May 16, 2011

Religious freedom is good for society, including for economic growth, and the social sciences are producing data to prove it, said Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Glendon, a U.S. law professor, said the pontifical academy's meeting April 29-May 3 looked at religious freedom.

The social scientists heard reports on how restrictions on religious practice are increasing in many parts of the world.

However, many scholars who once ignored religion's role in society are now documenting its positive contributions.

"New research challenges the 'mantra' that religion is a cause of social strife," Glendon told reporters at the Vatican May 4.

While religion can be used to promote conflict, she said, the data prove that more often it is "an important factor in promoting development, democracy and peace."

She said: "Some studies indicate that violence actually tends to be greater in societies where religious practice is suppressed, and that promotion of religious freedom actually advances the cause of peace by reducing interreligious conflict."