Damion Crawford and 'Godless' Jamaicans
Michael Abrahams, Gleaner Columnist
Damion Crawford, Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, while addressing an audience in Toronto recently, stated that his "greatest concern is that Jamaicans are losing their fear of God".
He also tweeted, "All of a sudden everybody a atheist and agnostic and undecided and non-believer uunu need fi rhatid stop it ... dat a nuh Jamaica".
Following this, in a response to an open letter from Dr. Kei Miller, he stated that "this negative movement away from God was the platform for (1) a decline in the collective social conscience of the nation, (2) the clouding of what is accepted as wrong versus right and (3) a reduction in the risk perceived by the perpetrators of negative actions".
Mr. Crawford's sentiments are by no means unique and are shared by many persons of faith who believe that possession of a moral compass and belief in God are inextricably linked.
But evidence strongly suggests otherwise. No one can deny the positive contributions that the church has made to our society. Some of our best schools, children's homes, charitable organizations and private hospitals are linked to churches or Christian denominations.
However, one does not have to believe in the existence of a deity to know right from wrong or adhere to a disciplined, ethical and moral lifestyle. As a matter of fact, several studies and observations suggest that societies that are atheistic or secular may be better off that those that embrace religion.
A study published in the Journal of Religion and Society examining 18 first world countries found homicide and murder rates lower in secular countries than in those that embrace some form of religion. In Japan, for example, over 80 per cent of the population believes in evolution and fewer than 10 per cent are certain that God exists, yet it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and the lowest teenage pregnancy rate of any developed country. On the other hand, over 50 per cent of Americans believe in God and only 40 per cent believe in evolution, but the rates of teenage pregnancies and homicides (10 times higher than Japan) were the highest of any country in the study.
Another study in Sociology Compass found positive correlations between atheism and secularity and "higher levels of education and verbal ability, lower levels of prejudice, racism and ethnocentrism and homophobia, greater support for women's equality, child-rearing that supports independent thinking and an absence of corporal punishment".
The study also found that of the 50 safest cities in the world, nearly all are in relatively non-religious countries, and within America, the states with the highest murder rates tended to be more religious, but the states with the lowest murder rates tended to be the least religious in the nation.
Atheists were also underrepresented in the prison population in the country. Nearly six per cent of Americans identify themselves as atheist or agnostic, but only 0.2 per cent of their prison population identified as atheist. Also, the most secular countries in the world reported the highest levels of happiness among their populations.
Yet another study performed by the Kripke Center concluded that "only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical ‘cultures of life’ that feature low rates of crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion".
Jamaica has one of the highest densities of churches worldwide, our national anthem is a prayer and devotion is a regularly scheduled activity in most of our schools. Yet, in spite of this, our murder rate is consistently in the top 10 globally, over 80 per cent of us are born out of wedlock, our corruption index scores are poor, and we are experts at passport fraud and lotto scamming.
Whatever your belief system may be, if you are honest and objective and willing to examine the data and the statistics, you will acknowledge that lack of belief in or fear of God are not correlated with societies descending into decadence and chaos. On the other hand, poor governance and corruption are excellent tools that one can utilize to construct a dysfunctional society such as ours.
Our problem in Jamaica is not lack of belief in God. Our problem is that, over the years, our leaders have failed to lead by example and have encouraged, enabled and employed corrupt and self-serving practices, plunging us into poverty and desperation.
It makes no sense to have a national prayer breakfast and then have the participants return to their 'ungodly' and 'sinful' ways of selfishness, greed and dishonesty, and practices such as cronyism and demanding kickbacks.
I share Mr. Crawford's concern about the state of our nation, but rather than chide us for distancing ourselves from God, I suggest that he take his peers in Gordon House and their predecessors to task.