn into Mozart or something which is either a deliberate or ignorant misrepresentation of everything evolution says. He also arrogantly claimed there has never been any good responses to the first cause argument and that the last 100 years pf Philosophy has been completely worthless as if his book is somehow more superior to the classical Philosophers even though even many Christians like Immanuel Kant have long since debunked the first cause argument. Bulgiosi seems more like a deist to me than an agnostic and he sounds very confused on theology and science.

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The only thing in this book that really caught my attention was the Gregory Paul research.

Hal

Hal,

 

Did Paul consider factors like income distribution, ethnic diversity, population age, etc.? It seems to me that these are important factors in social stability and functionality.

 

George

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According to Mr. Bugliosi there were 155 bibliography sources used in the research.

 

Back in the 1980s I spent three years doing statistical research on Oregon's correctional system. The only thing I remember from that effort was the fact that approximately 70% of the inmates had been born to teen-age mothers - this was at the time that abortion was becoming a major religious issue. I was particularly interested in this statistic because I was born when my mother was six weeks shy of her 19th birthday (fortunately I had two wonderful parents).

 

One other fact that I know: the United States has the highest percentage of individuals incarcerated in these so-called first-world nations. Is this one indication of dysfunction? IMHO this nation does not really believe in Jesus Christ or God, they just give religion lip service; the real Supreme Being in this society is Mammon! Nothing else really counts.

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Hal,

 

I have read somewhere that the crime rate is much lower among religiously committed people than non-religious.

 

If his thesis is correct, we should expect that the prisons would be highly over weighted with very religious people compared with the society at large. And, that is not my impression although I have no data nor personal experience to support it. We would also expect people who become more religious would become more socially dysfunctional. This would also not seem to be the case from general observation.

 

It seems to me that there are a lot of nominally Christian people in the U.S. who are also generally inactive and disinterested in religion. If these are counted in the statistics, I think the results would be misleading.

 

George

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I think Gregory Paul's survey makes perfect sense and I can see how more peaceful societies tend to be less religious. Where I disagree with Gregory Paul is that Gregory Paul argues religion is responsible for the ills of society but I think religion is more of a response to the ills of a society. It makes sense to me that if you live in a country with poor economic stability and high crime rates, you're going to be more likely to turn to a belief in an afterlife and a supernatural loving God who looks after you to give you comfort during times of crisis whereas if you live in a peaceful society with a healthy economy and social safety net to take care of you, you have less of a pressing need to turn to a supernatural afterlife for comfort when you already have a comfortable life. I think the real question is a question of which came first; the chicken or the egg,. the bad economy or the religious extremism.

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I agree, extremism is not the problem. Apathy and a need for security create denial and avoidance of action.

 

 

Are these signs of a dysfunctional religious society?

 

Earlier I commented that one of the results that I discovered in the 1980s, when I was doing statistical research on the correctional system, was the fact that 70% of the inmates in the adult correctional facilities had been born to teen-age mothers. This seemed important at the time because abortion was a very hot political issue, particularly among the so-called religious factor. Preventing or allowing abortion has never been an issue for me because I believe that each case should be decided on the circumstances of the individual situation; a one-way policy that fits all is just not appropriate. Pregnant teen-agers were generally taken care of until the baby was born, then very often they were on their own: children raising children. I know, both from experience and reading thousands of case histories, that emotional and physical deprivation of infants creates an internal hostility in the child that stays with them the rest of their lives. Frequent result: delinquent teen years and eventual penal incarceration, an explanation for the 70% statistic. Our religious society does all it can to prevent abortion but, in the main, avoids dealing with children trying to raise children.

 

One other statistic I know: the United States has the highest percentage of its population incarcerated of any of the so-called first world nations. Again, in the 1980s and 1990s the politicians tried to out do each other by being “tough” on crime. They over--rode the judiciary by imposing mandatory sentences. They also cut down on programs of rehabilitation for various reasons. The majority of the religious right supported these policies because they feel more secure when the “criminal” is in jail and they believe “those felons in custody do not deserve all those privileges anyway!”

 

Our so-called religious society seems to be in complete denial about what may be the largest illegal drug market in the world. A United Nations estimate stated that the market in 2009 came to more than $142 Billion dollars. I am sure that it has not decreased in the last two years. The U.S. government has spent several billions of dollars at the border trying to stem the over whelming drug traffic without any real positive results. The drug cartels have control of the drug business in every state of the Union and continue on their day by day business with only minor interruptions and inconveniences. Illegal immigration is a very minor problem compared to the monstrous usage of illegal drugs in the United States. Eliminating the market would eliminate most of the border problem. What has our religious society done to eliminate the drug market? Built a fence?

 

I could go on and on about the societal problems that do not seem to bother our religious congregations: one in five children in poverty, the health insurance system, the salaries of professional athletes (compared to teachers, for instance), the millions of dollars that politicians spend to get elected, the cost of a college education, etc. etc. etc.

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Even if religion is in some way related to the dysfunctional aspects of American society, the question, as Neon put it, is which came first the chicken or the egg.

 

I personally feel quite strongly that religion in America, or any other place for that matter, reflects the society in which it exists. Rather than the cause, it is, IMO, a result. An explanation that proposes that Christianity causes dysfunction, does not explain the millions of stable, responsible Christians, nor does it explain the many dysfunctional non-Christians (or more likely disinterested, inactive).

 

America developed with a frontier mentality in which disputes are often settled violently. And, that attitude still persists to some degree. Parts of the country, particularly the South and West, are what is called an 'honor culture' in which if ones honor is challenged, one is socially obligated to respond, often violently.

 

I would also point out that incarceration rates reflect, in part, what the society defines as crime. It is my understanding that a large proportion of our inmates are in jail for drug possession which is not a crime in some comparison countries. Also, I don't know what other countries do, but we incarcerate people with mental illness.

 

George

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I am amused, George, that you feel the need to defend religion. I have never said (and do not want to indicate) that religion caused dysfunction, instead the religious just pretend it does not exist. (Apathy and a need for security create denial and avoidance of action.)

 

We are just standing here, gazing out over the river, swatting mosquitos, while the bank is crumbling out from under our feet.

 

And you are right, a large number of inmates should be in rehab programs instead of prison, but those politicians had to be "tough on crime" and we have not corrected that attitude; part of the apathy and denial.

 

Hal

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I am amused, George, that you feel the need to defend religion. I have never said (and do not want to indicate) that religion caused dysfunction, instead the religious just pretend it does not exist. (Apathy and a need for security create denial and avoidance of action.)

Hal,

 

Maybe, I misunderstood the OP. This seemed to imply that religion was the cause of social dysfunction although not stated explicitly as such. However, there are those, particularly some of the loud, public atheists, who do make such claims.

 

George

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  • 3 weeks later...

One of the most serious of societal dysfunctions that nobody seems to be doing anything about is the cost of a college education. I think back when, in the 1940s, I paid $40.00 as tuition for one quarter at the University of Washington. I went to school on the GI bill, which paid me something like $35 a month, which I used to pay for my room in the Vets Dorm. I earned enough in the summer months to pay for my books and living expenses. In fact, when I graduated I had money in the bank and no debts.

 

A recent edition of TIME magazine told about the tremendous debts that are handicapping today’s college graduates. This policy in itself is almost criminal. This so-called religious society is completely dysfunctional when it comes to money. Why is a professional athlete paid millions of dollars for playing one season and a graduate is penalized $50,000 to $100,000 for “earning” a degree that may or may not get s/he employed? To top it off the graduate’s credit rating is very low and s/he cannot file for bankruptcy. A rookie baseball player is paid $325,000 minimum for one season. An elementary school teacher is lucky to make $25,000 in his/her first year, that is if s/he is fortunate enough to obtain employment in these years of budget cuts.

 

This so-called religious society is completely dysfunctional when it comes to money. Our legislatures, counties, and cities are seriously cutting budgets on education, infra-structure, personnel, and health programs. At the same time, every other year, this country is spending billions of dollars on elections. THE MAJORITY OF THE MONEY SPENT ON ELECTIONS IS A TOTAL WASTE! A letter to the editor in the local paper stated: “Elections should be limited to 30 days and $30,000!”

 

I am not saying that religion is responsible for this irresponsible behavior. But I will repeat that our so-called religious society is in denial and seemingly complete apathy. We are standing on the river bank, swatting mosquitoes, while the soil is eroding out from under us.

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