Immorality and Religiosity

28 11 2006

From Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion (in which he is quoting Sam Harris):

Sam Harris in Letter to a Christian Nation writes:

While political party affiliation in the United States is not a perfect indicator of religiosity, it is no secret that the ‘red states’ are primarily red due to the overwhelming political influence of conservative Christians.  If there were a strong correlation between Christian conservatism and societal health, we might expect to see some sign of it in red-state America.  We don’t.  Of the twenty-five cities with the lowest rates of violent crime, 62 percent are in ‘blue’ states, and 38 percent are in ‘red’ states.  Of the twenty-five most dangerous cities, 76 percent are in red states, and 24 percent are in blue states.  In fact, three of the five most dangerous cities in the U.S. are in the pious state of Texas.  The twelve states with the highest rates of burglary are red.  Twenty-four of the twenty-nine states with the highest rates of theft are red.  Of the twenty-two states with the highest rates of murder, seventeen are red.

Dawkins notes that in the U.S. red is conservative and blue is liberal, which is the opposite of how it is in most of the world.  I understand that this data may be anecdotal at best, but you can not deny at least some correlation. 

This serves as yet another example of how morality does not come from religion.  Examples such as the problems in the middle east and elsewhere can even serve to show that perhaps it is immorality that stems from religion.

Obviously not all religious people are immoral, and not all non-religious people are moral, but trends are trends.  Why do people feel such a need for religion, even with evidence such as this?




2 responses

28 11 2006


I understand that you are always on the look out for something that disputes the connection between religion and morality that many religious conservatives try to assert, but this is just plain sloppy. I am a little sad that you have selected it. It is one thing to tout logic; it is another to willingly (and blatantly) abandon logic so you can leap at something that supports your contentions.

1. Red state = Christian. Are you serious? None of these “red” states are much more than marginally more republican than democrat. They, like most of America, are pretty closely divided themselves. Also the homogenous term “red state” masks a lot more complexity and you darn well know it. You are from the red west, which is far more rooted in the libertarian/republican roots than any connection to the Christian right (Colorado Springs excluded).

2. These statistics are not even very dramatic. There is no real landslide in your data that could justify ignoring other, more important factors.

3. These statistics quite obviously are shaped to make a point without slowing down to even look at much more interesting issues that correlate much more closely to incidence of violent crime, like shifting racial and ethnic demographics. If atheists are going to ride on the magic carpet of logic and critical thinking, you would hope that they could come up with an actual comparison of similar populations so that you could isolate for the variable you purport to be examining.

This is the type of crappy data-twisting and lazy conclusions I would hope to see from someone far less intelligent. You can do better.

28 11 2006

” I understand that this data may be anecdotal at best”
I’m not trying to make some ground breaking argument here (and in his defense, neither is Dawkins – for I took this quote out of context) It was just something I found amusing.
But your point is taken.

I do not need this, nor did I intend this, as proof of morality’s independance from religion. For that I would look at religious morals and evolutionary anthropology. Indeed I forsee a post on this very subject in the future.

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