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The Religious Support Behind Proposition 8

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Proposition 8 passed because of religious folk. There is no question about it. Church-going Black Americans, tithe-paying Mormons, mass-attending Latinos, and Evangelical whites all joined forces in "protecting marriage." The underlying reason religious people voted to revoke from gays and lesbians the legal right to marry is doggedly theological: God doesn't like it. And when a society or culture does things that God doesn't like, that society or culture will suffer. This is a central tenet of every religion, and has been ever since the first shaman first claimed to be able to discern the will of the Almighty by examining the patterns in a bowl full of crushed berries.

And it simply isn't true. If God punishes societies that violate his commandments and rewards those that do, this just isn't apparent by looking at the state of the world today. The sociological fact is that the most irreligious nations right now are among the most successful, humane, moral, and free, while the most religious nations tend to be among the most destitute, chaotic, crime-ridden, and undemocratic. A similar pattern also holds true within the United States: those states and counties that boast the greatest numbers of strong believers and regular church attenders tend to have higher poverty rates, child abuse rates, violent crime rates, and lower educational attainment rates than those states and counties characterized by more secular populations.

Consider the nations of Scandinavia specifically. These countries are noteworthy because they were among the first nations to make abortion legal and readily available and they were also among the first nations (along with Holland) to allow for gay marriage. Indeed, gays and lesbians have been able to wed in these countries of Northern Europe for nearly 20 years now. And what is the state of society in these relatively irreligious nations, where weekly church attendance is among the lowest in the world and belief in God is markedly thin? They lead the world on nearly all indicators of societal well-being. From economic prosperity to low crime rates, from equality between men and women to excellent child welfare, from life expectancy to low rates of H.I.V., the relatively godless (or at least God-indifferent) nations of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Holland suggest that secularity - and acceptance of gay marriage, specifically -- doesn't bring down the wrath of God at all. And yet when we look at the most religious nations in the world - especially those that severely condemn homosexuality, such as Iran, Angola, and Mauritania -- we see extreme poverty, high violent crime rates, oppression of women, dictatorship, warfare, corruption, etc..

Where is the best place to be a mother and raise children? According to the latest Save the Children Report, it is relatively godless Sweden. The worst? Extremely Godful Niger. How about murder rates? Highly religious Columbia leads the globe, while highly secular Japan is near the bottom. What about strong economies? According to the World Economic Forum, of the top ten nations boasting today's most competitive economies, nine are relatively irreligious (the USA being the sole exception). According to the latest Global Peace Index, the top five most peaceful nations are simultaneously among the most secular, such as Denmark, which ranks in at #2. Even when it comes to suicide rates, it is the former Soviet nations that lead the pack, some of which are fairly secular, but most of which are quite religious, such as Lithuania.

Admittedly, atheist-communist regimes constitute an ugly experiment in human misery. North Korea is far from a beacon of societal health. The same can be said of the former U.S.S.R, China, or little Albania under former atheist-dictator Enver Hoxha. There is no question that atheism coupled with totalitarianism is a veritable recipe for societal disaster. But as for democracies that forgo God -- societies in which secularism is not forced upon a captive citizenry by dictators, but emerges organically and freely over several generations -- the overall international pattern is unmistakable. It is the more godless democracies - and especially those that allow for gays and lesbians to wed -- that are faring the best, while it is the more God-worshipping and homosexual-condemning nations that are faring the worst.

When it comes to God and the acceptance of gay marriage, the religious supporters of Proposition 8 certainly have a right to their opinion. But that doesn't make their opinion right.