Religion versus Rational Thought

I’ve stayed away from dwelling on the rea­sons that we are leav­ing the US. Bet­ter to spend time on the mechan­ics of the activ­i­ty. I’ve avoid­ed the sub­ject, part­ly because, you can become quite occu­pied with the forms to fill out, the doc­u­ments to locate, the mon­ey to spend and the mov­ing com­pa­nies, real­tors, lawyers and bankers to com­mu­ni­cate with. But in the end I keep com­ing back to the fact that the US has become a theoc­ra­cy. Not mov­ing toward it, not in dan­ger of falling into it. It’s there.

I learned the oth­er day that accord­ing to a poll in 2003, ’79% of Amer­i­cans believed in God’. I think the num­bers are even high­er than that (I heard some­thing like 90% on the news. By the way, when bro­ken down by reli­gion (same poll), Jews had the low­est belief in god: 48%. Among adults as a whole, 66% were absolute­ly cer­tain (the pol­l’s lan­guage, not mine). (Here’s the poll: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=408)

George Bush con­stant­ly uses reli­gion to keep peo­ple com­pla­cent about the job he is doing (or rather what he is doing to the coun­try). That only goes so far, as his ‘poll’ num­bers show. Nev­er­the­less, while peo­ple may dis­ap­prove of his han­dling of the war, Social Secu­ri­ty, Health Care, the econ­o­my, and what­ev­er else he could have an impact on, they nev­er­the­less fol­low that up with ‘But he’s a good man’ or ‘I still believe in his moral­i­ty’. And for that, they give him a free pass to do what­ev­er he wants, giv­ing hand­outs to cor­po­rate cronies, or pri­va­tiz­ing (which usu­al­ly means dis­man­tling) some oth­er aspect or activ­i­ty of the pub­lic sec­tor.

In fact, Amer­i­cans now no longer believe that you can be moral with­out being reli­gious. They believe that the two are one in the same. That’s just ludi­crous. And it gets real­ly weird when you start to look at things log­i­cal­ly (which reli­gion seems to be counter): OK, in Freako­nom­ics, a fas­ci­nat­ing new book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dub­n­er, a bunch of econ­o­mists do some analy­sis on every­day things, like what do peo­ple typ­i­cal­ly die of, or why drug deal­ers live with their moms. Log­ic, and sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis, as the lit­er­a­ture about the book put it, “reg­u­lar­ly turn the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom on its head”. It offers this extreme­ly non-reli­gious, non-mys­ti­cal, and refresh­ing view:

What unites all these sto­ries is a belief that the mod­ern world, despite a sur­feit of obfus­ca­tion, com­pli­ca­tion, and down­right deceit, is not impen­e­tra­ble, is not unknow­able, and — if the right ques­tions are asked — is even more intrigu­ing than we think. All it takes is a new way of look­ing.”

Why did I segue into this dis­cus­sion of Freako­nom­ics from reli­gion and moral­i­ty? Because it can indeed be more moral, to take the non-reli­gious view. The reli­gious view, par­tic­u­lar­ly of Chris­t­ian Con­ser­v­a­tives has been that abor­tion is immoral, that we should save the life of the unborn child. Yet, here’s an abstract from a paper post­ed on the Nation­al Bureau of Eco­nom­ic Research site, (a view that is echoed in Levitt and Dub­n­er’s book):

We offer evi­dence that legal­ized abor­tion has con­tributed sig­nif­i­cant­ly to recent crime reduc­tions. Crime began to fall rough­ly 18 years after abor­tion legal­iza­tion. The 5 states that allowed abor­tion in 1970 expe­ri­enced declines ear­li­er than the rest of the nation, which legal­ized in 1973 with Roe v. Wade. States with high abor­tion rates in the 1970s and 1980s expe­ri­enced greater crime reduc­tions in the 1990s. In high abor­tion states, only arrests of those born after abor­tion legal­iza­tion fall rel­a­tive to low abor­tion states. Legal­ized abor­tion appears to account for as much as 50 per­cent of the recent drop in crime.”
NBER Work­ing Paper No. 8004, Issued Novem­ber 2000

It seems that those unwant­ed chil­dren grow up to become career crim­i­nals at an alarm­ing rate. There­fore, if you want to save lives by pre­vent­ing 50% of future crimes, (mur­der among them), keep abor­tion safe and legal. The moral thing to do for the future as well as the women forced to sup­port these unwant­ed chil­dren is to allow them (after their own care­ful delib­er­a­tion) to ter­mi­nate their preg­nan­cy. Yet, if we log­i­cal non-reli­gious types bring up such facts (and they are facts, not belief), the howls of the pious descend upon us. We are not only wrong, we are bad peo­ple, we are immoral and unamer­i­can.
George Bush was inter­viewed back in 1987 regard­ing his views on Athe­ists by Robert I. Sher­man, a reporter for the Amer­i­can Athe­ist news jour­nal. The exchange went like this:

Sher­man: What will you do to win the votes of the Amer­i­cans who are Athe­ists?

Bush: I guess I’m pret­ty weak in the Athe­ist com­mu­ni­ty. Faith in god is impor­tant to me.

Sher­man: Sure­ly you rec­og­nize the equal cit­i­zen­ship and patri­o­tism of Amer­i­cans who are Athe­ists?

Bush: No, I don’t know that Athe­ists should be con­sid­ered as cit­i­zens, nor should they be con­sid­ered patri­ots. This is one nation under God.

Sher­man (some­what tak­en aback): Do you sup­port as a sound con­sti­tu­tion­al prin­ci­ple the sep­a­ra­tion of state and church?

Bush: Yes, I sup­port the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state. I’m just not very high on Athe­ists.

So there you have anoth­er rea­son for why we are leav­ing.

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