Teddoman wrote:Yes but aren't a lot of those benefits attributable to:
1) participation in a social support group and the ongoing connectedness that it provides
2) having any strong coherent belief at all that guides one's life
Joining a religion to achieve all these benefits is like becoming a double marathon runner, even if it'll ruin one's knees hips and other joints before one turns 50, in order to achieve cardiovascular benefits, when one could easier achieve 75% of the same cardiovascular benefits by doing a short 30 minute daily gym workout.
Instead of becoming religious, maybe all you need to do is:
1) become close with your neighbors
2) volunteer for a cause, any cause
Please read the footnotes. You'll see comments such as these.
 ‘Overall, we find strong evidence that youth with religiously active parents are less affected later in life by childhood disadvantage than youth whose parents did not frequently attend religious services. These buffering effects of religious organizations are most pronounced when outcomes are measured by high school graduation or non-smoking and when disadvantage is measured by family resources or maternal education, but we also find buffering effects for a number of other outcome-disadvantage pairs. We generally find much weaker buffering effects for other social organizations.’, Dehejia et al., ‘The Role of Religious and Social Organizations in the Lives of Disadvantaged Youth’, NBER Working Paper No. 13369 (2007).
The fact is that religious groups tend to promote closer, deeper, longer, and more robust social ties than other social organizations. This is hardly surprising given the typical concerns and aims of religious groups and those who join them. People don't join chess clubs for spiritual and emotional fulfillment. Religion is a better social adhesive than other social bonding motives.
MikeN wrote:How many of those studies cover the United States only, where religion is the default position in society, and irreligious people tend to be outside the norm?
Many studies cover the US. Many other studies cover other countries. The consistency of the result is not debated in the scholarly literature; the correlation is cross-cultural.
International comparisons clearly show the nations which are least religious have higher longevity, better health, lower poverty, less crime, more equality for women, higher educational standards etc.
This is not surprising; there is plenty of evidence showing that devotion to specific forms of religiosity decline when specific quality of life criteria increase, and conversely devotion to specific forms of religiosity is higher among third world nations. This is completely different to saying (or implying), that standards of living decline
as religiosity increases, or that decreasing levels of religiosity produces
higher standards of living.
The fact is that none of the studies to which you linked actually contradict anything I wrote; the fine grained studies I cited are sound indicators of the favourable impact of religiosity on the individual and general society. By the way, Zuckerman writes for an agenda and typically does not provide fine grained data. For example, he'll tell you that Sweden has a very high percentage of non-believers and a very high standard of living, and will allow you to draw the apparently obvious conclusion; reducing national religiosity causes an increase in the standard of living (which isn't actually true).
He does tell you this, however.
A country's suicide rate stands out as the one indicator of societal health in which religious nations fare much better than secular nations
. According to the 2003 World Health Organization's report on international male suicide rates (http://www.who.int/en/
), the nations with the lowest rates of suicide were all highly religious, characterized by extremely high levels of theism
(usually of the Muslim and Catholic varieties). Of the ten nations with the highest male suicide rates, five were distinctly irreligious nations ranked among the top twenty-five nations listed earlier
. These five are Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Russia, and Slovenia. It is interesting to note that of the nations currently experiencing the highest rates of suicide-including the five just mentioned-nearly all are former Soviet/communist-dominated societies. (The nations of Scandinavia, where organic atheism is strongest, do not have the highest suicide rates in the world, as is widely thought to be the case.)
Naturally he skips over this point without further comment, despite the wealth of literature written on this particular subject.