Sunday, January 13, 2013

The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, study says

"Can being spiritual but not religious lead to mental health issues? The answer is yes, according to a recent study.
The study, published in the January edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry, says spiritual but not religious people, as opposed to people who are religious, agnostic or atheist, were more likely to develop a "mental disorder," "be dependent on drugs" and "have abnormal eating attitudes,” like bulimia and anorexia."


Religion.blogs.cnn.com, January 9th, 2013 

I think this just shows that the benefit of religion isn't the belief itself, but rather the sense of community. But also note that atheists and agnostics do well in the survey.

Here is the abstract.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Number of atheists around the world is rising

"According to the latest global poll released by RedC Opinion Poll, part of WIN-Gallup International, a world-wide network of leading opinion pollsters, the number of self-declared atheists in the world has risen by 9% since the measure was last taken in 2005.

The massive poll, conducted in 57 countries (not, apparently, including Britain) among 51,000 people asked a single question "Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?"

It shows that on average 59% of the world said that they think of themselves as religious, whereas 23% think of themselves as not religious and 13% think of themselves as convinced atheists. Naturally there are enormous variations from country to country.

The countries with most self-described atheists are China (47%); Japan (31%), Czech Republic (30%), France (29%), South Korea (15%), Germany (15%), Netherlands (14%), Austria (10%), Iceland (10%), Australia (10%) and Ireland (10%).

The most religious countries are: Ghana (where 96% of people define themselves as religious), Nigeria (93%), Armenia (92%), Fiji (92%), Macedonia (90%), Romania (89%), Iraq (88%), Kenya (88%), Peru (86%) and Brazil (85%).

One of the most dramatic reductions in the proportion of the population considering themselves religious occurred in Ireland: from 69% in 2005 to 47% in 2012, placing Ireland on the index of religious belief at position 43 out of 57 countries.

The poll also showed that the poorer people were, the more likely they were to be religious.

One anomaly that the pollsters have themselves questioned is in Turkey, where those who say they are religious is only 23% while those defining themselves as non-religious is 73% (self-defined atheists 2%)."


National Secular Society, 08 Aug 2012
Good news indeed. Here's the full report.

Here's a couple of charts from the report:

Notice on the last chart that women are slightly more atheist than men. This contradicts most other polls, but it's nevertheless a good thing. Also notice how relatively many Muslims are non-religious compared to, say, Catholics. A lot of Jews are non-religious, but that was to be expected.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Atheists don't change their view when confronted with death

"Are there atheists in foxholes? That timeless question (the literal answer to which is yes) is a shorthand way of asking whether, when confronted by their own mortality, even nonbelievers’ thoughts turn to God.

Research published earlier this year tentatively concluded that they do. But a new study, conducted by scholars from three countries, reports that death-related thoughts lead us to reaffirm whatever belief system gives our lives meaning—and for atheists, that’s something other than religious faith."



Pacific Standard, July 10, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Less crime if you believe in Hell?

"Belief in hell keeps down criminal activity, but belief in heaven actually boosts it, according to a pair of researchers at the universities of Oregon and Kansas.

Azim Shariff and Mijke Rhemtulla scoured 30 years of international values-based surveys and found societies that put more stock in supernatural benevolence than supernatural punishment have higher national crime rates. The relationship is so significant, they found, that it is a stronger predictor of crime rates than are economic factors such as gross domestic product and income equality."



The Globe and Mail, Jun. 25 2012
I understood immediately that there were issues with this research. Comparing crime statistics between countries, when crime is reported differently makes no sense at all. I may be prejudiced but I my first thought was that belief in Hell correlates with poor crime statistics. I might as well post the graph right away (which is picked up from Epiphenom which also has a critical article):

It's a bit hard to read with only two letters abbreviations but you can see that Norway (NO) and Sweden (SE) are ranking high here. Yes, I live in one of the most crime infested countries. I wish I lived in Egypt (EG) which you will see on the bottom.

Here's a critical examination:

"Interpol merely gathers and reports nonlethal crime statistics provided by member nations without standardizing or vetting it [19, 22]. For example, assaults are reported at a rate about 6 times higher in Australia and Sweden than in Canada and France, this level of disparity is suspect. Rates of theft are reported to be twice as high in Sweden as in France; are the former actually twice as larcenous as the French, or are the latter twice as unlikely to file a report, or is the reality somewhere in-between? Similarly suspicious discrepancies exist in International Crime Victims Survey results. Reported rates of rape are two to twenty times higher in the U.S. than in other 1st world nations [24,25], but this only means that American females report being raped at far higher rates, not that American males are more prone to committing sexual assaults. Nonlethal crimes are difficult to compare even between the relatively uniform 1st world countries, they only grow worse when comparing 2nd and 3rd world nations with greater disparities between the quality of crime reporting."

Plosone.org, GregorySPaul on 24 Jun 2012
 The only statistic you can reliably compare is homicide, but even there there are issues:

"In contrast, Jensen found that more homicide is more strongly linked to greater popular support for the reality of hell than for heaven [12] -- he suggests that “malevolent” forms of religion produce inferior results compared to “benevolent” -- Sharif and Rhemtulla do not cite Jensen or explain the disparity in their results with his. Sharif and Rhemtulla find that more homicide weakly correlates with more belief in God, Rees [5] as well as Jensen [12] found a positive relationship in a large sample of nations. In the more uniform prosperous democracies the only example with high levels of homicide, the U.S., has the highest levels of religiosity including belief in heaven and hell [6]. The advanced democracies with the least, and remarkably low, homicide are the most atheistic. (It would be interesting to analyze correlations between measures of religiosity and homicide in different economic categories of nations.) Potential reasons that deity worship and scripture contribute to lethal violence have been proffered [6-8,13-15].
How crime in general corresponds to differing levels and types of religiosity remains inherently uncertain, but the most atheistic democracies appear to suffer relatively modest nonlethal misdemeanors and felonies, and definitely enjoy very low lethal violence. All studies agree that the most reliably measured crime, homicide, tends to be higher in less atheistic countries. Studies are contradictory regarding how homicide correlates with differing belief beliefs in the afterlife, further analysis may clear this up."
In short: Bollocks.






Sunday, April 29, 2012

Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief

"A new University of British Columbia study finds that analytic thinking can decrease religious belief, even in devout believers.

[...]

Researchers used problem-solving tasks and subtle experimental priming – including showing participants Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker or asking participants to complete questionnaires in hard-to-read fonts – to successfully produce “analytic” thinking. The researchers, who assessed participants’ belief levels using a variety of self-reported measures, found that religious belief decreased when participants engaged in analytic tasks, compared to participants who engaged in tasks that did not involve analytic thinking."

The University of British Columbia, Apr. 26, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Canadians trust the non-religious more than the religious

"67 per cent of those surveyed said they trusted “people who are religious” in general, and even more respondents — 73 per cent — expressed trust in “people who are not religious.”


[...]


Just 42% of those polled agreed with the statement “religion is an important part of my life,” with women (46%) more likely to value religious activity than men (37%) by a clear margin.


[...]


Only 30% of those aged 18 to 24 agreed that religion is important to their life, while respondents aged 65 and older were most likely (56%) to consider religion a force in their life.

Likewise, an expressed belief in God was lowest (56%) among the youngest group of respondents and highest (79%) among the oldest."


Nationalpost.com, Apr 6, 2012

H/T to Friendly Atheist

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fear of death is highest among Muslims

"Many people assume that religious people are less anxious about death than the non-religious. After all, the most popular religions (Islam and Christianity) explicitly hold out the promise of eternal rewards for the faithful.

However, it's not quite that simple. After all, traditional versions of these gods are also pretty vengeful, and if you believe in a vengeful god, then you have to face the distinct possibility of some pretty nasty experiences after death. After all, even holy people usually have some guilty secrets.

[...]

The results for Malaysia were striking. There was a clear linear relationship between religiosity and fear of death. There was a similar relationship in Turkey, although less strong (they interviewed far fewer people in Turkey, however).

Even more striking were the results in the USA. Here, there was a curvilinear relationship - death anxiety was highest in those with average religious feelings.

The reason for these differences is probably down to differences in religious beliefs between Muslims and Christians. Muslims had the highest fear of death - the lowest fear of death was seen in the non-religious in America and Christians in Malaysia."


Epiphenom, Tom Rees, March 24, 2012


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Study questions religion-depression link

"Some research has suggested that religious people may have a buffer against major depression -- but new findings cast some doubt on that.

Researchers said people who develop depression might be more likely to stop going to services, which could explain why those who regularly go to religious services have lower rates of depression than the less-devout.

The new study found evidence of just that.

Among 2,100 Americans followed from birth to about middle-age, women who had developed depression early in life -- before age 18 -- were more likely than others to stop going to religious services by their early 20s.

Among men, there was no link between depression and churchgoing habits."

Reuters.com, Feb 28, 2012
See abstract of research here.
Aktuelt for lesere av VĂ¥rt Land

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A third of Americans are non-religious

Here's the result of a new Gallup survey of American religiosity:

"Gallup classifies 40% of Americans nationwide as very religious -- based on their statement that religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. Another 32% of Americans are nonreligious, based on their statement that religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining 28% of Americans are moderately religious, because they say religion is important but that they do not attend services regularly or because they say religion is not important but still attend services.


[...]

Mississippi is the most religious U.S. state, and is one of eight states where Gallup classifies at least half of the residents as "very religious." At the other end of the spectrum, Vermont and New Hampshire are the least religious states, and are two of the five states -- along with Maine, Massachusetts, and Alaska -- where less than 30% of all residents are very religious. See full list here



[...]


Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2011, with a random sample of 353,492 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia."

Gallup.com, March 27, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

One Jesus for liberals, another for conservatives

"New research shows how believers tailor Christian teachings to fit their own political viewpoint

[...]

A study led by Lee Ross of Stanford University in California has found that the Jesus of liberal Christians is very different from the one envisaged by conservatives. The researchers asked respondents to imagine what Jesus would have thought about contemporary issues such as taxation, immigration, same-sex marriage and abortion. Perhaps not surprisingly, Christian Republicans imagined a Jesus who tended to be against wealth redistribution, illegal immigrants, abortion and same-sex marriage; whereas the Jesus of Democrat-voting Christians would have had far more liberal opinions. The Bible may claim that God created man in his own image, but the study suggests man creates God in his own image."

Johnjoe McFadden, Guardian.co.uk, 4 March 2012
This just goes to show that socalled religious morals are no more founded in absolute truths than secular morals. Religious people fool themselves into thinking that they act upon what their religion objetively tells them. But in reality, they first compile a set of religious morals they're satisfied with and then goes on to act (more or less) accordingly:


Saturday, March 3, 2012

2030: The year Britain will cease to be a Christian nation with the march of secularism

"The march of secularism means Britain may no longer be a Christian country in just 20 years, a report said yesterday.

If trends continue, the number of non-believers is set to overtake the number of Christians by 2030."


Daily Mail, 3rd March 2012







Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Church wins the award for intolerance

"To say that religion is part of our culture, therefore we should cherish it, is a circular argument. The Church spent a thousand years intolerantly stamping out rival strands of culture, insisting that every ritual from birth to death be celebrated in its halls. So yes, it is part of my culture."

MATT RIDLEY, THE TIMES, 21 February 2012
An excellent quote in an otherwise nice piece.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Muslims in Wales pass on their faith at higher rates than other religions

"The Cardiff University study, published online today in the journal Sociology, says that the proportion of adult Muslims actively practising the faith they were brought up in as children was 77%. That compares with 29% of Christians and 65% of other religions.

The study also found that 98% of Muslim children surveyed said they had the religion their parents were brought up in, compared with 62% of Christians and 89% of other religions.

The team analysed data from the Home Office’s 2003 Citizenship Survey data, using 13,988 replies from adults and 1,278 from young people aged 11 to 15.

[...]

Home Office statistics show that 74% of people in Wales are Christians but that only 7% of those attend church."


Walesonline.co.uk, Feb 13 2012 (Found via Islam in Europe)
Talk about "good and bad news"! The downside of such a study is that many people who identify as Christians, but don't give a toss about religion in their daily life, will suddenly feel the urge to compete with the muslims. Instead of embracing our secular future, they may turn around and cling to the past only because the Muslims do it.
On the other hand, 27% apostates within Islam is not a bad number considering how Islam is portrayed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Evaluating God

"While many polls have asked what Americans’ beliefs are about God, there has been little measurement of voters’ evaluation of its performance."


Publicpolicypolling.com, July 22, 2011

Old poll, but I just found it in a recent grumpy TownHall.com commentary which neglected to include a source nor a date. Anyway, fairly interesting to see all the "not sure" answers. No doubt many of them were also unsure whether or not to dare say they were unsure.  Here are the results (PDF)


"Q7 If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its performance?
Approve ............. 52%
Disapprove......... 9%
Not sure ............. 40%
Q8 If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its handling of natural disasters?
Approve ............. 50%
Disapprove......... 13%
Not sure ............. 37%
Q9 If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its handling of animals?
Approve ............. 56%
Disapprove......... 11%
Not sure ............. 33%
Q10 If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its handling of creating the universe?
Approve ............. 71%
Disapprove......... 5%
Not sure ............. 24%"

Poll reveals majority of UK Christians support secular outlook

"Results of a poll carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) show that UK Christians are overwhelmingly secular in their attitudes on a wide range of issues.

[...]

The poll revealed that, on balance, significantly more Christians:

    agree that the law should apply equally to everyone, regardless of their religion or belief (92% v 2%)
    oppose religion having special influence on public policy (74% v 12%)
    oppose the UK having an official state religion (46% v 32%)
    oppose seats being reserved for Church of England bishops in the House of Lords (32% v 25%)
    support the costs of hospital chaplains being met by the chaplain's religious organisation rather than from NHS budgets (39% v 32%)
    want state-funded schools to teach knowledge about the world's main faiths even-handedly, rather than inculcate beliefs (57% v 15% solely Christian inculcation or 8% inculcate other school faith)
    approve of sexual relations between two adults of the same sex than do not (46% v 29%)
    approve of an adult woman's right to have an abortion within the legal time limit (62% v 20%)
    support the legalisation of assisted suicide in the case of terminally ill adult patients with safeguards (59% v 21%)"

National Secular Society, 14 Feb 2012
See lengthy press releases with lots more numbers here:
RDFRS UK/Ipsos MORI Poll #1: How religious are UK Christians?
RDFRS UK/Ipsos MORI Poll #2: UK Christians oppose special influence for religion in public policy

Here are the full results of the poll (PDF)

See also:
"The kind of conservative religious aggression that claims 'anti-Christian discrimination' every time Christians are asked to treat others fairly and equally in the public square is a threatened response to the loss of top-down religion's social power. So is overbearing 'Christian nation' rhetoric, and the 'culture wars' that some hardline believers and non-believers may seek to launch and win against each other.

[...]

"Likewise, Richard Dawkins may not be a subtle, unbiased or persuasive analyst of religion overall, but it would be entirely unhelpful for believers to dismiss this survey because they disagree with its commissioner in other respects. Its content evidently needs further and deeper analysis, alongside other data, than the initial response to it has allowed."



Ekklesia (Christian think-tank)

Daily Telegraph: Christians don't want religion to 'influence public life'



Saturday, February 11, 2012

Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church

"No single reason dominated the break-up between church and young adults. Instead, a variety of reasons emerged. Overall, the research uncovered six significant themes why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.

Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.
Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt."

Barna.org, September 28, 2011

See the original article for further description of the reasons why young people leave the church.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Visions of Angels Described in Bible May Have Been Lucid Dreams

"Sleep researchers say they have established that many of the visions of angels and other religious encounters described in the Bible were likely "the products of spontaneous lucid dreams."

In a sleep study by the Out-Of-Body Experience Research Center in Los Angeles, 30 volunteers were instructed to perform a series of mental steps upon waking up or becoming lucid during the night that might lead them to have out-of-body experiences culminating in perceived encounters with an angel. Half of them succeeded, the researchers said.

[...]

Raduga, whose organization is partly funded by sales of his "practical guide" books on lucid dreaming, designed the experiment to test his theory that many reports of miraculous encounters are actually instances of people experiencing this vibrant, lifelike dream state. If he could coach people to dream a realistic religious encounter, he said, that could prove that many historical accounts of such encounters — such as Elijah's vision in the Bible — are really just products of people's imaginations."

Livescience.com, 21 December 2011

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In the West, religious nations are more sexist

"First of all, let's look at the correlation with a straightforward measure of whether women can be leaders, which was assessed by asking the level of agreement with two questions: “On the whole, men make better political leaders than women do” and “On the whole, men make better business executives than women do.”

Overall, there's a fairly good correlation. But there is an exception, and that's Asian countries.  There are only a few Asian countries in the sample, so it's hard to draw sweeping conclusions. But they are all very sexist, whether their citizens are religious (Thailand, Taiwan) or non-religious (China, Hong Kong, Japan)

So I took these countries out of the analysis - in fact, what's shown in the graphic is only those countries with a predominantly Western, Christian culture (i.e. North and South America, Europe, and Australia).

In these Westernised countries there's a strong, linear relationship between religion and sexism.

In fact, if you narrow the sample a bit more to look only at European countries the fit is even cleaner (I haven't shown this, but it's a remarkably straight line)."



Epiphenom.fieldofscience.com, Tom Rees, November 11, 2011

Religion vs. sexism




Religious people are less likely to take their medicine

"Sarah Finocchario-Kessler, at the University of Kansas, used data from one such drug trial to see what the effect of religious beliefs (and other psychological factors) was on medication taking.

She found that people who put themselves in God's hands really were less likely to take their medicine.

To be precise, people who used a passive religious deferral coping style (e.g. "I don’t try much of anything; simply expect God to take control") were less likely to take their medicine as often as they were supposed to.  On the other hand,  collaborative religious coping "I work together with God as partners" or self-directing religious coping (e.g., "I make decisions about what to do without God’s help" had no effect on whether people took their medicines.

The biggest effect was with those people who scored high on the "God as locus of health control" measure - that means people who agreed with statements like "Whether or not my HIV disease improves is up to God." "


Epiphenom.fieldofscience.com, Tom Rees,  March 02, 2011


Kids are less likely to come with supernatural explanations than adults

"It's pretty much taken as an assumption these days that human beings are 'natural-born believers'. Ask a cognitive scientist who specializes in religion, and they will tell you that our brains are predisposed to all sorts of supernatural concepts.

[...]

And when independent researchers outside the core groups test the hypothesis, they often get results that don't fit the story. That's the case with a new study by Jacqui Woolley, a psychologist at the University of Texas.

She and her colleagues read some short tales to a bunch of kids (67 in total) aged 8, 10 or 12, and also 22 adults. All the stories illustrated a 'difficult to explain' event.

[...]

So they read these stories and then asked the listener how the event could be explained. The surprising thing was that the kids hardly ever offered up supernatural explanations.

[...]

Adults, on the other hand, readily offered up supernatural explanations. There was a clear trend, too, as you can see in the graph - the older the child, the more likely they were to explain these strange happenings by recourse to the supernatural

Epiphenom.fieldofscience.com, Tom Rees, October 04, 2011

Kids are less likely to come with supernatural explanations than adults

Simply being near a church makes people more hostile to outsiders

"In a recent study, Jordan LaBouff (University of Maine) worked with colleagues at Baylor College to discover whether attitudes to different groups are affected by subliminal Christian priming.

[...]

So what effect does religious priming have on ordinary people? To test this, LaBouff stopped people at random outside a church in the Netherlands (and, to check if the effect was culturally specific, a few people outside Westminster Abbey in London). He asked them a series of questions, including asking them to rate their attitudes to different groups on a 1-10 scale.

He also stopped some other people in a location that contained only civic buildings (in England, the location chosen was the Houses of Parliament).

[...]

But, as you can see from the graph, attitudes towards every single group were more hostile when people were asked outside a church. All the differences are statistically significant (except the difference in attitudes towards Christians)."

Epiphenom.fieldofscience.com, Tom Rees, Saturday, February 04

Attitudes towards different groups vary depending on where you ask the question.

Conservative religious beliefs strongly predict U.S. teen birth rates

"Some religions insist on the sexual abstinence before marriage. Isn’t it ironic that the journal Reproductive Health reports a correlation showing that the more religious the state, the higher the rates of teenage pregnancy?


Salon.com, Bernard Starr, Jan 8, 2012

Here's from the report by Reproductive Health:

"Conclusions    
With data aggregated at the state level, conservative religious beliefs strongly predict  U.S. teen birth rates, in a relationship that does not appear to be the result of  confounding by income or abortion rates. One possible explanation for this  relationship is that teens in more religious communities may be less likely to use  contraception. "


Religiosity and teen birth rate in the United States, Joseph M. Strayhorn and Jillian C. Strayhorn

See full report here.

Teen birth rate by religiosity