Thursday, August 05, 2010

Family Values are Stronger in the Blue States

During the George W. Bush era, they were called the Red States. They are states filled with conservative Republican voters who espouse Christian values. These states are filled with church-going people who believe that the bible is the literal Word of God, who generally do not believe in evolution (The Creation Museum was built in one of these states, Kentucky.), and who believe that homosexuals are perverts who are going to hell.

Obviously, not everybody in the Red States believes everything in the above paragraph. Some are even atheists. And, believe it or not, as a percentage of the population, there are just as many homosexuals in the Red States as in the Blue States. But the Red States are red for a reason: The majority of the population in these states is very conservative. And that means they cling to their family values and to God.

It also means that there is far less crime, especially violent crime in the Red States, right?

No. Just the opposite is true. According to FBI crime statistics the overall crime rate is much higher in southern states than the national average. Louisiana, for example, has a murder rate that is 130 percent above the national average. Between 1988 and 2008, twenty years in a row, Louisiana had the highest homicide rate of any state. In addition to Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee have crime rates that are much higher than the national average.

Compare that to the Blue States of New England and the Pacific Northwest. These states have overall crime rates and violent crime rates that are far below the national average. These are the states where people tend not to have a problem of acceptance for homosexuals or for those of diverse backgrounds. The so-called Blue States are more liberal, go to church less often, and have a much higher percentage of people who do not believe in God.

But at least conservative states, which tout their superior family values, can boast a more stable, long-term family life, right?

Wrong again. The divorce rate in Red States is much higher than in the Blue States. A Barna Research Group survey showed that divorce rates among born-again Christians were significantly higher than among non-believers. George Barna, president and founder of Barna Research Group, made this comment: "While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing.”

So how about teen pregnancy? Surely the teenage girls of God-fearing conservative parents are less slutty than their non-believing counterparts. Again, the answer is a resounding no. The rate for teen pregnancy in conservative, religious Red-State America is much higher than in the liberal Blue States.

So what’s going on here? Why are the statistics upside down? Some people will claim that poverty plays a role, maybe the majority role. The Red States, especially in the South, have a much higher poverty rate than the national average. And while it is true that poverty is correlated with higher crime rates and higher teen birth rates, it also is correlated with a higher degree of faith in God.

Is poverty the causative factor for fundamentalist beliefs and for higher incidence of crime and teen pregnancy? Although causation is not proven, it is often assumed. An argument could be made that a lack of education can lead not only to poverty but also to fundamentalist beliefs. Poverty, poor education, fundamentalism, crime, and a distressed family life are coexistent factors. It is an irony that fundamentalism, which espouses positive family values, is linked directly or indirectly to the opposite behavior, crime, promiscuity, and divorce.

Fundamentalism may not be the causative factor, but that does not excuse the fact that fundamentalist, conservative beliefs cannot negate or even mitigate high crime rates and distressed family life. It’s all lip service. There is no positive correlation between belief in God and a higher moral fiber. If anything, there is a negative correlation. So much for the Christians’ claim that the bible is the moral foundation for America.


Shana said...

Well written article. It just comes to show things aren't always as they seem. I'm a proud, family-oriented, intelligent NON-believer, as a case-in-point.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure that the higher divorce rates in the Red States are due so much to religious fundamentalism as to the fact that people in the Red States marry at a relatively young age, and lower age at marriage is correlated with higher divorce.