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Friday, March 23, 2007

Just as I figured やっぱり

There was a very interesting article in today's Japan Times by Gwynne Dyer entitled "Does religion do more harm than good?". In it, Dyer writes about a study done a couple of years ago that examined 18 countries (including the USA and Japan) to see if religion makes people behave better. The results, like the evidence pointing to global warming, are not what a Bush Republican would want to hear:

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, (venereal disease), teen pregnancy, and abortion," while "none of the strongly secularized, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction."

That pretty much could sum up why the US struggles to be the kinder, gentler nation many people wish it could be. Here are some more interesting quotes from Dyer's article:

"Even within the U.S. ... 'the strongly theistic, anti-evolution South and Midwest' have 'markedly worse homicide, mortality, sexually transmitted disease, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the Northeast, where societal conditions, secularization and acceptance of evolution approach European norms.'

As the most religious country of the 18 surveyed, the U.S. also comes in with the highest rates for teen pregnancy and for gonorrhea and syphilis. (A sidelight: boys who participate in sexual abstinence programs are more likely to get their partners pregnant, presumably because they are in denial about what they are doing.)"

"...there may be a clue in the fact that the more religious a country is, the smaller the resources that it puts into social spending, perhaps on the assumption that God will provide.

There is a very strong linkage between how secular a country is and how much it spends on social welfare and income redistribution. There is an equally strong correlation between high levels of social spending and a good score in...(the) survey -- which makes sense, because all the ills..., from homicide to high infant mortality to teen pregnancy, are far more likely to affect the poor than the rich.

It's not that religious people choose to do bad things more often -- indeed, they are probably more likely to get involved in charitable activities. Maybe it's just that when they talk about transforming people's lives, they don't think in terms of big state-run systems -- and if you don't, lots of people fall through the cracks. Whereas the godless, all alone under the empty sky, decide that they must band together and help one another through large amounts of social spending, because nobody else is going to do it for them."

I couldn't have said it any better than that (which is why I'm not a regular contributor to the Japan Times, or any other newspaper for that matter). It goes to show that you can be godless, and yet just as moral (or even more moral) than those who claim to be living life according to the word of God.

Taiwan wasn't one of the countries studied in the above survey, but if it had been, this non-Christian society would do better than the US of A in most, if not all, of the categories. However, I do think there are a lot of teenage pregnancies here, which I suspect result from from the reluctance of traditional (read conservative) Chinese culture to address issues of sex.

I guess I was inspired by reading the JT article this morning, because before setting out on my walk this morning in the Chung-cheng (Jhong-jheng) Park 中正公園 area, I made a short detour past some religious sites.

The less-than-awe-inspiring Nankang Futetz'u (Nangang Fudecih) 南崗福徳祠 Taoist temple 道観

The even less-impressive Tz'uhoukung (Cihhougong) 慈后宮, or "Mercy Empress Temple".

All these signs of religion got me to thinking of the impermanence of life. Take this wasp in its final death throes 死んでいたスズメバチ...

On the way home I rode by a Taoist temple under construction. A statue was in the final stages of completion, with only the head waiting to be put in place.

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