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.
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