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The Myth of Atheist Superiority
“The question is not whether you can be a good person without God, but rather, is there any rationally impelling force to it? The answer is no.” – Ravi Zacharias
Often one will be faced with the oft-repeated argument of the atheist that those countries with higher percentages of atheists are more lawful and economically stable than countries with a higher percentage of those identified as "religious." It's become quite a foundational argument to the atheist, so much so that it is spouted as a matter-of-fact- something no longer in the realm of opinion or conjecture, but a statistically verifiable truth.
Some time ago, I'd seen this argument proposed by a so-called "freethinker" in the local newspaper of my hometown, and even prior to researching this claim, it seemed suspiciously biased and reeked of statistical manipulation (hardly surprising, given that any argument using statistics as its foundation will inevitably be on shaky ground). It took little time to come to the conclusion that the assertion of atheist superiority is an illusion skillfully crafted to give credence to a world view that is painfully at odds with philosophy, history, physics, religion (obviously) and science. The following hub then, begins with the atheist argument, and is followed by my rebuttal. But by all means, don't take my word for it, do the research yourself. It should take but a small portion of your time to conclude how baseless the atheist argument is. After all, everything the atheist stands for ceases to be relevant upon death, right?
The Atheist Argument
The following article is written by Jeremy Fejfar, an atheist.
Those who don't Believe in God can still be Good
The case is sometimes made that belief in a god is healthy for a society, that it somehow keeps a population behaving well and not reverting to behavior more akin to our other primate cousins.
Some say that even if there is no god watching over us, it is better to believe that there is for the sake of society. But is this actually the case?
The Vision of Humanity is an organization focused on working toward global peace. In 2008, it conducted a survey of 144 countries and allocated them a Global Peace Index score based on
23 indicators derived from political, social, economic and academic factors. This score ranged from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most peaceful. They then lined the countries up, from 1 to 144 according to the score they received.
For countries with a Muslim majority:
· Iraq: 144 (3.341)
· Afghanistan: 143 (3.285)
· Somalia: 142 (3.257)
· Sudan: 140 (2.922)
· Palestine: 139 (2.888)
· Pakistan: 137 (2.859)
· Nigeria: 129 (2.602)
· Yemen: 119 (2.363)
· Saudi Arabia: 104 (2.167)
· Iran: 99 (2.104)
For countries with a Christian majority:
· Colombia: 130 (2.645)
· Venezuela: 120 (2.381)
· Honduras: 112 (2.265)
· Guatemala: 111 (2.218)
· Ecuador: 109 (2.211)
· Brazil: 85 (2.022)
· United States: 83 (2.015)
· Ukraine: 82 (2.010)
· Cuba: 68 (1.856)
· Argentina: 86 (1.851)
Compare those numbers to the following countries with large atheist populations:
· Sweden: 6 (1.269)
· Vietnam: 39 (1.664)
· Denmark: 2 (1.217)
· Norway: 2 (1.217)
· Japan: 7 (1.272)
· Czech Republic: 11 (1.328)
· Finland: 9 (1.322)
· France: 30 (1.579)
· Germany: 16 (1.392)
· Hungary: 27 (1.575)
The average ranks for where the groups fell on the listing was 129.2 for Muslim countries,
96.6 for Christian countries and 14.9 for atheist countries, and every one of the atheist countries were more peaceful than the United States.
In 2009, another study that examined the differences between religious and secular countries was published in the online journal Evolutionary Psychology. Gregory Paul's study looked at 25 different measures of social dysfunction, and compared how religious societies fared against secular ones. By now it should come as no surprise that the secular countries fared much better than the religious ones. Here are just some of the aspects where improvement was strongly correlated to a society being more secular: homicide, incarceration, suicide, infection with sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, teenage pregnancy and the human poverty index.
Is this effect also seen within the United states? A 2008 Gallup survey asked the question, “Is religion an important part of your daily life?” The 10 most religious states were: Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Texas. The 10 least religious states were: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Rhode Island, Nevada and Connecticut.
Crime rate statistics from 2009 ranked the 20 most dangerous states. which included nine out of 10 of the most religious states, whereas only two of the non-religious states made the list (Nevada and Alaska).
When one looks at prison populations, atheists are dramatically underrepresented when compared to the general population. Surveys show the atheist prison population to be well below 1 percent.
Certainly atheists are not the evil, immoral degenerates that we are often presented to be. In fact, 93 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not believe in a god, yet they continue to advance the frontiers of human understanding and immeasurably improve our lives.
When one looks at the available evidence, it is clear that the correlation between secularism and societal health is strong. But this should not be extended to conclude that religion causes social dysfunction. Correlation does not necessarily equal causation. There could easily be other factors that are causing or contributing to the negative effects that are seen.
So while we cannot conclude that religion causes societal harm, what can be said is that a high level of religiosity in these countries and states has not prevented or remedied the societal ailments that are present. Also, the assertion that societies or individuals lacking a belief in a god are more immoral or lawless is soundly refuted.
A Christian Rebuttal
Thank God for Statistics!
In his article, “Those who don’t Believe in God can Still be Good” Jeremy Fejfar has decided to look at an absurdly large statistical study with a complex web of factors such as economic health, military stockpiles, foreign policies, etc., and has made a positive correlation with his own belief system (sorry, “non-belief” system). It’s a neat trick really, and with a little creativity nearly anyone can pull it off. Observe: “The majority of countries rating best on the Global Peace Index have sprung out of Western civilization, indicating that Christian background and influence lead to peace and economic prosperity.” Whether or not this statement is true is not the issue. It is a biased assertion bred out of one’s personal agenda.
Furthermore, there are telling absences from Jeremy’s lists. Those religious countries that do score well on the global peace indicator (Chile, Portugal, Malaysia, etc.), alongside those countries with a high atheist population that score poorly on the GPI (Russia, North Korea, Azerbaijan, etc.) evidently did not make the cut. And let’s not forget that those countries conveniently penned “atheist” by Jeremy are, for the most part, still inhabited by a Christian majority (Or, in the case of Vietnam, practice state-sponsored religious oppression) and possess a Christian history and ethos that has allowed secular humanism to both exist and to openly criticize the very tenets from out of which it was born.
And what of those “enlightened” countries that have chosen humanism over God? Well, Sweden, for instance, suffers from above average incidents of violent crime. France is increasingly intolerant of religious diversity, and Japan and Russia’s suicide rates are among the highest in the world. And while on the topic, it should be interesting to note that one need only reverse the figures used by Mr. Fejfar to illustrate that when it comes to suicide-rate comparisons between religious and non-religious countries, the statistical pendulum suddenly swings far into the other direction. Does this indicate that gross unhappiness ravages “atheist countries?” Perhaps, but the point is this: Statistics are among the most commonly and easily manipulated data around.
James White vs. Dan Barker
Bear in mind, I am not making the argument that atheists or those countries with a high population of them are somehow more depraved than others. However, how exactly does the removal of God increase moral standards? The oft-repeated critique against atheism bears repeating here: If the world and all material matter are the mere leftover trinkets of a random and ultimately pointless cause, if all concepts of right and wrong are malleable social constructs dictated by the whims of humanity, in what purpose lies anything but pure, unabashed selfishness? Bear in mind also, that the entire sweep of Mr. Fejfar’s argument, that atheism produces a higher standard of goodness, is rendered utterly redundant by the very belief system he espouses. Morality is relative, remember? What may be repugnant to me may in fact be noble to you, and with only humanity as our guide, who is to say what is good? Is peace moral? It depends. Some may stand to profit by less than peaceful societies, and with no absolutes, who am I to judge their right to earn a substantial income?
Unfortunately, the atheist who argues his or her own “goodness” treads on rocky ground, as by their own assertion, the concept can and will be drastically reinvented over the course of time. Jeremy’s argument then falls flat on numerous points, which is unsurprising, since any one-sided assertion based upon statistical evidence will inevitably face opposition based upon the exact same statistical evidence. It seems the only thing being “soundly refuted” by Mr. Fejfar’s article is the idea that atheists are somehow above using propaganda and misinformation to further their cause.