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LONDON — In an opinion poll published in Britain recently, 82 percent of the people polled said that they thought religion does more harm than good. My first reaction, I must admit, was to think: That’s what they would say, isn’t it? It’s not just that suicide bombers give religion a bad name. In “post-Christian Britain,” only 33 percent of the population identify themselves as “a religious person,” and if you stripped out recent immigrants — Polish Catholics, West Indian Protestants, Pakistani Muslims, Indian Hindus — then the number would be even lower.

So that’s what the British would say, isn’t it? In the United States, where over 85 percent of people describe themselves as religious believers, the answer would surely be different, as it would be in Iran or Mexico. But then I remembered an article that was published a couple of years ago in the Journal of Religion and Society titled “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look,” in which Gregory Paul set out to test the assertion that religion makes people behave better.

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