Religion and crime reduction

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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). See also: Irreligious prison population

The abstract for the journal article Religion and Crime: A Systematic Review and Assessment of Next Steps published in Sociology of Religion in 2017 states concerning religion and crime reduction:

Over the last twenty years researchers have given a lot of attention to the relationship between religion and crime, finding that religion tends to have a deterring influence on crime-related attitudes and behaviors. While a variety of studies have been published in this area, little work has been done to assess the state of research on religion and crime. Because so much research has consistently found a relationship, work on religion may be able to offer fresh insight into criminological theory and substantive research more generally.[1]

In 2011, the social scientist Dr. Byron R. Johnson wrote in the Houston Chronicle:

[There is] ...consistent and mounting evidence suggesting increasing religious commitment or involvement helps individuals avoid crime and delinquency... ...I recently completed the most exhaustive systematic review conducted to date of the relevant research literature on religion and crime. This review located 273 studies on religion and crime that were published between 1944 and 2010. Ninety percent of the studies (247 of 273) find increasing religiosity to be associated with decreases in various measures of crime and delinquency. Only two out of 273 studies report religion was associated with a harmful outcome[2]

According to the University of Manchester:

People who regularly visit a place of worship are less likely to be involved in low level crime and delinquency, according to new research by a University of Manchester researcher...

“In line with existing American research, my results suggest that it is the act of mixing with fellow believers that is important, regardless of whether this is via formal worship, involvement in faith-based social activities or simply through spending time with family and friends who share your faith.

“The important thing is exposure to people who encourage pro-social behaviours, and can provide sanctions for their breach”

The study, which is the first time this type of analysis has been carried out in the UK, is to be published later this year. It was funded by the Bill Hill Charitable Trust.

The survey data comprised responses from 1,214 18 to 34-year-olds and was collected last July.[3]

The Daily Mail reported about the University of Manchester study:

In total, researchers asked respondents about eight varying types of delinquency including littering, skipping school or work, using illegal drugs, fare dodging, shoplifting, music piracy, property damage and violence against the person.

Although the study found varying degrees of correlation between increased church visits and decreased crime rates, the most significant were seen in relation to shoplifting, the use of illegal drugs and music piracy.

The researchers did not include more serious, high-level crimes because they 'were too rare for the data to be able to show a significant pattern.'[4]

See also: Atheism and stealing

Meta-study on the deterrence effect of religion on criminality: Baier and Wright

A 2001 meta-analysis by Colin Baier and Bradley Wright declared: "religious beliefs and behaviors exert a moderate deterrent effect on individuals' criminal behavior".[5]

Larson and Johnson review of studies on religion and juvenile delinquency

Edmund McGarrell, the Director of the Crime Control Policy Center at the Hudson Institute wrote:

With the support of John DiIulio’s “Jeremiah Project,” David Larson and Byron Johnson (1998) conducted what they refer to as a “systematic review” of the studies on religion and juvenile delinquency. The advantage of the systematic review approach is that it provides a quantitative assessment of the research literature that can be replicated by other researchers. Larson and Johnson provide explicit criteria for how they chose the studies to review, how they analyzed the studies, and for assessing the overall evidence from a large body of studies. The first step in the review consisted of identifying 402 articles appearing in peer reviewed articles between 1980 and 1997 that made some mention of religion or related terms and delinquency. Of these, 40 studies were identified that analyzed the potential relationship between religiosity and delinquency. As would be anticipated, the 40 studies varied in terms of methodological rigor. This variation becomes a measured variable in the systematic review whereby the authors can contrast the findings produced by studies employing more or less rigorous scientific standards.

Three-quarters of the studies reviewed found that measures of religiosity had a negative effect on delinquency (1998: 10). That is, the higher the score on the religiosity measure, the less delinquency. Only one study reported a positive relationship with the remainder of the studies yielding inconclusive results.[6]

Belief in Hell lowers crime rate

See also: Atheism and Hell

Science Daily: Belief in Hell Lowers Crime Rate

Irreligious prison population

See: Irreligious prison population and Atheist prison statistics

Concerning the irreligious prison population, 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."[7] However, they are over-represented in the prison population, forming over 34% of all criminals.[8][9] Vox Day declared: "While the USA doesn't keep comprehensive statistics related to religion, the UK does..."[10]

FiveThirtyEight on atheists in prison statistics

See also: FiveThirtyEight on atheists in prison statistics

Commentary by Skepchcks about U.S. prison statistics and atheists

Irreligion, illegitimate births and criminality

See: Atheism, illegitimate births and criminality

Atheism and higher illegitimate births

Ben Judah wrote in his article London’s religious awakening:

So it’s high time to ditch a few myths. ‘‘London values’’ are not what many people assume. According to the 2011 census, only one in five Londoners are atheist or agnostic – compared with one in four in the country as a whole. The new London is the region where the fewest births are out of wedlock – just 36 per cent compared with, say, 59 per cent in the secular North East. The villages and the small towns in the provinces, not inner London, are where the godless are.[11]

The Barna Group found that atheists and agnostics in America were more likely, than theists in America, to look upon the following behaviors as morally acceptable: illegal drug use; excessive drinking; sexual relationships outside of marriage; abortion; cohabitating with someone of opposite sex outside of marriage; obscene language; gambling; pornography and obscene sexual behavior; and engaging in homosexuality/bisexuality.[12]

A 2013 article entitled Is Europe proof that intact families don’t really matter?, which cites governmental sources, provides data which shows that the highly secular European countries of Sweden, France and Denmark have higher illegitimacy rates than than the more religious European countries of Greece, Switzerland, Italy, Poland and Spain.[13]

For more information, please see: Atheism and lower marriage rates

Illegitimacy is a causal factor for increased criminality

David Kopel wrote for The American Enterprise about illegitimacy and crime:

The collapse of the American family is not only a tragedy for children, it is a problem on which quite a lot in American life depends--perhaps even the fate of our civilization. Among many other public problems, crime rates are directly tied to family decay. Almost everything that society does to respond to crime today amounts to an attempt to fix what the criminal's family failed to do.

A large majority of violent criminals come from fatherless homes. A Detroit study found that about 70 percent of juvenile killers did not live with both parents. A study of seriously delinquent girls in California showed 93 percent came from broken homes. A survey of juvenile delinquents in custody in Wisconsin found that fewer than one-sixth grew up in intact families; over two-fifths were illegitimate. Sixty percent of rapists had single-parents (or none). Says one California juvenile counselor, "You find a gang member who comes from a complete nuclear family...I'd like to meet him."[14]

Dramatic effects of the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 on criminality and other ill-behavior

Evan John Roberts was a leading figure of the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905.

Larry Brown in his paper entitled The Welsh Revival And Other Revivals Worldwide, 1900-1905 declared concerning the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905:

The impact of the Welsh Revival touched essentially every aspect of Welsh society, with 100,000 throughout Wales professing faith. Demonstrating the permeating effects of this Revival, historian J. Edwin Orr, as recounted by Towns and Porter, noted:

“Drunkenness was immediately cut in half, and many taverns went bankrupt. Crime was so diminished that judges were presented with white gloves signifying that there were no cases of murder, assault, rape or robbery or the like to consider. The police became unemployed in many districts. Stoppages occurred in coal mines, not due to unpleasantness between management and workers, but because so many foul-mouthed miners became converted and stopped using foul language that the horses which handled the coal trucks in the mines could no longer understand what was being said to them” (Towns and Porter, 33).[15]

Jeff Fenske wrote of the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905:

As revival fire spread across Wales in late 1904 and early 1905, although no official records were kept of the actual number converted, 150,000 is considered a very conservative estimate, during the first six months! People’s lives were transformed by the thousands. This was indeed, a sovereign move of God’s Holy Spirit!

Whole communities were turned upside down, and were radically changed from depravity to glorious goodness. The crime rate dropped, often to nothing. The police force reported that they had little more to do than supervise the coming and going of the people to the chapel prayer meetings, while magistrates turned up at courts to discover no cases to try. The alcohol trade was decimated, as people were caught up more by what happened in the local chapels than the local public houses and bars. Families experienced amazing renewal, where the money earning husband and father, the bread winner, had wasted away the income and sowed discord, but now under the moving power of the Holy Spirit, following the conversion to be a follower of Jesus Christ, he not only provided correctly for family needs, but was now with the family, rather than wasting his time, and wages, in the public houses of the village or town...

Public houses were now almost empty. Men and women who used to waste their money getting drunk were saving it, giving it to help their churches, buying clothes and food for their families. And not only drunkenness, but stealing and other offences grew less and less, so that often a magistrate came to court, and found there were no cases for him.

Men whose language had been filthy before, learnt to talk purely. It is related that not only did the colliers put in a better day’s work, but also that the pit ponies were so used to being cursed and sworn at, that they just couldn’t understand orders being given in kind, clean words! Yet, still the work output increased. The dark tunnels underground in the mines echoed with the sounds of prayer and hymns, instead of oaths and nasty jokes and gossip.

People who had been careless about paying their bills, or paying back money they had borrowed, paid up all they owed. People who had fallen out became friends again.[16]

Pyongyang Revival and crime reduction

See also: Pyongyang Revival and crime reduction

The Korean Revival of 1906-1907 saw societal improvements similar to those in Wales through decreased crimes of all sorts, and continued conversions to Christianity.[17]

Larry Brown in his paper entitled The Welsh Revival And Other Revivals Worldwide, 1900-1905 wrote:

In 1906-1907, sparked by news from Wales and Los Angeles, Christian leaders in Korea redoubled and intensified their prayer efforts. As a result, revival broke out in a way that almost frightened the leaders with its unexpected depth and breadth (Towns and Porter, 41-42). The Korean Revival saw societal improvements similar to those in Wales through decreased crimes of all sorts, and continued conversions to Christianity. By 1910, Korean church membership had increased four-fold, and the Korean church’s emphasis on prayer paid spiritual dividends throughout thetwentieth century: by the year 2000, a third of Koreans belonged to a Christian Church (Towns and Porter, 44-46).[18]

Testimonies of Koreans repenting of their criminality during the Pyongyang Revival

Below are some testimonies of Koreans repenting of their criminality during the Korean Revival of 1906-1907:

A doctor had boasted that he had one of the most honest cooks in Korea (in the East, cooks do all the marketing); but when the cook was convicted he said, "I have been cheating the doctor all the time; my house and lot have been secured by cheating the doctor." The cook sold his home and paid all back to the doctor.

A teacher had been entrusted to buy some land for the mission. He secured it, and said the price was $500. The missionary paid the bill, though objecting to so big a price. In the revival that teacher confessed he had secured the land for $80. He now sold out all he had and paid back the $420 out of which he had cheated the mission.

Mr. Mackenzie, the war correspondent, had a boy who cheated him out of less than four dollars. That boy, when convicted, walked eighty miles and had a missionary send that money to Mr. Mackenzie. Is it any wonder that Mr. Mackenzie became a strong believer in the kind of Christianity they have in Korea?...

A deacon, who was looked upon as almost perfect, seemed to get very uneasy as the revival progressed, and he confessed to the stealing of some charity funds. All were astonished, but expected him to get peace; however, he descended into deeper distress and then confessed to a breach of the seventh commandment...

Such extraordinary happenings could not but move the multitude, and the churches became crowded. Many came to mock, but in fear began to pray. The leader of a robber band, who came out of idle curiosity, was convicted and converted, and went straight to the magistrate and gave himself up. The astonished official said, "You have no accuser; you accuse yourself; we have no law in Korea to meet your case"; and so dismissed him. [19]

Atheism/irreligion and stealing

Irreligion and domestic violence

Research suggests that irreligiousity is a causal factor for domestic violence.[20]

See also: Irreligion and domestic violence

The abstract for the 2007 article in the journal Violence Against Women entitled Race/Ethnicity, Religious Involvement, and Domestic Violence indicated:

The authors explored the relationship between religious involvement and intimate partner violence by analyzing data from the first wave of the National Survey of Families and Households. They found that: (a) religious involvement is correlated with reduced levels of domestic violence; (b) levels of domestic violence vary by race/ethnicity; (c) the effects of religious involvement on domestic violence vary by race/ethnicity; and (d) religious involvement, specifically church attendance, protects against domestic violence, and this protective effect is stronger for African American men and women and for Hispanic men, groups that, for a variety of reasons, experience elevated risk for this type of violence.[21]

Also, a quote from the journal article Race/Ethnicity, Religious Involvement, and Domestic Violence:

Another line of thought suggests that religious people may be less likely to perpe- trate domestic violence (Fergusson, Horwood, Kershaw, & Shannon, 1986). A 1999 study of U.S. couples found that both men and women who attend religious services regularly are less likely to commit acts of domestic violence than those who attend rarely or not at all (Ellison et al., 1999). A follow-up study identified three pathways through which religious involvement may operate; namely, increasing levels of social integration and social support, reducing the likelihood of alcohol or substance abuse, and decreasing the risk of psychological problems (Ellison & Anderson, 2001). However, even after considering such indirect effects of religion through the use of sta- tistical controls, that study found that regular religious involvement still had a protec- tive effect against the perpetration of domestic violence by both men and women (Ellison & Anderson, 2001). In addition, that study showed that evidence of such pro- tective religious effects persisted regardless of whether domestic violence was measured using data from self reports or partner reports, which makes it difficult to attribute these observed religious effects to simple social desirability or other response bias.[22]

The Journal of Family Issues also reported that religious belief diminishes the likelihood of domestic violence.[23]

Secular Europe and domestic violence

See also: Secular Europe and domestic violence

Sweden is one of the most atheistic countries in the world.[24] In Sweden, 81 percent of women said they had been harassed at some point after the age of 15 - compared to the EU average of 55 percent.[25]

In March of 2014, the Swedish news website The Local published an article entitled Sweden stands out in domestic violence study which declared:

A new EU review of violence against women has revealed that one in three European women has been assaulted, and one in twenty has been raped, with the Scandinavian countries at the top of the league tables.

In the Scandinavian countries, in contrast, around half of the women reported physical or sexual violence, which researchers at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights said could have several explanations...

In Sweden, 81 percent of women said they had been harassed at some point after the age of 15 - compared to the EU average of 55 percent. After Sweden, which had the highest rate, Denmark, France, the Netherland and Finland all saw rates above 70 percent. The EU member state with the lowest rate - 24 percent - was Bulgaria.[26]

Sweden is one of the most atheistic countries in the world and in secular Europe. The website reported that in 2005 46 - 85% of Swedes were agnostics/atheists/non-believers in God.[27]

Denmark was ranked the third most atheistic country in the world and the website reported that in 2005 43 - 80% of Danes are agnostics/atheists/non-believers in God.[28]

Finland was ranked the 7th most atheistic country in the world in 2005.[29]

France was ranked the 8th most atheistic country in the world in 2005.[30]

Joseph Stalin's atheistic regime killed tens of millions of people. See: Atheism and mass murder

In 2005, the Netherlands was ranked the 13th most atheistic country in the world and the website reports that in 2005 39 - 44%% of the Dutch were agnostics/atheists/non-believers in God.[31]

See also:

Atheism and crimes against humanity

See also: Irreligion/religion and war

Professor Byron Johnson on social scientists having hostility to religion

Byron Johnson, professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, wrote on religion reducing crime and the reaction of academia to these empirical findings:

The weight of this evidence is especially intriguing in light of the fact that religion continues to be overlooked by so many. For example, one will look in vain to find any references at all to religion in criminology and criminal justice textbooks.

This is because many social scientists go out of their way to overlook or dismiss the role religion plays in crime reduction in spite of the evidence showing religion is an important protective factor.[32]

Research indicates that religious conservatives face discrimination in hiring within academia.[33][34] See also: Atheism and academia

For more information, please see: Moral values and academia and Liberal elite

Atheism, determinism, justice and criminality

See also: Atheism and social justice and Atheism and free will

The Christian apologetics website Cold Case Christianity declares:

Strict atheistic determinists like Sam Harris don’t even make an effort to explain how free will could exist “inside the room” of the natural, physical universe. Instead, they describe free will as completely illusory and challenge the rest of us to explain why we find it necessary to possess (or account for) it in the first place. Harris sees no need for free will to effectively prosecute law breakers: “We need not have any illusions that a causal agent lives within the human mind to recognize that certain people are dangerous.” Criminals still need to be isolated from potential victims, even if their actions are not the result of free will. In the end, according to determinists like Harris, we need not acknowledge nor accept the existence of free will to explain our need for a criminal justice system. In fact, Harris argues our world would be a far better place if we accepted the non-existence of free will: “Once we recognize that even the most terrifying predators are, in a very real sense, unlucky to be who they are, the logic of hating (as opposed to fearing) them begins to unravel.” Harris believes our inclinations toward hatred would be reduced if we came to accept free will as an illusion. But is Harris’ optimism justified, and does this attitude toward free will do anything to explain our own experiences of free agency?...

Our experience of (and belief in) free will appears to be an innate and necessary characteristic of human beings, and studies continue to show what happens when we reject this attribute of our being. Our native experience of free will seems to cut across cultural boundaries. In a 1998 International Social Survey Program study, people from thirty-six countries were surveyed. More than 70% agreed their life was in their own hands. More importantly, a number of studies have demonstrated people behave differently if they can be convinced they have no free will. In 2008, researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of British Columbia conducted experiments highlighting the relationship between a belief in Determinism and immoral behavior. They found students who were exposed to deterministic literature prior to taking a test were more likely to cheat on the test than students who were not exposed to literature advocating Determinism. The researchers concluded those who deny free will are more inclined to believe their efforts to act morally are futile and are, therefore, less likely to do so. In addition, a study conducted by researchers from Florida State University and Kentucky University found participants who were exposed to deterministic literature were more likely to act aggressively and less likely to be helpful toward others. Even determinist Michael Gazzaniga concedes: “It seems that not only do we believe we control our actions, but it is good for everyone to believe it.” The existence of free will is a common characteristic of our experience, and when we deny we have this sort of free agency, there are detrimental consequences...

Atheists who are willing to deny the very existence of “free will” pay a huge price when doing so. If our free agency is simply an illusion, so is any expression of love, empathy or compassion. If free will is illusory, so is any expression of creativity or reasoning. No genuine act of love, empathy, compassion, creativity or reasoning occurs without a free choice. Worse yet, no one could truly be held culpable for any act unless he or she was acting freely. The existence of “free will” is an important piece of evidence in the universe and is impossible to explain if atheistic determinism is true. Denying the true existence of free agency only makes the problem worse. The best explanation for “free will” is simply the existence of a creative Free Agent outside the limits of the physical universe who has created free humans in His image.[35]

Islamic countries and crime

In most cases, Muslim countries average 2.4 murders per annum per 100,000 people, compared to 7.5 in non-Muslim countries.[36]

See also

External links


  1. Religion and Crime: A Systematic Review and Assessment of Next Steps by Amy Adamczyk, Joshua D. Freilich, Chunrye Kim, Sociology of Religion, Volume 78, Issue 2, 1 June 2017, Pages 192–232,
  2. The factor of faith in crime reduction, BYRON JOHNSON, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, July 24, 2011
  3. Visits to place of worship linked to lower levels of criminality, University of Manchester website
  4. How religion cuts crime: Church-goers are less likely to shoplift, take drugs and download music illegally
  5. BAIER, C. J. (2001). ""If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments": A Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Religion on Crime". Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 38 (1): 3–21. doi:10.1177/0022427801038001001. 
  6. THE ROLE OF FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS IN CRIME PREVENTION AND JUSTICE, April 1999 by Edmund McGarrell, Director Crime Control Policy Center - Hudson Institute
  7. 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.”
  8. 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.”
  9. Prison Population Statistics. House of Commons Library (UK). Retrieved on May 14, 2013. “30% were recorded as having no religion.”
  10. The explosive growth of atheism... in prison by Vox Day
  11. London’s religious awakening by Ben Judah
  12. Practical outcomes replace biblical principles as the moral standard, Barna Group
  13. Is Europe proof that intact families don’t really matter?
  14. The Marriage-Crime Connection by David Kopel
  15. The Welsh Revival And Other Revivals Worldwide, 1900-1905
  16. Effects of the WELSH REVIVAL 1904-05 by Jeff Finske
  17. The Welsh Revival And Other Revivals Worldwide, 1900-1905
  18. The Welsh Revival And Other Revivals Worldwide, 1900-1905
  20. doi: 10.1177/1077801207308259 Violence Against Women, Race/Ethnicity, Religious Involvement, and Domestic Violence, November 2007 vol. 13 no. 11 1094-1112
  21. doi: 10.1177/1077801207308259 Violence Against Women, Race/Ethnicity, Religious Involvement, and Domestic Violence, November 2007 vol. 13 no. 11 1094-1112
  22. doi: 10.1177/1077801207308259 Violence Against Women, Race/Ethnicity, Religious Involvement, and Domestic Violence, November 2007 vol. 13 no. 11 1094-1112
  23. Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability By Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D., Heritage Center website
  24. Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics(Zuckerman, 2005)
  25. Sweden stands out in domestic violence study Published: 05 Mar 2014 08:3
  26. Sweden stands out in domestic violence study Published: 05 Mar 2014 08:3
  27. Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics(Zuckerman, 2005)
  28. Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics(Zuckerman, 2005)
  29. Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics(Zuckerman, 2005)
  30. Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics(Zuckerman, 2005)
  31. Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics(Zuckerman, 2005)
  32. Fascinating Relationship Between Crime and Religion by Meta J. Mereday
  33. Suspicions Confirmed: Academia Shutting Out Conservative Professors by Rachel Alexander, June 10, 2014
  34. Quick, "Let’s Discriminate Against the Creationists!" by Apologetics Press
  35. Are Atheists Right? Is “Free Will” An Unnecessary, Unimportant Illusion?, Website: Cold Case Christianity
  36. Vox Sets Out To Prove All Religions Are Equally Violent. And Fails By David Harsanyi, February 2, 2015