Tag Archives: Health

Sociologist Rodney Stark discusses whether religion is good for society

Let's take a look at the data
Let’s take a look at the data

Mysterious Chris S. posted this interview with Baylor University sociologist / historian Rodney Stark.

About Rodney Stark:

Rodney Stark grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, and began his career as a newspaper reporter. Following a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, he received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where he held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. He left Berkeley to become Professor of Sociology and of Comparative Religion at the University of Washington. In 2004 he joined the faculty of Baylor University. He has published 30 books and more than 140 scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as prejudice, crime, suicide, and city life in ancient Rome. However, the greater part of his work has been on religion. He is past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. He also has won a number of national and international awards for distinguished scholarship. Many of his books and articles have been translated and published in foreign languages, including Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and Turkish.

Education:

  • B.A. University of Denver, 1959, Journalism.
  • M.A. University of California, Berkeley, 1965, Sociology.
  • Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 1971, Sociology.

I don’t count sociologists as non-STEM, since they have to know statistics, which is math. Anyway, onto the interview.

Excerpt:

Q: After examining hundreds of relevant studies, what’s the biggest misconception you’ve found about the typical religious believer?

Rodney Stark: Even some leading evangelical scholars take it for granted that religious Americans are lacking in appreciation for “high culture,” for music, art, literature, and the like. Nothing could be further from the truth. The more often Americans attend religious services, the more likely they are to read newspapers, poetry, novels, and to admire writers. The same applies to liking classical music, to attending symphony concerts, operas, and stage plays, and to dislike rock ‘n roll.

Q: Some recent books, like Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great, suggest that “religion poisons everything.” But your book indicates that religious belief offers society many tangible benefits. What are some of these benefits?

Rodney Stark: Religious Americans are more law abiding, have superior mental and physical health, are far more generous vis-à-vis charities, have much better family life, are more successful, and religious couples even have more satisfactory sex lives!

Q: In the book’s Conclusion you look at religion’s effect on many areas of society—crime, schooling, health, employment, welfare—and you determine that, by a conservative estimate, religion saves America over $2.6 trillion each year. What are some of the biggest contributors to this savings?

Rodney Stark: The biggest by far has to do with the criminal justice system. If all Americans committed crimes at the same level as those who do not attend religious services, the costs of the criminal justice system would about double to, perhaps, $2 trillion annually. Second is health costs. The more often people attend religious services, the healthier they are. However, the net savings involved is reduced somewhat by the fact that religious Americans live, on average, seven years longer than those who never attend religious services.

Previously, I noted how people who attend church or synagogue have much better marriage stability than atheists.

Let’s just review that with some research done by W. Bradford Wilcox:

Married couples who attend church together tend to be happier than couples who rarely or never attend services, according to sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia.

Using three nationally representative surveys – the General Social Survey (GSS), the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), and the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) – Wilcox found that married church-going Americans across denominational and racial classifications were more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than their non-religious counterparts.

Couples who attended church regularly were also less likely to divorce than couples who seldom attended church services, Wilcox found.

“Attending church only seems to help couples when they attend together,” Wilcox told Cybercast News Service. “But when they do, they are significantly happier in their marriages, and they are much less likely to divorce, compared to couples who do not attend church. I would say that church attendance is a beneficial component of marriage when it is done together.”

Wilcox explained that regular church attendance offers certain positive benefits to a married couple: “Churches supply moral norms like sexual fidelity and forgiveness, family-friendly social networks that lend support to couples facing the ordinary joys and challenges of married life, and a faith that helps couples make sense of the difficulties in their lives-from unemployment to illness-that can harm their marriages.”

“So, in a word, the couple that prays together stays together,” said Wilcox.

[…]”Men and women who hold a religious faith and put that faith into practice by attending church on a regular basis do look different in the marital realm,” Wilcox said.

“At least in the marriage arena, faith alone doesn’t work. You’ve got to combine faith and works to enjoy a happy and stable marriage. You need the consistent message, the accountability, and the support a church community can provide to really benefit from religious faith,” he added.

This Wall Street Journal article from a while back, entitled “Look Who’s Irrational Now” argues that atheists are less skeptical than believers.

Excerpt:

The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won’t create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that’s not a conclusion to take on faith — it’s what the empirical data tell us.

“What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?

The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.

Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama’s former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin’s former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.

[…]Surprisingly, while increased church attendance and membership in a conservative denomination has a powerful negative effect on paranormal beliefs, higher education doesn’t. Two years ago two professors published another study in Skeptical Inquirer showing that, while less than one-quarter of college freshmen surveyed expressed a general belief in such superstitions as ghosts, psychic healing, haunted houses, demonic possession, clairvoyance and witches, the figure jumped to 31% of college seniors and 34% of graduate students.

And naturally, studies show that religious people are both more generous than their secular counterparts.

Is there a downside to celebrating homosexuality as normal?

Making sense of the meaning of atheism
When disagreements come up, it’s good to look at what the evidence is

This article from Touchstone magazine has the numbers. The “CDC” is the government-run Centers for Disease Control.

It says:

We don’t hear much about the HIV/AIDS epidemic anymore. When was the last time you read an article either online or in a newspaper of general circulation, or saw a report on a television news program about HIV/AIDS? And yet, with no media attention or public fanfare, Mr. Obama’s proposed 2016 federal budget requests almost $32 billion for HIV/AIDS treatment and research, an increase of 3.1% over the prior year. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s recent decision finding a fundamental, constitutional “right” to homosexual and lesbian “marriage,” there is a deeply dark and dangerous side to today’s American homosexuality. Since the first cases of what would later become known as AIDS were reported in the United States in June of 1981, more than 1.8 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have been infected with HIV, of whom 658,507 have already died. Today, the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) estimates that more than 1,218,400 people aged 13 years and older are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. Of those, tragically, the CDC estimates that almost 1 in 8 (156,300 or 12.8%) are unaware of their infection. Homosexual and bisexual men who have sex with men, particularly young African-American men, continue to be the most seriously affected by HIV/AIDS. Over the past decade, approximately 50,000 people are newly infected annually. In 2013, the CDC estimated that 47,352 people were diagnosed with HIV infection, and an additional 26,688 people were diagnosed with full-blown AIDS in the United States. Again, according to the CDC, in 2012, notwithstanding medical advances, an estimated 13,712 people with AIDS died.

Although African-Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 44% of new HIV infections in 2012, and accounted for 41% of people living with HIV/AIDS. Hispanics/Latinos account for 20 percent of people living with HIV infection. Although homosexual and bisexual men who have exchanges of body fluids through anal intercourse and other sexual contact with other men represent a very small proportion of the male population in the United States, the CDC reports that they account for 78 percent of new HIV infections among males, and 63 percent of all new infections. Importantly, in a typical year, the greatest number of new HIV infections occur in younger African-American males aged 13-24. Younger black men accounted for 45% of all new HIV infections among African-Americans, and 55% of new HIV infections among all younger homosexual and bisexual men.

We can all think of behaviors that are not good for people. Suppose you notice your friend has started smoking, or maybe is eating too much and not exercising, or maybe’s she’s getting really thin and not eating enough – if you loved them, you would say something. What if they got defensive and they felt bad about being judged? I still think it’s good to gently but firmly tell the truth.

In my office, I have leftists who often tell me to recycle cans. If I don’t recycle cans, nothing bad will happen to me. But strangely enough, the leftists don’t have anything to say about behaviors that really would hurt me, like homosexuality. Secondhand smoke? They will condemn that. But engaging in risky sexual activity? They want to celebrate that. What sense does this double standard make? Tell people the truth about what behaviors might hurt them, but do it in a gentle way. Don’t just tell someone “it’s wrong”, either. Instead, show them the facts and the sources so they can check out the data for themselves.

Are gay relationships more stable than straight ones?

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data

Let’s look at this post from The Public Discourse and see if gay relationships are as stable, or even more stable, than straight ones.

Excerpt:

The [NFSS] study found that the children who were raised by a gay or lesbian parent as little as 15 years ago were usually conceived within a heterosexual marriage, which then underwent divorce or separation, leaving the child with a single parent. That parent then had at least one same-sex romantic relationship, sometimes outside of the child’s home, sometimes within it. To be more specific, among the respondents who said their mother had a same-sex romantic relationship, a minority, 23%, said they had spent at least three years living in the same household with both their mother and her romantic partner. Only 2 out of the 15,000 screened spent a span of 18 years with the same two mothers. Among those who said their father had had a same-sex relationship, 1.1% of children reported spending at least three years together with both men.

This strongly suggests that the parents’ same-sex relationships were often short-lived, a finding consistent with the broader research on elevated levels of instability among same-sex romantic partners. For example, a recent 2012 study of same-sex couples in Great Britain finds that gay and lesbian cohabiting couples are more likely to separate than heterosexual couples.[3] A 2006 study of same sex marriages in Norway and Sweden found that “divorce risk levels are considerably higher in same-sex marriages”[4] such that Swedish lesbian couples are more than three times as likely to divorce as heterosexual couples, and Swedish gay couples are 1.35 times more likely to divorce (net of controls). Timothy Biblarz and Judith Stacey, two of the most outspoken advocates for same-sex marriage in the U.S. academy, acknowledge that there is more instability among lesbian parents.[5]

This paper from the Family Research Council makes the same point:

The 2003-2004 Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census surveyed the lifestyles of 7,862 homosexuals. Of those involved in a “current relationship,” only 15 percent describe their current relationship as having lasted twelve years or longer, with five percent lasting more than twenty years.[4] While this “snapshot in time” is not an absolute predictor of the length of homosexual relationships, it does indicate that few homosexual relationships achieve the longevity common in marriages.

In The Sexual Organization of the City, University of Chicago sociologist Edward Laumann argues that “typical gay city inhabitants spend most of their adult lives in ‘transactional’ relationships, or short-term commitments of less than six months.”[5]

A study of homosexual men in the Netherlands published in the journal AIDS found that the “duration of steady partnerships” was 1.5 years.[6]

In his study of male homosexuality in Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times, Pollak found that “few homosexual relationships last longer than two years, with many men reporting hundreds of lifetime partners.”[7]

In Male and Female Homosexuality, Saghir and Robins found that the average male homosexual live-in relationship lasts between two and three years.[8]

It’s a Grindr lifestyle. And it’s not a good environment for meeting the needs of children. (Example)

There is one study (Rosenfeld, 2014) that tries to argue against the conclusion of all these other studies, and the problems with it are discussed in this post.

The right way to think about gay marriage is to think about it as an extension of no-fault divorce. The same feminists and leftists who pushed for the legalization of no-fault divorce told us back then that the children would be fine, that children are resilient. No-fault divorce was a change in the definition of marriage. The leftists said that divorce would never become widespread, and that it would not harm children in any way. It was all a pack of lies. If the practices of the gay lifestyle become conflated with marriage, then marriage will come to denote relationships engaged in for “love” not children, such that unchastity, infidelity, increased domestic violence and frequent break-ups are incorporated back into the definition of marriage. Marriage is about permanence, exclusivity and building an environment that can welcome children and supply for their needs. It’s not about government giving people respect for their romantic feelings. Those are volatile. What government ought to be rewarding is lifelong commitment.

Is there a downside to celebrating homosexuality as normal?

Making sense of the meaning of atheism
When disagreements come up, it’s good to look at what the evidence is

This article from Touchstone magazine has the numbers. The “CDC” is the government-run Centers for Disease Control.

It says:

We don’t hear much about the HIV/AIDS epidemic anymore. When was the last time you read an article either online or in a newspaper of general circulation, or saw a report on a television news program about HIV/AIDS? And yet, with no media attention or public fanfare, Mr. Obama’s proposed 2016 federal budget requests almost $32 billion for HIV/AIDS treatment and research, an increase of 3.1% over the prior year. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s recent decision finding a fundamental, constitutional “right” to homosexual and lesbian “marriage,” there is a deeply dark and dangerous side to today’s American homosexuality. Since the first cases of what would later become known as AIDS were reported in the United States in June of 1981, more than 1.8 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have been infected with HIV, of whom 658,507 have already died. Today, the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) estimates that more than 1,218,400 people aged 13 years and older are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. Of those, tragically, the CDC estimates that almost 1 in 8 (156,300 or 12.8%) are unaware of their infection. Homosexual and bisexual men who have sex with men, particularly young African-American men, continue to be the most seriously affected by HIV/AIDS. Over the past decade, approximately 50,000 people are newly infected annually. In 2013, the CDC estimated that 47,352 people were diagnosed with HIV infection, and an additional 26,688 people were diagnosed with full-blown AIDS in the United States. Again, according to the CDC, in 2012, notwithstanding medical advances, an estimated 13,712 people with AIDS died.

Although African-Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 44% of new HIV infections in 2012, and accounted for 41% of people living with HIV/AIDS. Hispanics/Latinos account for 20 percent of people living with HIV infection. Although homosexual and bisexual men who have exchanges of body fluids through anal intercourse and other sexual contact with other men represent a very small proportion of the male population in the United States, the CDC reports that they account for 78 percent of new HIV infections among males, and 63 percent of all new infections. Importantly, in a typical year, the greatest number of new HIV infections occur in younger African-American males aged 13-24. Younger black men accounted for 45% of all new HIV infections among African-Americans, and 55% of new HIV infections among all younger homosexual and bisexual men.

We can all think of behaviors that are not good for people. Suppose you notice your friend has started smoking, or maybe is eating too much and not exercising, or maybe’s she’s getting really thin and not eating enough – if you loved them, you would say something. What if they got defensive and they felt bad about being judged? I still think it’s good to gently but firmly tell the truth.

In my office, I have leftists who often tell me to recycle cans. If I don’t recycle cans, nothing bad will happen to me. But strangely enough, the leftists don’t have anything to say about behaviors that really would hurt me, like homosexuality. Secondhand smoke? They will condemn that. But engaging in risky sexual activity? They want to celebrate that. What sense does this double standard make? Tell people the truth about what behaviors might hurt them, but do it in a gentle way. Don’t just tell someone “it’s wrong”, either. Instead, show them the facts and the sources so they can check out the data for themselves.

First openly gay Episcopal bishop to divorce same-sex partner

This is an Associated Press article, so it is extremely liberal and sympathetic to the gay bishop. (H/T Tom)

Excerpt:

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop, who became a symbol for gay rights far beyond the church while deeply dividing the world’s Anglicans, plans to divorce his husband.

[…]Robinson, 66, had been married to a woman and had two children before he and his wife divorced. He and Andrew had been partners for more than a decade when Robinson was elected to lead the New Hampshire Diocese. The two men were joined in a 2008 civil union in New Hampshire, which became a legal marriage when the state recognized gay marriage two years later.

[…]Robinson was… widely celebrated as a pioneer for gay rights, became an advocate for gay marriage and was the subject of several books and a documentary about Christianity, the Bible and same-sex relationships. He delivered the benediction at the opening 2009 inaugural event for President Barack Obama and, after retirement, became a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank with close ties to the White House.

The interesting thing about this is that although Americans have been fed a steady diet of propaganda from Hollywood to make us think that gay relationships are stable, the reality is that they are NOT stable.

Let’s take a look at the data

Consider this post from The Public Discourse which explains that there are few stable, long-lived gay relationships – even the ones with children.

Excerpt:

The [NFSS] study found that the children who were raised by a gay or lesbian parent as little as 15 years ago were usually conceived within a heterosexual marriage, which then underwent divorce or separation, leaving the child with a single parent. That parent then had at least one same-sex romantic relationship, sometimes outside of the child’s home, sometimes within it. To be more specific, among the respondents who said their mother had a same-sex romantic relationship, a minority, 23%, said they had spent at least three years living in the same household with both their mother and her romantic partner. Only 2 out of the 15,000 screened spent a span of 18 years with the same two mothers. Among those who said their father had had a same-sex relationship, 1.1% of children reported spending at least three years together with both men.

This strongly suggests that the parents’ same-sex relationships were often short-lived, a finding consistent with the broader research on elevated levels of instability among same-sex romantic partners. For example, a recent 2012 study of same-sex couples in Great Britain finds that gay and lesbian cohabiting couples are more likely to separate than heterosexual couples. A 2006 study of same sex marriages in Norway and Sweden found that “divorce risk levels are considerably higher in same-sex marriages” such that Swedish lesbian couples are more than three times as likely to divorce as heterosexual couples, and Swedish gay couples are 1.35 times more likely to divorce (net of controls). Timothy Biblarz and Judith Stacey, two of the most outspoken advocates for same-sex marriage in the U.S. academy, acknowledge that there is more instability among lesbian parents.

Therefore, while critics of the NFSS have faulted it for lacking comparisons between children of IBFs and the children of committed and intact gay or lesbian couples, this was attempted, but was not feasible. Despite drawing from a large, representative sample of the U.S. population, and despite using screening tactics designed to boost the number of respondents who reported having had a parent in a same-sex relationship, a very small segment reported having been parented by the same two women or two men for a minimum of three years. Although there is much speculation that today there are large numbers of same-sex couples in the U.S. who are providing a stable, long-term parenting relationship for their children, no studies based upon large, random samples of the U.S. population have been published that show this to be true, and the above-cited studies of different nations show that on average, same-sex couple relationships are more short-lived than those of opposite-sex couples.

I think this is an important point to make – and it’s consistent with the research from previous studies. The bottom line is that gay marriage is another step on the path towards making marriage about the needs and feelings of adults. In natural marriage, parents are concerned about how breaking up will affect their children – so thy have a reason to stay together and work conflicts out. The needs of the adults are secondary to the needs of the children. But in gay marriage, there is no such constraint. The children are not related biologically to both partners, and so that protection is not in place. Now that gay marriage is legalized, we should understand that children will be getting a lot less stability, and that’s in addition to being deprived of their biological mother and father.