The peace of New England

My top three states have always been Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. (Number four is Colorado because of its ample sun without 500 degree southwest temperatures.) Now my list has been solidified even more:

The rural New England states of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are the most peaceful U.S. states, a distinction that gives them an economic advantage over the most violent, including Louisiana, Tennessee and Nevada.

Violence and its aftermath cost the entire U.S. economy some $460 billion last year, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s second annual United States Peace Index, which was released on Tuesday.

News of a homicide in these areas is treated like the national media treats news of a pretty white girl who has gone missing. It’s a really big deal and it gets a lot of attention. (The difference, of course, is that it gets attention because someone has been murdered, not because the victim is white and relatively affluent.)

The study found that the United States has become a less violent place over the past two decades, based on an analysis of historic data on homicides and other violent crime, the number of people incarcerated, police employment and the prevalence of small arms.

Now, if I was to argue like I see Christians argue about atheists, I would say that our high rate of incarcerating Christians – they make up an overwhelming majority of our prison population – is what has contributed to this drop. Of course, correlation does not equal causation.

Thought of the day

I would be quite happy with New England becoming its own nation. We can give northern Maine to Canada, though.

More victory

The conservatives get knocked down – hard – and all of a sudden, bigotry starts to peel away.

Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage — and the first to do so with a legislature’s vote.

The House recorded a dramatic 100-49 vote, the minimum needed, to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto. Its vote followed a much easier override vote in the Senate, which rebuffed the Republican governor with a vote of 23-5.

Douglas called override “not unexpected.” He had called the issue of gay marriage a distraction during a time when economic and budget issues were more important.

If this is a distraction, that means it must be taking valuable time away from other, pressing issues. So why did Gov. Douglas veto the legislation? That means that all the work done to get it to him in the first place was wasted. Of course, one could argue that a bill coming to him is largely beyond his control. But he claims he expected an override. In other words, he knew what he was doing was going to take up more time while 123 total non-bigots fixed his error in moral judgement.

“What really disappoints me is that we have spent some time on an issue during which another thousand Vermonters have lost their jobs,” the governor said Tuesday. “We need to turn out attention to balancing a budget without raising taxes, growing the economy, putting more people to work.”

More stable couples help to grow the economy. Idiot.

Among the celebrants in the lobby were former Rep. Robert Dostis, D-Waterbury, and his longtime partner, Chuck Kletecka. Dostis recalled efforts to expand gay rights dating to an anti-discrimination law passed in 1992.

“It’s been a very long battle. It’s been almost 20 years to get to this point,” Dostis said. “I think finally, most people in Vermont understand that we’re a couple like any other couple. We’re as good and as bad as any other group of people. And now I think we have a chance to prove ourselves here on forward that we’re good members of our community.”

I have to disagree with the notion that any married couple needs to prove themselves to anyone. This is about principles of equality. If they are contigent upon being good members of a community, they are not principles.

Good news for Maine

A recent Gallup poll “asked representative samples in 143 countries and territories whether religion was an important part of their daily lives.” The United States, despite the religiously-driven anti-science movement, does not rank as having an especially high number of individuals who say religion is an important part of their lives. For all the countries surveyed, the median response was 82%. The U.S. came in at 65%.

This does not mean the U.S. is unreligious. The interesting thing about this survey is that it is strongly correlated with poverty. In nations where poverty is higher, so is the rate of positive respondents to the poll. That is, poor people cling to their religion. It makes sense that someone who has lost hope, or at least been placed in the dismal position of being desperately poor, would turn to mysticism as a last resort. Of course, this has not helped the people of Sri Lanka or Eygpt gain much wealth. Religion simply isn’t the helpful. In fact, it isn’t really helpful at all.

So what’s rather shocking, at least statistically, about this poll is America’s amount of wealth and rate of religiosity.

Social scientists have noted that one thing that makes Americans distinctive is our high level of religiosity relative to other rich-world populations. Among 27 countries commonly seen as part of the developed world, the median proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is just 38%. From this perspective, the fact two-thirds of Americans respond this way makes us look extremely devout.

Of course, the obvious point to be made is that this seems to directly contradict the issue of correlation. In fact, it does not. This is because as poverty increases by state, so does religosity. Alabama, the slack-jawed center of the South, comes in at 82% answering positively. Mississippi, the well-established cesspool of stupidity, Mr. 50 in Everything Bad, as it were, comes in a smidge higher than the worldwide median, at 85%. These two poverty-rich states are roughly equal to Iran with their rate of response.

It should be of little surprise, then, that all six states of New England fill out the top ten. In fact, the top four are, in order, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Tending toward less general poverty, these states also tend toward less religiosity. Of course, it’s important to also consider the more liberal, more moral, less evil leanings in this area as well. Such people – the ones concerned with reality – often have a liberal bias. Freed from the shackles of sheepdom as wrought by religion, these states have generally better standards of living and education. No big news there.