Can There Be a Decent Human Civilization Without Religion?

Robin Ince in the Huffington Post:

There are many pessimistic, sometimes apocalyptic, predictions of what happens to human beings when they lose religion.

What of the sense of community?

How will we face death?

What of charity, empathy and altruism?

A strong and fair society needs all these things, but does religion really provide them?

Some agnostic and atheist intellectuals eulogize the powers of religion. Of course, it's not needed for them. They can survive without it because they have read Plato in the original classical Greek, Attic dialect and all, and are financially secure enough not to need the pew, sermon and parish fete. They are thinking of others not as strong as them; how kind, how patronizing.

So what of those societies like ours that are reaping the benefits of fervent religion and the joy, community and altruism it brings.

In the rich nations list, Japan and Sweden vie for the least religious, while the USA seems to have a clear lead as the most. Poor Japan and Sweden must be in a parlous state, and yet…

…Why does the USA have murder rates five times worse than Japan and Sweden, incarceration almost 10 times worse than Sweden, a higher suicide rate amongst the young (and as Al Alvarez wrote in his study of suicide, The Savage God, the more religious the nation is the less likely it is to declare suicide as cause of death). The U.S. has twice the mortality amongst under fives than Japan and Sweden. Let's not forget the statistics on sexual disease and abortion; number one for gonorrhea, number one for syphilis and number one for abortion, not by a little bit, we are talking 40 to 50 times more than Japan and Sweden. Thank goodness the USA has religion, or imagine what state it would be?

More here.