Defending the Faith: Sociologist explains how religion benefits even atheists

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  • oldcougar Orem, UT
    Nov. 2, 2013 12:13 p.m.

    Weber State Graduate...the author of the article stated quite clearly that the research did not prove that God exists, only that religious people benefit us all with their good behavior. Your comment was obscurely written and often ungrammatical.

  • antodav TAMPA, FL
    Oct. 1, 2013 4:32 a.m.

    This is all well and good, but I still believe it depends on what religion we are talking about here. Some religions definitely have more of a positive impact on society than others.

    Also, the accusations about religion being "unhealthy and anti-social" are not old. In fact, they are quite new, and modern, compared to centuries of religious affiliation being held in high regard and being seen as virtually essential in civilized society, whereas atheism was seen in the terms the article describes religion as being seen as today. The irreligiosity of society is a fairly recent development—one that has been having a highly damaging effect on families, communities, and government for quite some time now, and only seems to be getting worse.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    Sept. 30, 2013 12:57 p.m.

    "Morality is not derived from religion, but rather from the need to work collectively for our good."

    Then it's not morality. It's pragmatism.

    If a group of people decided, collectively, that the common good required that the mentally retarded and physically disabled be sterilized and/or euthanized, would that be moral? If there is no transcendent basis for morality -- why not?

    Regarding the earlier comment that the "Dark Ages" (N.B. -- historians don't use that term anymore) were caused by "religion run amok" -- No. They were caused by the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the late Roman Empire, by global cooling which pushed its already vulnerable structure past its limits, and by hordes of big mean Germans with axes.

  • Observor Alameda, CA
    Sept. 28, 2013 3:18 p.m.

    @The Scientist - Points for creating a snarky response that is quotable, but points deducted for it being a false-analogy argument, deficient in critical thinking.

    Nice try, though.

  • Stay the Course Salt Lake City, utah
    Sept. 27, 2013 11:47 p.m.

    finally a comment I read to the end you made and understood your point
    agree completely with you on this one

  • Kevin J. Kirkham Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 27, 2013 7:22 p.m.

    Perhaps an even better take on the subject would be how atheism even helps religion. Of all the developed nations the USA has the largest percentage of incarcerated citizens and over ninety eight percent are Christian products.
    What percentage of those incarcerated were true believers and regular church attenders prior to committing their crimes? I would guess that a much smaller percentage than those who weren’t such.

    Tyler D
    ..the thesis is belied by the fact (existence) of Scandinavia, Germany, Denmark, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand, etc… all secular countries (majorities are not religious) considered the best places to live by most measures.
    Such ratings are due to socialistic policies that promote a “brother’s keeper” culture ( providing healthcare, education, etc…) and which yields less income disparity that promotes envy/crime. Religious belief provides an incentive to do/be good which the irreligious don’t have.

    [religious states] have the highest rates of … porn usage.
    That stat refers to internet porn. This is probably due to pornographic magazines and movies being much less accessible than in other states, so people use the Net.

  • Kevin J. Kirkham Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 27, 2013 7:17 p.m.

    Christians and Jews build hospitals. We have a zillion "St. x Medical Centers”, etc...I have yet to hear of "Atheist General Hospital" or "Agnostic Memorial Hospital".

    Religions also sponsor far more Food Banks, Womens' Shelters, etc... I don't see atheists with red kettles standing outside Walmart at Christmas time...or ANYTIME.

    If we compared 2 demographically identical groups with one being religious and the other irreligious, it makes sense that the religious group would be more socially beneficial since their religion incents them to be good.

    Religion’s benefits society FAR more than it harms it.

    If your grandma’s car broke down in a bad part of town one night and she was walking through a dark alley to get to a service station and noticed a group of young men approaching her. Would you/she feel more or less relieved if you knew that these men/boys were coming from a religious service rather than being a random group from the local population? Sure, you can say that grandma is Jewish and the boys were coming from a mosque, but 99% of the time, you’d be thrilled.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    Sept. 27, 2013 5:50 p.m.


    What proof do have they were religious?

    The fact most atrocities and murders are done in name power and control and money and property.

    Compared to religion, there is no foundation of morals and principles in atheist doctrine other than a false hope in natural man.

    People are not naturally good, they are just naturally natural, and without higher impetus to do good and right will always fall to meeting to their basest desires, needs or wants which includes power, control, wealth, property, food, sex, lust, greed, envy, etc.

    In most bad attributed to religion is actually more right;y attributed one of the above.

    If one was living true Christianity how could any atrocity or murder happen?

    Nope. it is wicked men lusting for power or control or some base desire or need, sometimes USING religion or God.

    Men will do bad things no matter the what groups, societies, organizations, or governments they form or are part without morals and values that have higher power (not of men) behind them.

    History is replete of this happening again and again.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Sept. 27, 2013 11:10 a.m.


    correlation and causation

    Is that similiar to the scenario of prayer vs. answers to prayers? If I pray to wake up in the morning and I do wake up in the morning it doesn't mean the prayer caused me to wake up. Right?

    Or if I pray to be able to pay my bills, and I am able to pay my bills, it doesn't mean the prayer helped me.

  • OHBU Columbus, OH
    Sept. 27, 2013 11:05 a.m.

    Leesburg, VA

    >>The state with the lowest crime rates is New Hampshire, the state with the highest percentage of atheists. They seem to be doing alright.

    Correlation is not causation. That's a basic precept of statistics. There could be a million other variables that have a more direct impact on the crime rate.
    The same could be said of every single observation made in the book and in the comments section in favor of religion in society. It's an interesting phenomenon that when correlation supports a preconceived idea, it is readily accepted as causation. When it contradicts one, the causation is called into question.

  • OHBU Columbus, OH
    Sept. 27, 2013 10:34 a.m.


    Your initial assumption is faulty. First of all, all three of the figures you cite were raised in religious environment (Stalin studied to be clergy), so a religious upbringing clearly doesn't help. Also, you're assuming they did these things because of their atheism (if, indeed, they were all atheists). If the premise is merely that they're atheist, then I'll point out that a number of genocides in the 20th century were at the hands of religious people: Sudan, Leopold II of Belgium, Hideki Tojo, Ismail Enver, Saddam Hussein, Jean Kambanda, etc. Add to that all religious wars, such as the Irish Civil War, numerous wars between England and France, the Thirty Year War in the Netherlands, Roman persecutions of Jews and Christians, the Crusades, Muslim/Hindu clashes that led to the creation of Pakistan, wars between Iraq and Iran, the extermination of Native Americans,Aboriginal Peoples in Australia, and the majority of the populations of the Incan and Aztec empires.

    I'm not saying these people acted in the rational way religion teaches, nor did Stalin, Mao, or Hitler do it because they're atheist. All do it out of a thirst for power.

  • OHBU Columbus, OH
    Sept. 27, 2013 10:10 a.m.

    I think it's worth pointing out that Dr. Stark also speaks publicly against the theory of evolution (though that is most certainly not in his specialty), wrote an extensive apology for the crusades, which was widely panned in his field, and who made the argument that Christianity was responsible for many of the advances in reason, using as his evidence the fact that many of the great thinkers were themselves Catholic (a ridiculous claim that omits the fact that one was simply not allowed to be anything else--Galileo was Catholic, though it's hard to believe his discoveries were because of his faith rather than in spite of it--people aren't generally threatened with execution by the church if they're advancing its theories). To pretend that Dr. Stark is a giant in his field and viewed as anything other than highly controversial is incredibly misleading.

  • bandersen Saint George, UT
    Sept. 27, 2013 10:08 a.m.

    Atl and others: Good luck with the long term consequences of an 'athiest' society. As Dostoesky said, "If God does not exist, everything is permitted" One can be quite arrogant about athiesm when you are under the banner of religious protection. I would love to see how you would do over with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Even though the Taliban professes a belief in God, conscience doesn't rule the day, which means they are equivalent to an athiest's view of the world. Go ahead, see how far that fuzzy feeling gets you when you can't hide under the banner of religious rights guaranteed here in America. Oh, how I would love to see you take that challenge before announcing your certainty about living in an athiest state.

  • mhenshaw Leesburg, VA
    Sept. 27, 2013 10:01 a.m.

    >>Do we really need hard science or math these days to see the obvious with cultural degradation? One could certainly argue root cause, but the correlation to Christian decline is right there.

    It is true that long-term trends, carefully measured, are better indicators of which variables are responsible for sociological changes. But even then "correlation is not causation" still lurks because we have to account for other possible variables. Education, poverty, and numerous other factors play a role in crime rates; and the smaller the geographic area begin studied, the greater the role they play.

    That said, as a member of the Church, I agree with your assessment. But since we're discussing the issue with people who don't share our beliefs, we have to make sure that our points are based in sound methodology wherever possible. Since members of the LDS Church believe that "the Glory of God is intelligence," we, of all people, should try our best to speak the languages of both faith and science.

  • 1.96 Standard Deviations OREM, UT
    Sept. 27, 2013 9:38 a.m.


    I agree with you. We are literally standing on the greatest amount of evidence (Earth) that there is a God, a supreme creator. How many times did Christ, the Son of God, or his ancient apostles invite those with ears to hear? And those with eyes to see?

    To add to your comment, I also would like to add the scripture in Alma 30:44, "[...] all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."

    Even if atheists have trouble believing, maybe they can accept this logic:

    Even if there is a 0.0000001% chance Christ's gospel is true; and Christ's gospel promises that we can be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) and inherit all that God has, then 0.0000001% * infinity (all God has) still equals infinity! There is no loss in being a believer in Christ and being faithful to His gospel!

  • DesireTruth College Park, MD
    Sept. 27, 2013 9:11 a.m.

    RE: Eternal perspective ... cultural/moral degradation

    I feel like in the church we have this attitude that things have been getting worse (morally &culturally) over time - particularly the last 50-100 years. In some ways I can understand this, in others I don't:

    -Women can now vote, go to college, & hold practically any job they want. Huge pro! Maybe we have a few slightly neglected children because women choose to not be stay-at-home moms, but women (particularly single women with children) now have career options besides prostitution and low-paying jobs that can't provide for a family.

    -Civil rights movement - big pro! It is no longer acceptable to be racist.

    -Acceptance of various lifestyles. The cost of this is that we have more children born out of wedlock and perhaps variations of families that some do not approve of, but I think the pros outweigh the cons. Pros: Single/teen moms are no longer shunned (think Les Mis) and can live a respectable life. Gays and lesbians can (almost) live without fear of being fired or mistreated because of their sexual orientation.

    To me it feels like a world that is more loving, tolerant, & Christlike.

  • EternalPerspective Eldersburg, MD
    Sept. 27, 2013 8:32 a.m.


    From a mathematical perspective, certainly such an observation could be made. But, one can also easily see the effects of "social liberation" trends from the 1960s with themes of self-indulgence and self-gain. The unprecedented excesses of the 1970s and 1980s stand for themselves as but one example of evidence.

    There is no way someone can say these social behaviors did not incrementally lead to increased addiction, rampant STDs, violence, and other hedonistic patterns now accepted as mainstream practices in our day. Such trends continue to grow with tolerance of pushing limits today.

    There is no way by any measure the sign of these times is coincidental to the decline of organized Christian religions in America. The two patterns and trends run hand and hand especially within the time frame from the 1960s to now.

    Such may not be verifiable statistical certainties, but they are far too overt to ignore, save someone outright denies the obvious to artificially make their argument have more validity.

    Do we really need hard science or math these days to see the obvious with cultural degradation? One could certainly argue root cause, but the correlation to Christian decline is right there.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Sept. 27, 2013 8:24 a.m.


    You’re right… I should have said “out of government” rather than “private.” Evangelize all you want.

    @FT1/SS – “Currently reading Dinesh Dsouza's "Whats so great about Christianity".

    If you’re looking for historical facts you might have more luck reading “What’s So Great About Judaism” by Adolf Hitler.

    Dsouza’s book is agenda driven propaganda and his arguments about so-called “atheist atrocities” have been decimated in live debates (easy to find online) by folks like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.

    Briefly - these were power mad dictators looking to destroy the previous power structures in their respective countries. Their so-called atheism looked nothing like the secular views of the countries I cited in a previous comment, let alone the secularism (built on freedom) of our Founders.

    And to say Hitler (Nazis) was an atheist is factually incorrect (but that never troubles Dsouza). The Nazis started in Bavaria among uber right-wing Catholics and Hitler himself often made speeches referencing Christ as a “fighter against Jews.”

    And the Catholic Church only ever ex-communicated one Nazi leader and that was because he married a Protestant.

    Reached comment limit…

  • EternalPerspective Eldersburg, MD
    Sept. 27, 2013 8:07 a.m.


    Though we may disagree on doctrinal points of our respective Christian faiths, I couldn't agree with you more here. There is sufficient evidence God exists all around us. It is free will whether we choose a path leading to sufficient humility, repentance, sincerity, and intent to receive what God gives those who put their faith and trust in Him.

    The Bible is a great example of patterns in American history that we Mormons called "The Cycle of Pride". People start out humble and worship God because they depend on Him for physical sustenance and spiritual enlightenment. As prosperity increases, so does pride. Then, there are moments of interjection when God attempts to humble people so they repent of sins and follow Him again. Yet, opposition becomes stronger and many more fall away to perish by the war, famine, pestilence, etc.

    The problem today is that so many follow false worldly knowledge, disciplines, and practices, which distance them from God's grace. The more they disbelieve and fight against God's truths, the greater they fall into temptation, sin, and rebellion. Collateral damage is evident in secret combinations of evil becoming predominant in society as is plainly evident today.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Sept. 27, 2013 7:17 a.m.

    RE: Atheists claim that there is not enough reason to believe God exists. In Romans 1, Paul proves otherwise. All men see God in creation but suppress the evidence in sin
    General revelation is the revelation that God gives to all people in creation. “For since the creation of the world God’s “invisible qualities”—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse But though all men clearly know there is a God, they do not honor or give thanks to Him and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being...”(Romans 1:20-23)
    The fall into sin has caused mankind to ignore and deny their Creator. Sin has affected our minds and causes our thinking to become futile apart from Christ. This effect of sin upon our minds is known in theology as the “noetic effects of sin.”

    Religion in its rise interests us about ourselves; in its progress, about our fellow creatures; in its highest stage, about the honor of God.”

  • mhenshaw Leesburg, VA
    Sept. 27, 2013 7:13 a.m.

    >>The state with the lowest crime rates is New Hampshire, the state with the highest percentage of atheists. They seem to be doing alright.

    Correlation is not causation. That's a basic precept of statistics. There could be a million other variables that have a more direct impact on the crime rate.

  • teeoh Anytown, KY
    Sept. 27, 2013 6:52 a.m.


    I think you’re right that on an individual (micro) level you cannot judge a person’s goodness on his/her religiosity. However, on the whole (macro level), it’s more than obvious that the greatest atrocities in history were committed by those who reject religion. This is particularly true in modern history, which is the most relevant to helping us understand sociology in our day. And that was the point of the article: to look at this from a sociological standpoint, not an individual standpoint.

  • EternalPerspective Eldersburg, MD
    Sept. 27, 2013 5:11 a.m.

    There is no way a person of faith can convince an atheist that religion is a good thing. At best, we can demonstrate that our faith and religion has made us better people by rising above all the negative rhetoric in word and deed.

    Even then, what can we truly accomplish with "convincing" unbelievers of anything, save they are first prepared by life's trials to open their minds and hearts to a different perspective because there is no other place to turn? For that is how this atheist became a believer after many years of stubbornness, doubt, and anger toward those of faith. Not all take this path of course.

    What is plain in American society (and the world) today is (a) Christianity as a religion has seen significant reduction in membership across all denominations, etc., (b) Statistics of negative measures like crime, addiction, etc. keep increasing, and (c) The first two observations have occurred with often dramatic acceleration since around the 1960s.

    Coincidence? Or is there more to the multi-generational culture and morality trends directly tied to the degree Americans once believed and followed their faith in God to modern decades where many have abandoned those traditions?

  • Maudine SLC, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 6:54 p.m.

    FT1/SS: While there is some debate on whether or not Hitler was an atheist, you comment creates a false dichotomy.

    It assumes that God = good (no atrocities) and lack of God = bad (atrocities). Any minor examination of history will show this is not true. Religious individuals are just as likely to commit atrocities as those who have no religious belief.

    The difference, therefore, must be something other than a belief in God versus a lack of belief in God. The difference must lie instead in how much we value other human beings and those who are different than us.

    Atheism does not automatically make one bad anymore than theism automatically makes one good. And vice versa.

    It is time to move beyond sophomoric comparisons and begin to look at the real world. The new Catholic Pope, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama are excellent sources.

  • FT1/SS Virginia Beach, VA
    Sept. 26, 2013 4:49 p.m.

    Currently reading Dinesh Dsouza's "Whats so great about Christianity". The book tells the real story of atheism. In the past century atheist's have been the most violent in world history. Between Hitler (his own words), Mao, and Stalin about 100 million deaths. That is the result of atheism when allowed.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Sept. 26, 2013 4:21 p.m.

    @ Ranch. Why would you assume I have not treated gay people well? My religion teach everyone to obey the law of chastity which as the article points out, would benefit the entire human race, including gays, socialists and atheists.

  • DesireTruth College Park, MD
    Sept. 26, 2013 3:43 p.m.

    I don't really have much against religion (I am an active LDS member), and have not read the book, but many of these statistics sounds false.

    Utah (and other top religious states) have the highest rates of anti-depression drugs & porn usage. The statistic for Swedish crime rates is misleading (1. you are only looking at one country 2. the homicide rate in Sweden is about a fifth of what it is in the US 3) many factors contribute to crime besides religion). Also, from what I've heard, divorce rates, foreclosure rates, and charity rates are not much different from LDS church members compared to nonreligious people(tithing shouldn't really count as charity any more than paying to be in a golf club would, fast offerings on the other hand should). The article seems to engender a proud attitude that makes LDS/religious members feel "we are better/more righteous than them/"the world"" which doesn't facilitate peace and understanding with our neighbors.

  • teeoh Anytown, KY
    Sept. 26, 2013 2:40 p.m.

    @Tyler D. "If religious folks would keep their beliefs private rather than as a catalyst to control society..."

    Really? Isn't there an in between? Maybe sharing beliefs so that others can decide for themselves?

    It's ironic that you would have us keep our beliefs private and in the same sentence accuse us of wanting to control society.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Sept. 26, 2013 1:36 p.m.

    @Strider303 – “I feel that those comments who trumpet a secular or atheistic life style”

    What is a secular or atheistic lifestyle?

    Other than not believing in the supernatural, I’d guess my life looks pretty similar to yours – work, raising a family, involved in the community, try to live a decent life (i.e., be good citizen)… all the things that those radical secularists that founded our country thought were necessary for a good life.

    And you need only look to the bullying tactics of believers (for millennia) to know why non-believers are beginning to push back. If religious folks would keep their beliefs private rather than as a catalyst to control society, most of us would waste little time trying to disabuse you of your theism.

    @brokenclay – “Rather than interact with the point being explicitly made, some would rather speculate on internal motivations unrelated to the thesis.”

    And yet the thesis is belied by the fact (existence) of Scandinavia, Germany, Denmark, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand, etc… all secular countries (majorities are not religious) considered the best places to live by most measures.

  • Maudine SLC, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 1:13 p.m.

    @ kvnsmnsn: Stark's previous book, The Rise of Christianity, showed extremely sloppy scholarship and a tendency to select data that supported his foregone conclusion instead of a non-biased examination of data to reach a conclusion.

    Analysis of quotes from this book indicate a similar m.o. I would be very surprised if this book stood up to close scrutiny any better than his last book.

    As for "rigorous scholarly works" that show a different conclusion, there are many if you are willing to do the work to look them up. What I am not seeing is any indication of any rigorous scholarly work to support Stark's conclusions.

  • lehiaggie Lehi, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 12:59 p.m.

    I am a product of religion. It has made me a better husband, father, citizen and person. Therefore, I continue to be religious. It is for the good of those around me and for myself. If you have found some other way to make you a better person, so be it.

  • kvnsmnsn Springville, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 12:54 p.m.

    I haven't read Rodney Stark's book, but I would be greatly surprised if it isn't as rigorous a study as is possible in today's sociology. In contrast, a lot of comments on this forum are based on little more than the commenter's own experience and opinion. If these commenters really think that Stark's conclusions are wrong, they should put together an equally rigorous scholarly work that looks for the right conclusions.

  • brokenclay Chandler, AZ
    Sept. 26, 2013 11:29 a.m.

    I fully second Verdad's comment. Rather than interact with the point being explicitly made, some would rather speculate on internal motivations unrelated to the thesis.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    Sept. 26, 2013 11:19 a.m.

    Perhaps an even better take on the subject would be how atheism even helps religion. Of all the developed nations the USA has the largest percentage of incarcerated citizens and over ninety eight percent are Christian products.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 11:07 a.m.

    Mountanman says:
    "The purpose of religion is to teach us how to behave properly, especially toward each other!"

    Why don't you start behaving properly to others, especially your lgbt neighors? That would be a sign that your religion's teachings are working.

    The article says that "religious people are less likely to commit crimes". Judging from just the local news, I'd have to disagree with that assessment. We have religious locals fleecing their fellow members in a constant stream of financial schemes. We have local relgious people commiting sexual crimes against the children under their care (there have been numerous cases in just the last few years). IMO, religious people are every bit as likely to commit crimes as are non-religious people.

    Morality is not derived from religion, but rather from the need to work collectively for our good.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 10:41 a.m.


    It's all about the ability grasp the subliminal message and then simply connect the dots.

    Why go to so much trouble at drawing attention to "how religion benefits even atheists" under the banner of "defending the faith" if not to somehow try and indirectly validate the supernatural claims of religion?

    I believe most readers get it.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 10:31 a.m.

    The state with the lowest crime rates is New Hampshire, the state with the highest percentage of atheists. They seem to be doing alright.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Sept. 26, 2013 10:03 a.m.

    @Kralon – “That is quite a stretch, perhaps you have some research you might cite?”

    Not sure how the (3000 year) hypothesis could be researched… science has a hard enough time explaining whether or not coffee is good for you.

    My polemic conclusion aside, can you think of any good arguments that refute the theory?

    And you’re right about the fall of Rome and the role of monasteries, but my point was given how advanced society was during the Greek democracies and the Roman Republic, there is no reason Europe should have experienced a thousand year Dark Age.

    Religion’s interest during that time was self-promotion and the superstitious baggage that came along. It was only when Europe (and later our Founders) looked back to the Greek and Roman models did we begin to emerge from those dark times.


    It’s not a question of “buying arguments” rather that those beliefs (no morality without God) propagated for so long became almost hard wired into western cultural DNA.

    They are not easily shed just because one stops believing in an often war-like desert tribal god.

    The rest was nicely said…

  • Strider303 Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 10:02 a.m.

    It appears that to comment on the book itself, one must first read it. That would answer some of the comments as to methodology and such.

    From what Dr. Peterson said, it appears that those who at least embrace one of the Abrahamic religions and try to live the precepts have internalized a sense of obligation to God, or a higher power to borrow from AA, to live a life based upon accepted norms and in some ways subordinate personal wants, passions or wishes in order to meet the religion's tenets. In this the believer is said to be happier and enjoy some life enhancing benefits.

    I feel that those comments who trumpet a secular or atheistic life style seem anxious to denounce the source of other people's happiness and contentment and attempt to replace their theism with a system where ego and personal pride hold sway and everyone should walk after the manner of his own will.

    The latter does make sense if your atheism gives you an unknown number of days of mortality before ending up in the great biological compost pile called the grave.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 9:54 a.m.

    Professor Peterson's article ends with this: "None of these facts proves religious claims true, of course. But they certainly undermine the old accusation that religion is unhealthy and antisocial."

    From their comments above, it seems either that "Weber State Graduate" and "The Scientist" don't believe that Peterson meant what he said, or that their copies of the article were missing that last paragraph.

  • Daniel Leifker San Francisco, CA
    Sept. 26, 2013 9:42 a.m.

    I've often wondered what the world would be like if religion had never taken root. I suppose it could have evolved into a peaceful society of thoughtful agnostics, but I wouldn't bet my next paycheck on it.

  • Maudine SLC, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 9:41 a.m.

    @ DesNews moderators: How, exactly, is offering a critical analysis of a quote from the book "off topic or disruptive"?

    Here is a (slightly) edited version of my previous comment.

    Let's really look at the rape statistics of Sweden compared to the US.

    In Sweden, a woman who has been raped is more likely to report it to the police than a woman in the US who has been raped. If a rape incident includes one night at one location with three perpetrators - that is recorded as 3 rapes in Sweden, one rape in the US. In a similar scenario, if there was one perpetrator but he forced himself on the woman three times, it would also count as 3 in Sweden and 1 in the US.

    Likewise, other crimes are recorded differently between the US and Sweden - in fact, as criminologists and staticians know, due to differing definitions and collection methods, it is impossible to compare crime rates in one country to crime rates in another country.

    Does the rest of the book rely on similar controversial claims?

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Sept. 26, 2013 9:32 a.m.

    Tyler D,

    I don't think the irreligious have bought the arguments of the religious and therefore suffer the consequences noted in the study.

    From a purely sociological view, religion represents a "good behavior" model that has been proven to work over the centuries (not simply Christianity). So it should be no surprise that there are significant benefits.

    As to the world being what we make it? Absolutely. In my view it is "fallen" yet still beautiful and with amazing opportunities. Both the good and the bad in the world are due to the legacies of those of good and ill will.

    Our duty is to be among the good. To leave the world a bit better for our passing through. First for our families, then for our friends and acquaintances, and then for our communities and the world generally.

    Sept. 26, 2013 9:17 a.m.

    @ Tyler D

    "You have no one to blame but yourselves for our society’s lack of virtue"

    Blaming religious believers for society's lack of virtue? That is quite a stretch, perhaps you have some research you might cite?

    "Or would the good Dr. prefer to return to the Dark Ages (which was entirely the product of religious belief run amok)?"

    Perhaps you might want to review the research into the "Dark Ages" (most scholars use "Medieval Times"). Especially pay attention to the Visigoths brutal role in initiating the fall of Rome and the role of Religious Monasteries in keeping scholarship alive. However, there is evidence that Christianity helped weaken Rome so religion did play some role, but certainly not close to "entirely".

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Sept. 26, 2013 8:41 a.m.

    Nice job religious believers – spend 3000 years convincing people that without belief in the supernatural (or more specifically, the God of Abraham) there is no morality because people are at their core, fallen (i.e., evil).

    Then when people begin to shed their credulousness, you look on in shock at their lack of ethical behavior (which is not at all the case for many atheists, but for the sake of this argument…).

    You have no one to blame but yourselves for our society’s lack of virtue, such as it is.

    And it would be refreshing to see an article on how atheism, or at least the presupposition that the world is what we make it and can be explained entirely through natural processes, has benefited the world for centuries.

    Or would the good Dr. prefer to return to the Dark Ages (which was entirely the product of religious belief run amok)?

  • caf Bountiful, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 8:00 a.m.

    Great article! I would like to read the book. :0)

  • jeanie orem, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 7:28 a.m.

    Having a good friend who is atheist and who lives among religious people I can respect her belief. She is a good example of how to disagree with religion without weakening her beliefs by throwing stones at her neighbors.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 7:08 a.m.

    It's important to point out that from a sociological perspective, sociologists are less concerned with the ostensible "truthfulness" of a religious claim and more interested in how religion fits into society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements...namely norms, customs, traditions and institutions. These constituent elements do not authenticate the existence of a deity, but rather contribute to the social order of society.

    What is important to a sociologist is the ability to examine religion objectively in its social and cultural context. Drawing a veiled parallel to the functional aspects of religion with the idea that this somehow makes the supernatural claims of religion legitimate is misleading. That's what this article seems to imply under the banner of "defending the faith."

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Sept. 26, 2013 6:10 a.m.

    Apparently we have been fighting crime, poverty and human suffering all wrong! We can't build enough prisons, give out enough food stamps or hire enough police to protect us from a Godless society! The purpose of religion is to teach us how to behave properly, especially toward each other!

  • Apocalypse please Bluffdale, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 6:05 a.m.

    I recently did my own study and found: religion works for some, doesn't for others, and is every shade of gray imaginable for the rest.

    I'm interested in what methodologies this study used. We're only Christians studied? How about members of the FLDS church, or church of Scientology, etc?

    What aspect of religion might lead to a better life? Is it a universal message found among all religions? Or maybe the pie-in-the-sky mentality?

    Either way, thanks for the article Dr Peterson.

  • The Scientist Provo, UT
    Sept. 26, 2013 5:27 a.m.

    Indeed. We atheists also benefit from the Christmas shopping sales, but that doesn't make Santa real.