Monday, 15 November 2010

Religion, Superstition, Fear and Gwynne Dyer's "Crawling from the Wreckage"

I'm reading Gwynne Dyer's latest, Crawling From the Wreckage (Random House, 2010) in which he's discovered in his own columns written over the past five years that things aren't as bad as they were when he wrote his previous With Every Mistake. With the following exception, it would seem. In the Religion I section he states:
If I had a magic wand to wave, I would expunge all religion tomorrow: not just the institutions, but the whole body of superstition and fear of the unknown that underpins religion. p39
Thinks. Were CS Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge fearful superstitious men? Was Mother Theresa a fearful and superstitious woman? Am I Christian because of superstition and fear of the unknown? I think not. I am Christian because of the opposite of a superstition; a compelling truth revealed and expressed in the mystery of Jesus Christ (a mystery, as Eugene Peterson writes, is not the absence of the truth but the presence of more truth than can be articulated). I am not a Christian because of fear, but because I trust in the truth that Jesus represents.

And if the institutions (far from perfect, I admit) were expunged would all the schools, universities, hospitals and charitable organizations to which they gave birth disappear too?

Dyer then goes on in an article called "Religion and Good Behaviour" dated March 17, 2007 to share results from a Journal of Religion & Society article by Gregory Paul entitled, "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies" (now, there's a title!). To wit:
In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies. …None of the strongly secularized, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction. 
If that's true, we need to pay attention and find out why. I have so say I'm sceptical with the principle Paul seems to espouse; that societal belief in evolution (another religion?) reduces crime and dysfunction. It seems to me that could be crawling in the wrong direction.