Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Even more on religion and crime: A reader suggested that people who have no religion and actively reject religion will be less criminal than people who have a church. (Given that I showed earlier that affiliated people are less criminal in general, the reader implies that the group with the truly high rates of illegality will be those with no church who nevertheless accept religion). The closest I could find on the GSS to a rejection of religion was a question about thinking religion is unimportant. The results look like this:

Percent of whites with no religion ever arrested

Those saying religion is unimportant 30.8 (N=65)
Those saying it is important 44.4 (N=18)

We can't have too much confidence with the small samples, but it looks like those who question religion's importance are less criminal. They are, however, still arrested at a rate much higher than the largest white religious group, Protestants (9.0%). (I analyzed whites since they are the only group large enough. There was only one year where questions were asked about both arrest and importance of religion. By the way, the numbers above are higher than for arrests for all years combined).

I suspected that high-IQ, non-religious people might have low crime rates since they have resources apart from religion to keep them law-abiding. Their numbers:

Percent of whites with no religion ever arrested

High IQ (wordsum 8-10) 21.1
Medium IQ (wordsum 5-7) 25.7
Low IQ (wordsum 1-4) 27.7

There is a little support for my idea here, but not much. Even the high IQ group is substantially more criminal than the 9% for white Protestants I mentioned above.


  1. Anonymous3:04 AM

    I suppose you're aware of that Pew study a couple of years ago that suggested the church-going Evangelical men showed the lowest rates of spousal abuse among all groups surveyed, while Evangelical men who attended infrequently showed the highest rates.

    Intellectual Pariah

  2. If we're trying to isolate the skeptics, I'm afraid that question doesn't work well at all, since importance is not the same as truth. (Religion is of great historical and sociological importance)

    I don't know if the GSS allows you to identify as an atheist (the most appropriate category for comparison with self-identified Protestant), but it does have a 'don't believe in God' option. Those who self-identify as 'no religion', and don't believe in God, a soul, or an afterlife (if those questions are included) can qualify as atheist.

    Here are my GSS/religion suggestions at GNXP.


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