Along the lines of Hitchens, it's pretty clear to me that the more religious a society is, the more problems it has. Study after study seems to show that. Yet people seem intent of forcing the issue by making everyone adhere to their outdated dogmas because they think it's a good thing...
In 2005, the Kripke Center released a detailed study called, “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies.” Long title, I know. But, what it said was very important and gets overlooked by many atheists. Keep in mind, the Kripke Center ISN’T secular and has no reason to promote a secular view. According to their own website, “The Kripke Center is dedicated to facilitating scholarly activity in the areas of religion and society. Special attention is given to promoting understanding between and among faith communities, including especially Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Kripke Center’s primary audience is the academic community, but its scholarship and services are available to all who seek them. The Center is named in honor of Rabbi Myer and Dorothy Kripke.” The study had some amazing discoveries. They concluded:
Indeed, the data examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical “cultures of life” that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developed democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards. The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator. The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted. Contradicting these conclusions requires demonstrating a positive link between theism and societal conditions in the first world with a similarly large body of data – a doubtful possibility in view of the observable trends.
It also stated (check out the graphs at the bottom of the report to see for yourself) that the United States, while still one of the most religious countries on earth, also has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, STDs, and abortions. So much for god looking out for his flock, right? They note:
There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European normsBut, I digress… This post was supposed to be about crime. But, it all ties together, which is why I felt it was important to start with the above information. Crime is caused from so many social issues: poverty, parenting, religion, economics, demographics, geography, etc. It’s a deep issue with a lot of sides. But, I want to look at just one… religious affiliation of those in prison. Denise Golumbaski, Research Analyst for the Federal Bureau of Prisons released the following numbers in 1997 under the Freedom of Information Act. take a look:
Response Number % ---------------------------- -------- Catholic 29267 39.164% Protestant 26162 35.008% Muslim 5435 7.273% American Indian 2408 3.222% Nation 1734 2.320% Rasta 1485 1.987% Jewish 1325 1.773% Church of Christ 1303 1.744% Pentecostal 1093 1.463% Moorish 1066 1.426% Buddhist 882 1.180% Jehovah Witness 665 0.890% Adventist 621 0.831% Orthodox 375 0.502% Mormon 298 0.399% Scientology 190 0.254% Atheist 156 0.209% Hindu 119 0.159% Santeria 117 0.157% Sikh 14 0.019% Bahai 9 0.012% Krishna 7 0.009% ---------------------------- -------- Total Known Responses 74731 100.001% (rounding to 3 digits does this) Unknown/No Answer 18381 ---------------------------- Total Convicted 93112 80.259% (74731) prisoners' religion is known. Held in Custody 3856 (not surveyed due to temporary custody) ---------------------------- Total In Prisons 96968
If you look at just the Judeo-Christian totals, they account for 83.761% of the total survey.
Catholic 29267 39.164%
Protestant 26162 35.008%
Rasta 1485 1.987%
Jewish 1325 1.773%
Church of Christ 1303 1.744%
Pentecostal 1093 1.463%
Jehovah Witness 665 0.890%
Adventist 621 0.831%
Orthodox 375 0.502%
Mormon 298 0.399%So, what can we conclude from this? Either Atheists are really good at getting away with crime, or we commit less of it. I think the latter is more plausible. Yes, the total population of ”admitted atheists” in the country at that time was only about 8-15%. You would then expect the total prison population to be about the same… but it wasn’t. Atheists accounted for 0.209% of the total incarcerated – 1/5th of 1%. That’s at least 40 times lower than would be expected from random distribution based on the population. Hmmm...
Now, let me address the “naysayers” who will attack this (and there are many). There are obviously some difficulties in establishing the “validity” of the numbers. Yes, they DO come from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, but people have made claims like “some atheists in prison say they are religious to get better parole”. While this may be true, it couldn’t be the majority, and most states don’t require religious affiliation to be listed in files available to parole boards. The results shown above was a random sampling of about 5% of the total US prison population (which anyone that has taken a basic statistics class knows is statistically significant and a big enough sample size to extrapolate results across the board). If religious affiliation was on EVERY prisoner file, this chart would have had more than 74,000+ prisoners… it didn’t.
Also, some people claim that the “8-15%” number of atheists in America at the time is highly suspect and must be exaggerated since it’s assumed that it includes “non-theists” that aren’t really “atheists”. My answer…. BIG FUCKING DEAL! Even if the study only counted 10% of the total of atheists in prison and the numbers for the whole U.S. population were as small as 4%, that’s still less in prison than in the overall citizenry. I don’t mean to use the numbers to say that being religious MAKES you commit crime… but i think it’s fair to conclude that being religious DOESN’T PREVENT YOU FROM BECOMING A CRIMINAL! If god (or gods – depending on the religion) is “looking out for” believers or giving them some form of moral compass not available to the heathens amongst us, then how do so many of them wind up in prison.
Myth: Religious people are better people and make for a better society! Result: Well… BUSTED!
EXTRA NOTE: As someone pointed out to me on Reddit, there is most likely a correlation here to intelligence. I had thought about it but didn’t think it was worth mentioning. There is a correlation between education level and belief in god. Smarter people tend to be atheists and smarter (better educated) people also tend to commit less crime (or hire better lawyers – LOL). So, I can see how it is possible that the less educated you are, the more likely you are to commit crime AND be a believer in a fantastical myth! I don’t presume to state that the evidence above is proof that being a believer MAKES you commit crime, but I think it’s fair to say that being an atheist means that you might be better educated than your religious peers and therefore less likely to commit crime. The belief or non-belief IS NOT the deciding factor to crime… just a correlation. I am only speaking to “moral authority” here, just showing that believers are no more “moral” or “good” due to their belief in a supernatural babysitter.
ONE MORE NOTE: Several people have asked what the overall religious population of the United States looked like in 1997 when these numbers on criminals were released. The following is the best I can find if from http://www.religioustolerance.org/us_rel1.htm:
In 1997, the US Society and Values magazine published an overview of religion in the U.S., using data from the Pluralism Project at Harvard University. 3,4 They reported:
|63% of Americans (163 million) state that they are actively affiliated with a faith group: |
|There are over 300,000 congregations.|
|There are over 530,000 priests, ministers, pastors, etc.|
|Islam is numerically the fastest growing organized religion in the U.S., in terms of numbers of adherents.|
|The most rapidly growing religious/spiritual/ethics grouping in the US is not an organized religion; it consists of non-believers (Atheists,Agnostics, etc.).|