Friday, June 22, 2012

Lucia A belief in Hell leads to less crime

I'm not surprised that societies that believe in eternal punishment have lower crime rates. For then what you do while alive is not just a matter of getting away with it, because there's no escaping Divine Judgement.

The study, appearing in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, found that criminal activity is higher in societies where people’s religious beliefs contain a strong punitive component than in places where religious beliefs are more benevolent. A country where many more people believe in heaven than in hell, for example, is likely to have a much higher crime rate than one where these beliefs are about equal. The finding surfaced from a comprehensive analysis of 26 years of data involving 143,197 people in 67 countries.

“The key finding is that, controlling for each other, a nation’s rate of belief in hell predicts lower crime rates, but the nation’s rate of belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates, and these are strong effects,” said Azim F. Shariff, professor of psychology and director of the Culture and Morality Lab at the UO. “I think it’s an important clue about the differential effects of supernatural punishment and supernatural benevolence. The finding is consistent with controlled research we’ve done in the lab, but here shows a powerful ‘real world’ effect on something that really affects people—crime.”

Last year, in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, Shariff reported that undergraduate students were more likely to cheat when they believe in a forgiving God than a punishing God.

I believe in both Heaven and Hell, and a forgiving God, who can only forgive when forgiveness is asked. If it's not asked for, then He has no choice but to be a punishing God, because justice demands it.

To be certain of forgiveness, a person must confess their sins to a priest. There's nothing like it to make you feel* totally clean, and like a totally new person.  Especially if your sins have been weighing you down over the years.  After confessing completely, it's far less likely that a person will offend as gravely again.

Related link: Study: Belief in Hell is associated with reduced crime

*Feeling that you are forgiven is not necessary.  For God gave us the Sacrament so we would know that we are forgiven, especially as feelings can be deceptive.  However, feelings can be given as a gift, and some are just amazing.  While as at most other times, no feeling what so ever.

16 comment(s):

Jeremy Harris said...

Evangelical forgiveness is quite different. It must be asked directly from God via Chirst's act on the cross.

By praying for forgiveness and using Chirst's name you know you are forgiven.

Lucia Maria said...

Hi Jeremy,

Is that something that people are encouraged to do often?

Jeremy Harris said...

There is no doctrine a'la Catholic Confession.

However each Sunday at the end of the Sermon the pastor will do an alter call, and with those that go forward we all say the Sinner's prayer, which includes a request for forgiveness via Christ's act on the cross.

I also try to do it every day, while giving thanks for creation.

Jeremy Harris said...

I think I've mentioned to you before that I've been to Confession before. I think it's a great thing and all Churches should adopt it. Talking to another Christian completely openly about sin and not being judged is a humbling and freeing thing.

Lucia Maria said...


Yes you have. Just make sure you tell the priest each time that you aren't Catholic, but that you'd like to talk about your sins. :)

Jeremy Harris said...

Ha ha, yes I did. I haven't been for a while. A friend and I from my Church have each other on speed dial.

I really don't seem to get the Catholic/Protestant divide, a think confession is excellent, and a framework for new Christians to pray such as the Liturgy of the Hours is something non-Catholic Churches should adopt. Having a canon of arguments from Christian thinkers over a couple of thousand years is a great tool, all Christians should access.

While I think the Catholic belief of essentially having a go-between between us and God via the Church is limiting. No human or human instiution is infallible, Churches included. The Priesthood seems to be problematic. And a regimented system of worship like Mass seems counter to the freedom and joy of personally knowing Christ. In summary while tradition can be good, Jesus was not about "religion."

On the original post, it simply is common sense. Atheists talk about how great the world will be when we embrace "science" and throw off silly superstitions, but even if you were an atheist, would you rather live in a society where no one believed in consequence beyond the law for actions, or one where the majority of the population believed a "Privaleged Observer" was capable of watching your every action and holding you to account?

Lucia Maria said...


I've never been a Protestant, so I can really explain the difference from personal experience. But from everything I've read from Protestant converts to Catholicism, is that being Catholic allows them to believe just about everything they already believe and more, much more. The Catholic Church is like a Tardis, much bigger on the inside than the outside, and that last bit has definitely been my experience.

Before I came back to the Church, I used to believe that there was no need for a go-between between me and spirituality. But when I came back in, I found that go-between invaluable. My first Confession back on a Saturday morning was pretty simple. But afterwards was out of this world - I felt physically wet, like I had been dipped in water, for the entire weekend. I felt incredible peace and quiet and had no desire to talk. Never experienced anything like that since.

The Church is infallible, that was the promise that Christ gave Peter, that the gate of Hell would not prevail against her. 2000 years of existence can't be wrong.

And the Priesthood is the only way that Our Lord allows Himself to be fully present on earth. I've freaked out other commenters that I believe that He is truly present in the Eucharist, that it isn't just a symbol. Mass is how He makes Himself present. It's a participation in Heavenly Worship.

Anyway, there are a number of blogs on my sidebar written by converts from Protestanism: The Maccabean, Insight Scoop, Defenders of the Catholic Faith, St Joseph's Vanguard, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, Standing on My Head, Canterbury Tales. They would be better at talking more directly to the Protestant mind and heart than me! :)

Andrei said...

Don't believe that study - from the get go the Nordic countries are pretty much crime free and they are liberal Christians if they are Christians at all and libbie Christians don't do the hell thing.

One of the authors would appear to have a Muslim heritage, I smell a rat

Andrei said...

Do you confess to a priest?

Strictly speaking I think you confess to God with the priest being the witness who can then grant absolution

Jeremy Harris said...

That's what I've been referring to Andrei. I don't understand why the Priest is required? Christ has reconciled us to God, we can confess to Him, other Christians can confessed to but from the New Testament it hardly seems necessary.

Jeremy Harris said...

*can be confessed to

Andrei said...

It's a Holy Mystery or Sacrament, Jeremy - the Priest has the power to grant absolution.

John 20:23

Whosoever's sins you remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever's sins you retain, they are retained.

Jeremy Harris said...

I don't see how that verse specifies Priest, solely other Christians who then offer the sins up to God.

The Contrarian said...

Yet around 80% of the US prison population are religious.

ZenTiger said...

Fair point.

One could almost conclude the progressives are delibertely persecuting and locking up religious people :)

America is notable in that it has the highest incarceration rates in the world (then Russia, Canada and China)

The reasons behind such high rates is it's focus on drugs, and also the focus on the black and hispanic communities - both more notably religious than the mainstream white middle class.

80% of young African Americans now have criminal records, and black women are disproportionately arrested and jailed for drug use over white women, even though the use rates are about the same.

Half the prison population are there for non-violent crimes.

It appears that there might be more going on there than meets the eye.

ZenTiger said...

Back to the topic though, a very important distinction to make:

The post suggests that those who believe in hell are leess likely to commit crime, not those who are merely Christian, as there are many flavours of Christian, and some insist there is no hell, and everyone gets forgiven. Some think there is a hell, but that's reserved for Hitler and Stalin, and they get off for less minor sins, which is not how it works at all (according to Catholic belief)

A better understanding of hell might help Christians.

I'd also add the atheist views Hell as a scare tactic and treats it as such. It can also be considered a fair warning - like being told asbestos panels are dangerous to be installed in their homes.

"Oh, is the invisible asbestos monster going to kill me?"

Err, yes. I advise against running across the road blind folded too, BTW.

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