Correlation isn’t causation, but…

February 11, 2009 11:13 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

I saw an interesting chart today.

Gallup recently released the results of a poll they conducted, in which they asked people how important religion is in their lives. The results are pretty interesting.

I was pretty surprised that the USA is listed as “less religious”, but I guess that shows just how extreme many other countries are. I’m sure we’re at the high end of “less religious” anyway.

This chart reminded me of another one I’d seen a while ago:

800px-Percentage_population_undernourished_world_map

This is from the Wikipedia page on Poverty, with the data coming from the UN’s World Food Programme (which they spell with too many letters for some unfathomable reason). It’s hard to say exactly what the best indicator of poverty is, but starvation seems like a good one.

So, the most religious people in the world are also usually the most impoverished. The reason why I’m pointing that out is because people so often talk about how religion improves lives, and I’m sure there’s something in there about how “God provides”. Well, apparently that’s wrong. If religion is so important to these people, shouldn’t one of these graphs be reversed?

Of course, it’s obvious that religiosity doesn’t cause poverty. Indeed, it’s pretty well documented that it’s really the other way around. In hard times, people look for help and answers wherever they can. And religious organizations offer both: they say God will help you if you believe in him enough (or whatever) and they say that all of life’s answers can be found in their particular holy text. Of course, they’re wrong; as we can see, belief doesn’t help the hungry (although there are certainly benefits to joining a community of like-minded people) and their “answers” boil down to “shut up, don’t question the will of God”. But I guess bad answers are better than no answers to some people.

“But,” you may ask, “what if they’re not practicing the right religion?”

800px-Christian_percentage_by_country

This is a chart from Wikipedia’s page on Christianity. It shows how “Christian” each country is. There’s quite a lot of Christianity in the lower half of Africa, and of course throughout Central and South America.

If choice of religion matters, and if Christianity is the right religion (and I’m choosing that one because it’s most relevant to most readers of this blog) then shouldn’t Southern Africa and Central America be better off? And why would the countries that are most adherent to Christianity be worse off than those that are less? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Believers ask atheists to prove that God doesn’t exist, which of course is impossible. However, if you ask me to prove that a certain religion is false, I’ll point to stuff like this. It’s not definitive proof of course, but it’s certainly a pretty decent clue, and there are many others.

In fact, it seems that if you want to have the best life possible, you want to live in the least-religious countries (besides countries where religion was forcibly stamped out, and even those are probably pretty decent).

Of course, all of this can be invalidated in the mind of the True Believer with the phrase “it’s all part of God’s plan”. Sigh.

Wherein I solicit validation from strangers:

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This post was written by Bevans

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