Thursday, April 13, 2006


Religious Societies Have Higher Rates of STDs, etc.

I've had this one on the desktop for a long time.

This says that societies with more religious emphases have higher rates of abortion, prosmiscuity, STDs, and teen pregnancies than do secular societies. Hm. No, it isn’t surprising: the more rigid the moral code, the bigger the fractures when they happen. It’s like the hard-line preachers who fall for women they aren’t married to—well, yeah, and the very conservative politicians who have hidden sex lives.

The more you hammer on teen-agers to not do something, the more likely they are to try it. That’s normal behavior; we all were like that when we were young (if we weren't, and still aren't, then it's time for psychiatric intervention). When the lines are absolute, like the unavailability of contraception or abortion, then the outcomes are much more devastating. Of course the religious bigots like that: they can use the “fallen” as examples. “See, see what will happen? You just get alone with a member of the other sex and you’ll end up pregnant!” It’s like telling kids if they take one toke of marijuana they’ll become life-long heroin addicts. It’s so foolish and short-sighted. And it’s tragic.

Better Off Without Him?
By George Monbiot, AlterNet
Posted on October 13, 2005, Printed on October 13, 2005
But in the current edition of the Journal of Religion and Society, a researcher called Gregory Paul tests the hypothesis propounded by evangelists in the Bush administration, that religion is associated with lower rates of "lethal violence, suicide, non-monogamous sexual activity and abortion." He compared data from 18 developed democracies, and discovered that the Christian fundamentalists couldn't have got it more wrong.

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

Within the United States "the strongly theistic, anti-evolution South and Midwest" have "markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the Northeast where ... secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms."

Three sets of findings stand out: the associations between religion -- especially absolute belief -- and juvenile mortality, venereal disease and adolescent abortion. Paul's graphs show far higher rates of death among the under-5s in Portugal, the U.S and Ireland and put the U.S. -- the most religious country in his survey -- in a league of its own for gonorrhea and syphilis.

Strangest of all for those who believe that Christian societies are "pro-life" is the finding that "increasing adolescent abortion rates show positive correlation with increasing belief and worship of a creator ... Claims that secular cultures aggravate abortion rates (John Paul II) are therefore contradicted by the quantitative data."

These findings appear to match the studies of teenage pregnancy I've read. The rich countries in which sexual abstinence campaigns, generally inspired by religious belief, are strongest have the highest early pregnancy rates. The U.S. is the only rich nation with teenage pregnancy levels comparable to those of developing nations: it has a worse record than India, the Philippines and Rwanda. Because they're poorly educated about sex and in denial about what they're doing (and so less likely to use contraceptives), boys who participate in abstinence programmes are more likely to get their partners pregnant than those who don't.

Is it fair to blame all this on religion? While the rankings cannot reflect national poverty -- the U.S. has the world's 4th highest GDP per head, Ireland the 8th -- the nations which do well in Paul's study also have higher levels of social spending and distribution than those which do badly. Is this a cause or an association? In other words, are religious societies less likely to distribute wealth than secular ones?

But if we are to accept the findings of this one -- and so far only -- wide survey of belief and human welfare, the message to those who claim in any sense to be pro-life is unequivocal. If you want people to behave as Christians advocate, you should tell them that God does not exist.

George Monbiot is the author of 'Poisoned Arrows' and 'No Man's Land' (Green Books). Read more of his writings at This article originally appeared in the Guardian.

© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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