Religion, Atheism and Crime

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What is the relationship between religion and crime? Is a more religious society a more peaceful one? Does non-belief lead to more violence? To answer these questions, we will consider rates of religious adherence and rates of crime in the US nationally, among the US states, and among developed countries.

The United States has become more secular in the late 20th and early 21st century. We see the following patterns:

  • Christians: About 86% of Americans consideredthemselves Christians in 1990, but by 2008 this number hadfallen to between 76 and 78%.
  • Nonbelievers: Americans with no religion rose from 8% in 1990 to 15% in 2008. Every state saw a rise in its proportion of nonbelievers.
  • Prayer: The percentage of people who ever prayed stood at 95% in 1983, and dropped to about 88% by 2008. Meanwhile, the number of people who reported “never” praying rose from about 4% to 11% in the same period.
  • Religious service attendance:In 1972, the majority of people attended religious services once a month or more frequently. In 2008, a slim majority attended several times a year or less often. The greatest growth has been among those never attending. Actual weekly church attendance is estimated at somewhere between 17 and 30%, not the 40% level common in self-reporting polls. This means that at least 70% of Americans do not attend church weekly, or even every other week. And this has been true for several decades.
  • Reading sacred texts: In 2007, 41% of people reported reading sacred textsless than once a year, or never.

Written By: secularist10
continue to source article at secularist10.hubpages.com

11 COMMENTS

  1. This is a spurious relationship. They both correlate with income, and income is largely driven by intelligence (both yours and your parents’). Communities with more intelligent people are wealthier and less likely to need to engage in property crime. More intelligent people are also less likely to be religious. It all goes back to intelligence.

  2. The article confuses correlation with causation.

    “Decreasing religious belief has either had no impact, or a slightly positive impact, on the American crime rate.”

    The sentence above implies the author thinks the relationship is causal. Other sentences in the article state correlation.

    If religion and crime are correlated it might mean that crime causes religion (the victims pray for solace), or that religion causes crime (the perpetrators can pray for forgiveness), or it might mean that both crime and religion have the same underlying cause (or it may be just chance).

    Gregory S. Paul has taken a better shot at this, but he still only correlates religion with dysfunctional society.

  3. I don’t think the author is trying to claim that religion causes crime,which he certainly does not show, as you say. What I think he is trying to say is that religion does not cure crime, that there is not the inverse correlation that some people might expect.

  4. In reply to #1 by retromafia:

    This is a spurious relationship. They both correlate with income, and income is largely driven by intelligence (both yours and your parents’). Communities with more intelligent people are wealthier and less likely to need to engage in property crime. More intelligent people are also less likely to be religious. It all goes back to intelligence.

    Generally speaking your argument is sound- except that your presumed definition of crime excludes the highly intelligent white collar criminals like Bernie Madoff and a large proportion of the banking and political sectors…

  5. Religion is a sickness and a crime against reason, bordering on
    Schizophrenia: 1. Any of a group of psychotic disorders usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, and accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disturbances.

  6. I think that this study is missing the true reason, and the correlation is simple, factual and unarguable. Belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster has increased greatly in the last few decades, and crime has gone down. You can see the opposite. Atkins proposed the blasphemous low carb diet, meaning, of course, not consuming enough pasta, and see what happened to him.

  7. In reply to #4 by CliveHill:

    What I think he is trying to say is that religion does not cure crime,

    Maybe he is saying that, and that would be true.

    There could be 7 hypotheses:-

    1) High religion causes low crime

    2) Low crime causes high religion

    3) X causes high religion and low crime

    4) Religion and crime are independent

    5) High religion causes high crime

    6) High crime causes high religion

    7) X causes high religion and high crime

    Hypotheses 1) to 3) are shown to be false by the correlation data. 4) Is probably false by the quantity of data (and the Paul international data), which leaves hypotheses 5) to 7) still in the running.

  8. Looks to me that the data includes such a wide variance that the conclusion cannot be trusted. And the three states with the highest rate of property crime are in the lower half for church attendance. Surely all this says is that church attendance has little or no effect on state-wide rates of property crime. Other factors (such as poverty, education) have a far greater effect.

  9. In reply to #1 by retromafia:

    This is a spurious relationship. They both correlate with income, and income is largely driven by intelligence (both yours and your parents’). Communities with more intelligent people are wealthier and less likely to need to engage in property crime. More intelligent people are also less likely to be religious. It all goes back to intelligence.

    …and atheists tend to be highly educated. It all ties in together. Yet, if intelligent people are greedy or lack money, they will commit crimes that are more clever than the average person. Consider the banking crisis or certain internet thefts.

  10. In reply to #10 by QuestioningKat:

    …and atheists tend to be highly educated.

    Is there evidence for this? I’d expect atheist intelligence to be polarised between those who reject religion after much thought and those who could never be bothered to think about it.

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