Over a century ago, French sociologist Emile Durkheim undertook research on why individuals in cities tend to commit suicide more frequently than those who liked in closely knit rural societies. The answer was Anomie- the sense of dispossession. He said anomie exists in society:
….where the traditional sources of societal regulation — religion, government, and occupational groups — have all failed to exercise moral constraints on an increasingly unregulated capitalist economy.Religion, which once consoled the poor and at least partially restricted the material ambitions of the rich, has simply lost most of its power. Government, which once restrained and subordinated economic functions, is now their servant, thus, the orthodox economist would reduce government to a guarantor of individual contracts, while the extreme socialist would make it the “collective bookkeeper” — and neither would grant it the power to subordinate other social agencies and unite them toward one common aim. Even occupational groups, which once regulated salaries, fixed the price of products and production, and indirectly fixed the average level of income on which needs were based, has been made impotent by the growth of industry and the indefinite expansion of the market.
Basically a society where all the familiar have disappeared leaving the individual with no crutches or anchor to tether their lives, is one where all kinds of moral deviance – and suicide is an extreme form of moral deviance, remember this was 19th century Europe, very Christian, and suicide was a mortal sin, occur because state, religion and other social organisations no longer hold any influence or sway on the citizen.
This was, for a long time the dominant hypothesis as far as society is concerned. Which is why every so often we have people spouting the need for “family values”, “religious values” “moral straight and narrow” and so on. I tend to buy some of this argument. Though I believe that an overdose of family, religion, values are just as liable to send someone to slit their wrists, or go ballistic, as the feeling of being completely rootless. I also believe that an overdose of religiousity can lead people to go wrong. For example, not teaching sex education in school because it is against your religion/culture can lead to experimentation that can have fairly serious consequeces for children/teenagers , just as having no rules can lead to them going astray.
So, it was with amusement that I read an article in Murdoch’s Times (of London) about how “Societies worse off ‘when they have God on their side’
Quoting from a paper published in the Journal of Religion and Society, based on research conducted in the USA, the paper says:
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 reason i found the report amusing, is because Murdoch’s other media vehicle’s – Fox – broadcasts probably encourages a great deal of false religiousity amongst people. If a people can have a God given right to invade another country, then they probably have the God given right to rob banks with God given guns, bonk all over the place without birth control (birth control is a sin – bonking is a divine right) , shoot their veins (or is it arteries) up with God given drugs and more:)
For any society or people who think that they have a ‘God Given Right’ to do as they please the above conclusion would probably be valid. The way Taliban behaved in Afghanistan is probably a case in point – they believed that they had the God given right to do what they wanted. Where the basic moral codes of society are violated – where killing is approved in the name of God, where subjugation of a gender (usually women) is justified in the name of God, where discrimination is encouraged in the name of God – sooner or later, unless you change, you are going to see a breakdown in society. My God loves me therefore I can get away with murder, discrimination, bombing, – seems to be the stance of fundamentalists everywhere. And if my God gives me a bigger gun than your god, then i can get away with more murder, bombing etal than you.
And at the other end is this entire thing of sexual morality, and women’s rights. Fundamentalists expect ‘chastity’ of everyone except themselves. And of course, they expect women to take the back seat on almost everything from their status in society to their role in the workplace. Just look at countries like Saudi Arabia to know what I mean. Look at the US and this entire idiocy on abortion. And, when you have this kind of restrictions, people are going to want to break free. Value education and Moral Brainwashing are two very different things. The former you imbibe, the latter you want to break. I have cousins with strict parents (everything is a sin school of parenting) who went so terribly astray, and i have cousins with ‘liberal’ parenting – who have turned out so well – that it teaches you that the easiest way to get someone to do something is to ban it.
There is a difference between faith and religiousity. And it is probably that difference that shows up in societal deviance.