From my atheism blog

Nearly all believers in every religion make the claim that religion is good for societies, that belief in their particular God, whether it be Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, or the various gods of Hinduism, leads to unity, health, wealth, peace, and stability. But is this claim reflected by the facts of reality ? Consider the following:
Phil Zuckerman is a Professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA. He most recently authored Faith No More:Why People Reject Religion (Oxford University Press, 2011) and Society Without God (NYU Press, 2008). He has researched how religion impacts the quality of life in societies. Zuckerman has found that this claim by believers in gods is the exact opposite of what we really see in the world. Professor Zuckerman has found that the countries around the world with the highest percentage of atheists and agnostics are among the most stable, peaceful, free, wealthy, and healthy societies, while the most religious societies with high rates of belief in a God or gods are among the most unstable, violent, oppressive, poor and destitute societies (Zuckerman 2006).
According to professor Zuckerman's research:

The 2004 United Nations' Human Development Report ranked 177 countries on a "Human Development Index", by measuring such indicators of societal health as life expectancy, adult literacy, income for each person, educational attainment, and so on. According to this report, the top five nations were Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands. These five countries have notably high degrees of open atheism. The bottom fifty countries were highly religious, lacking significant levels of open atheism.
The United Nations Report on the World Social Situation (2003) found that, of the forty poorest nations (measured by the percentage of population who live on less than one dollar a day), all but Vietnam were highly religious with insignificant levels of atheism.
A study reported in the Journal of Law and Economics (2002) looked at thirty-eight non-African nations and found that the ten with the highest homicide rates were highly religious, with insignificant levels of open atheism. Of the ten nations with the lowest homicide rates, all but Ireland were secular nations with high levels of atheism.
Also according to the 2003 United Nations Report of the World Social Situation, of the thirty-five nations with the highest levels of youth illiteracy all were highly religious with insignificant levels of open atheism.
The most religious nations on earth-particularly those in Africa-have the worst rates of AIDS and HIV infections. The highly irreligious nations of Western Europe, such as those of Scandinavia-where public sex education is supported and taught and birth control is widely available-experience among the lowest rates of AIDS and HIV infections in the world.

Nations with high levels of open atheism are the most fair and just to women, while highly religious nations are among the most oppressive and unfair to women. According to the 2004 Human Development Report's "Gender Empowerment Measure", the ten nations with the highest levels of gender equality were all strongly openly atheistic with significantly high percentages of nonbelief. The bottom ten with no gender equality were all highly religious without significant percentages of atheists.
Philosopher, neuroscientist, and author, Sam Harris, reports that for a wealthy democracy, the United States, with it's high levels of religiosity, is also plagued by high rates of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, infant mortality, and abortion in mostly "red states" (i.e., states dominated by conservative Christians). Harris also reports that 76% of the twenty-five most dangerous cities in America are found in "red states"; the twelve states with the most reported burglaries are "red". And seventeen of the twenty-two states with the highest homicide rates are "red".
It is quite clear from these facts that more openly atheistic societies fare much better in unity, health, wealth, peace, and stability than more religious societies. So, is religion good for societies ? Most definitely not.

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Comment by Homer Edward Price on September 9, 2013 at 1:37pm

This is a good review of the sociological research, but sociologists never forget that "correlations is not causation."  It is undoubtedly true that atheism flourishes in societies that value freedom and the pursuit of happiness (or wealth?) and that religion provides consolation or compensation to individuals who are suffering in unjust, unequal societies.  So the causal direction runs partly from social conditions to religion.  But it is probably more true that religion is used to justify, legitimate, and reinforce the very injustice and inequality that it can compensate for.  The most religious States in the U.S. are former slave states.   

Comment by Michael Penn on July 18, 2013 at 1:01am

I agree with Zuckerman, but let me explain something about Africa, as my wife is from Africa.

We find that African society is all about family, and that if your brother dies, you will take on his family so that his children will be raised properly and have an inheritance. This means that you will then marry your brother's wife, and many Africans have multiple wives. Lust and sex also plays a part here, and many Africans avoid condoms and don't want to believe the truth about AIDS. If your brother died of AIDS you chose publicly not to believe it and say "I think somebody put a curse on him." The brother's wife is telling you not to do this, but you want sex with her so badly that you will not believe she is infected too. The self imposed ignorance and lust turns it all into a death sentence.

This is one of the main reasons that AIDS is spread in Africa.



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