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Crime Stats Science

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

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

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  • by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:32PM (#40378425)

    Actually, some people argue that Hell was created later and added to the Bible. A hell mythology is quite popular everywhere so if you start out without it'll be added sooner or later.

    If hell impacts good behavior and heaven does not, then one would expect Buddhists to do well right? They do not have heaven but they can get really bad Karma... Good karma is not Heaven but bad Karma could be bad enough to be considered a form of hell.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:33PM (#40378439) Homepage
    I'm curious how this is consistent with [] 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.
  • 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...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @07:39PM (#40378521)

    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.

  • 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" [], 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 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:36PM (#40380569)

    "Atheist countries"?

    Yes, like the USA.

    The Treaty of Tripoli [] (Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary) was the first treaty concluded between the United States of America and Tripolitania, signed at Tripoli on November 4, 1796 and at Algiers (for a third-party witness) on January 3, 1797. It was submitted to the Senate by President John Adams, receiving ratification unanimously from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797 and signed by Adams, taking effect as the law of the land on June 10, 1797.

    The treaty was a routine diplomatic agreement but has attracted later attention because the English version included a clause about religion in the United States.

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    The treaty is cited as historical evidence in the modern day controversy over whether there was religious intent by the founders of the United States government. Article 11 of the treaty has been interpreted as an official denial of a Christian basis for the U.S. government.[3]

  • 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 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 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 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. []

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @05:19AM (#40382389) Homepage

    God's grace is actually a great motivation to take responsability of consecuences for past acts, as those consecuences dont inhibit being loved and signified by God. And it's a great motivation to take action in the present for better, as it gives meaning to efforts.

    This is nice in theory, but in practice, it fails. That's what the study is all about. People who see a godly grace as a motivator for a better life seem to be by far outnumbered by people who see godly grace as an excuse to behave badly, because the big boss will forgive them anyway.

  • 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 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.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost