Piety in Society

In doing an assignment for a class, I came across this: ‘The Social Psychology of Religion’ This stood out to me because I believe that it is very important to consider the context of a situational, and I hadn’t considered inequality in the context of religion before. According to the page, 88% of Americans in 1995 believed that religion was important in their lives. Today the number is 53%. With a drop of 35%, that means that about half of the population doesn’t care much about faith. This drop occurred in just over 10 years. While I doubt the trend will remain so fast, it is reasonable to assume that within 50 years, only about a third of all Americans will have any interest in religion. It would be extremely interesting to do a study in 2045 and look at such data compared to other social trends, inequality included. Unfortunately, the assignment this was adapted from was due Friday, not in 2045, so I will analyze the data on the older site and compare it to more recent sources.

Based on the information I was able to find, religion acts like a buffer which stifles the social frustrations inherent in a large social group such as a city, state, or nation. Unfortunately, it mostly acts as such within a nation, which means that in nations with no overwhelming majority religions, such as the United States, religion actually generates tensions, as evident in contemporary events. In the nineties, people who were religious reported being more happy in general. This data is corroborated today, though with a large grain of salt, because most of the scholarly articles were cited in places like Christian News, and Breitbart, which are objectively biased. The original page also says that religious people can be more healthy, citing Mormons disuse of tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine, though since such a thing only applies to very select religions, I choose not to put too much credit behind it. After all, a more recent study found that conservative protestant men tended to be fatter.

One positive aspect for religion regardless of other tensions is the closeness of the religious communities, though of course there are virulent exceptions which taint the image of religion in general. On the other hand, this closeness can seriously increase the likelihood of inequality and stratification. For example, Christianity is unquestionably the religion of power in the United States right now, with the vast majority of people in government being some brand of Christian, whether that be Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, the list goes on. The morals that appear today in these religions tend to focus on personal success and close family. Judaism on the other hand, is derived from divine right. According to Islam, adherents must focus on helping their neighbors and improving communities. There are, of course various cults which have significant power, such as Scientology, or the Ku Klux Klan, but their overt political power tends to be very limited.

The major problem of these powerful religions is that in focusing on how following their morals will improve lives, it creates an unconscious (or conscious) bias in its adherents which links lack of success with immorality. In effect, the poorer someone is, the more immoral they must be, because if they had not strayed, then God, or Jesus, or Allah, or whomever, would have rewarded them. The natural extension for this belief is evident; “Why protect, aid, and fund someone so immoral?” This is dangerous for a society, in that it encourages stratification into classes that do not function as a cohesive whole. Most everyone but the lower class believed this in 1995, as a generalization, and unfortunately, the numbers are corroborated today.

Social stratification in the west is starting to look more like geographic stratification, with the same lack of mobility. Of course, radicals will point to earthquakes as notable exceptions, but as a pacifist, I think revolutions, bloody ones especially, should be avoided. On the other hand, as a rational person, I must admit that sometimes people must fight for their rights. If I had a single solution to social inequality, I would have run for president. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is one. People will fight over nothing, and have since before societies have existed. In the end, keeping things nonviolent while maintaining the inalienable rights of humankind is the only moral solution, and the only one I can agree on wholeheartedly.

EDIT 3/11/17: fixed formatting error at the top. Lost link or something. 🤷‍♂️


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