These guys reckon it is. It turns out that the US, where religion plays a big role in daily life, suffers from much greater social problems than more secular developed countries such as the UK, Sweden, and France.
“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”
I haven’t read the actual journal article (I will, if/when I get my hands on it), but it appears that the author made the classic correlation vs causality mistake. Just because the more social ills a country suffers from, the more religious its citizens are, does not mean that religion is the cause of these social ills. Correlation does not equal causality. To use a similar example – Christmas only occurs in the months when people start sending cards to each other. In the months when people don’t send cards, there’s no Christmas. So Therefore, Christmas is caused by people sending cards to each other. This is nonsense of course, but the authors seemed to have used a similar line of logic. There are plenty of other possible explanations for why Americans are more likely to kill each other than people in other developed countries. Poverty cycles, lenient gun laws, lack of decent welfare programs, education etc. etc. But that’s another debate altogether. While responsible for a lot of bad stuff, I don’t think religion is to blame here. Plus, you could argue the reverse – that because of the higher number of social problems in the US, more people turn to God for hope, guidance, an excuse, or whatever. UPDATE: For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to the original journal article. Academic wanking, really.