Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Crime Stats Science

Belief In Hell Predicts a Country's Crime Rates Better Than Other Factors 471

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-correlates-with-air-conditioner-sales dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Religion is often thought of as psychological defense against bad behavior, but researchers have recently found that the effect of religion on pro-social behaviors may actually be driven by the belief in hell and supernatural punishment rather than faith in heaven and spiritual benevolence. In a large analysis of 26 years of data consisting of 143,197 people in 67 countries, psychologists found significantly lower crime rates in societies where many people believe in hell compared to those where more people believed in heaven."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Belief In Hell Predicts a Country's Crime Rates Better Than Other Factors

Comments Filter:
  • by ubrgeek (679399) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:20PM (#40378295)
    "Shariff noted that because the findings were based off of correlational data, they do not prove causation."

    Must be a regular /. reader :)
    • by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:30PM (#40378409)

      "Shariff noted that because the findings were based off of correlational data, they do not prove causation."

      And the paper itself even explains with some detail:

      First and foremost, these findings are correlational, and thus reverse-causation and third variable explanations need to be discounted before causal claims can be firmly endorsed.

      (I.e., "A is correlated with B" does not necessarily mean "A causes B"; B could cause A or C could cause both A and B.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm definitely going with higher crime rates (and overall shitty living conditions) work to destroy faith in a "benevolent" creator, so this is entirely an expected result.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:03PM (#40378795)

          I'm definitely going with higher crime rates (and overall shitty living conditions) work to destroy faith in a "benevolent" creator, so this is entirely an expected result.

          You're definitely going with idiocy? Or do you just not understand the distinction between heaven and hell?
          From TFAbstract (and heavily hinted in TFS):

          ... showing that the proportion of people who believe in hell negatively predicts national crime rates whereas belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates.

          The regions with strong belief in a benevolent creator* have high crime.
          The regions with strong belief in a vindictive creator* have low crime.

          *Your use of "creator" seems a peculiar choice in this context. The existence of an afterlife, whether of reward or of punishment, is in no way contingent on a "creator" as such, or even a group of creators. Do try to expand your scope beyond the monotheistic/Abrahamic religions.

          • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @07:17AM (#40383073) Homepage

            "... showing that the proportion of people who believe in hell negatively predicts national crime rates whereas belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates."

            I don't believe this for an instant.

            By *every* measure, religiosity is lower in Canada than the US. Moreover, Canada is generally more pluralistic in terms of faith. Both would contribute to significantly lower "belief in heaven" *and* "hell".

            Yet the crime rate in Canada is much lower than the US. There are a few categories where it is higher, like car theft, but their relative increase is dramatically less than the relative decrease of all violent crime (30% more vs. 3x less).

            I realize this is a single counterexample, but I suspect this is true for most countries in the western world, and would not be surprised if this were true for much of the planet.

        • by Gerzel (240421) <brollyferret&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:43PM (#40379185) Journal

          I suspect that it is actually the opposite.

          Higher Crime rates generally correlate with higher poverty levels. Those who are poor have a greater need for hope thus a benevolent god.

          Those in lower-crime areas have hope and thus might attune to the higher contrast of a vindictive deity.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            Wall Street should have just about no crime, then.

            • by s.petry (762400)

              That is a logical fail, and maybe that was your point. The issue with Crime in Poverty comes from 2 angles. Those in poverty of course need to eat, so crime increases. At the same time, those in power tend to abuse their power to get more. A bit of history lessons are probably in order for you to understand.

              More Americans should be asking why the people running the banks that gambled with other peoples money, and lost it all, while themselves making millions to billions of dollars are not in jail for fr

          • by pastafazou (648001) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:44PM (#40380209)
            I'm going to have to disagree with you. Crime rates and poverty levels throughout the United States show now correlation whatsoever. South Carolina has a violent crime rate of 1414.3 violent crimes per 100K, and a poverty rate of 13%. West Virginia has a violent crime rate of only 275.2 violent crimes per 100K, and their poverty rate is 15% Even Mississippi, at 22% poverty, only has 291.3 VCper100K. Delaware is only 9% poverty, but has more than double the violent crimes at 689.2per100K. It also helps to look beyond the borders of the US. Many impoverished countries have lower crime rates than the USA, while others have high crime rates. Interestingly, crime rates in across the United States have been declining steadily for the past three years, and gun sales across the states have been up significantly too. It's possible that the fear of different forms of punishment (getting shot, going to hell, jail, execution, etc) influences the crime rates.
            • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:19AM (#40380857)

              In Wisconsin where I live, a scandal involving the Milwaukee Police Department brought to light numerous instances of cooking their reporting data specifically to reduce incidences of violent crime and thus make Milwaukee appear to not only be safer than it really is, but to make MPD seem much more effective than it really is. Some of the misreporting has been genuinely atrocious; knifings get reported as domestic disturbances, for instance. The local rag, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, has been carrying stories of the corrupt abuses regularly (in relatively palliative language of course, wouldn't want to upset the officials).

              So forgive if me if I laugh at your sincere belief in the stats you quote. There is no reliable data when the credibility of the reporting agencies is so heavily damaged. It's the tragedy of opacity. It will undermine everything we thought we knew if we let it.

            • by starworks5 (139327) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @01:06AM (#40381141) Homepage

              It has been shown that once you have a basic level of needs taken care of, the GINI wealth inequality accurately correlates with high crime.

            • by andydread (758754)

              Interestingly, crime rates in across the United States have been declining steadily for the past three years, and gun sales across the states have been up significantly too. It's possible that the fear of different forms of punishment (getting shot, going to hell, jail, execution, etc) influences the crime rates.

              Hmmm this can also be read as.... In the 3 years that Obama came to office crime rates have been on the decline. Since Obama came to office personal gun ownership has seen record rates. Looks like Obama is the most pro-gun anti-crime president the US has seen in decades.

    • by catchblue22 (1004569) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @01:03AM (#40381125) Homepage

      What about largely secular nations like the Netherlands? Norway? Sweden? Don't they have very low crime rates?

      And what about the US Southern states, where religion is fire and brimstone? Don't many of those areas have very high crime rates?

      • by hackula (2596247) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @09:26AM (#40384153)
        Here in South Carolina the crime rate is quite high on all counts and the rate of belief in hell is quite high as well. The problem is that nobody here is threatened by the prospect of hell, since they know that THEY would not be sent there. The whole fire and brimstone thing does not really work when you believe you are one of the chosen.
  • 169 cancer patients were studied. Cancer showed a stronger correlation with a preference for apples than with a preference for oranges.
  • The hell you say!
  • by Galestar (1473827) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:33PM (#40378437)
    If I'm reading this right, the actual statistics show that belief in Heaven increases crime by approximately the same rate as belief in in Hell decreases it.
    So the net result is that believing in both has not statistical signifigance.

    Belief in chart:
    Heaven, Hell, Net Effect
    0, 0, None
    0, 1, Less Crime
    1, 0, More Crime
    1, 1, None


    The headline is making a very dangerous and intentional omission of fact here. http://www.plosone.org/article/slideshow.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0039048&imageURI=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0039048.t001 [plosone.org]
    • by Galestar (1473827)
      If I'd RTFA instead of just the chart I would have seen this:

      As predicted, rates of belief in heaven and hell had significant, unique, and opposing effects on crime rates. Belief in hell predicted lower crime rates, = 1.941, p<.001; whereas belief in heaven predicted higher crime rates

      And the title of the article is "Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates"
      I still think the slashdot summary is misleading.

      • Ironically, belief in heaven seems to be more powerful than belief in hell, or something - roughly 10% of Americans (as of 1997) declared themselves non-religious, but only 0.02% of inmates describe themselves thus. For Christians, on the other hand, both numbers (70%) are the same - and, of course, both heaven and hell are part of Christian dogma.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:33PM (#40378439) Homepage
    I'm curious how this is consistent with http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf [pitzer.edu] which makes a convincing case that religion in an area is correlated with more social primes, including more crime. Putting these together it looks like more religious countries generally have more crime and violence, but controlling for religiosity levels, belief in hell is correlated with a reduction in crime rates. But clearly more research needs to occur.
  • Here in the US, we are told there is constant threat of terrorism, which is used to keep people in line. So other countries simply use Hell instead, which seems to be more effective.. provided you can get people to truly believe in hell.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_of_the_people [wikipedia.org]

    The heaven side convinces the 99% to accept their fate, the hell side warns them what happens if they don't.

    Unfortunately, Christianity has a get out of jail free card so you get the occasional douchbag that takes "I am the truth, the way, and the light" literally and screws everyone they can. This seems pretty common in those that are super Catholic, and less so in casual Christians. YMMV.

    I think if the rationalists take over you would see a steep rise in vig

    • > takes "I am the truth, the way, and the light" literally

      "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity".

  • ... there ain't no heaven and I pray there ain't no hell.

  • Hell and the Devil (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BSAtHome (455370) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:36PM (#40378485)

    Little Boy: The Devil is evil?
    Pastor: Yes my boy.
    Little Boy: But why is the Devil evil? He punishes all the bad people.
    Pastor: >slap

    Let us all go to hell. At least there is a party there...

    • Do you honestly think you're bad enough to get into Hell?

    • Behold! A perfect example of a straw man argument, in all it's pristine glory.

    • by mrsurb (1484303)
      The caricature of the devil _reigning_ over hell is not a biblical one - rather, hell is where the devil will himself be punished (Matt 25:41, Rev 20:10). Your strawman pastor doesn't know his basic theology if he can't answer that one :)
  • In a large analysis of 26 years of data consisting of 143,197 people in 67 countries, psychologists found significantly lower crime rates in societies where many people believe in hell compared to those where more people believed in heaven."

    Aren't those basically the same people? The number of those only believing in one is small enough to make the study basically random alone. Even worse, those few people are scattered across 60 countries, with the crime rates of those countries were used to determine how

    • by jd (1658)

      Depends.

      Given the notoriety of the Bible Belt, I'm inclined to think that they're not strong on believing they'll be punished. Others might, but they won't, so effectively they don't believe in hell as pertains to them.

      The Buddhists* don't strictly believe in heaven OR hell, but do believe that you're either cycling endlessly in futility or step off the hamster wheel of incarnation. If phrased in Judeo-Christian terms, this would be a heaven without a hell.

      *Ok, some Buddhist sects believe in a hell, but the

  • Huh (Score:5, Informative)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:40PM (#40378529) Homepage

    According to Table 1 of the study, the choices of religious affiliation include "Roman Catholic," "Other Christian," and "Muslim."

    That would seem to ignore much of the world's population, beginning with Jews and continuing on to the various religions that believe in reincarnation.

    They claim to have drawn their data from publicly available sources. I'd love to hear how they spun that data to achieve their sample.

  • The "noble lie" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jcohen (131471) * on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:43PM (#40378567) Homepage

    It would follow that, in order to achieve these socially desirable ends,e.g., lower crime rates, governments and religions should instill and promulgate belief in a vengeful God and in divine punishment. Plato had much the same idea in his Republic when he introduced the idea of the "noble lie" [wikipedia.org], a constructed mythology that would be taught to all in order to promote social harmony and love of the State. Excellent for the myth-makers, who shape our minds for our own good -- and their own benefit.

  • by ThorGod (456163) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:47PM (#40378627) Journal

    If you must believe in hell then hell must not exist in your country as an actuality.

    Therefore, your country probably doesn't have a very high crime rate.

  • by giampy (592646) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:50PM (#40378655) Homepage

    I really doubt it because it's a rather well know fact by now (e.g. research by Zimbardo et. al) that the majority of people that commit crimes don't actually think about the future before committing them. They don't even think a few months in advance, let alone at what happens after life ...

  • by ThePeices (635180) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:20PM (#40378961)

    So if a person has committed crimes during his life, e.g burglary, violence, fraud and a bit of adultery thrown in for good measure, most believers would say that he will go to Hell and burn in all eternity for his sins.

    So does the punishment befit the crime(s)?

    Is torturing somebody by subjecting them to continuous pain, suffering and torment for an infinite length of time justifiable for whatever they did during the ~80 odd years of life on Earth?

    What about after the first trillion years of torture? Dont you think that would be enough considering the crimes committed?
    What about when the misery and torture has reached a few billion trillion years?

    And dont forget, 10 to the power of 10000000000000000000000000 years is not even the most insignificant fraction of eternity.

    No crime I can possibly think of can ever justify that level of torture.

    If this is how the universe works, then whatever Deity created this system is a monster of the highest order.

  • DUH! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:03PM (#40379383)

    People that believe they will suffer dire consequences are less likely to commit a crime. Really? Imagine that.

  • by waveman (66141) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @04:04AM (#40381993) Homepage

    1. Data mining

    > no correction has been made for inflated error rates due to performing a large number of analyses

    Also, the correlations for beleif in heaven and belief in hell are both large and of the opposite sign. A classic red flag for data mining, i.e. torturing the data until you get the result you want.

    2. Garbage data

    If you look at the article, it claims that Russia is a far more law-abiding country than Australia.
    However when you look at the one crime statistic that is very reliable, we see that Russian has 84 murders per day = 217 per million people per year. Australia has about 260 per year = 11 per million people per year. That is, Russia's murder rate is 20 times higher. Yet we are supposed to believe that Russia has a lower crime rate than Australia.
    If this is at all representative of the quality of their data, it is a sad joke.

    http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/advice/Russia [smartraveller.gov.au]

The F-15 Eagle: If it's up, we'll shoot it down. If it's down, we'll blow it up. -- A McDonnel-Douglas ad from a few years ago

Working...