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#483842 - 12/12/12 08:37 AM Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation?
Labyrinthine Offline

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Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 527
Loc: America
http://i.imgur.com/w7gwt.jpg

Interesting. None of it particularly shocks me.

Intriguing (though unsurprising) to think about that a society with a less-forgiving God would have less crime, and one with an all-forgiving God would have more.

Utah and Nevada are not exactly surprising to me, but I just hadn't thought of the connection that one is very religious with very little violent crime and one is very unreligious with a lot of violent crime. (That being an anomaly in the US.)

Always thought the Mormons, for all I can obviously criticize about them, had a well-functioning society: stable, law-abiding, productive.

I'd love to see this compared with Buddhist and Hindu regions, and with ancient societies such as the Aztecs or Ancient Romans.

But of course there are so many factors going on with crime rates that it's very hard to control just for religion.

There's police presence, functionality of courts, poverty, family stability, gun laws, and of course yes religion and overall culture.

Would love to hear others' thoughts.


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#483845 - 12/12/12 10:05 AM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Labyrinthine]
Zaftig Offline
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Registered: 09/23/06
Posts: 3406
My sense is that this type of study is often fueled by the idea that religion itself is the corrupting factor in terms of violence - it has its own bias from that premise onwards.

But, even if the methodology is sound, the entire premise that religion promotes one specific idea (either "good" or "bad") is bullshit; this is a modern obsession and interpretation of what a religion should be like. It is an idea that does not hold up to the evidence of history, as religion is and always has been a complex system of ideas that shift and adjust with every culture and historical circumstances. To reduce it to such bipolar categories (good/bad, black/white) is intellectual laziness.

You cannot separate religious ideas from the general culture.

Accurately defining the nature and practice of each religion, and whether or not it actually promotes one behaviour OVER that of another behaviour is impossible. For example, the whole idea of a "forgiving god" is a Western one. Other places in the world have no such concept, and they are not more or less violent than we are.

Even the secular worldview is right now brewing its own schisms and disagreements in the flame-war blogosphere; give it a few hundred years and it will be EXACTLY the same as religious worldview, i.e. warring and fighting about how to define the principles they attach to the notions of secularism.

People will always - ALWAYS - find ways to divide themselves by in-group vs out-group dynamics, and then find ways of expressing those divisions violently. It's the nature of humanity itself. Our particular worldviews simply amplify and motivate us to express our basic tendencies.

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#483854 - 12/12/12 02:57 PM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Labyrinthine]
Bill_M Offline
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Registered: 07/28/01
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The reminder at the very bottom of the .jpg is worth remembering.

One thing we can conclude, though: merely having more religiosity is obviously no guarantee of less crime. The argument that criminals simply "need to find Jesus" is obviously a bogus one. Perhaps religion isn't the problem, but it sure as hell isn't the solution.
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#483856 - 12/12/12 03:08 PM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Zaftig]
Labyrinthine Offline

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Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 527
Loc: America
I agree with both of you that there are many atheists doing this sort of study that are (rightfully) annoyed by the Christian assumption that less religious (especially less Christian) people are less moral, and so want to say
"Oh surprise surprise, it's the opposite!"

And then of course too, being more religious doesn't equal less crime. I'd say firmly teaching particular ethics in a kid from a young age does that, which can be done with or without religion, ("God will punish you", versus How would that make you feel?", as examples) and it's better to do it without religion, since that encourages greater rationality and critical thinking later on.

Plus, if the kid later realizes the religion is bullshit, he doesn't also throw out all the decent or semi-decent things his parents taught him through the religion; don't steal for example.

You can see this with Christians who become "Satanists", aka devil worshippers aka reverse Christians. They just become "evil" as a form of rebellion. But I'm rambling a bit off course now.

Of course when we say "religious", well, there are many different religions. And religions change over time...modern Christianity is not Medieval Christianity or Ancient Roman Christianity.

I'd say for example, we have the rise since the 1960's of very liberal, tolerant Christians who are almost Unitarian Universalists, who have sort of an "All paths lead to God" feeling. These types are common in certain cities and towns, on both coasts of the continental US.

An individual can construe ancient religious texts to mean different things; for or against slavery, for or against expansionistic war, for or against freedom of speech.

But, if we look at what religion and then what "brand" of that religion is most popular in a given population, we can start to make some useful generalizations about the "Religious" and "Non-Religious" in that population.

True correlation isn't causation, and other things go on other than religious observance to determine levels of crime in a society, I said that.



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#483857 - 12/12/12 03:15 PM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Zaftig]
Labyrinthine Offline

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Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 527
Loc: America
Also Witch Zaftig, regarding your final point about atheists ending up in the same sort of endless group-think war, I couldn't help but think of that South Park episode with the "United Atheist Alliance" and "Allied Atheist League" etc. smile

And, another point, I want to clarify here...

Are you saying that religions are all equal, and don't lay out any specific moral commands?

Because I have to quickly disagree with that.

While there is great room for interpretation of God's commands, lots of room to include the individual religious person's pre-existing morals, sometimes things are pretty clear or at least give a strong leaning in a direction...

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#483863 - 12/12/12 04:59 PM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Labyrinthine]
Zaftig Offline
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Registered: 09/23/06
Posts: 3406
I am saying that ultimately the study asks the wrong question. It is meant to refute the common religious notion that the non-religious are immoral and therefore violent. I agree in principle that that claim needs refuting, but I would never use the same evidence as they do.

Instead, a better, more interesting question would be to approach it from a different way; start with the premise that humanity exhibits violent behaviour by default, regardless of religious worldview, and then have a discussion on the parameters of that violence; when, why, by whom, under what circumstances, when is it accepted, lamented, honoured, exalted, etc. That's much more fascinating, and (in theory) avoids a moralistic apologist stance.

But to answer your specific question:

<<Are you saying that religions are all equal, and don't lay out any specific moral commands?>>

I am saying that the specific moral commands are easily and continuously adjusted and interpreted according to a variety of factors.

For example, there is a common fallacy that Buddhism is non-violent. This is a claim made by people (usually Westerners with a fetish for romanticizing foreign ideas) who have never actually looked at its history.

Perhaps it is because I am a scholar of religion, and can no longer actually see morality - religions are neither "good" or "bad" to me, but actually rather neutral. I am look at them in terms of how they function in the great machination of human history.

I judge them personally only in terms of how and when they affect me personally, or offend my sensibility, but can easily (at this point) compartmentalize those feelings in order to view history as a whole as an amorphous blob that moves along slowly, and the more I do that, the more I begin to recognize threads of thought that weave in and out of each other over the ages, completely ambivalent to my feelings.

I have not been outraged in a long, long time.

Oh, but that South Park episode was fucking funny! It was exactly what I was thinking about when I made the reference.

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#483864 - 12/12/12 05:10 PM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Labyrinthine]
anna Offline


Registered: 09/27/10
Posts: 219
Loc: Poland
Quote:
But of course there are so many factors going on with crime rates that it's very hard to control just for religion.

There's police presence, functionality of courts, poverty, family stability, gun laws, and of course yes religion and overall culture.


It seems you forgot about one thing: personality. Some people are more troublesome than others and hence more likely to commit a crime. I think it is not enough to consider only external circumstances when explaining someone's behaviour.

Quote:
I'd say firmly teaching particular ethics in a kid from a young age does that, which can be done with or without religion, ("God will punish you", versus How would that make you feel?", as examples) and it's better to do it without religion, since that encourages greater rationality and critical thinking later on.


Criminals do not always think rationally. Some are simply sadistic, they like harming others for fun. There are also those who like the risk, challenge, the adrenaline rush. Committing a crime is an adventure for them. Not to mention the folks who are thoroughly psychotic.

Quote:
While there is great room for interpretation of God's commands, lots of room to include the individual religious person's pre-existing morals, sometimes things are pretty clear or at least give a strong leaning in a direction...


People are individuals. They may attach some label, call themselves Christians, Muslims or whatever but their behaviour may vary. Surely, you do not believe that most people just follow blindly their religious leaders, do you? People are more complex than that.
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#483877 - 12/12/12 10:16 PM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Zaftig]
Labyrinthine Offline

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Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 527
Loc: America
Thank you for the clarification Witch Zaftig.

I understand now.

Hm I've heard of violent Buddhists before, holy warriors even, but have not read of how the religion itself can be used to justify violence.

I definitely get a very "filtered" and misconstrued image of it here in a Western country where Eastern philosophy and religion has been so romanticized since the 1960's.

I'll read on that.

EDIT: I just remembered samurai! And South East Asian states that had Buddhism as the state religion! Wow, duh. Yeah, Samurai were Zen Buddhists and they were warriors obviously, and then Siam was a Buddhist monarchy. Ok, right, it is not "above" use as state power, same as any other religion. Makes sense.

That's interesting, your perspective brought about by your study in religion. I get angry about things in the wide world too often, when I can't do anything about the most of it. Pointless and wasteful of energy. But I'm working on it.



Edited by Labyrinthine (12/12/12 10:24 PM)
Edit Reason: Just remembered

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#483939 - 12/15/12 12:53 AM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Zaftig]
Sabastian Offline


Registered: 10/03/12
Posts: 21
Loc: College Station, TX
Nicely put. Q: Are crimes, as we once knew, becoming less important to those of us who are law abiding citizens ? ( only b/c more violent crimes are taking precedent to the few law enforcement agents that are capable of slowing down the trend of, like, a third degree felony) ooh?

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#483952 - 12/15/12 06:26 AM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Sabastian]
Zaftig Offline
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Registered: 09/23/06
Posts: 3406
I cannot recall any specific studies pertaining to your question - but I'm certain they exists.

Although, as for crime rates in general (worldwide), according to Steven Pinker we actually live in one of the most peaceful times.

http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence.html

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#483958 - 12/15/12 09:36 AM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Zaftig]
Labyrinthine Offline

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Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 527
Loc: America
I'll watch that this afternoon after work, thank you!

Now, I'm sure you've heard this distinction between "political" and "apolitical" religions; that some are inherently political (lay down laws of social interaction and governance) and some are apolitical (has "laws" applying only to the individual follower).

Do you find it to be valid? Islam is commonly cited as an inherently political religion, and Taoism for example is not.

Now, I could see even any "apolitical" religion just being used politically...or an individual being a more moderate follower of a "political" religion and ignoring the holy law parts of it.

But, is there any meaningful distinction you find when we look at what the religion ACTUALLY says? Or is that not a meaningful distinction either, when you look at the countless interpretations of the same text?

I would say that a political religion would tend to be more violent than an apolitical one, due to the need for a whole system of political force governing territory, which would then be expanded.

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#483961 - 12/15/12 10:34 AM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Labyrinthine]
Zaftig Offline
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Registered: 09/23/06
Posts: 3406
I think the distinction is somewhat of an illusion, although, perhaps, a necessary category.

For every religion that we may delineate as political or apolitical, we can find examples of its application in the opposite sense.

The very first thing to remember is that the distinction itself is a modern idea, and one that (ostensibly) exists solely in Western nations. Take, for instance, medieval western societies, which had no separation between church and state. The church IS the state, and the state IS the church.

To declare that Islam is political is to misconstrue the idea that religion and politics are separate entities in the first place, especially in areas where Islam is endemic to native culture. This is the prime conflict when Islam is exported to areas where we have an (ostensible) separation between church and state, such as Europe and North America.

I keep using the word "ostensible," and that is simply to underline that our notion of separation between church and state is and always has been in tension with traditional methods of governing. It is an ideal, which has fluctuating applications. We claim to uphold this ideal, but in reality, we simply do not notice how much religion is incorporated into our politics because it is ubiquitous. It becomes a stark reality when outside forces attempt to do the same thing (such as shariah law), because we simply tend not to agree with the proposed laws.

Even the Church of Satan, whose ruling body makes no political statements, is, it could be argued, political; it is political in the sense that many members feel passionate about their political positions, and some even seek to promote these ideas. What is significant is that each member could be fighting for drastically opposing ideas, and both are considered equally Satanic in nature, because it is the individual Satanist that is active in the world, not the administration of the CoS. The administration of the CoS is so firm on this idea of them taking a neutral apolitical stance, that talk of politics is forbidden on this board (hopefully I haven't stepped over this line, as I am talking about politics in general terms).

Other religions can and do mandate certain political positions (unlike the CoS) and this is where we see various levels of political activities.

Quote:
Now, I could see even any "apolitical" religion just being used politically...or an individual being a more moderate follower of a "political" religion and ignoring the holy law parts of it.


Every religious person on the planet edits their respective religion in ways that suit them best.

Quote:
But, is there any meaningful distinction you find when we look at what the religion ACTUALLY says? Or is that not a meaningful distinction either, when you look at the countless interpretations of the same text?


Textual analysis does provide a meaningful distinction, but usually only to scholars! The great majority of religionists never actually read their texts, and when they do, they carefully edit the passages they consider meaningful.

Quote:
I would say that a political religion would tend to be more violent than an apolitical one, due to the need for a whole system of political force governing territory, which would then be expanded.


I have never, ever, heard of a religion that did not exist as a political statement, even if that statement is: "Let's withdraw from the world because it has gone to shit. We'll wait for the salvation/apocalypse/comet/aliens/etc. in our secluded commune/church/mountaintop without the pollutant of the outside world."

The above is still making a political statement; it is judging the world as corrupt, and providing an alternative.

Religious ideas are born within and responding to specific historical circumstances, and as such they are always political.

Your question is more one of evaluating the level of active political movement within particular religions, and the answer to that is: it varies.

Even with Islam, the root is much more than a religious ideal (although that is usually the focus), but more of a conflict between internal struggles (the old ways falling our of favour, and the news ways gaining more and more popularity) and external pressure (outside forces threatening to take power from current leaders) that causes the most violence.

Historically, the trend for violence is almost always a combination of this dual factor of external and internal pressures, which increases tensions, which then erupts into violence, both externally and internally.

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#483970 - 12/15/12 03:34 PM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Zaftig]
Labyrinthine Offline

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Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 527
Loc: America
Regarding any religion being applied both politically and apolitically:

I can see Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as being in varying "stages of development" in the modern world.

That is to say, they vary in how far they have come, counting all of their followers, on the aggregate, in meeting the modern standard of separation between church and state.

Judaism, being the oldest, is the least political, then Christianity in the middle and Islam the youngest and most political.

I see that modern ideal as coming about from the Enlightenment, not instantly, but the Enlightenment making it possible and then the United States making it definite.

Even before that, there was an ostensible separation of religion and international relations (in Europe) due to the Treaty of Westphalia.

So it is more modern, and coming from the West which led the world into modernity, to have that greater separation of church and state, and I see the older Abrahamic religions as being further along in being "more mature" or "mellowed out".

Of course, followers of those religions would see it very differently, but from the outside looking in I'm making a fair generalization.

You're right to recognize the separation as only ever being ostensible too: how can a voter or elected official completely ignore their religious conscience in their political decisions? They can't.

We can remove blatant theocracy and keep out all religious language from laws, but law is formed through politics, and politics is informed by morality to some extent, and morality comes from religion for most people. At least, they personally view their morality as coming from their religion.

And right, as a Satanist I hold certain assumptions about human nature and justice and that influences how I think politically, as much as I try to linguistically separate my personal and my political theorizing.

And then another Satanist might also be influenced by his religion ultimately in his politics, but take totally opposite positions.

Regarding internal and external pressures messing with the status quo, that's definitely observable in the Muslim world, and has been especially since the end of WWI, when Western influence began to dramatically replace Ottoman influence in much of the Middle East.

The British and French bring new ideas of governance that clash with local religion and popular interpretation of Islam, but local Muslims want Western goods and that "corrupting influence" reduces the influence of Imams and tribal leaders, but if the governance of Muslim countries is seen as too secular the population resents it, and if it's too strictly Islamist (like Taliban style sharia) that's resented as well.

Then in Western countries, many Muslims clash with Christian and secular standards and Westerners resent that pressure.

Thank you for the reminder to keep a longer and more broad view of history, and not see the current problems of the society and time I live in as being particularly unique.

One of the reasons I enjoy these forums is to get this sort of dialogue with others and "thinking out loud" from myself to check my own thinking and conclusions. smile

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#483972 - 12/15/12 04:15 PM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Labyrinthine]
Zaftig Offline
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Registered: 09/23/06
Posts: 3406
Small but very important point:

Quote:
Judaism, being the oldest, is the least political, then Christianity in the middle and Islam the youngest and most political.


Jewish thinkers are extremely political, and have influenced many aspect of modern society, whether it is recognized or not. One could argue, maybe, that the religion itself does not mandate political activity, but one cannot separate Judaism from Jews - especially with Judaism, where it is both a religion and an ethnicity.

Quote:
I can see Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as being in varying "stages of development" in the modern world.

That is to say, they vary in how far they have come, counting all of their followers, on the aggregate, in meeting the modern standard of separation between church and state.


Yes, I've read this argument before. I myself am actually not certain whether human thought and behaviour is always on (what we deem as) an upward trajectory. I don't have an alternative theory, I'm just not yet sure how to frame it. Lazy, I know! Ask me again in a decade or so.

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#483975 - 12/15/12 06:53 PM Re: Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation? [Re: Zaftig]
Labyrinthine Offline

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Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 527
Loc: America
Hmmm that is a unique situation with the Jews and Judaism...

Yeah Jews tend to follow politics and vote and participate a lot, including in high positions.

What I was referring to more is that I don't see Jews trying to press their religion on others politically. Israel is the only place they can and do, and even there most people are pretty secular.

And yeah Jews are unique too in the identity being both religious and ethnic.

To be clear, I don't find there to be this continuous or near-continuous trajectory either, but I couldn't think of a better way to describe the particular phenomenon of the political activism of the three Abrahamic religions. I look forward to that theory! smile

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