Proof That Religious Affiliation/Morality Does Not Necessarily Prevent Criminal/Immoral Behavior

Does religious affiliation/belief provide a morality which can prevent crime or/and immoral behavior?

Do religious people commit crimes?

Do non-believers/non-affiliated people commit more crimes or otherwise are more immoral?

Gordon Stein, Ph.D., An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York, USA, 1980, p. 244.

The question of the fear of punishment by God (presumably in an afterlife), has been shown many times to be a weak preventer of immoral acts on the earth. It is probably the length of time until punishment, plus the uncertainty of of that punishment, all combined with the possibility of subsequent atonement for the “sin” of the moral wrong, which have caused the weakness of the “fear of God” as a deterrent to immoral acts. Several studies of the religiousness of prison inmates have confirmed that most of them tended to be more religious than the general population. Yet they had all committed at least one serious immoral act (the crime for which they were sent to prison). There also were virtually no unbelievers in the prison populations examined. There could be several reasons for this, among them that atheists/agnostics do not commit many crimes, or that there just aren’t  many [atheists/agnostics] in the United States population from which these prisoners were drawn. The latter statement can be shown to false from other statistics. [Italics in original.]

Here is an abstract of a report from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service [NCJRS] which includes statistics on the religious affiliations of US prison inmates.

Here is a summary of an NCJRS abstract re: religious affiliations of US prison inmates.

Summary of :

Questionnaires to 769 male US prison inmates ages 17-75 in 20 prisons in 12 US States.
Whites: 43%
Blacks: 42%
Hispanic: 9%
Christians: 65%, Protestants: 50%
Muslims: 9%
Total Christians and Muslims: 74%
Non-Affiliated: 15% [Non-Affiliated = Undefined, but assumed to be believers not affiliated with a specific denomination.]
Total Christians + Muslims + Non-Affiliated: 89%
Remainder: 11% [Not specified, but most likely to include nonbelievers—atheists and agnostics.]

Reference: NCJRS - National Criminal Justice Reference Service

NCJRS Abstracts Database

NOTE: This is an abstract, a summary of an article or a publication, of NCJ #151513 and, therefore, not the article/publication itself.

Abstract: NCJ Number: 151513

Title: Does Involvement in Religion Help Prisoners Adjust to Prison?

Author: T R Clear ; B D Stout ; H R Dammer ; L Kelly ; P L Hardyman ;
C Shapiro

Sale: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States

National Council on Crime and Delinquency
1970 Broadway, Suite 500
Oakland, CA 94612
United States

National Institute of Justice/NCJRS
Paper Reproduction Sales
Box 6000 Department F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States

Publication Date: 1992

Pages: 8

Type: Applied research

Origin: United States

Language: English

Note: NCCD Focus (November 1992)

Annotation: Because little research has been conducted to evaluate the
benefits of religion in prisons, this study was conducted to determine if
religion facilitated inmate adjustment to prison life.

Abstract: Researchers worked with a group of inmates from a midwestern maximum-security prison to develop the Prisoner Values Survey, a multidimensional assessment of religious beliefs and behavior. The Prisoner Values Survey was then used in 20 prisons in 12 States, with questionnaires administered to 769 male inmates. Forty-three percent were white, 42 percent were black, and 9 percent were Hispanic. Inmate age ranged from 17 to 75. Over 50 percent were Protestant, about 65 percent were Christian, 8 percent were Muslim, and 15 percent had no religious preference. The study also included focus group interviews with religious and nonreligious inmates and interviews with chaplains, prison administrators, and correctional officers and staff. Adjustment to prison was viewed in two ways, coping and avoiding trouble. Data were obtained on measures of religiousness, measures of adjustment, and covariate measures. Findings revealed that religiosity was related to prison infractions and adjustment, although infractions and adjustment were unrelated. Consistent with prior studies of prison adjustment, inmate age, time served, and participation in certain prison programs were linked to both infractions and adjustment. Adjustment related to self- esteem, depression, and mastery, underscoring the psychological nature of adjustment. Infractions related to drug use, security level, prior record, and current offense. Prior record related negatively to the degree of religiosity. Religion was important in reducing the number of infractions, but its role in facilitating adjustment was less clear when considering its association with depression. Prisoners indicated that religion eased the pain of incarceration in terms of dealing with guilt, finding a new way of life, and handling with loss of freedom. In addition, religious programs tended to ameliorate the prison's harsh environment with respect to safety, material comforts, and heterosexual contacts. 4 references and 3 tables

Main Term: Corrections

Index Term: Religious programs ; Inmate attitudes ; Inmate religious affiliation ; Religion ; Adjustment to prison ; Inmate characteristics

---End of Quote---

Obviously, the fact that these Xns did not follow the Xn morality therefore proves that the Xn morality is not 100% effective in preventing crime/immoral behavior.

Obviously, the low number of non-affiliates, 15%, shows that non-affiliates are more moral than Xns.

Because the class of non-affiliates was not defined/specified, believers who are non-affiliated may be included, but, nevertheless, if only populated with atheists/agnostics this is a smaller group than believers, which total [Xns: 65% + Muslims: 9%] 74%.

The group of unspecified individuals was 11%, which may include nonbelievers, including atheists and agnostics, which would then suggest that if prison inmate statistics are valid as a measure of the effectiveness of religious v. natural moralities, then, clearly, natural moralities are much more effective than religious moralities in preventing crimes and immoral behavior.


(A) Being a believer/religionist does not predict if or not an individual will be moral. Therefore, religion-based belief systems/moralities do not necessarily prevent crimes/immoral behavior by believers/religionists.

(B) Being an Xn does not predict if or not an Xn will be moral. Therefore, Xn morality does not necessarily prevent crimes/immoral behavior by Xns.

(C) Being a nonbeliever/atheist/agnostic does not predict if a nonbeliever will be moral. Therefore, natural morality does not necessarily prevent crimes/immoral behavior.

(D) If prison inmate statistics accurately describe the effectiveness of religious morality v. natural morality, instead of merely reflecting the concurrence of prison inmate moralities with the general population moralities, then natural morality is more effective than religious morality in preventing crime/immoral behavior.

The following is an NJCS abstract

NCJ Number: 142763


Corporate Author: New York State Dept of Correctional Services
Division of Program Planning, Research and Evaluation
United States

Sale: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States

National Institute of Justice/NCJRS
Paper Reproduction Sales
Box 6000 Department F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States

Format: document

Publication Date: 1991

Pages: 19

Type: Surveys

Origin: United States

Language: English

Annotation: This report surveyed the religious affiliation of inmates under
custody of New York State correctional facilities in 1991. Data on age,
gender, ethnic status, and marital status are presented according to
religious affiliation.

Abstract: The results showed that nearly 90 percent of inmates under custody during the reporting period were affiliated with an organized religion. Female inmates were more likely to be affiliated with a Protestant church than males, while males were more likely to be Muslim than females. Jewish and Greek Orthodox inmates were older than the average, while Rastafarian and Islamic inmates were younger than the average. Nearly 90 percent of inmates were fluent in English, but only 75 percent of Hispanic inmates were. About 30 percent of inmates were legally married at the time of their incarceration and 55 percent had at least one child. The average time to parole eligibility was similar for nearly all the religious groups studied here.

Main Term: Inmate religious affiliation

Index Term: Statistics/ ; Corrections/ ; Inmate characteristics ; New York

---End of Quote---

Conclusion: 90% of New York State prison inmates surveyed are religious/believers vs. 10% are nonbelievers—including atheists and agnostics; these statistics show that religious morality does not necessarily prevent crime/immoral behavior.

NCJ Number: 192665

Title: Religion in Prisons 1999 and 2000

Author: Farid Guessous ; Nick Hooper ; Uma Moorthy

Sale: Great Britain Home Office Research Development and Statistics
Room 201
50 Queen Anne's Gate
Information and Publications Group
London, SW1H 9AT,
United Kingdom

Format: document


Publication Date: 2001

Pages: 30

Type: Statistical data

Origin: United Kingdom

Language: English

Note: Downloaded 12/18/2001

Annotation: This document presents data on the religious affiliation of prisoners in Prison Service establishments in England and Wales for the years 1999-2000.

Abstract: The data originated from the central Inmate Information System (IIS). The religious affiliation of a prisoner is recorded at reception in to a prison establishment. Religion is self-reported by the prisoner. The Prison Service recognizes more than 40 different religious denominations. In 2000, the largest group of inmates was Anglicans, who formed 39 percent of the prison population. Next was the group with No Religion (32 percent) followed by Roman Catholics at 17 percent and Muslims at 7 percent. Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs each accounted about a half of one percent of the population. The fastest growing group was prisoners with No Religion, which more than doubled in size between 1993 and 2000. The prison population as a whole grew by 55 percent over the same period. Between 1993 and 2000, the number of Muslims doubled. Buddhists, although relatively very small in number, grew faster than average, increasing by 60 percent over the same period. The number of all Christians grew more slowly than the average, falling from 75 percent of the total population in 1993 to 59.5 percent in 2000. Roman Catholicism was the fastest growing Christian denomination. Roman Catholics accounted for approximately one sixth of the prison population in each year between 1993 and 2000. Inmates with No Religion were most likely to be under 30 years old, white, male, and serving a sentence of less than 3 years. Of prisoners serving a life sentence in September 2000, the majority (65 percent) was Christian, while 24 percent had no religion. The group that was least likely to contain life-sentence inmates was Non-recognized religions. Some religions, such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Free Church, contain a disproportionate number of life sentence inmates. 7 figures, 15 tables

Main Term: Inmate statistics ; Inmate religious affiliation

Index Term: Offender statistics ; Inmate organizations ; Religious freedom; Inmate attitudes ; Religion ; Correctional facility surveys

(A) Anglicans: 39%
(B) Roman Catholics: 17%
Total Christians: 56%

Muslims: 7%
Buddhists: .5%
Hindus: .5%
Sikhs: .5%
Total Non-Christians: 8.5%

Total Believers: 64.5%

No Religion: 32%

Conclusion: Religious morality is not necessarily effective in preventing crime/immoral behavior.