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

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the also-correlates-with-air-conditioner-sales dept.

Crime 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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471 comments

Savvy study author ... (5, Insightful)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378295)

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

Must be a regular /. reader :)

Re:Savvy study author ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378367)

White people! Stop apologizing, living in fear, and denying your heritage!

* White people exist
* White people have the right to exist
* White people have the right to exist as white people

The blood of Christopher Newsom and countless other politically incorrect victims cries out for acknowledgement!

Re:Savvy study author ... (5, Informative)

Guy Harris (3803) | more than 2 years ago | (#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:Savvy study author ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Savvy study author ... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Savvy study author ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378903)

Speak to most Christian converts and they'll tell you "God was there when no one else was/when I hit rock bottom/when I need Him most".

Re:Savvy study author ... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378967)

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.

I've come to know a few atheist countries intimately. In the countries I've visited, there is a near complete lack of conscience. If someone saw a stranger getting robbed or killed, they would not step in to help unless they felt there was a benefit to it. If you feel there are no consequences to your actions, you are more likely to harm others.

Re:Savvy study author ... (5, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#40379113)

"Atheist countries"? ACs are really scraping the bottom of the barrel with their lies. The closest you can get to an "atheist country" is France and maybe a few of the scandinavian countries. And they're actually nice and friendly... unless of course you pull the "asshole American" routine on them, in which case they will toss you out pretty quickly.

Re:Savvy study author ... (1, Insightful)

hilldog (656513) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378415)

Where can I get hired to turn our crap like this and never have to produce on solid thing that can be measured against the real world?

Re:Savvy study author ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378589)

Depends. If I say 2=5, will you agree with me. And if I ask you to prove, can you prove it?

Re:Savvy study author ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378873)

2.4 + 2.4 = 4.8 and depending on the rounding used it can translate to 2 + 2 = 5

Re:Savvy study author ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378801)

Where can I get hired to turn our crap like this and never have to produce on solid thing that can be measured against the real world?

Washington, D.C.

Re:Savvy study author ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378465)

Someone tell that to whoever wrote the Results section:

Despite many of these variables–especially poverty and income inequality–being frequently discussed as determinants of crime [20], [21], only belief in God had a significant effect on average crime rates over and above the effects of belief in heaven and hell, which remained highly significant (both ps <.001).

Unless "having an effect on" has some specific non-causal meaning in statistics.

Re:Savvy study author ... (2)

Wandering Voice (2267950) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378817)

While my evidence is anecdotal, I find it an interesting relationship that as the churches have less and less influence on in hospitals and medicine, it seems that accountability for actions and behavior have also diminished.

Last line of summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378299)

in societies where many people believe in hell compared to those where less believed in hell.

FTFY, Slashdot.

Re:Last line of summary (2)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378503)

Actually you did not. Belief and heaven and hell have exactly opposite effects on crime rates. The wording is misleading, but it is correct.

Re:Last line of summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378745)

Which religions only have Heaven, which religions only have Hell?

Or is this just a measure of however many people slept through sunday school class and only heard about one or the other?

So religion is an evolutionary strategy (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378301)

Therefore, the only logical choice is to believe in religion as an evolutionary strategy to advance the human race!

Ha! Suck it fundamentalist atheists! You're on the losing side of the evolution fight this time!

Re:So religion is an evolutionary strategy (5, Funny)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378527)

Religion, no. Hell, yes. If humans believe in both Heaven and Hell there will be no net effect on the crime rates.

Ha! Suck it fundamentalist deists! You're on the no statistical significance side of the evolution fight this time!

Re:So religion is an evolutionary strategy (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378783)

Religion, no. Hell, yes. If humans believe in both Heaven and Hell there will be no net effect on the crime rates. Ha! Suck it fundamentalist deists! You're on the no statistical significance side of the evolution fight this time!

Thanks for properly capitalizing the names of places, even if personally and usually considered imaginary or metaphorical. I'll never understand the insistance of those that are hostile towards religion and belief to use incorrect grammar... as though it is a directed insult to the very idea itself, which is, of course, an absurd intention.

Re:So religion is an evolutionary strategy (2)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378809)

Unfortunately this might be true. Religious people tend to have more babies, so it's not surprising that there may be a religious gene that gets preferable treatment. I've also noticed that the more uneducated, religious, bigoted or prejudiced people are, the more children they have.

It's a depressing state of affairs if you ask me.

So, Judeo-Christian areas, then? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378309)

Who else believes in hell?

Re:So, Judeo-Christian areas, then? (4, Funny)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378419)

what about those of us who long ago realized hell is all there is and we're there now, broadcasting live -- HI MOM!!!

Re:So, Judeo-Christian areas, then? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378427)

As an atheist, I didn't used to, but then I spent a few weeks in Arkansas. If that's not hell, I don't know what is...

Re:So, Judeo-Christian areas, then? (4, Informative)

Guy Harris (3803) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378533)

Who else believes in hell?

Well, let's look at The Fine Paper [plosone.org] :

The same pattern also emerges for three out of the four religious groups that form national majorities–predominantly Roman Catholic, predominantly non-Catholic Christian, and predominantly ‘Other,’ which comprises of either unaffiliated majorities, or more localized majority religions such as Hinduism, Shintoism and syncretic religions that combine Islam and Christianity with traditional indigenous religions (see Figure 1). The only exception to this observation is predominantly Muslim countries in Asia, for which the uniformly high levels of both belief in heaven and hell (Ms = 93% and 91% respectively), produce insufficient variance for prediction.

So presumably some flavors of "Other" believe in a hell of some sort (for example, "being reincarnated as something in the "sucks to be you" category" might fill the bill), as does Islam. I don't see "IL" in Figure 1, so, unless I've missed something, there's no country where Judaism is a national majority (I'm assuming it's still a national majority in Israel), so I'm not sure it addresses the "Judeo" part of that.

(Oh, and the data point for the US is a fair bit above the line, meaning a higher crime rate for the US's value of {believers in hell} - {believers in heaven} than the line would predict. I don't know whether that's significant; if it is, maybe hell is a less effective deterrent here in the City on the Hill.)

Re:So, Judeo-Christian areas, then? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378581)

Oi! Hel is the name of a Nordic giantess, thank you very much!

Re:So, Judeo-Christian areas, then? (2)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378677)

As far as I know there are no concrete concepts of either hell or heaven in Judaism.

Detroit (4, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378845)

People who live in Detroit? All they have to do is open a window and look outside.

Re:Detroit (5, Insightful)

AdamWill (604569) | more than 2 years ago | (#40379025)

I also do not like $LOCATION. Where's my funny points?

One acknowledges the existence of the other (1, Troll)

chicago_scott (458445) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378323)

Psychologists found significantly lower crime rates in societies where many people believe in hell compared to those where more people believed in heaven."

If there's good then there's evil. If there's a God then there's a Devil. If there's a Heaven then there's a Hell.

How can there be one without the other?

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378421)

That's arguably true with respect to good and evil. The others, not so much.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (1)

chicago_scott (458445) | more than 2 years ago | (#40379049)

I don't believe in either concept, but It just seems illogical that there can be a significantly larger amount of people that believe in "Heaven" than believe in "Hell" or vice-versa.

But then again, people are weird.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (3, Interesting)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378619)

I guess enlightenment is the carrot, suffering is the stick. But you're already suffering, so...

That said, the Dalai Lama is one of the least religious spiritual leaders I can think of. He just tweeted last week about how he's increasingly convinced it's time to ditch religion. He wasn't giving up on happiness and "spirituality"... whatever that is.

As some have said of atheists, and I'm sure I'm butchering this, "their greatest fear is finding out there's life after death". If you "just don't get heaven", nobody would be worried. If being wrong means the Xtian version of Hell... well, then it starts to feel like a gamble.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378751)

If being wrong means the Xtian version of Hell... well, then it starts to feel like a gamble.

Not when there is an infinite number of possible gods with varying personalities. There is a reason that Pascal's Wager is moronic.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378673)

What makes you think bad karma is hell? Bad karma is bad karma, no more no less. Similarly moksha is moksha, and is not heaven.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (5, Insightful)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378729)

Well, the Western concept of Hell is mostly based on Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost -- likewise the concept of alien beings being white with halos and dove's wings, and others being red with forked tails, goat's horns and pitchforks is something that comes from popular culture and not theological treatises.

Added to this, if you look in the Christian Bible or any of the Jewish religious works, you'll see that earlier works only refer to Abaddon or Hades, and even later works rarely refer to Hell (8 references, mostly in Matthew, also in Mark, Luke, James and 2 Peter, with the Matthew and Mark ones paraphrasing the same sermons). Original references to Hell in the Bible are attributed to Jesus, Paul, James and Peter. Of these, Peter describes it as gloomy (similar to Hades), James as fiery, Jesus and Paul purely as a place Angels and Humans can be exiled to, possibly with a gate and wall.

What am I getting at here? Mostly that this study is likely mostly useless, as the entire concept of what Hell is and who goes there and for what varies wildly throughout history and geography/culture. Nowadays, most people apply the Yin/Yan dichotomy to Heaven and Hell; others have labelled Hell as being "not Heaven", and then of course there's the "Heaven's Prison" and "Place of Eternal Torment" depictions mentioned in the Bible.

I'd be more interested in seeing this study done looking at belief in a benevolent creator and belief in a malignant rebel; the results may be the same, but that's in no way guaranteed.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (5, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378549)

If there's good then there's evil. If there's a God then there's a Devil. If there's a Heaven then there's a Hell.

It might help if you took a comparative religion course. Many people believe in God without a belief in a Devil. This applies for example to many liberal Christians. In Judaism, the closest thing to the Devil is "Satan" who acts more as a prosecuting angel or a gadfly in the heavenly court. This interpretation is based on pretty old sources including the actual mentions of Satan in the Old Testament, especially the book of Job.

Similarly, many forms of Christianity have a notion heaven without any notion of hell. This is common among Christians who ascribe to universal reconciliation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_reconciliation [wikipedia.org] and similar beliefs. Some other groups believe that there is either heaven or oblivion- this belief is common among Jehovah Witnesses for example. Similarly, many forms of Judaism have a notion of purgatory but no equivalent of hell. Indeed, there's a belief common among Orthodox Jews that no matter how bad you are you won't suffer for more than a year in the afterlife. This is related to the tradition of saying, Kaddish, the prayer for the dead http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaddish [wikipedia.org] for 11 months- one wants to ease their suffering but one does not want to imply that that someone was so bad that they were being punished for a full year.

In the other direction, you have some belief systems that have a notion similar to hell but no equivalent of heaven. For example, in some forms of Buddhism, there are very unpleasant things one can be reincarnated to to suffer for milllenia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naraka_(Buddhism) [wikipedia.org] but there's no real equivalent of heaven. So one can not only have a belief in heaven with no belief in hell, one can have a belief in hell with no belief in heaven.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378865)

There is also the concept that heaven and hell are the same place, just sinners find it much less pleasant than the virtuous.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 2 years ago | (#40379009)

WRT Buddhism, living effectively is hell. Death is but a way of going from one form of hell to another (sometimes worse). The only escape is spiritual enlightenment, which is as close to a concept of "heaven" as there will be in Buddhism. Only, this heaven is a state of existence.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378551)

So according to you things are either good or evil? No morally neurtal actions? Because if it can be neutral you have a baseline, which means you can have one deviation without the other.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (1)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378969)

Not really, it's a spectrum phenomena. It's like cutting the ends off a rope - you don't get a rope with no ends, you just change where they are. Like light and darkness, up and down, big and small, good and evil are defined in terms of each other, eliminate one, and the other ceases to have meaning. If all acts were good, then we'd have no concept of good because it would have zero information content. So long as there's a spectrum of possible outcomes that you can choose between, choosing the least-beneficial/most harmful outcome will be "evil"

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (1)

chicago_scott (458445) | more than 2 years ago | (#40379091)

Exactly, there are no neutral actions. I left out the word "morally" since it's very definition is the distinction between "good" and "evil".

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (3, Insightful)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378603)

Yeah, and if there are humans, there must be anti-humans. Also there must be a specific anti person for each person. There must be anti-money, anti-colour... What? Can you explain that point again either in terms of formal logic, or citing evidence? As an arbitrary whimsical deist I believe in god and heaven, but not hell or the devil. Can you prove me wrong about hell's nonexistence or even give a logical train of thought other than 'it is self evident'?

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378645)

There are lots of people who believe that when you die you "go to the afterlife," and that even bad people end up there (where their lives won't be so hard). The idea that good people will go to Heaven only if bad people are punished for all eternity is a fairly wrathful concept.

Likewise, the idea that the Devil is "the opposite of God" is a kind of fringe belief for Christianity. By most reckonings, the Christian Devil is clearly subordinate to God. Some Christians don't really believe in the Devil at all. Neither do Jews.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (1)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378669)

If there's a God then there's a Devil.

There are many religions where there is God, but no "devil" or "satan". Even if you look to the bible (instead of the christian folklore of Milton, and Dante), the "devil" inhabits both heaven and earth and is more a tempting spirit (more like Goethe's Faust) than a counterpart to God who happens to live in Hell.

If there's a Heaven then there's a Hell.

How can there be one without the other?

AFAIK, there is no "hell" in the christian biblical sense of eternal punishment in Judaism, but there is Heaven. Although Judaism seems to have a temporary state of shame that offers the chance of redemption that might be considered "temporary hell-like".

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378689)

(Puts on buzz killington outfit)

Actually, the judeo christian bible is quite clear about what happens to unriteous people when they die. (Saying "sinners" implies a false dichotomy. All people are sinners by biblical standards.)

The old testament uses the term "grave" in most english translations. The original hebrew word was "sheol", which actually means "null", "nonexistence", "void", "emptiness", etc. Lit. The state of no longer being.

The current version of popular "hell", is a purely dogmatic construct with only the most minimal of biblical support, (namely the noteworthy reference in revelation to a lake of fire.) Its primary point of origin can be historically traced to the "christianization" of norther europe, where the indigionous religious belif held that those that died a "non glorious" death, such as by old age, sickness, accident, etc, were sent to a cold and harsh afterlife managed by the epynomous "hel", a frost giantess. [wikipedia.org] the realm itself was also of the same name.

To better bring these forced converts into harmony with church doctrines, the role of hell changed, but the idea that undesirables go there did not.

The obvious utility of imposing an eternal punishment of unbelievable suffering and torment for disobeying religious teachings and dogma is self-evident, and is precisely why the dogma still endures long after its original parent religion's demise.

As for "if there is a heaven, there must be a hell", this is fundamentally untrue. The judeo-christian faith, as written, (not as commonly practiced, more's the pity) has no such concept, and simply has god destroying the unriteous outright, cleanly, utterly, and humanely. They die, and that's that.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378737)

You might want to ask god how there can't be a hell before he kicked lucifer out and made hell. Derp. Why am i discussing fairy tales on slashdot?

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378881)

Indeed.

But if you are going to bring up the fairytale, at least do a proper job of summarizing that part of the plot.

The nephalim (children produced by the fallen watchers who took human wives) had no place for their spiritual essenses to to upon death. They were founded on the perfect divine, from their paternal lineage as divine beings, but had been clothed in temporary flesh from their mothers'. No place existed for them to go.

They were banished to wander the earth as unclean spirits. Eg, "demons."

The fallen angels (the watchers) that sired them had to "pervert themselves" to even be able to sire children (spiritual beings have no gender), and had sworn oaths to the effect that they were all equally complicit in their fall, and share of blame.

As such, all of the fallen watchers, and a third of the other angels of heaven who sided with them, were banished from heaven. The bible (canon) does not explicitly state where they were banished to.

The apochryphal book or enoc does, however, give a description of the prison where these fallen watchers are held. Here's a hint: it bears absolutely no resemblence to dogmatic "fire and brimstone" hell as per current dogmatic practices.

.....wut (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378937)

.....wut

Re:.....wut (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40379083)

Since it is abudnandly clear you have not read this particular fairytale that you are harping about, here's a reader's digest version of events.

God creates the universe.
God creates heaven, and the angels. (Includes lucifer.)
God creates the earth.
God creates man, and holds man in special esteem. (Unlike angels, humans were created to resemble god.)
Lucifer is jealous, and angry about humans. Seeks to destroy them.
Luficer cons eve into disobeying god.
Humans are cast down.
God punishes lucifer to crawl eternally in dust, and be trampled by human feet, and be forever hated. ...

Many generations in genesis later ...

The "watchers", angels tasked with observing and reporting on the earth and human affairs, observe human women, and get horny. A shitton of them come down to earth, and swear a pact with each other to be fully complicit in their proposed crime. They then alter themselves, take human wives, and have children. The details of this escapade are the thesis of the first book of enoc, an apochryphal book. Genesis gets the reader's digest version one liner of "and the sons of god took of themselves wives, and there were giants in the land, heros and men of old."

These creatures have human appetites, are collossally huge, and don't age. They multiply, and threaten the human race with extinction.

Notice: no fire. No brimstone.

To correct the problem, god sends the flood.

The fallen watchers are banished to their prison in the darkest void, and the spirits of their mongrel children become the fell demons that torment men, since there was nowhere set aside for them to go. (They wander incorporeally on the earth, and settle in desolate places.)

Re:.....wut (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40379137)

I have read that particular fairytale [funny how you purport to know what I've read], but I don't waste precious space in my brain remembering a bunch of made-up bullshit I read in the 1980s.

If God exists.... (1)

Albinoman (584294) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378799)

If God exists, how can there be evil, a Devil, and Hell? Why would a perfect and benevolent being have need to create of such things? If all things come from God, then God created evil.

Re:One acknowledges the existence of the other (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378931)

Fuck yeah -- such insights have not been seen since the day of Zarathustra!

Oh, wait, if dualism is so obviously correct, why haven't you guys convinced the world? Maybe people not raised in Zoroastrian/Abrahamic religions don't have the blinders that prevent you from conceiving of a God without a Devil (or a Devil without a God, or most commonly, an entire supernatural world). Would you say, if there's a Secretary General of the UN, there must be a <whatever one calls his opposite number>? Clearly not -- in the natural world, "people" are independent entities interacting with each other, not the infinitely distant poles of some ideological drama. Why must the overworld, presuming its existence, be the latter and not the former?

Apples are a better Predictor than Oranges (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378337)

169 cancer patients were studied. Cancer showed a stronger correlation with a preference for apples than with a preference for oranges.

No faith in heaven? (1)

tpstigers (1075021) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378345)

The hell you say!

Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378405)

Sweden? Noraway? Japan? Help me out here, did they exclude anything that didn't fit?

Yes, but Belief in Heaven Increases Crime Rate (5, Insightful)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 2 years ago | (#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]

Re:Yes, but Belief in Heaven Increases Crime Rate (2)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378491)

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.

Re:Yes, but Belief in Heaven Increases Crime Rate (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378637)

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.

Re:Yes, but Belief in Heaven Increases Crime Rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378805)

Nice point on the table. I wonder if superstition can be also correlated in the same way:
People believing in bad luck breaking mirrors leading to less broken mirrors
People believing in bad luck for walking under ladders leading to less ladder related accidents

So fear drives people away... People with vertigo may not easily die from a tall drop, and people with fear to water may not die drowned.

Obviously on the inflammatory headlines from /. , you know they do anything to draw attention... from readers, trolls, etc. I wonder if they have statistics of -1 trolls, and check how much traffic they drive, and correlate it to their headline quality.

Re:Yes, but Belief in Heaven Increases Crime Rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40379051)

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.

You are not reading this right. The article very clearly states that it is a correlation, not a cuasation. To therefore infer a cuasation from the counter of what the correlation is simply wrong. All that can be said is that the correlation between decreased crime is stronger with those who believe in hell than those who believe in heaven. Anything else is not supported by the actual data.

Re:Yes, but Belief in Heaven Increases Crime Rate (1)

SMoynihan (1647997) | more than 2 years ago | (#40379073)

Weirdly, reviewing the table - the opposite effects seem to be occurring for two crimes - and two crimes only: Human trafficking and Kidnapping. Now, the evidence isn't strong here (at all!), but it's still odd they were able to detect such a strong trend with the other crimes, but not here.

I wonder if it's the case that these are strong statistics in countries bucking the trends, or is there some sort of a they're not real people/we don't deserve punishment for this at play? ...or nothing at all.

How does this reconcile with other data? (4, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378439)

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.

Re:How does this reconcile with other data? (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378733)

And somehow I wrote "social primes" when I meant to write social problems. Ugh. But the point should be clear. (Incidentally, there is such a thing as a sociable number, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociable_number [wikipedia.org] but no prime is sociable.)

Re:How does this reconcile with other data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40379141)

The study did not (as far as I can tell from the data that is publicly available) ask the same question as Zuckerman. Zuckerman asked the question how religiosity per se influences crime and his data on the matter is rock solid.
This study was mainly about how belief in heaven and hell influence criminality. As it turns out, belief in heaven stimulates crime while belief in hell prevents it; these effects are apparently roughly equal. This isn't as surprising among criminologists as you might think; it has been suspected for example that people who have a special relationship with the supernatural tend to believe themselves righteous and bound for heaven, and hence have a lower threshold for committing certain kinds of crime.
The study also asked how belief in god affected criminality and on the whole it disagrees with Zuckerman, but there are a lot of fluctuations in the data, as for the other rows. Whether those are real remains to be seen. Confounding factors are much easier to control for if you ask simple questions rather than if you try to measure many things at once, like this study did, and maybe there is some sort of selection bias going on.
Some of Zuckerman's examples are easy to check and directly contradict this study - hence at least some of the conclusions of the study must be wrong, for reasons unknown to us. (Mainly: homicides and drug use. Contrary to what the study claims, it is well established that faith in God is associated with lower drug use and more homicides. I've looked up data that measures the same variable as the study did - national crime rates - but the discrepancy remains.) But also again note that the study doesn't always ask the same questions as Zuckerman did and that may have affected the outcome. (For example, Zuckerman's discussion of prison populations cannot be compared to this study since a different variable was measured.)
On the whole, I'd say that Zuckerman's analysis still stands. The study is interesting, but I get a definite feeling that a lot of the results are best ascribed to statistical lumpiness, claims of statistical significance notwithstanding. (If I'd got a penny for every statistically significant study I've read that turned out to be bogus, I could buy myself a new computer.)

I guess fear is a efficient way to rule (2)

subanark (937286) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378449)

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.

Re:I guess fear is a efficient way to rule (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378651)

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.

Actually, The Atlantic advises that you're more likely to be killed by your furniture than by a terrorist attack in the US. [theatlantic.com]

Maybe hell is heaped high with chairs, wobbly tv sets and tables?

Marx had this one right (2)

Zaelath (2588189) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378453)

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 vigilantism... but if an armed society is a polite society then I think it follows that a society that doesn't believe you will get what's coming to you "eventually" will be a cautious society.

Re:Marx had this one right (2)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378563)

> 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".

I swear ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378457)

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

Re:I swear ... (1)

mmcxii (1707574) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378495)

But I'll never know by living, only my dying will tell.

Maybe the other way around? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378471)

Perhaps in a society where crime is common, it becomes a more relatable, human phenomenon. If criminals are more relatable--if they're just human beings who have made mistakes or been driven to desperation instead of irredeemable monsters--then perhaps people are less likely to believe in eternal punishment, or to believe that such a think would be just. Perhaps only rich, relatively crimeless societies can afford the luxury of hell, and of their own moral superiority.

Hell and the Devil (5, Interesting)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 2 years ago | (#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...

Re:Hell and the Devil (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378665)

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

Re:Hell and the Devil (1)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378867)

Abstracting from the fact that I am reading /. hm,... I'm already in hell. No need to get a ticket.

Re:Hell and the Devil (1)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378869)

Who needs to be bad? Don't most true believers hold that worshiping in the wrong church is a sufficient infraction? So just worship a couple different gods and you can still live a good and righteous without worrying about missing the party.

Re:Hell and the Devil (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378687)

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

God bought himself out of punishing us, with Jesus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378707)

Something us Christians have wrong is the notion of hell.

God's not in the punishment business anymore. He got out of that when he punished Jesus instead. Heaped all the wrath that was required for retribution of sin, on Jesus. So there's no more need for the wrath, it's been dealt.

What does exist is "outer darkness" where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is a lock from the inside because to enter heaven requires death to self-- without death to self you're carrying too much baggage: baggage that wants your way instead of doing what's best for others, that wants gratification of the desires of the flesh immediately instead of at the right time and in the right place when you can properly control them...
This baggage is what the "Rich Young Ruler" Jesus referenced is about.

Re:Hell and the Devil (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378739)

Not even a design mistake: These inconsistencies are put to good use finding out those that still have an independent mind. They are the root of all non-religion (and hence the root of all evil) after all. "slap" is far to lenient....

Correlation is not causation (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378499)

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 guilty the participants (who may all have been innocent) were. There are many flaws with that: for example, couldn't it be possible that higher crime rates drive more people to seek refuge in faith?

Re:Correlation is not causation (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378697)

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 they also believe that those within it can be ransomed out (via the "Hungry Ghosts" ceremony) or will get pardoned eventually as a result of several Buddhist deities holding a protest camp outside. But this isn't a hell in the Judeo-Christian sense for that very reason, it's not permanent**.

**But, then, some Gnostic Judeo-Christian texts talk of Jesus' "three days in Hell" as being one of a major revolution in which Hell is emptied out and closed down, permanently, so there were Judeo-Christians who believed there had BEEN a Hell but wasn't one now. That can complicate questionnaires like this, so I suppose the researchers are kinda glad most of the Gnostics got burned at the stake by various Holy Roman Emperors.

Paranoia (1)

PottedMeat (1158195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378505)

Maybe believing in a fantasy underworld just indicates paranoia which might not be conducive to being a criminal.

Huh (4, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378529)

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.

Re:Huh (3, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378723)

They were going to include Jedi, but after some hand-waving they "forgot" to.

In other words... (1)

detritus. (46421) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378545)

Of course, it doesn't take into account what happens in the criminal justice system - they make sure to get you right with Jesus/Yaweh/Allah. I refuse to believe that Buddhist countries have worse violent crime rates. What defines a crime? The moral code of the country, often built upon these religions that believe in Hell.

"I believe in two things: discipline and the Bible. Here you'll receive both. Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me. Welcome to Shawshank."

Completely Rational (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378555)

If one were absolutely committed to the belief there was no afterlife and no consequences for their actions in life beyond death then any anti-social behavior could be rationalized as calculated risk. After all, everyone dies, ethically good or bad, so with certain final outcome one could rationalize anything that improves their own individual benefit based on risk/reward. This reminds me of the Lyrics to an old Tool song:

"Consequences dictate our course of action. And it doesn't matter what's right. It's only wrong if you get caught."

And slavery.. (0)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378557)

And the slavery is pretty good at keeping down the child molester. Lets face it, in the past, no black man did abuse the kids, and there was no white collar black males criminal, lol, what a sentence. Or for the simple minded, lets enslave all the people, and thus solve the child abusing criminals.
Now now, please, who is going to give me my Nobel Prize?

The "noble lie" (4, Interesting)

jcohen (131471) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378567)

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.

Re:The "noble lie" (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378985)

Of course you'd also have to assume you know all possible effects of this lie throughout time and a moral belief system that puts those effects over any others that the lie might produce.

belief in hell (2)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378627)

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.

I doubt it because .... (4, Interesting)

giampy (592646) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378655)

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 ...

So people still have infantile world-models... (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378699)

Quite a disgrace. "Heaven" and "hell" are concepts that may be believable to children (but they should _not_ be exposed to them), but for adults to believe in them is just pathetic. Seems under all that civilization, you still find a lot of the cave-men that are governed by irrational fears.

Why cant /.ers see it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378703)

theres 2 or 3 troll posts about religion every week on slashdot, and slashdoters rise to the bait every time. boy do they know how to push your buttons.

So what? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378747)

It proves nothing of cause and effect... I would imagine that most 'god fearing' nations would also have more laws, police and prisons too, which personally id say that would be more of a deterrent than a believe in some mythical place.

How About That Devil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378759)

A Christian could easily believe that an afterlife in the warmth of God is heaven and not being allowed proximity to God is absolute death or hell. The belief that there is a power or multiple powers of evil does not always imply that as specific being has the rule over evil but that the general circumstance of this world tilts towards evil almost like the force of gravity, lacking in personal aspects. We can however perceive of a hell which is independent of Satan's rule or influence.
            Frankly I think I know people who live in hell in this world. It is sad.

religion as a police force (1)

mcguyver (589810) | more than 2 years ago | (#40378879)

Indeed some people believe religion was created as a way to police crime.

In part of the study I read on NPR, kids were put in a room and told to take a test. Half of the kids were told there was a ghost in the room. Those that thought they were being watched were less likely to cheat.

Wake me up when religion is finally dead. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40378893)

I cant wait for the concept of religion to die off and realistic people not restrained by the religious leash around their necks can run things again. So until the religious folks either decide to stop being so closed minded or they all die off then Ill be asleep in the corner.

I cant imagine how much we could accomplish is religion would just go away. Makes me sad when for instance I see something really great is done with stem cells because I realize how much more we could be doing if religious folks hadnt cock blocked it for decades. Just one of a thousand reasons why religion needs to go away.

Religious folks are the most judgemental, pretentious, smug, closed minded people you will meet in general. Not to mention religion has caused more pain, misery, death, deciet, and war than anything else ever in man kinds exsistence.

Re:Wake me up when religion is finally dead. (2)

Luke727 (547923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40379005)

I don't disagree, but even without religion people will find other reasons to hate each other.

Justice (2)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

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