As noted earlier, the most secular democracies in the world score very high on international indexes of happiness and well-being (Kamenev 2006) and they have among lowest violent crime and homicide rates (Paul 2005). But there’s more. A perusal of any recent United Nations World Development Report reveals that when it comes to such things as life expectancy, infant mortality, economic equality, economic competitiveness, health care, standard of living, and education, it is the most secular democracies on earth that fare the best, doing much better than the most religious nations in the world (Zuckerman 2008; Norris and Inglehart 2004; Bruce 2003). Consider women’s equality and women’s rights: women fare much better in more secular countries when compared with women in more religious countries and that women’s equality is strongest in the world’s most secular democracies (Ingelhart et al. 2003; Inglehart and Norris 2003). And a UNICEF (2007) report found that the least religious nations on earth – such as Sweden and Holland – are simultaneously the best countries for the care and well-being of children. Of the top ten best countries in the world within which to be a mother, all are highly secular nations; of the bottom worst 10, all are highly religious (Save the Children, 2008). And the nations with the lowest levels of corruption are simultaneously among the most secular (Beit-Hallahmi 2009). When it comes to intolerance of racial or ethnic minorities, levels are lower in less religious countries, and higher in more religious countries (Gallup Poll
2009, April 7). Concerning environmental protection, secular nations fare much better than religious nations, with the most secular democracies on earth doing the most to enact strong and progressive laws and green programs (Germanwatch, 2008). According to one international ranking, the ‘‘greenest’’ countries in the world are simultaneously among the most secular (Reader’s Digest, 2009). Additionally, the nations that score the highest when it comes to the quality of political and civil liberties that their citizens enjoy tend to be among the most secular nations on earth (Nationmaster, 2009). As for reading and math skills and scientific literacy, it is again the more secular nations that fare the best (Lynn 2001; UNICEF, 2002). The most secular nations in the world are also the most peaceful, while the most religious nations are the least peaceful (Vision of Humanity, 2008). And according to the Legatum Prosperity Index (2009), secular nations are far more prosperous than religious nations. Finally, according to The Economist’s Quality of Life Index (2005), which takes into account multiple indicators of subjective well-being as well as objective determinants of quality of life, the ‘‘best’’ nations on earth are overwhelmingly among the most secular, while the ‘‘worst’’ are overwhelmingly among the most religious.
Within the United States, we find similar patterns: the states with the highest rates of poverty tend to be among the most religious states in the nation, such as Mississippi and Tennessee, while the states with the lowest poverty rates tend to be among the most secular, such as New Hampshire and Hawaii (United States Census Bureau 2008). The states with the highest rates of obesity are among the most religious in the nations, while the states with the lowest rates of obesity are among the least religious (Calorielab.com 2008). And it is the more religious states that tend to have infant mortality rates higher than the national average, while the less religious states tend to have lower infant mortality rates (United States Census Bureau, 2005). Additionally, it is among the most religious states that one finds the highest rates of STDs (Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2007) and teen pregnancy (Guttmacher Institute, 2006). America’s Bible Belt also contains the lowest rates of college-educated adults, and of the states with the highest percentage of college educated adults, most are among the most secular in the country (United States Census Bureau, 2007).