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Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Implications of the Decline in American Religiosity

Gallop recently released polling research which suggests the median proportion of residents worldwide who said religion is important in their daily lives is 82%. Not surprisingly, America's average was 65%, well below the worldwide average.

Of course, Gallop goes on to point out that there is a correlation between a belief in god and quality of life, saying, "...8 of the 11 countries in which almost all residents (at least 98%) say religion is important in their daily lives are poorer nations in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 10 least religious countries studied include several with the world's highest living standards..."

Does this surprise anyone? As more secular options are available, faith gets replaced by material possessions. That's what secularism is. It would hardly be possible for an impoverished nation to worship worldly possessions when there's very little available for them to possess. Of course, the liberal interpretation of this commonsensical fact is that more education within a country equals less religion. In reality, more education within a country most directly parallels a nation's wealth; which again speaks to the correlation of wealth and secularism.

Of course, these worldwide religiosity averages don't speak to specific type of religion; but rather just to the polled individuals' relative evaluation of their religion.

While America falls well below the average religiosity line, it doesn't quite take home the gold for the most secular country in the world. Below are Gallop's top 11 most religious countries and 11 least religious countries:

America lands somewhere in the middle of the two religious extremes. Of course, even America's 65% religiosity average is deceiving because, within the country, there is much variation amongst different states:

As shown above, the Northeast and Northwest are the least religious regions of America, and the Southeast and Midwest are the most religious.

This was, of course, reflected in the voting patterns during the 2008 Presidential Election:

Even within the U.S. there is a correlation between poverty levels and religiosity. Compare the above two maps to the following poverty map from the U.S. Census:

While there are mixed levels of poverty amongst the less religious states, we can clearly see that the most religious states also have the highest poverty rates.

So the question remains: Does a culture become more religious because it is less educated (and therefore poorer); or does a culture become less religious because it has more wordy possessions and opportunities? It's a chicken and egg question, I suppose. But here are some statistics for you to consider regarding religiosity and quality of life:

If you look at the U.S. poverty rate over time:

And then compare it with the religiosity of the US over time:

The American poverty rate is about the same as it was in 1960, yet the percentage of people who do not have a religion has climbed by about 15%. So, at least within the U.S., there may not be a direct correlation between poverty and religiosity. What has increased in America since 1960 is its secularism. While 90% of Americans still say they believe in the existence of God as compared to 60 percent of Britons, French, and Germans (The Atlantic), America is wealthier than each of them. So, to what can Americans attribute the decline of U.S. religiosity?

It's difficult to say. Any number of things could be attributed as the source of the decline: spread of MSM access, increase of national wealth, increase of secular ideals within MSM, etc. What's more interesting, I think, is to look at the aspects of American life which have directly correlated to the decline in American religiosity.

Such as the rise in birth rate for un-wed girls:

The decline in Average SAT Scores:

The Increase in Violent Crime:

STDs Amongst American youth:

And the suicide rate amongst teenagers and males:

In fact, the crime rate for every major offense (violent crime, property crime, murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny theft and vehicular theft) is up since 1960, despite improved technology and methodology to combat criminal activity (The Disaster Center).

So, while there is a direct correlation between national wealth and secularism, there is also a direct correlation between secularism and moral erosion and, therefore, social corrosion. There's no evidence to suggest that religiosity leads to a less prosperous population, but there is evidence which suggests that less religiosity causes more social problems. To what conclusion this leads you is relative to your own value system; but what is not subject to debate is the facts as stated above.

Profitability can expand irrespective of religiosity, but measurable social corruption expands in direct correlation to religious recession. While America may be the wealthiest nation on the planet by virtue of its free market capitalism, its social problems are the direct results of a belief system which increasingly values material possessions above moral responsibility.


Anonymous said...

I have avoided clicking the links to your blog, because some of the titles have conveyed a rather hostile stance towards everything "left." When I clicked this one, I assumed you would paint the issue in black and white terms, drawing an oversimplified connection between the decline of the US and our lack of faith. This argument would please many people who already think that. While I can see the opinion you probably want the reader to take away from the data, I appreciated that you did not try to force-feed particular conclusions down the readers' throats. I'm rather sick of both right and left wing stereotypes, and that many people prefer to have their information "spun" one way or another to fit their ideology, rather than have a critical discussion about the facts. I have not read any of your other articles, so I could be way off base, but your writing conveyed much less bias than I would expect from a source that has a self-selected audience (liberal and conservative publications, in general).

I was hoping you could explain the line drawn on some of the images that says "religious values separated." I'm guessing the source they came from was arguing that lower SAT scores and unwed pregnancy are a direct result from a decline in religiosity?

Anyway, if facebook is a good indicator, you are writing prolifically and cementing yourself in the Republican machine. :-) Catch me online sometime and we'll catch up.

Seth said...


My point in citing the Christian Leadership University research was merely to point out the social factors which transpired at the same time as America's declining religiosity. The correlations seem to be direct, considering the factor which most academics appear to attribute religiosity (poverty) does not seem to apply with America's declining religiosity over time. But this conclusion is, by no means, finite.

As I said within the post, there are any numbers of contributing factors to America's declining religiosity; but it's worth noting that America was becoming a less religious country as these social deteriorations increased in severity.

Also keep in mind the the main purpose of any headline or lead it so capture the reader's attention. I won't say that my writing's don't come from a conservative perspective, but I will say that I go to great lengths to validate my arguments with credible sources.

Thank you so much for your comment, and I hope you continue to read my material if for no other reason than to acclimate yourself to a conservative perspective which is otherwise mute in the mainstream media.


nemov said...

I'm not sure the "poverty rate" means anything. It depends on how it's calculated. Most of the time it's based on income and that's not a very good measure. Relatively speaking even the poorest fifth of people in the United States today are wealthier than the poorest fifth from three decades ago.

Seth said...

I totally agree with your comment about the relativity of the poverty rate. However, poverty rate tends to be the universally accepted measure of "poorness."

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