2013 August 16 Friday
Mormonism Creates Healthier Societies
My take on Mormonism: Mormonism is better than other sects of Christianity because Mormons behave better than most (all?) other Christian sects. Mormonism causes people to work harder, stay married, put effort into raising their kids, and generally be an asset rather than a liability. That is way more than you can say for secular liberalism. A Washington Monthly piece about Utah and the Mormons sums up the confusion of the liberal mindset: Why Is Utah So Great?
It’s conservative, but beating everyone on the societal indicators. By Ben Florsheim
Study after study ranks it at or near the top in various categories of well-being, including access to clean water and employment satisfaction; some such surveys have Utah leaving runners-up in the dust. It recently had the lowest rate of child poverty and the fourth-highest child well-being, though it slipped in those categories as well due to the economy (while other states intervened when child well-being was at risk during the recession, Utah coasted).
Why? Why or why? I can think of a few big reasons, one notably missing from the article.
Here comes the most amazing demonstration of the delusion of left-liberal minds of our era. The key word here is despite.
Yet it posted leading numbers in earlier years despite having the second-lowest benefits for children through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, low Medicaid eligibility, and lowest-in-the-nation education spending (among other states who score highly in well-being rankings, these are extremely unusual characteristics; the study that ranked Utah highly also reported the overall conclusion that “child well-being is strongly related to higher state taxes and robust entitlement programs”).
Child well-being is very high in Utah and Utahns have little need for social programs. Why does that seem so incongruous to liberal welfare state supporters?
To be fair to Ben Florsheim, he does pick up on the importance of religious belief and also on the lack of diversity in inducing responsible behavior and in creating healthier societies. Now, the exact details of the religion matter in terms of the impact on behavior. Mormonism seems to be the best religion (at least so far) in causing people to behave in ways that make them less likely to become parasites.
By Randall Parker at 2013 August 16 09:13 PM
Mormons have an internal safety net. Their version of welfare has a lot of tough love and actually mostly works. It helps too that they're so white and relatively homogeneous.
" Mormonism causes people to work harder, stay married, put effort into raising their kids, and generally be an asset rather than a liability. "
I think you have the arrow of causality the wrong way around ...
There will always be argument over "the arrow of causality" the the social sciences so long as humanity is deprived of Sortocracy's Compassion: Sorting proponents of social theories into governments that test them.
One of the main reasons humanity is deprived of sortocracy is that if it is allowed, data points like Utah will not only multiply -- providing evidence against the reigning theocracy (government as divine intermediary with Nature and Nature's God) -- but the creation of voluntary control groups will counter the rhetorical weapon of last resort in the social sciences: "Correlation doesn't imply causation."
It's a terrible article, as the author makes no real attempt to get to the heart of what makes Utah and Mormons better off, perhaps because doing so would undermine standard leftist dogma. It's the traditional, anti-feminist aspects of Mormonism which make it so beneficial to its members.
Mormonism places a strong emphasis on chastity and marriage. Marriage increases the focus on behaviors that generally improve your health and finances - people work harder, live healthier, and waste less money on socializing. I have several cousins still in their early 20s who are active Mormons, and they all are married, all have college degrees, and all own homes, which is increasingly rare for adults in that age range. The cousins who left Mormonism aren't doing nearly so well. And that's another interesting aspect of Mormonism: unlike a lot of religions, its the more successful Mormons who stay active in the faith, while the less successful ones leave. This may be because the Church places a strong emphasis on self-control - no drugs, no alcohol, no booze, and no pre-marital sex.
I suspect Mormonism and/or Utah could collapse, though. White membership seems to be stagnant, at best, and the Mormon Church increasingly relies on Hispanics to boost its numbers. In my experience minorities aren't nearly as good at living up to the Church's principles as whites are, and the result will be a religion that has to water down its rigorous living standards in order to survive. It should focus less on recruiting new members, and more on the ones it already has.
Another thing about Utah: an article in the Salt Lake Deseret News a year or so ago listed the state's school districts and their racial compositions, and it was shocking how many minority students there were even in the districts thought of as white. Utah is rapidly diversifying, and the social indicators will soon begin to reflect that.
"Mormonism places a strong emphasis on chastity and marriage. Marriage increases the focus on behaviors that generally improve your health and finances - people work harder, live healthier, and waste less money on socializing. I have several cousins still in their early 20s who are active Mormons, and they all are married, all have college degrees, and all own homes, which is increasingly rare for adults in that age range. The cousins who left Mormonism aren't doing nearly so well. And that's another interesting aspect of Mormonism: unlike a lot of religions, its the more successful Mormons who stay active in the faith, while the less successful ones leave. This may be because the Church places a strong emphasis on self-control - no drugs, no alcohol, no booze, and no pre-marital sex."
Wow, the religion places strong emphasis on self-control, and so those who lack it, leave the religion.
Let's try a thought experiment. If we converted all African Americans in the US to Mormanism, their self-control would improve to Utah Mormon levels, their marriage rates would increase, out-of-wedlock births would decline greatly, AIDS and other STDs among them would go down ... and so on?
I think not.
What most people simply forget is that culture is very much dependent on genes. Certain religious practices only make sense in the context of certain genetic behavioral predispositions. Certain cultural practices only make sense in the context of certain genetic behavioral predispositions.
It is not Mormanism that makes those Mormans behave that way, it is their behavior that makes them susceptible to Mormanism and appropriate hosts for that cultural meme.
When I read articles of this type, I always try to go back to original studies to see how the data were derived. Florsheim does provide a link to the 2007 study from the Foundation for Child Development (FCD). Here are that study's top eight states in "child well-being (CWB)" : NJ, MA, NH, UT, CT, MN, IA and ND. Here are the bottom eight: NM, MS, AL, AR, NV, AZ, AL and OK. The reason for these differences? Why, obviously state and local taxes - the higher, the better! The striking geographic distribution is mentioned:
where states in the South and Southwest show low rates of overall child well-being and states in the Northeast and Upper Midwest show the high rates of child well-being.
Minority population concentrations were also associated with lower levels of child well-being.
But, of course, if you don't favor higher taxes, you obviously hate children.
The second article, by Elisabeth Stuart in the "Deseret News," is a masterpiece of gullibility and cluelessness. Stuart mindlessly parrots the conclusions of an FCD 2012 study without linking to the original study. I doubt she even read it.
Here it is. This study repeats the state rankings of the 2007 study but explicitly links them to higher taxes and more generous entitlement programs. Why, they even provide correlation coefficients and degrees of statistical significance, which I'm sure Stuart doesn't understand (statistics not being a common course for journalism majors). All of this provides a pseudoscientific overlay - after all, correlation always proves causation, doesn't it? One could probably find equally strong correlations for factors such as distance from the Canadian border, mean temperatures or even (gasp!) ethnic composition. The study's findings were predictable and were probably envisaged before it was begun:
Higher State Taxes Are Better for Children. States
that have higher tax rates generate higher revenues
and have higher CWI values than states with lower
• Public Investments in Children Matter. The
amount of public investments in programs is strongly
related to CWI values among states. Specifically,
higher per-pupil spending on education, higher
Medicaid child-eligibility thresholds, and higher
levels of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF) benefits show a substantial correlation with
child well-being across states.
What a surprise. By the way, ever wonder what the Foundation for Child Development is and who runs it? From the 2011-2012 Annual Report:
There is now substantial consensus that investing in education, health, and strong
communities for children can make a difference in their lives. We have made progress
in health coverage for children, but still less than half of three- and four-year-olds
are enrolled in PreKindergarten programs in the U.S. Children who can benefit most
from participation are the least likely to be enrolled. And the U.S. lags far behind its
competitor nations in providing voluntary, universal access to early education programs
before compulsory universal education begins in all developed countries at six or
The United States faces declining investments in children’s programs and subsequent
threats to the provision of the early education and preventive health care programs
for our children. Community services are in jeopardy, because of shrinking federal
and state budgets. Private support, including from foundations, cannot make up for
shrinking public investments.
The FCD board is composed mostly of a bunch of educators, education bureaucrats and consultants. Over the years, they have pushed consistently for more government spending on education and health care. Needless to say, they are big Obama supporters:
Obama's PreK Promise
A Note from Deborah A. Phillips
February 13, 2013
Not since 1971 has early childhood education been elevated to the top of the federal policy agenda. But, last night's State of the Union Address did precisely this. FCD funded the key research in Oklahoma and elsewhere that establishes the cost effectiveness and educational value of early childhood education. Economists to neuroscientists have established the critical role that educational opportunities prior to elementary school play in forging children's capacities to learn. We look forward to applying this research evidence to real policy change working with policymakers from both sides of the aisle in the months ahead.
Deborah A. Phillips, Ph.D
Foundation for Child Development
"Wow, the religion places strong emphasis on self-control, and so those who lack it, leave the religion...What most people simply forget is that culture is very much dependent on genes."
I don't think too many readers of this blog doubt the importance of genes, but a belief in absolute genetic determinism is asinine. Do our genes explain why we've all gotten fatter in the last 2-3 generations, or why we're marrying less, having fewer kids, and having more kids out of wedlock?
Mormon sexual values are values that most white Americans had just 2-3 generations ago. They lived them - were capable of living them - because the surrounding culture #not to mention government welfare policy# reinforced them. Today our culture militates *against* them, in fact.
Broadly, people fall into three behavioral categories: those who will always behave a certain way #not smoke, nor drink, nor get knocked up at 15, etc.#, those who will never behave that way, and those whose behavior can be influenced by the surrounding culture.
If its just a matter of having decent genes why are lots of smart white people really bad at this stuff. Mormonism is one of the few groups that can get smart white people to breed, that alone is amazing.
The biggest problem with the Mormon church is that it was founded by absolutely crazy bastards. I know the early Popes and stuff were their own story too, but that was ancient Malthusian times and they still managed to at least get rid of polygamy. You get the impression that its all about money/power for the church elders. For a long time the "brand" that got them money and power was old strong religion for just white people. However, as the world change their faith changes (constant revelation, funny stuff). And they are doing all sorts of things that make you wonder how long the whole thing will hold together. The South American missionary work is definitely a big part of it
Mormon leadership appears to want to convert because all active members are expected to pay tithes and they make quite a bit off that. And while NAMs might not pay as much as whites there are a whole lot of them. Its basically the Catholic church strategy.
They are still fascinating and its easy to bitch and complain about hypotheticals while they are actually out there making the world a clearly better place.
"The biggest problem with the Mormon church is that it was founded by absolutely crazy bastards."
Crazy compared to the founders of any other religion? Crazy compared to Mohammed?
Joseph Smith was a little crazy (and a lot horny). But he managed to make a reasonably good go of it. Likewise Brigham Young. The current leaders of the Church are sane to the point of boring.
I have no idea how much money the Church collects, how much it uses for legitimate religious purposes, or what's done with the surplus. Some of it goes towards investments. The business arm of the LDS Church just built a $1.5 billion mall in downtown Salt Lake. They have a vested interest in keeping the area around the Salt Lake Temple, a huge tourist draw, pretty and commercially viable.
The biggest complaint I have about the LDS Church is how casually it regards the value of its members' time and money. Church meetings suck up massive amounts of members' time, as do two year missions. LDS missionaries in the First World spend two years of their lives baptizing almost no one. Talk to any Mormon who did an English-speaking mission in the US, or a mission in Europe, and the number of converts they gained can be counted on one hand - or none. Likewise, the expenses the Church has - mostly buildings that mostly sit empty 5 days a week, staffed almost entirely by unpaid volunteers - don't seem to justify taking 10% of members' income. Believe it or not, missions and the welfare program are funded by separate donations. The closest analogue to the Church I can think of in the government is the school system, and schools, in spite of books and buildings and oodles of paid teachers, don't suck up 10% of taxpayers' income.
"Mormonism Creates Healthier Societies"
You are kidding, right Randall?
The less religious a society is, the healthier it grows.
"The less religious a society is, the healthier it grows."
Define "healthier"? Declining fertility, familial decay, reliance on budget-busting government welfare schemes, and a suicidal desire in Western countries to let ourselves become overrun by Third World immigrants are not "healthier" by any means. It also depends on which religion is being abandoned. A tolerant religion that makes accommodation for science is not necessarily bad.
The very point of the article is that Utah, though more religious than most states, manages to do quite well on so many social indices.
Besides, we do have a state religion - political correctness/multiculturalism. It is every bit as intolerant and anti-science as the religions it has replaced.
I encourage you to dig into the details of Joseph Smith and many of the Mormon founders. They are not "a little crazy", they are wackos.
"Crazy compared to the founders of any other religion? Crazy compared to Mohammed?"
Mohammed was a warlord who made up a religion to satisfy his warlordism. Just like Joseph Smith made up a bunch of stuff to get money and women.
Jesus is an incredibly unique figure in history. Someone who really did do what they did for our sakes instead of his. There is a reason that Christianity is so compelling. Many of the church leaders hundreds of years later after Constantine co-opted it were corrupt, as were many of the leaders in all large human organizations throughout all of history. However, Christianity itself was not born of corruption from the starting point (like Islam and most every other religion). In its birth and founder it was pure, whatever may have happened since then. With Christianity the worst you can say is people fall away from the ideal, rather then the ideal itself being a petty expedient as in Islam.
As has already been noted, admonitions about the difficulty in disentangling causation and correlation apply here, but Mormonism can also boast the most eugenic birthing trends of any religious denomination in the US, by a long shot.
The less religious a society is, the healthier it grows.