This is a Beta Rules thread. Please review the Beta Rules before replying or participating. Is societal health dependent upon religious belief? Does atheism and secularism lead to poor societal health? This is a topic worthy of discussion and can be scientifically examined as it relates to religion. It’s a common assumption among religious adherents that atheism leads to immorality. Often I’ve been asked by religious adherents, “what prevents you from doing whatever you want if you’re an atheist? Why don’t you just rape and kill at will?” They don’t realize, of course, that this is a complex question fallacy, which assumes that morality is, in fact, informed by religious belief. My answer is that I have compassion for my fellow human beings and that my morality is driven by humanist philosophy and experience. But religious adherents in the U.S. often blame the moral decline of society on increasing secularism. How can this be when the United States is the leading religious nation among first-world democracies, yet has homicide rates that exceed that of other, more secular, first-world democracies? Religious adherents also claim that abortion is an issue that is exacerbated by secularism, yet this isn’t quantifiably so when the data are examined. The U.S. has rates among adolescents comparable with second and third world nations whereas other first-world democracies have comparably low rates. STD rates among adolescents are high in the U.S., and are low in secular nations. Adolescent birth rates are, likewise, higher in the U.S. than in secular nations. Positive correlations can be made between increasing “immoral” behaviors and increasing religiosity, and negative correlations can be shown to exist between decreasing “immoral” behaviors and secularism. I’ll be the first to admit that correlation does not immediately imply causation. The United States has another unique feature other than its unusual religiosity among first-world nations: it’s also the wealthiest. Wealth is likely a very real factor. Still, if nothing else can be said, secularism and atheism do not appear to result in immorality. References: Abma, Joyce, et al (2004). Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2002, National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics 23 (24). CDC (2006). STD Surveillance 2006: Special Focus Profiles: Adolescents and Young Adults. Department for Health and Human Services (CDC). Singh, Sushella and Darroch, Jacqueline (2000). Adolescent Pregnancy and Childbearing: Levels and Trends in Developed Countries. Family Planning Perspectives 32: 14-23.