Thursday, June 08, 2006

Is religion impotent? Nobody likes the idea better than I do that belonging to a religion influences attitudes and behavior (usually for the better), but the case of the Catholic church (which I also like very much) provides little evidence for this. You would expect Catholics to oppose abortion, condom use, and capital punishment, and to have more children than other Americans. Let's compare them to Protestants:

Percent in favor of abortion on demand
Protestants 36.1%
Catholics 35.4
(Jews 78.4!)

Percent in favor of death penalty
Protestants 74.0%
Catholics 74.7

Percent using condom last time one had sex
Protestants 18.6%
Catholics 22.0

Average number of children
Protestants 2.04
Catholics 2.08

Evidently, all that doctrine and preaching and enculturation of the youth has precisely zero impact on adherents. You might say that we see no impact because Catholics never go to church and never learn this stuff, but according to the GSS, 36% go at least once a week. Thank God religion gives people meaning, or from a practical, earthly stance, what would be the point of it?


  1. Kurt, Portland Oregon9:29 AM

    All of the Catholics I know make it a point to go to Mass every Sunday. They make a big deal out of this. Yet, they are just like everyone else with regards to sexuality, family planning, etc. etc. The stereotypical big catholic family from the 50's and 60's went away by the 70's, when their baby-boomer off-spring became adults and decided not to repeat the patterns of their parents.

  2. Kurt, Portland Oregon9:40 AM

    I think behavior is more determined by genetics than religious belief.

    In the U.S., when asked "is religion important in your daily life", the ranking of positive responses by ethinic group is black, hispanic, anglo-white, and Asian (especially northeast Asia).

    On the other hand, FBI statistics of crime and other anti-social behavior shows blacks (most crime) at the top of the list and Asians at the bottom (least crime).

    Perhaps the perceived importance of religious belief may be in direct proportion to the amount of crime and anti-social behavior observed in one's surroundings.

    There is also a very strong negative correlation (-0.886)between religious belief and IQ (documented at gene expression at:

  3. Bob Observer10:44 AM

    Vatican II in 1963 coincided with a huge drop in the faithfulness of Catholics. Previously they had been quite faithful, even militant. It also didn't help that the 1960s were a period of extreme social upheaval.


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