From “The Institute for Humanist Studies”, this article titled “God would be an atheist: Why can’t we all be Japanese?” is a rather scathing critique of the impact of religion on civilized nations.
I largely agree with the assessment presented with the reservation that there are many secular influences (historical government, societal and even religious practices) that have shaped those cultures and can bear at least some of the credit / fault for the way they function today.
The portrait of Japanese as being overall better off than Americans just due to religion ignores the cultural submission to authority that seems to be much more prevalent in the Asian world than here. Further, population densities and thousands of years of civilization have helped make these folks who they are. But it also has constrained them in many ways and I do not believe it is as easy to express oneself in these rigid cultures. Indeed, a lack of cultural inertia is one of the best things that the US has going for it. Without the hindrance of centuries of tradition we are freer to explore and elucidate the world around us.
Unfortunately, religion does crop up whenever there is uncertainty, and when you are not that thoroughly grounded (only a couple of hundred years hardly qualifies as a culture) then you are just a babe and perhaps still do need your all powerful fables to help you sleep at night..