Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Psychological Harm of Traditional Christian Belief

In my blog titled Responsible Atheism I argued that religious belief is psychologically harmful. I want to expand on my justification in this essay. My strategy is to simply use what we know about psychology, appreciating that the naturally negative effects of certain beliefs on the brain do not go away just because the object of our thoughts and emotions is a supernatural being instead of a human one. Time-tested principles of psychology do not permit a distinction there. Let’s look at some of these psychological harms one at a time.


Believing that you are born flawed, from sin, and that you must rely on someone else for your own salvation, is dehumanizing.

Depending entirely on someone else for your happiness or well-being can’t be healthy. You should believe in yourself – in your own resilience and abilities. It is perfectly acceptable and necessary to lean on others in times of trouble. One should study the life experiences and wisdom of others to grow intellectually and emotionally. That, however, is not the same thing as believing you are irredeemably defective without someone else. Being in a relationship where you think your mate is so morally or intellectually superior to you is a detriment to healthy self-esteem. When we see someone in a relationship like this, we think, “That’s sad; that person should have more confidence than that.” Those who constantly look outward for self-fulfillment will never get what they are searching for until they look inward and trust their own capacities for strength. Relying on friends and family, leaning on others, and gaining strength from their love and support is a beautiful part of life. Believing that you are born from sin is profoundly negative and not conducive to self-esteem. What is conducive to self-esteem is feeling unbounded in one’s capacity to learn and improve. As much as we learn and live, there will always be something we can learn from someone else. It’s not that we are defective or inherently sinful - we just can’t know everything. This is a much more empowering perspective because there is no inherent defect within us, only room for improvement. Is God like a Disney prince who has to come save us before we can have a fulfilling life?

The belief that God has a plan for everyone diminishes the feeling of obligation to intervene where there is suffering. (Why do something so pompous as to interfere with God’s “great” plan?)

Theism implies outsourcing moral and intellectual responsibility. With God at the wheel, why try to steer too? Still, some ambitious people will steer society, and sometimes they do it in God’s name. The rich and powerful have notoriously championed belief in a divine plan in order to keep the weak and disadvantaged complacent. The institution of slavery is a fine example of how belief in God’s plan kept millions of people in abysmal circumstances. Besides the fact that slavery is explicitly condoned in both the Old and New Testament, the belief that what happens to you is part of a divine plan could obviate one’s responsibility to take action. There were slave rebellions; it is not surprising that people would rebel against others’ interpretations of God’s will. Plenty of slaves understood that their subjugation was wrong. They either knew it despite the Bible and its pro-slavery passages or they attended to Bible passages that condemned slavery (parts that championed the plight of the weak, such as “the meek shall inherit the earth”). So with a book as inconsistent as the Bible, we still have to use our own knowledge of right and wrong. If God has a plan, no one can really know what it is, even when using the same holy book as a guide. So we are far better off using our own brains to figure out morality and justice. Thankfully, we do this most of the time anyway, believers and non-believers alike. To believe that God has an ascertainable plan has had, and will always have, deleterious consequences.

Belief in an afterlife necessarily devalues life here on earth and would diminish motivation to change the status quo.

I was once told by a religious person that life would have no meaning if there was nothing beyond it. Not all believers take such a morose view. However, if there is infinite joy or bliss (or whatever this psychologically impossible state is), to be had when one leaves this earth, why worry too much about worldly states of affairs? It’s unfortunate that the environment is going to hell, so to speak, but thank goodness earth is temporary housing until the great beyond – an environment nothing short of perfection! “Heaven” and “hell” were manipulative tools invoked by those in power long ago to diminish social or political protest. Ultimate justice is a very dangerous promise to believe in because it makes people complacent when justice is not achieved here on earth. Millions of people have gone through their lives not challenging their oppressor or abuser because they believe God would punish them. I couldn’t make the point better than self-liberated slave, abolitionist, author, and intellectual Frederick Douglass, who famously said “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

Belief in heaven and hell causes life-long anxiety for many believers.

Some religious believers live with unrelenting existential anxiety. They aren’t sure whether their virtues and good deeds merit eternal reward, damnation, or purgatory. For example, a college friend of mine was a really good person and she feared that she’d go to hell because she was gay. She had lived with that anxiety since she was quite young, having been raised Catholic. I tried to tell her how a god who would send her to hell for being herself cannot be a good God. Her reply was that she couldn’t know God’s reasoning, but he is all-knowing so his logic had to be right and hers mistaken. How sad and confusing. The Bible says we should stone homosexuals. Even though stoning is now considered a barbaric punishment (except in a few countries), discrimination is alive and well. Many people brought up in religion, especially young children, live in fear that they may do, feel, or think something that would keep them out of heaven. Questioning God’s existence or Christ’s love is a cardinal sin. Some Christians catch hell from friends and family for daring to question their religion. No one should have to worry they’ll go to hell for their thoughts. People are terrified of losing the approval of their friends and family, so they suppress what they really think to avoid rejection. Thinking and questioning makes us human and it is necessary for psychological and intellectual health.

Belief in God offers false hope and, when prayers to help others aren’t answered, this can lead to feelings of profound guilt that one didn’t pray hard enough or in the right way.

When a believer’s prayer doesn’t seem to have been answered, he/she will have to find some complicated explanation as to why, even though what was specifically asked for didn’t happen, God has brought about different circumstances that are even better in the long run. When prayers do seem to be answered, this is nothing more than what psychologists call “confirmation bias”: the psychological tendency we all have to seek out information that confirms what we already believe to be true and filter out conflicting data. This incidentally is one of the same principles behind the “Design Argument” for God. Believers want to credit God for the lovely features of this planet like the pretty blue sky and gorgeous mountain ranges, but not for the countless horrors that befall the earth and its inhabitants (e.g., natural disasters; diseases that have taken billions of lives, including hundreds of millions of innocent children). Somehow the pretty skies and flowers are supposed to make up for tsunamis and tornados and cancers that wreak havoc on the earth and its inhabitants. If a believer could count up how many times his prayers were seemingly answered and how many times they weren’t, he would see that overwhelmingly they are not. And if the believer insists that they were answered in some way, but we just can’t know God’s plan, this is a meritless response because there is no evidence for divine intervention (by definition). Belief in prayer is especially psychologically harmful for young impressionable people who want something badly. If they don’t get what they pray for - for natural reasons, not divine ones, - they may feel immensely frustrated and confused about why God won’t help them. They might conclude that they aren’t praying hard enough, or in the right way, or that God is rejecting them by not helping. Worse still, consider a believer praying for someone else’s life condition to improve. If no help comes, again due to natural reasons, the believer may feel profound guilt that there is something wrong with them because god didn’t answer their desperate heartfelt desperate prayer. (Did that person not deserve the help?) Telling people to pray is offering them false hope. We all agree that false hope is a bad thing because it makes failure hurt so much more, and the energy spent on false hope could have been spent in productive ways.

Worship of any being threatens human integrity. Unqualified subservience and devotion are not commendable; such subjugation is dangerous.

The Bible depicts human beings as perpetual children, constantly dependent on a father god. I’m an adult and, even if I was a child, I was raised not to submit to authority without evidence that the authority knows best. Believers say God is the one exception: we can submit to him because he is omnibenevolent. There is no good evidence for this and, if you look around at all the pain and suffering in the world compared to what is good and just, the evidence is clearly against an all-good god. Let us remember that a parent who doesn’t intervene to prevent evil is no parent at all. So we shouldn’t be impressed by a believer’s claim that God doesn’t cause suffering because only people do. There is nothing stopping an omnipotent and supposedly omnibenevolent being from offering counsel to those who err; this would not jeopardize something like free will. He also could have created us to be more ethically robust human beings, with brains better able to resist selfish or violent impulses; this would be no threat to freedom of choice - on the contrary it would increase it! He could have created the earth to make it more resilient against natural disasters. Furthermore, just because he created us, God doesn’t automatically get our respect. Respect must be earned, and I submit that the traditional Christian God does not deserve our respect. Again, if the response from a believer is simply circular reasoning that “God is all-good so he should have our respect,” this is not a rational argument as there is no evidence for God in the first place.

We have to use our own brains to work out our own lives, together. So let us get off our knees already, and walk upright as we evolved to do. Believers: stop looking up into the sky and look at each other, because we are all we’ve got. Quit praying for miracles, and use your hands to make a real difference in someone’s life. Realize that the only power out there is just your own character within. The more you think that you depend on God’s strength, the more your psychological health weakens.

24 comments:

lucette said...

Sarah, Would you please begin your posts with your name? This blog displays the author's name at the end of the text, leaving us in the dark? Thanks. (I will read the Post now.LOL)

Ron Krumpos said...

In 2011 world population will reach 7 billion (vs. 3 billion in 1960). There are now approximately 2.2 billion Christians. Some of them believe that 4.8 billion people face eternal hell because they do not accept Jesus.

Concepts of afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Not all Christians agree on what happens after this life, nor do all Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or other believers. Rebirth, resurrection, purgatory, universalism, and oblivion are other possibilities...none of which can be proven.

Mystics of all faiths have more in common than the followers of their orthodox religions. True mystics realize that eternal life is here and now; it does not begin after mortal death. The age of Earth is said to be 4.5 billion years, of the Universe 13.7 billion, yet few humans live to be 100. This lifetime is a fleeting moment.

Scriptures are subject to interpretation; people often choose what is most beneficial for them.

http://www.peacenext.org/profile/RonKrumpos

lucette said...

Sarah's main points are extracted below. I find them "self-evident" and don't find that the arguments are adding anything. Of course I have been an atheist for more than 50 years and that might explain my reaction. This is not very helpful I guess...

"Believing that you are born flawed, from sin, and that you must rely on someone else for your own salvation, is dehumanizing." "The belief that God has a plan for everyone diminishes the feeling of obligation to intervene where there is suffering. (Why do something so pompous as to interfere with God’s “great” plan?)"
"Belief in an afterlife necessarily devalues life here on earth and would diminish motivation to change the status quo."
"Belief in heaven and hell causes life-long anxiety for many believers."
"Belief in God offers false hope and, when prayers to help others aren’t answered, this can lead to feelings of profound guilt that one didn’t pray hard enough or in the right way."
"Worship of any being threatens human integrity. Unqualified subservience and devotion are not commendable; such subjugation is dangerous."

Don Wharton said...

Religion is in many ways like taking a meat ax to the human brain. Our brains simply cannot work well to understand ourselves and the world in which we live if we have fundamentalist Christian religion believed as fact.

Sarah has the ability to look at the details of these beliefs and show how and why our brains cannot work if Christian nonsense is believed. She has a style all her own and does it beautifully.

Thanks Sarah

lucette said...

"Our brains simply cannot work well to understand ourselves and the world in which we live if we have fundamentalist Christian religion believed as fact."
Interesting...

lucette said...

I think I understand Sarah's message: it is an advice on how to talk to friends along accomodationist lines. If my interpretation is correct, it makes sense.
Accomodationism does not really follow logic or require evidence but, within these limits, it is useful.

Tom said...

"Belief in an afterlife necessarily devalues life here on earth and would diminish motivation to change the status quo."

I think the way in which Christianity has systematically provided for those in need since it's earliest days would suggest this is not true.

rwahrens said...

Tom,

I would not agree with your point, here. Quite to the contrary, traditionally, religions, especially the three Judaic religions, do no such thing, and those who are less fortunate are left to their own devices.

Proof of that is, particularly, in the exaltation of the poor in such passages as "the poor shall inherit the earth", etc. These are platitudes intended to keep the poor at least calm and accepting of their lot in life.

The promise of a life after death that will upend the class structure of society on earth is very cleverly seductive to someone with little chance of improvement without hard work and difficult circumstances to overcome, and tends to discourage any attempt at improving one's life here - especially if those improvements here will result in a worse situation afterwards!

lucette said...

At a time when the slaves were not allowed to read, they were encouraged to believe in an afterlife. Belief in an afterlife prevents the poor from revolting and overthrowing any social structures based on gross injustice. After all, the Bible itself condoned slavery.

Laul said...

Hi Sarah,

thanks for this - very interesting read. I'm from the UK and am one of those weirdos who believe in God! Still, i think you have some good points, but i would perhaps want to make a differentiation between believing in God and religious institutions (especially Christendom that we have inherited). I very much walked away form the kind of faith/religion you are describing here, but then found a deeper, more substantial relationship with God, which can not really be compared with my other human relationships. It is a totally different thing, feeling a sense of union with pure love and creativity, and i don't think normal psychological rules necessarily apply!

anyway, my fave quote from what you wrote:
"If God has a plan, no one can really know what it is, even when using the same holy book as a guide. So we are far better off using our own brains to figure out morality and justice."

totally and utterly agree with you, even as a Jesus following idiot :)

yours,

Laul

Ann said...

This is very much to the point. I can relate to all of this. You show that atheism is morally and psychologically healthy and wholesome. The whole tone is positive. I really found this helpful.

Nancy said...

I assume you are all familiar with Dr. Albert Ellis' The Case Against Religion? You can google and read it online. Says much the same thing.

lucette said...

Nancy, Why should we care about Dr. Ellis? Would you care to elaborate?

Volnaiksra said...

I guess I'm somewhere in between the two perspectives - your one and the one you criticise. I was raised an atheist, though a series of unexpected spiritual experiences as a young adult changed that. Yet, like you, I find much about traditional Christianity to be repugnant, and agree with much that you've written. I'm now somewhere in the nebulous area between agnosticism, skepticism and faith.

I too find it unfortunate that Christians are taught that they are not only inherently bad, but inherently unable to self-heal. I worry about the fatalism and apathy that could be encouraged by a belief in predestination and an afterlife. And I find the concept of hell unspeakably abhorrent, and think that subjecting people to a life of cowering under such a guillotine over their head is beyond obscene. In many ways, Christianity seems almost designed to make people feel bad.

Still, these are just my opinions, and if they don't match up with the facts of the situation, then they're not worth much. And they don't.

Psychological study after study has found that religious people are, on average, happier, healthier and more optimisitc than non-religious people. Meanwhile, the most secular countries are very often the ones with the highest rates of depression and suicide. Spiriuality and religiosity are in fact such strong indicators of *good mental health* that psychologists have been increasingly scrambling to encourage various forms of spirituality in their clients over the past couple of decades.

Not only have spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation been found to have a positive effect on psychological and physical wellbeing, but so do religious beliefs themselves. For example, Martin Seligman, one of the fathers of positive psychology (and himself an atheist) stresses this in his book "Authentic Happiness". In fact, he points out studies that go so far as show that the more fundamentalist one is (whether Christian, Jew or Muslim), the stronger the positive psychological benefits of one's religion tend to be.

As for an afterlife diminishing motivation to change the status quo, the facts also tell a much different story. Think of some of the greatest political and social heroes of the 20th century: Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Lech Walesa, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama. All were deeply religious. All of them believed in an afterlife. All of them fiercely battled the status quo *because* of their faith. It's not just these giants, either. Regular religious folk tend to donate more money to charity and spend more time volunteering than their non-religious compatriots.

So, though I'm inclined to agree with much that you've written on a conceptual level, reality tells a different story. Thus, it seems to me that your post is not about finding or exposing truth, but rather about constructing arguments that support your pre-defined opinions - opinions that you passionately believe in. To do this, you've targeted certain cherry-picked issues, looked at others only broadly, and ignored swathes of scientific studies and historical facts that contradict your assertions. Sound familiar? ;)

Volnaiksra said...

oops, when I used the word "indicators", I meant the word "predictors" (big difference!)

Don Wharton said...

Volnaiksra, I find the the so called studies arguing for the benefits of religion to be highly suspect. Most of them do not properly control for the quality of the personal social network. If someone is deeply engaged in a church community that person will be by defintion associate with a rich positive social network. This has massive benefits. However, an atheist similarly engaged in a social network and similarly appreciative of some domain of positive belief and action is likely to be exactly as happy and healthy. A bunch of atheists bowling alone are likely to be quite miserable. I have a post on Who is Happy and Why
http://secularhumanist.blogspot.com/2005/12/who-is-happy-and-why.html

We have a tribal evolutionary history and if we do not engage with others in a way that is similarly connection with others we are likely to not be happy.

By the way, the very secular northern European countries have the lowest levels of societal dysfunction and the highest levels of average happiness.

Volnaiksra said...

@Don: Dude, re-read your comment.

First, you admit that the studies accurately indicate that religious people tend to be happier. You even state your belief that church networks are a positive thing.

Yet, because you don't like how it conflicts with your secular viewpoint, you try to discredit the studies by arguing that they don't fully take all factors into account. You can't even bring yourself to call them "studies" (the world's leading psychologists can, but you clearly think they're too stupid to understand basic statistics analysis).

Having just decried those 'studies' for not taking into account all the factors, you then do exactly the same thing: You isolate one factor that appeals to you (positive social network) and discard another set of factors that don't appeal to you (religion, beliefs, rituals). Not because those factors are irrelevant to the subject of happiness (as a secular humanist, you would be the last person to argue that they are irrelevant), but because you simply don't want to include them.

Sorry, I see more faith than reason in that methodology.

To see how ridiculous this conversation is, we just need to transpose it to a topic less inflammatory:

THE ORIGINAL BLOG POST: Brocolli is bad for your health because of x, y, and z.

ME: Actually, though I agree with x, y, and z in principle, studies actually show that people who eat brocolli are actually healthier.

YOU: That's got nothing to do with broccoli. They're healthier because they get lots of vitamin C and iron. People who eat red peppers and parsley also get lots of vitamin C and iron. Therefore broccoli doesn't make you healthier.
...

Do you see the problem here? Just because brocolli isn't the only nutritious food doesn't in any way mean it doesn't make you healthier if you eat it. Your comment hasn't refuted mine; neither has it supported the original post's dubious claim that brocolli makes you unhealthy.

Besides, though I think you were right to point out the benefits of a positive social network (though it was far too simplistic to argue that it's the only relevant factor here - there's rarely only one factor in anything), I think you were mistaken to divorce it from religion.

For many religious people, the positive social network is an integral part of the religious experience: if you don't have the latter, you don't have the former, so separating the two makes no sense. You can't praise religion without praising the communal experience that comes with it. And you can't criticise religion without criticising the communal experience that comes with it.

Not only is focus on others a crucial part of the religious life, but values that encourage positive social networks have permeated the core of all major world religions. Many psychologists, anthropologists and evolutionary scientists now recognise that religion played a vital role in making relatively peaceful civilisation possible, by pushing us away from a tribal mentality into one that empathises with the greater community of humankind, animals, nature and the cosmos and sees in them a sacred commonality.

That doesn't mean you *need* religion to have a more altruistic outlook or a strong positive social network. But it does mean that, historically and to this day, it can help.

In other words, brocolli doesn't make you healthier. Vitamins and minerals make you healthier....but that's splitting hairs. Since broccoli contains vitamins and minerals it, for all intents and purposes, can make you healthier.

Gary Berg-Cross said...

A relevant summary and discussion of the benefits, if any, of religion and religious association is Nigel Barber's 2011 article "Does rel2011 religion make people happier?" in Psychology Today. It's at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-beast/201102/does-religion-make-people-happier and here is bit of the data and analysis.

"According to a 2003 meta analysis (2) that combined the results of 147 different studies, religiosity explains less than 1% of the differences in vulnerability to depression. If religion has such small correlations with depression, it may not be a huge factor in happiness either."...

"Comparing countries
Such doubt emerges most strongly from comparisons between countries. Much of the research linking religiosity and happiness was conducted in the U.S. where more religious people are slightly happier. Researchers saw this as evidence for the universal benefits of religion (a perspective that interests evolutionary psychologists like myself because it helps explain why religion is so common around the globe). Yet, there is no association between religiousness and happiness in either Denmark or the Netherlands (ref in article)..Why the difference? Religious people are in the majority in the U.S., but in a minority in Denmark and the Netherlands. Feeling part of the mainstream may be comforting whereas being in the minority is potentially stressful. Ethnic minorities around the world tend to have higher blood pressure, for example - this being a reliable index of stress.

If religion contributes to happiness, then the most religious countries should be happiest. Yet, the opposite is true.

According to Gallup data for 2010, the happiest nations were Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. These are among the least religious countries in the world. Also according to Gallup data, Sweden, Denmark and Norway were the second, third, and fourth least religious states, being exceeded only by Estonia in their atheism.

Why are these European countries so happy? Their happiness is explainable in terms of a combination of national wealth and redistribution of resources via high taxation and a well-developed welfare state. So paying taxes makes people happy after all!"

Don Wharton said...

Gary's post is excellent but in my opinion he is being too nice. Volnaiksra is vociferously doing excactly what he accuses me of doing, being selective in the choice of studies to support a given view. And he is wrong on many of his claims as to facts.

To begin with there is a significant minority (as I recall close to 30%) of church goers who get little or no benefit from church communities because they minimally relate to anyone. Of course, this minority gets none of the benefits of a rich social network. The social network benefit is not intrinsic to membership in a religious organization.

Another major issue that is often not considered is that church membership can be very expensive. This means that membership of necessity will have a bias to include those with better education and incomes. Such a biased sample will of necessity be happier and in better health. Then there is the obvious fact that those in bad health often can't make to a church. They stay at home either because they must or because it is rather difficult to attend.

My central premise that the main benefit of religion rests with the social network is also confirmed by explicit studies of religious people who do not attend church. They can be a rather sad lot. It is almost impossible to find an atheist in prison. The criminal justice system is differential filled with those who are religious.

Obviously I can criticize religion without the communal experience that many enjoy because there is amply evidence that has teased out the various factors. Social science researchers often are dreadfully incompetent. I am quite confident that the incompetence of the American studies seeing positive results for religion explains almost all of the positive results. I have just seen too many of them with such glaring methodology errors. An yes if someone is researching nutrition it is required to identify what is nutritious about food. That will be both the actual components of the nutrition and the combination and interaction of the nutrients. It is what good science does.

I would like to point out another factor that can on occasion be of significant benefit for a subset of the religious. There is a continuum from the hellfire and damnation school of religion to religion where God is actually assumed to have positive loving qualities. A study of the latter will show that the gratitude felt will be differentially associated with happiness. Of course, the former will tend to nurture a very negative personality. With more cogent analysis of the content of the religious teachings they should be able to create positive outcomes based only on belief. The fact that they can't do that shows the arbitrary and capricious nature of what is taught on average.

The major problem with religion is, of course, that the factual claims tend to be just false. It is never good to live one's life assuming things that are not true. That does not mean that all religious people believe only in the preposterous nonsense. I am sure that there are many very positive and truthful messages exchanged in many religious settings.

Don

Anonymous said...

Laul
Your relationship with God, it seems like you have a better relationship with yourself. Good for you!

AsianGypseh (the food lover) said...

Thank you for making this essay. Living in the USA, I find that the conservative party whose motto is "self reliance" and "personal responsibility" mostly believe in a religious philosophy completely devoid of those two.

Check it out:
"Nanny State Jesus" takes care of everything and you don't even have to lift a finger. From the Israelites having everything done for them by God through magic, to the FREE payment of sins, to modern day faith healers. Religion never empowers. It relies on people always going to the priests and rabbis to get their medical and moral needs. That's not empowerment.

Going to a pharmacy to cure yourself is empowerment. Being able to do things for ourselves is empowerment. God wants to take that all away.

And you know what his message at the end is? Revelations will tell you no matter how clean you make the world, he will still destroy it. THE ULTIMATE MESSAGE OF THE ENTIRE BIBLE IS "YOU ARE A FAILURE NO MATTER WHAT". It is negative and nihilistic. A movie with an atrocious ending cloaked in wonderful seeming paradise end.

People follow a God who himself abdicates any personal responsibility for anything he made. He just washes his hands clean each time HE himself screws up. Takes no responsibility for the world he supposedly made and declared "good". Now, he says it's a "fallen world" and he's surrendering it to the devil? What kind of god is that???

this kind of thinking must be removed if we are to advance further medically and scientifically.

AsianGypseh (the food lover) said...

So religious organizations do a lot of charities. So what?
When you look at which countries are more religious, you STILL find them doing badly in terms of:
crime
child and women's rights
labor laws
enforcement of laws
controlling nepotism, corruption and despotism

Let's not even talk about their records on environmentalism or the treatment of animals. Hoo boy.

Overall, religious countries are worse off despite their doing a lot of charities. So it's not even a wash. If the charities balanced it out, these countries would be at an equal level if not MORE than secular countries. But they are decidedly NOT.

So religion still FAILS on that point.


AsianGypseh (the food lover) said...

So some people on here will point out that there is a small HImalayan country doing well and are happier than most people in the world.

Well, guess what? There ARE outliers in the religious community, sure.

So why aren't these people who cite this converting to Buddhism, then, if they cite this little country as the one shining beacon of how you can be religious and do well?

The fact of the matter is, the Abrahamics worldwide ARE absolute failures when it comes to making rules for large masses of people. It may make you or a small group better, but we are talking about overall populations and statistics. On that level, religious countries almost always FAIL against their secular counterparts.

AsianGypseh (the food lover) said...

Somehow, throughout history, the cures for illnesses went from a person praying to god and he is ostensibly healed...

to someone approaching a shaman who then prays to god.... and is ostensibly healed...

to just God working his powers through a doctor who does heal you.
So if the first methods worked, why change them? Unless there is no god there and just people praying in the wind... sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn't. And too many people dying forced the religions to adapt their dogma or perish.

Today, God can no longer appear to people, work his powers directly. Somehow, he always needs people to do his will. This is the standard excuse today. God did not send people to help you so you are not being helped. It's lame.