Irreligious prison population

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A pie chart delineating the percentage of irreligious in prison (shown in light blue) in the United Kingdom; Click the graphic above to enlarge the pie chart and text. Data courtesy of The National Archives (UK)

The irreligious prison population, according to government data of many sovereign states, as well as that of independent surveys, makes up a large percentage of the overall prisoner demographic. In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, according to the 2011 Census, the irreligious make up only "around a quarter of the population."[1] However, they are over-represented in the prison population, forming over 34% of all criminals.[2][3]

These statistics confirm recent scientific research, which has concluded that "the more involved people are with religious life, the less likely they are to fall into criminal behavior." (see: Religion and crime reduction).[4]

Religion and crime reduction statistics

See: Religion and crime reduction

Atheists in the prison population - U.S. statistics - Commentary by Skepchick

See also: Atheists in U.S. prisons argument and atheist morality and Western atheism and race and Demographics of atheism

The serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer engaged in cannibalism. He was an atheist while he committed these acts.[5] See also: Atheism and cannibalism

The atheist Heina Dadabhoy published at the atheist website Skepchick an article entitled Fellow Atheists: Quit Bragging About Our Prison Underrepresentation which declared concerning the United States prison population:

Atheism is a movement comprised mostly of middle-to-upper-class white people. A middle-to-upper-class white person is far less likely to be incarcerated than a poor person and/or a person of color. The only way atheists as a whole might be less likely to be incarcerated than theists would be if we were a female-majority community. Atheism is hardly the cause of white middle-to-upper-class people’s underrepresentation in the prison population, injustice in the criminal justice system is...

Intersectional issues aside, being arrested and convicted means being caught breaking the law. Would most of us atheists consider, say, possession of small amounts of marijuana to be a crime worthy of incarceration, let alone an immoral act? Yet prisons teem with non-violent drug offenders. As for being caught, I will return to the example of marijuana. How many of us class and race privileged* atheists would be imprisoned for drug possession had it not been for residence in low-density housing in areas rarely patrolled by the police? Living in a detached home reduces the likelihood of a neighbor or passer-by reporting drug use to the authorities but is hardly an indicator of superior moral character.

Given that we’re a movement of people not exactly known for dealing so well, if at all, with issues of race or class.[6]

For more information, please see: Atheists in U.S. prisons argument and atheist morality

FiveThirtyEight on atheists in prison statistics

See also: FiveThirtyEight on atheists in prison statistics

FiveThirtyEight is a prominent website that focuses on opinion poll analysis, politics and other matters.

Mona Chalabi wrote at FiveThirtyEight made some similar argument to Heina Dadabhoy, but she also added a few additional arguments:

So what explains these discrepancies between religious affiliation inside prisons and outside them? I’ll set out a couple of possible theories.

1. Maybe it’s income. We know that Muslims and Americans who identify with historically black Protestant churches tend to have lower incomes than the national average. And we know that 44 percent of federal prisoners earned less than $1,500 in the month prior to their arrest (I’m afraid the last time prisoners’ income was surveyed was in 2004, though, and those are 2004 dollars).

2. Maybe it’s race. We know that even though African-Americans represented only 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2013, they represented 36 percent of the prison population. And we know that Muslims are almost twice as likely to be African-American as the U.S. population as a whole. (I think race is also probably relevant when we’re thinking about the over-representation of Rastafarians and Santerians in prison too.)

3. Maybe it’s immigration. We know that most American Muslims immigrated to the U.S. sometime after 1992. And we know that 12 percent of the federal prison population is described as “non-citizens” (a term that means they’re foreign-born and, according to Ed Ross, a spokesman at the Bureau of Prisons, entered the country illegally).

4. Maybe it’s conversion. Ross explained that prisons collect information on religious affiliation from inmates as part of the intake screening process. That information gets stored as part of their case management. But, he added, “anywhere along the way, inmates can have their information changed to reflect a change in their religious status. Anyone can find god or lose god while in prison.”...

Though almost all of the state prison chaplains describe spending their time organizing religious programs, many suggest that religious influence is coming from elsewhere in the system. Seventy-four percent of the chaplains said that efforts by inmates to proselytize or convert other inmates are either very common (31 percent) or somewhat common (43 percent) in the prisons where they work.[7]

There are also many churches/ministries that do outreach to prison inmates in the United States. In addition, the ministry Prison Fellowship is a leading advocated for criminal justice system reform in the United States.

Jesus Christ told his disciples a parable about visiting people who are incarcerated which states:

I was in prison, and you came to Me...

Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord,.. When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ - Matthew 25: 36, 37, 39-40 (NASB)[8]

Chalabi also wrote: "Conversely, prisoners are far less likely to be Protestant than the rest of the country."[9] See also: Protestant cultural legacies

Irreligion, illegitimate births and criminality

See: Atheism, illegitimate births and criminality

Atheism and repressive prisons

See: Atheism and repressive prisons

See also

External links


  1. Religion in England and Wales 2011: Part of 2011 Census, Key Statistics for Local Authorities in England and Wales Release. Office for National Statistics (UK) (December 11, 2012). Retrieved on May 14, 2013. “Meanwhile the proportion of the population who reported they have no religion has now reached a quarter of the population.”
  2. Religion in Prisons 1999 and 2000. The National Archives (UK). Retrieved on May 14, 2013. “Prisoners with No religion formed 34% of all untried prisoners and 31% of all convicted prisoners in September 2000.”
  3. Prison Population Statistics. House of Commons Library (UK). Retrieved on May 14, 2013. “30% were recorded as having no religion.”
  4. Dreher, Rod (June 29, 2011). Is God an Effective Crime Fighter?. Templeton Report. Retrieved on May 14, 2013. “Research indicates that the more involved people are with religious life, the less likely they are to fall into criminal behavior.”
  5. Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer blames Atheism and Evolution belief for Murders
  6. Fellow Atheists: Quit Bragging About Our Prison Underrepresentation (Related to United States statistics)
  7. Are Prisoners Less Likely To Be Atheists?
  8. Matthew 25: 36, 37, 39-40 (New American Standard Bible translation)
  9. Are Prisoners Less Likely To Be Atheists?