Monday, October 10, 2005

Pulp Religion

My last post was deliberately provocative, and a bit misleading.

The study shows that higher rates of Christian religiosity don't correlate with better societal health. This should probably put to rest the old assumption that if people were more religious, then society would be better off. The United States is the most Christian, most religious developed nation, and its levels of murder, suicide and STD's are much higher than in other developed nations. In other words, making America more Christian isn't necessarily going to make us better off. Not that I don't expect Christians to want more conversions, even if it does nothing to improve society.

These charts don't imply that all religion is the direct cause of social ills. Indeed, I think it's possible that some very liberal forms of Christianity may even have a net benefit.

So what are the primary causes of these problems? The first is that America has one of the highest poverty levels of any developed nation. This poverty (and there being more guns than people) probably contributes to the very high murder rate.
The U.S. also ranks something like 20th in public education. There's no national health system, and no proper support for the mentally ill.

So why is high religiosity (in this case, Christianity) correlated with these problems? My short answer is that poverty and low education standards breeds what I would call "pulp religion."

Before I describe pulp religion, let me describe "thoughtful religion." There are dedicated theologians who study at the world's great universities. Though they're not paid much, they care deeply about the truth. They trust logic and see the weaknesses of common religious arguments. They are rarely ever dogmatists of fundamentalists. Laypersons who subscribe to liberal faiths also think the same way. They know that it's absurd to believe that the Bible is literally true, but they have faith in a higher being anyway. They are essentially secular in behavior, and they use God to motivate their own good behavior.

In contrast, pulp religion is fundamentalist, dogmatic, authoritarian and commercial. Let's take these one by one.

Fundamentalist. The Bible cannot be literally true. Even if we agreed on what God wanted, the Bible still wouldn't be literally true. It is riddled inconsistencies and impossibilities, and it contradicts scientific fact.

Dogmatic. The pulp church teaches people to outsource their morality. It claims to have moral authority and to be able to set rules for behavior. Instead of sex education, they prefer useless moralizing. When the bad behavior inevitably occurs, they excuse the bad behavior by allowing its believers to assign blame to evil spirit(s).

Authoritarian. Pulp churches want to legislate their agenda. They are most distressed that they can only tell you what to do.

Commercial. Simple rule here. If your church is rich, it's a fake. It's a business like any other. Oh, except that it gets an unconstitutional tax break.

In short, America is big on pulp religion, and pulp religion is bad for society. Generally, the more educated and affluent people are, the harder it is for pulp religion to make a profit.

What America needs is national health care, a progressive tax system (where the wealthy are taxed more than the middle-class, today the wealthy pay a lower rate), and a solid investment in public education. It most certainly doesn't need public religion.


Peg said...

Oh dear!!

I do not agree...what America needs is to get bureaucratic govenment down to a minimum!

Each state needs to better control and surpervise the needs of their people.

Natioal health system? How about a health system starting at levels that are affordable to the common fellow. Tests that costs thousands of dollars and prescriptions following the same line and fees that are absurd along with the cost of the proverbial band-aid in the hospital. Not to be necessarily based on a national health system for anytime you allow the government's hold on a situation you then must succumb to their "ways" and what they feel is right regardless of best interests!
Taxing the rich more? So if you work your butt off all your life and were able to make 6 to 7 figures a year you should pay more? Hmm, well I agree the tax system sucks and I don't feel the middle class should take the brunt but, I think the tax system needs revamped per state and the federal government needs to stop spending what they don't have to begin with...and how about government officials who are giving pay raises to themselves left and right when in reality they are "servants" of the people....and many of them aren't even worth the money or time!!
Case in point: Our governor, Rendell, gave himself and his cronies a 5% raise and in the same paragraph put a freeze on the wages of middle class worker for the state!
Too many changes to be needed but do you really believe it will/needs to come with more government intervention?

And you all ready know how I feel about your "relgious" concepts.

take care

Peg said...

And yah, when I get fired up, I misspell big time!!

Doctor Logic said...

I do not agree...what America needs is to get bureaucratic govenment down to a minimum!

No, Peg! We agree on this one. I'm in favor of good, efficient government, not big, wasteful government (of the George W. Bush variety).

How about a health system starting at levels that are affordable to the common fellow.

How about a system in which federal taxes go primarily to the States to implement appropriate local health programs? Federal rules would mandate certain levels of care (e.g., no federal bucks for junk medicine like accupuncture or homeopathy), but the implementation would be at the State level.

Taxing the rich more? So if you work your butt off all your life and were able to make 6 to 7 figures a year you should pay more?

Absolutely. I'm not rich, but I didn't need Bush's tax cut (not that I got much). Most of the tax cut went to people earning more than $500K per year. People earning that much money are all but guaranteed to get much wealthier. They'll be able to afford college for their kids, medical expenses, multiple homes, vacations and everything else. They also have access to a wide variety of lucrative investment opportunities. As long as they play their financial cards competently, they are financially risk-free.

Some studies show that people don't want to tax the rich because they think they will one day be rich themselves. Just like people think that they're going to win big in the lottery or at the roulette wheel. But statistics show that this American dream is rapidly fading away. 98% of Americans will never make it, despite working their butts off.

Besides, the wealthy are wealthy because they live in a country with a strong economy, a brave military, and they drive their commerce around on roads and networks built buy average Joes. Their wealth was only possible because everyone else worked their butt off, too.

Now, I'm not saying we should return to the pre-Reagan era. I think the top bracket should not exceed 45% and the higher bracket need not kick in until annual incomes reach, say, $500K. Even if we returned to the Clinton era tax plan we would be better off. Clinton shrank the government, and started paying off the national debt. Taxes were just fine under Clinton.

For me, the bottom line is that the wealthy can afford the higher taxes, and working people can't.

Under Bush, you get the worst of both worlds. Taxes cut during wartime, and federal spending up by something like 35%. Bush also swelled the federal government by 25% or more. Giving everyone a one-time gift of a three hundred bucks in tax breaks, and giving the richest Americans a new Lexus was bloody stupid.

And you're right, most of what Bush is spending on is cronyism and corruption. But it doesn't have to be that way. It will only be that way if we let them get away with it. It's time to hold these corrupt politicians to account!