The Pope’s Wrong Again, and I Have Data

The other day, on the occasion of World Youth Day, pope Benny gave a speech on the general theme of damage control:

Why aren’t kids interested in religion anymore? We used to be such friends, back when we controlled the governments and had thumbscrews, and before all that child-rape coverup stuff came out. Where’s everybody going?

Okay, that wasn’t a direct quote, just my paraphrase. Here’s something he really said:

As today’s “strong current of secularist thought” aims to marginalize God and create a “paradise” without Him, the Pope explained, “experience tells us that a world without God becomes a ‘hell’ filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy and hope.

“On the other hand, wherever individuals and nations accept God’s presence, worship him in truth and listen to his voice, then the civilization of love is being built, a civilization in which the dignity of all is respected, and communion increases, with all its benefits.”

That may be his experience — in fact, if we define “civilization of love” as “religious”, then he may in fact be right — but it sounded fishy to me, so I thought I’d dig up some numbers.

For starters, I found this table of religiosity, from a Gallup poll on religion and suicide. “Religiosity” here is based on whether people say religion is an important part of their life, whether they’ve been to a service recently, and whether they trust religious organizations.

Next, I found UN data on migration, available both as an attractive poster, and in convenient spreadsheet form. The part that interested me is column (6), which gives the net migration in or out of a country in people per 1000 population (that is, what proportion of the population emigrated or immigrated; I didn’t want to use raw numbers, because that would skew the data toward populous countries).

Anyway, to cut a long post short, the data I wound up with is here. And here’s what it looks like in picture form:

In case it’s not clear, the X axis gives Gallup’s religiosity, and the Y axis is the UN’s net migration. The green “correlation” line is a least-squares fit of the data points (ax+b, where a=-0.00102936 and b=0.433999). The US is in the middle of the pack, at 61,4. For some reason, Kuwait is up in the top right corner, above the “correlation” label, at 83,19.5.

I must confess that I’m surprised at how flat the least-squares line is. Given that religiosity is negatively correlated with societal health, I thought that people would be fleeing more-religious countries and moving to less-religious ones. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

On the other hand, Joey Ratz’s pronouncement about how more secular societies are miserable hellholes where you can barely hear the constant gunfire over the screams of the rape victims, while more religious societies are paradises where birds sing to skipping passers-by and priests pee root beer, turns out not to be true either.

But I can see why he’d think that: he moved from a fairly secular country (Germany: 37) to a much more religious one, and they gave him a palace and a chauffeured car. So yeah, there’s that.

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