Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Religious Dysfunction

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Religious Dysfunction

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Is Faith Good for Us?" by Phil Zuckerman, in Free Inquiry, Aug-Sept. 2006.

WHEN JERRY FALWELL blamed the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Americans' lack of piety, he spoke for many religious conservatives who believe that the failure to place God at the center of national life is responsible for crime, poverty, disease, and warfare.

To the contrary, Phil Zuckerman, an associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College, writes that "the most secular countries--those with the highest proportion of atheists and agnostics--are among the most stable, peaceful, free, wealthy, and healthy societies." The presence of atheists and agnostics doesn't cause a country to be better off, he says, nor does the presence of religiosity plunge a nation into chaos. The well-being of a nation is caused by political, historical, economic, and sociological factors quite separate from religious beliefs.

Even so, the top five nations on the United Nations' Human Development Index--Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands--are all in the top 25 in proportion of nonbelievers. Between 64 and 85 percent of Swedes and 19 to 30 percent of Canadians say there is no God. …

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