Is it a matter of peace leading to secularism, or of secularism leading to peace?

As an interested observer of world affairs, it has always struck me as ironic that peace has always seemed so elusive to the so-called Holy Lands of the Middle East, and yet always seemed to come naturally to countries like Denmark and New Zealand, where faith tends to be treated as a personal matter.

That curiousity about how religion influences human behaviour led me to do a little experiment when the latest results of the Global Peace Index were released recently. I decided to test my suspicion that countries with a greater overlap of religion and politics were more prone to conflict and social unrest than countries with more secular governments.

To do this, I compared each country’s score in the Global Peace Index to the percentage of respondents who expressed “strong agreement” that it would be better if there were more people with strong religious beliefs in public office according to the latest wave of the World Values Survey.

Sure enough, there was a significant relationship between the two.

The graph below shows the nature of the relationship between the degree to which religion and politics overlap and a country’s vulnerability to conflict and social unrest.

The higher up a country’s icon was positioned, the more intense the demand for more people with strong religious beliefs in public office. The further to the right the icon was positioned, the greater the propensity for conflict and social unrest.

It still doesn’t quite answer one important question: Is it that peace (and often prosperity) leads to secularization? Of secularization leading to peace? Or a bit of both?

The relationship between social peace and the overlap between politics and religion

The relationship between social peace and the overlap between politics and religion (Sources: World Values Survey/Global Peace Index)

Data table

Sources: Global Peace Index 2010, World Values Survey 2005-08


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

4 Responses to Is it a matter of peace leading to secularism, or of secularism leading to peace?

  1. james geddes says:

    Dear Mr. “the view from seven”; even for someone with little knowledge of statistics (myself) your graph looks far from convincing. I wish that you would spend more time contemplating your afterlife instead of worrying about religion and how you might create a link from it to violence. People are violent enough without trying to blame it on religion. Thank you, James Geddes

  2. unclebob says:

    I am kind of wondering about the same relationship between religion or secularism versus more specifically A- internal civil order B- nation to nation civility

    My suspicion is that the higher the religious elements rate – the higher the perceived internal civil order (not to be seen as freedom) but the reverse might be true for the outside tolerance or nation to nation tensions

    Nice work as usual though

  3. theviewfromseven says:

    Thanks, Bob, for the comments!

    That’s a good point you raise. The graph shows that a little over one-quarter of the difference in peacefulness is associated with the public’s willingness to mix religion and politics — which makes it a major factor, but not the sole factor. Geography, demographics, culture, corruption and education levels, I would suspect, also play a role.

  4. blackwatertown says:

    An interesting, and possibly valid, hypothesis. But I’m not convinced by your graph or data.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: