The correlation of high religiosity in America with everything bad

September 7, 2015 • 12:45 pm

I wasn’t aware of this collection of plots until Jeffrey Tayler highlighted it in today’s Salon piece, “Bill O’Reilly’s nonsense ‘nihilism’: now the Fox News host is even lying about God.” I won’t reprise Tayler’s essay, which deals with O’Reilly’s mistaken notion that without God, life has no meaning and “anything goes.” In view of the pervasive atheism in countries that are more moral and more healthy in societal terms than is the US (24% of Danes and 16% of Swedes believe in God, compared to about 90% of Americans), O’Reilly’s thesis simply won’t wash.

Frankly, I’m surprised that the “atheism = immorality” trope is still with us in light of all the palpable evidence against it, including the fact that American nonbelievers aren’t running amuck in the streets. Tayler disposes of it neatly, but I want to show you some graphs that his essay links to; figures on the characteristics of different US states that have been collated and presented by Josh Sager at The Progressive Cynic. His notes are indented; mine are flush left:

Human development (well being) by state:

The first map is color-coded based on a meta-measure of a society called the “human development index.” This index was created by the Social Science Research Council as a composite measure of the health, education and income levels within each state—the higher the number (or darker-colored the state on the map), the more developed the state.

As this map clearly shows, the most developed states are clustered in the northeast, around the great lakes, and on the west coast, while the least developed states in our country are almost exclusively in the Deep South and Appalachia.

Map created by the Measure of America project, using 2010 and 2011 data. See here.

Levels of poverty by state:

As you can see in the map [below], American poverty is concentrated in the south, from Arizona all the way to the East Coast; additionally, Michigan, West Virginia and Kentucky are high-poverty states.


Economic mobility:

As you can see in the map [below], income mobility and the ability to “work your way up” (or down) is tied to the state in which you are living. All but one (Utah) of the states which have higher than average upward income mobility rates lean progressive, while all of the states with low upward income mobility rates lean conservative.



As is illustrated in the map [below], there are wide disparities in high school graduation rates, both on state and regional levels. For the most part, the northern United States has higher graduation rates, while the southern United States has lower graduation rates.

Map created by the Rural Assistance Center, using Census data

Corporal punishment in schools:

In addition to having lower levels of educational achievement, right-leaning states in the south and Midwest account for virtually all instances of corporal punishment (hitting students) in the United States—this is simply because these states are the ones that have refused to ban the practices.

Map created by the New York Times, using data from the American Civil Liberties Union

Life expectancy: Healthy years of life beyond age 65:

As the map [below] illustrates, the right wing’s southern stronghold is composed of states that have, far and away, the worst life expectancies in the United States. This isn’t a purely a partisan issue, and involves a mixture of culture and bad policy.

The south is home to extreme poverty, a lack of accessible health care (ex. Texas leads the nation with 25% uninsurance), lax worker/environmental protections, and a culture that consumes massive amounts of fatty fried foods. These factors create a perfect storm of bad health that severely erodes the life expectancy of huge portions of the southern population.

Map created by Real Clear Science, using 2012 data

The site gives higher rates of obesity, stroke, and heart disease in the South. I’ll skip those and just give you one plot of:

Overall accessibility and quality of health care:

Given the lower life expectancies and higher prevalence of chronic diseases in conservative states when compared to progressive state, it is unsurprising that there are similar disparities in the quality/accessibility of health care.

As you can see in the map [below], the health care systems of the Deep South and southwest are the worst in the nation, while those in the northeast and north-central regions are the best. This defies a purely partisan divide (ex. a lot of rural states suffer from low hospital accessibility), but the fact remains that the most conservative states in the nation tend to have the worst health care systems. This lack of health care is a particular problem for the south because, as previously described, it is the site of such an epidemic of chronic and life-threatening disorders.


Finally, two other indices of social dysfuncationality:

Teen birth rate:

The map [below] illustrates teen birth rates for teenagers aged 15 to 19. The obvious pattern is that conservative southern states have far higher teen pregnancy rates, while northern states, particularly in the progressive northeast, have far lower teen pregnancy rates. [JAC: There’s also a similar map for teen pregnancies in mothers between 10 and 14!]

Map Created by Zara Matheson, of the Martin Prosperity Institute

Incarceration rate: The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any First World country—higher even than many third world countries. It’s a national shame, and the inmates are largely black, and involved in drug offenses.

As the following map illustrates, conservative states—particularly in the south—have significantly higher rates of incarceration than progressive state. Many of these incarcerated Americans are in jail for non-violent crimes, including millions of Americans who are simply non-dealers in jail for drug possession.


All of this illustrates the point that the states that are the most socially dysfuncational in the U.S. are those in the South. Those also happen to be the most politically conservative states, and we might wonder whether conservatism itself has caused this dysfunction. It’s possible. But what Tayler emphasized, and what I want to reprise here, is that these conservative and dysfunctional states also have the highest degree of religiosity, as shown in the following graph:


The American right wing has long been allied with a coalition of Christian religious organizations. Originally, these organizations were mobilized in opposition to the school desegregation movement, but they shifted to focus on restricting abortion in the late 20th Century and, more recently, to fighting advances in gay rights.

Given this alliance, it makes sense that there would be a correlation between the religiosity of a region and the likelihood that they would vote conservative (most highly religious Americans are Christians).

As you can see with the [following] map, the right wing southern block is in thrall to religious adherence (mostly Evangelical and Baptist Christianity, with a Mormon outpost in Utah) to a degree not seen in any more progressive state. This isn’t to say that progressive states are secular, merely that their residents are, on average, less extreme in their religious adherence than residents of conservative states.


Now these are all correlations, and there are a number of hypotheses to explain them. Those include the notion that conservative politics is the prime mover here, which leads to both social dysfunction and higher religiosity. That’s possible because conservatives don’t do much to help the dispossessed, and American conservatism is historically allied with high religiosity. Alternatively, there could be historical reasons for the high levels of crime, poverty, teenage births, and low levels of health and education in the South, and that could not only be at least a partial result of conservative governments (which repress minorities), but also a cause of higher religiosity. Or, higher religiosity could itself promote political conservativism. Finally, more conservative religions could promote more conservative politics. Surely several of these factors must obtain.

In fact, there’s substantial evidence that worsening social conditions, irrespective of politics, have a profound effect on religiosity. When income inequality fluctuates in the U.S., so does religiosity—in the same direction, but a year behind. That implies that when people feel worse off than they did before (and income inequality is a biggie in terms of how people feel about their social well-being), they become more religious. There is also  striking correlation among First World countries between social dysfunction and increased religiosity, in the same direction (more successful societies are less religious). Greg Paul’s paper on this correlation (see his figure 1) give the conclusion in its abstract, though he doesn’t partition out liberal versus conservative governments, and such a distinction might be hard to make in countries like Switzerland which are socially conservative but also liberal in many policies. Part of Paul’s abstract:

The historically unprecedented socioeconomic security that results from low levels of progressive government policies appear to suppress popular religiosity and creationist opinion, conservative religious ideology apparently contributes to societal dysfunction, and religious prosociality and charity are less effective at improving societal conditions than are secular government programs. The antagonistic relationship between a better socioeconomic conditions and intense popular faith may prevent the existence of nations that combine the two factors. The nonuniversality of strong religious devotion, and the ease with large populations abandon serious theism when conditions are sufficiently benign, refute hypotheses that religious belief and practice are the normal, deeply set human mental state, whether they are superficial or natural in nature. Instead popular religion is usually a superficial and flexible psychological mechanism for coping with the high levels of stress and anxiety produced by sufficiently dysfunctional social and especially economic environments. Popular nontheism is a similarly casual response to superior conditions.

The solution is easy: vote out the conservatives and loosen the grip of faith on America.

102 thoughts on “The correlation of high religiosity in America with everything bad

  1. Given that religion can’t be justified as a rational conclusion (though when people think they CAN they do TRY), it makes sense that it must instead be marketed to people’s needs. First point out a problem; then provide the solution.

    The less real problems there are — the greater the sense of earthly well-being — then the more likely it is that fake problems will be created. You need to be absolved from ‘sin.’ You need to be less ‘materialistic.’ You need to live forever. You need a way to justify your morality so that it can’t be questioned. You need to be certain. You need “something more.” You need perfection. You need Perfect Love. You need to get closer to God. You need God. God needs to exist.

    Religion cuts you, then gives you a bandage.

    1. It’s no different from any other attempt to sell you something, however much it wants you to think otherwise.

  2. This is off-the-charts (ha ha!) amazing!

    One probable typo: In the second paragraph, “Tayler disposes of it nearly” I think the last word should be “neatly”(?).

  3. Being a good Popperian, Jerry should realize that his hypothesis is badly falsified by the one glaring counterexample in the data – UTAH! A highly religious counter-example that fails to fit into the data. I think the South has additional confounding factors — history of slavery, amongst others that he is failing to consider.

    1. One state does not falsify a general hypothesis. That’s like saying that one lifelong two-packs-a-day smoker falsifies the hypothesis that smoking causes lung cancer. And the slavery issue is implicit in the text.

      1. As my own grandpa liked to say…smoke a pack of cigarettes twice a day for eighty years, and you’ll live to be an old man. And, indeed, he lived into his nineties — though, to be sure, he wasn’t in the greatest of health towards the end, with his history of smoking not doing him any favors.


        1. Anyone who knows what Utah is would never consider it as the state to compare anything with. If Moe wants to explain how Utah, in it’s own reality falsifies any study is living in an other world. It is one out of 50, white Mormon.

      2. Single counters are never relevant in statistical arguments, which you are not making here. Utah is a clean counter because it eliminates one major confounding factor — slavery — thus, making your religious hypothesis stand out more cleanly. Of course both you and I realize that a single counterfactual isn’t a death-knell for a hypothesis (we’ve all read Duhem-Quine),however, it certainly is looking dinged up.

      3. Not to mention that Utah is the ONLY state in the USA where the dominant religion is Mormonism where these things may work out differently.

        For most of modern European history, Catholic countries have been less prosperous than Protestant ones, and in the Middle Ages, Eastern Orthodox countries were more prosperous ones than Catholic ones as well.

        1. That may have to do with the fact that focus on achievement and self reliance is built into the genes of Protestantism. And it even has a dogmatic foundation because there is no such thing as a priest in Protestantism as there is in Catholicism. Everybody has a first grade access to God and there is no switchboard (clergy) in between.

          1. A well-indoctrinated Catholic would tell you that Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” thus the Catholic suffering is justified. This is precisely how they answer the theodicy question, no matter how it is presented.

            Of course, they answer this why while simultaneously disregarding the thousands of miracles they claim have occurred that give people comfort right here in this world. Heads I win, tails you lose and the Catholics have been doing it better than anyone for 2000 years. This is why it’s so damn exciting to see their grip starting to significantly weaken in the western world, but I wouldn’t count them out yet given their gains elsewhere. Voltaire had it right with his musings on priestly entrails…

            1. A well-indoctrinated Catholic would tell you that Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” thus the Catholic suffering is justified.

              If Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world, then he and his agents can go fuck off and are kindly invited to stop the fuck meddling in the affairs of this world.

              But if he still insists on trespassing, he damned well behave like an adult when he’s here — and that means calling 9-1-1 in case of emergency, and cooperating with police investigations, and all the rest.


            2. Well, but that reinforces what I said, doesn’t it? Protestants need to work here and now to get points on their moral balance. Catholics do not have to necessarily because there is absolution. So the motivation to make things better is clearly on the Protestant side.

              1. Well, we all know that the Bible has enough contradictions to cherry pick whatever message you want to from it. But, yes I largely agree with you. Catholicism has certain orders that take vows of poverty. They have always preached that suffering brings you closer to God, blessed are the poor, etc. From an objective standpoint, this is exactly what the ruling class would emphasize so that the bourgeoisie don’t step out of line and the Vatican historically fits the bill for ruling class better than any organization ever has.

                As for whether Protestant sects motivate people to do better in the here and now; I’ll agree that some of them do, but there’s others who really embrace the “by faith alone” credo and don’t do very well waiting around for Jesus to heal the sick and provide blessings. This survey doesn’t seem to indicate much of an advantage for any Christian group and Catholics are ahead of Evangelicals. I suspect this is more to do with our modern society and the fact that most Catholics in the United States now reject many of the Church’s more primitive teachings, especially those regarding birth control and women’s rights, which are well-documented factors in reducing poverty.

    2. Alternatively, it might just show that being a Mormon is much better-socially, ethically, and morally–than being a Baptist. Wouldn’t that just rot the socks off a truly immense number of southern Baptists, not a one of whom thinks that the Mormons are even christian!

      1. Re Utah, I do think Mormonism’s influence skews the data to make it look different from other states. But this alone does not mean Mormonism is good for you. It might be good for your health and education, but at what cost? It enforces a common belief system and requires homogeneity, wrapping your entire life within its confines (friends, family), tolerating precious little in the way of diversity of thought. I’ll take my changes elsewhere.

        1. Mormonism is not “good for you.” It may appear that Mormons are doing better than their hyper-religious counterparts in other states, but that’s merely an outward appearance. Mormons are subject to high levels of Mormon-to-Mormon fraud and abuse, high debt accrued in the process of endlessly “keeping up appearances” (because wealth and success are a sign of God’s favor and one’s worthiness), and Mormon women take loads of prescription medications to force happiness when they can’t force a smile amidst all the lofty expectations, caring for more kids than they may really want, crippling debt, and severe lack of personal time.

          1. That negative aspect of such a “successful” church is fascinating. It means the religious have fewer “success” stories to point to when arguing – oh, but religion does so much good in the world! Gee, look at Mitt Romney and his wealth!
            Are there books discussing this aspect of Mormonism?

            1. If you like podcasts, check out Mormon Expression. The back-episodes are really enlightening about the underbelly of the shiny church. They go over Mormon history, doctrine, and culture, and the effects those things have on individuals.

    3. The education chart, broken down by county, shows that Utah is not monolithic. Seems to me we’d need similarly fine-grained data on religiosity to decide whether Utah fits the hypothesis or not.

    4. Well, it’s evidence that a religion with a strong communitarian streak [formed during a period of theocratic isolation, dicta supporting health, and a general high regard for education and sci/tech [as long as the latter doesn’t directly contradict central dogmas] does exist in the US.

      Religion in the American South is more a free-market free-for-all race to the bottom in evangelical hucksterism, where any initial communalism is constantly undermined by schism..

    5. This is correct. High religiosity and all of this bad stuff are effects of the same cause. As someone who lives in the South, I’m tell in you … it’s the South. I can think of several other variables that would correlate more closely with these quality of life indicators than religiosity.

  4. It’s high past time we, even for the sake of argument, grant religion as a positive force for morality. Even in principle, nothing can be more immoral, more detrimental to human society, than to claim to absolve one’s self of moral responsibility for one’s actions by faithfully adhering to the dictates of an inhuman extraterrestrial agent.

    Even if the gods actually do exist and really do have our best interests in mind, even if what they tell us to do really is the best course of action…even if we grant all of that, it is still incumbent upon us to independently verify all those assertions and to decide for ourselves if the proposed actions really are meritorious in and of themselves, regardless of divine sponsorship.

    “Because Jesus said so” is the absolute most evil justification there is for anything. It could be cause to give it careful consideration…but justification? No.

    …and that’s long before we get to Jesus’s own repeated and emphatic demonstration that he’s the ultimate boogeyman, the monster who will utterly destroy all of humanity — infinitely torturing most all who ever lived, and reducing the rest to mindless automata with no remaining function save to stroke the infinitely-inflated divine ego.


    1. “Because X said so” is almost always a sign of either rank immaturity/stupidity, a paranoid seige mentality, or being in the military (not that these are mutually exclusive)

    1. Not entirely.

      One thing we can be certain about: religion is not a force for good.

      Religion might or might not cause misery. Misery might or might not cause religion. It could even be a random fluke.

      But, if religion were a force for good, or if prosperity enhanced religiosity, we would see the inverse relationship. That we don’t tells us that religion is not a force for good and that prosperity does not enhance religiosity.

      Considering that those are two of the loudest claims coming from the religious, I’d say that that in and of itself is plenty to take away from the correlation.


    2. Was about to post something like that.

      It’s a complex issue. Look at the muslim brotherhood in Egypt. For 80 years, they’ve been in the opposition – and they’ve been a positive social force. Thanks to foreign finance, they helped the poor(to keep it simple).

      When they were elected to power, though, they completely forgot their roots(both islamic & social), and were so bad that Egyptian asked the army to restore a dictatorship. They suddenly went from somewhat positive to 100% predators.

      Religion can be a force for good, but it offers far more potential for evil. For both social & knowledge issues : the European monks were keeper of the few roman knowledge that was not lost, but couldn’t cope with the rythm of progress of the muslim world(where scientists were payed by the sultan, to keep things simple); and later, the muslim world, impoverished by the european competition over trade, couldn’t cope with an increasingly secular & private research in Europe. etc…

      In other words, religion is better than chaos, that’s why it thrives in many circumstances, and why it was desperately needed after the fall of the roman empire. But more advanced organized ways of thinking exist. You just have to make sure they don’t fall back into chaos.

      Ah, and in France, Poverty is strong in the rural North-East, while catholicism is strong in the West(averagely wealthy), and Islam in the urban centers(both poor like Marseille & rich like Paris). So there is no internal correlation at all. Rich Paris & Lyon are full with atheists and devout muslims, the south-west-countryside is a full secular area of various economic success, Britanny is very catholic and has a few strong economic centers, as Rennes & Nantes, while smaller town are poorer, and the countryside rather wealthy(the very polluting pork industry is in good shape, unlike big chunks of national agriculture), the south-East changes constantly under both internal & external migration(I just moved there due to my job), and, besides rich & catholic Alsace, the North-East is poor & secular.

      So, it’s cool to make maps, but reality is more complex than just “religion baaaaad, secularism gooooooood”. I think secularism allows us to think further than religion, and then is overall better, BUT it’s not the main driver of both wealth & social progress. Vietnam & North Korea would be heavens, otherwise. And Italy or Poland would be pure shitbags. I’m going to Poland every year, and their economic & social progress is impressive.

      My conclusion : if the correlation in the USA is so strong, it’s because other factors go parralell with the religiosity level. Your religious right is especially destructive, even in non-religious topics.

  5. For me the most shocking chart is the one that shows corporal punishment being visited disproportionately on disabled children. I suppose Oklahoma is to be congratulated for its policy of equal-opportunity punishment.

      1. I as astonished to see that it’s permitted in the schools. I would have guessed that it’s not outlawed at home…but had no clue that it’s still sanctioned in the school.

        Or, hell. I could even see it being one of those things still on the books but that never actually gets done.

        What the hell kind of sick fuck adult would even think of beating a child, and what idiot would put said sick fuck in charge of an entire classroom of children?


        1. What the hell kind of sick fuck adult would even think of beating a child?

          Answer: The kind that believes (certain sections of) the bible:

          Proverbs 13:24 – He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

          Proverbs 23:13-14 – Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

          When the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail…

          1. Ah, yes. “I love you so much I’m going to betray your trust and inflict pointless pain and suffering upon you.” How silly of me not to see it that way!


      2. As the chart makes clear, it’s not the US government that allows it; it’s the individual states (and many of them have banned it).

        A federal ban would probably require a court ruling that allowing it violates the Constitution. Perhaps such a case could be made, but that would require a parent from one of the allowing states to bring a suit to federal court. Until that happens, it remains up to the states.

        (Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer.)

  6. Another map that adds to this Religiosity effect on dysfunctional U.S. society is the Topography of Faith map which shows the percentage of evangelical protestants. This number gets above 30% in many of the states that rank high in poverty, poor health and more.

    The editorial on O’Reilly by Jeffery Tayler only confirms that what Hitchens said about Jerry Falwell and the enemia applies just as well to O’Reilly. Nothing new there.

  7. Have you sent this to Angela Merkel?

    (Note: people who would rather die than even begin to be thought of as racists love these kinds of maps. They forget that the reason for much of that dysfunction are high rates of blacks and hispanics in many of those states.)

    1. So you are blaming societal dysfunction on minorities? I’m not sure I want to read your rationale, but you do have to justify this claim.

      1. Ok, homework for you: Go to wikipedia and find demographics by states……..the links won’t be exact but they will be more than directionally correct.

  8. Don’t forget that now California has the highest poverty rate in the country and New York City the most segregated schools.

  9. I would also argue that slavery, in itself, is not particularly important to this study. Race or Color, yes but not slavery. Slavery did end roughly 150 years ago.

    Iowa is a state I know a little about and the average rating it falls into with most of the maps in the study actually indicate it is worse that it appears. That is because it is a very white state and therefore, has up front advantages over many of the other states. Add more color to the state and there would be a corresponding drop in other areas.

    1. It’s pretty hard to talk about racism as a separate issue from its historical basis in slavery. Just as it’s hard to examine the current economic status of southern states without considering their slave-based economies in the past. What we see today is a result of the past.

      1. I can’t buy that at all. Slavery certainly includes racism but you can have all kinds of racism and bigotry with no slavery. You admit yourself that the southern economy was slave based prior to 1865 but it stopped after that. Today the economies of the southern states has nothing to do with slavery and they are no longer based on agriculture as they were in Slave times. If you want agriculture based look at California or Iowa, not Georgia or Mississippi.

        The treatment of the African American’s in the south after the civil war is tied to this condition today but that is racism, not slavery. We had legal slavery in many northern states in the earlier period but that is long gone too. One could argue that freeing the the south of slavery actually allowed it to finally progress economically from a backward system that was nearly bankrupt. Also, there was a huge migration of African Americans out of the south during the first half of the 20th century and they were not leaving because of slavery. They were leaving because of the Jim Crow system of the south.

        Just one more thing…go back and look at the Maps in this posting. Oklahoma is right in there with the poor condition of other southern states. Was there slavery in Oklahoma, hardly.
        It became a state in 1907. But they have the religious foundation and conservatism to make them a match.

  10. “That implies that when people feel worse off than they did before… they become more religious.”

    Well, that explains everything about my state’s current government. Our General Assembly is trying to make us all more religious!

  11. It would also be interesting to look at data of religious folks in public office, which religions they are and correlations of individual wealth to specific religions.

    My surface impression is that while New York City registers a higher percentage of religious in its population than San Francisco, in the former case it is more prevalent among the working classes, while there is more religiosity in the middle class in the Peninsula and Bay Area.

  12. Look up the international Social Progress Index 2015.

    All the top countries are the least religious. USA comes in at #16.
    1. Norway
    2. Sweden
    3. Switzerland
    4. Iceland
    5. New Zealand
    6. Canada
    7. Finland
    8. Denmark
    9. Netherlands
    10. Australia
    11. United Kingdom
    12. Ireland
    13. Austria
    14. Germany
    15. Japan
    16. United States

    There are several international studies from reputable organisations and universities you can look up for different aspects of what makes up societal wellbeing. #1 rotates amongst the top 10 in the list above. USA almost never makes it into the top ten. There’s a Harvard one that correlates more than fifty of the reputable surveys, which I can’t find at the moment, but I remember it clearly because New Zealand came in #1.

    1. That #1 must have been an artefact then. IIRC, NZ has one of the highest imprisonment rates in the world after the US, with a disproportionately high number of Maoris and Pacific Islanders represented.

      OTOH we do have a reasonable social security and national health service, albeit watered-down as far as they dare by our current right-wing (right-wing for NZ, that is) government.
      That may be what saves us from dropping lower in the list.


      1. When I visited your fine, fine country, I sensed the cultural tension. Imprisonment rates are perhaps a symptom of that clash and hopefully will abate in time. I hope.

      2. There are several areas where we aren’t too flash – teen suicide is another one. But overall we came out best. I was surprised too, as there are a number of areas that need a lot of improvement. It was not long before the Soccer World Cup that it came out

  13. … American nonbelievers aren’t running amuck in the streets …

    Yes, most of us have the decorum and good taste to keep our amuck running behind closed doors … or at least behind privacy fences.

  14. Frankly, I’m surprised that the “atheism = immorality” trope is still with us in light of all the palpable evidence against it, including the fact that American nonbelievers aren’t running amuck in the streets.

    Well, there’s your problem right there. The people using this trope are singularly immune to evidence. Or as Homer Simpson observed:

    Facts are meaningless, you can use facts to prove anything that’s remotely true! Facts, schmacts. (Simpsons, Season 9, Episode 8 – Lisa the Skeptic)

  15. Believing in delusions can’t possibly lead to a better life. The data show this. What I can’t understand is how this segment of the population is wreaking havoc in our society today; for example, all of the Republican candidates for president (I am not sure of Trump) pander to the religious right.

  16. In map after map the social malignancies are concentrated on the states of the former Confederacy.

    Would that they hadn’t insisted on taking their slaves with them, we could have upgraded The Union by letting the lot of them go back in 1861.

    1. Where do you get this stuff. Equating this posting with slavery is a poor understanding of history, certainly over the past 150 years.

      And that last comment indicates you don’t understand much before then either.

          1. … because nothing says you needn’t have your photo-ID checked against the “You must have been born before this date to comment here” sign like ad hominem attack.

            I’ll call your ad hominem and raise you a false dichotomy: Are you proud “Sons of the Confederacy” southern or regular, old “White Citizens’ Council” southern?

            (Look, Randy, like Ernie Banks, I can play this game all day, but it’s not really my thing. If that’s the route you wanna go, we should take this private, so as not to bore the well-mannered commenters here.)

            Your call, colonel.

              1. It’s nice to see civil instincts take over. I enjoy both your comments and would hate to see a unnecessary disjunction.

      1. So you’re saying that the benightedness, poverty, and superstition endemic to the Deep South today is totally coincidental to its having built its economy for a couple centuries on the back of the “peculiar institution” chattel slavery and then on a hundred years of Jim Crow?

        Interesting. Would love to hear you parse them from one another.

  17. I think your concluding premise shows your bias. The conservatives would say:

    “The solution is easy: get more of that income inequality, less education so we can get more religious”.

  18. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett analysed, correlated from global and US data sets and authored a book entitled ‘The Spirit Level’ Why Equality is Better for Everyone.
    They showed by lifting populations out of this quagmire of inequality is a very real goal that would aid our progression to rationality and reason and the demise of religiosity (in a simplified plan) but the data above shows also how it could work.
    The political will on all four corners of the globe is dragging it’s feet and the US Republican party is a joke, with all that sideshow, it is scary. I fucking hope the US don’t vote them in and keep an eye on Putin.
    He’s a scary bastard as well.. anyway.
    New Zealand does not come out looking to good on equality which gave me a jolt, enough for me to drop the left and right and look for quality in politician and policy only.
    We are not overly religious so I wonder that inequality may look different in some countries i.e. as Wilkinson, Pickett et al point out, a poor person in the US still may own a pick up, have TV and air conditioning.
    We have ubiquitous government agencies in place to support the not so well off and a small population. It’s not perfect, it never is.
    I also feel that the deeper underpinning of superstition as defined by evolutionary psychology, cognitive psychology has very useful things to say about a mind under stress and these should be added to the picture to reinforce our understanding of all this work done by Sager, Wilkinson and Pickett.

    1. Just one of the surprising findings from that book: imprisonment and punitive attitudes to criminals are among the most ineffective ways of handling crime. Not only do they fail to reduce the crime rate – especially compared with the alternatives – but they may actually increase it. The effectiveness of those policies is all about appeasing the critical media.

      Or to put it another way: they push the wrong ideas because they’re biased to it by people who believe in the wrong ideas and can string them up for it. Faith? You can keep it.

  19. Jerry, I don’t know about your ancestors but mine wrote the book. Like all authors, they wrote what they knew. Insecurity, fear, incomprehensible early death, no real control over much.

    My maternal grandfather was in many ways a perfectly normal Turkish paterfamilias, abnormal only in being a Jew. He was remarkably like the old testament deity. Cruel, capricious, arbitrary.

    I don’t know whether religion is a rational response to hard times but it is an understandable way to assert control in a difficult situation.

  20. I know it’s kind of late to comment on this article, but I question the data, at least the economic mobility map. I came across this article on PuffHo last year, These 9 Maps Should Absolutely Outrage Southerners, which has similar maps of measures of well-being. I was paying particularly close attention to Texas since that’s where I live, and the map in that article showed rather high economic mobility for Texas, while the one in this article shows it being below average. The overall trends are still the same, for the South as a whole, and even for Texas on most issues, but I’d like to resolve that discrepancy before showing these maps to others.

  21. I wonder about the teen birth figures. 18 or 19 is still pretty young, but that’s past at least one traditional characterization of adulthood. So I wonder about the split 15-17 vs. 18-19. Neverthless – more than 50% in Texas? Wow.

  22. This has it all wrong… It’s obviously weather related. Better year round warm weather, no motivation to better your self. Duh.

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