Belief in heaven = more crime?

Possibly. Here’s the abstract from a paper fresh out in PLoS ONE:

Though religion has been shown to have generally positive effects on normative ‘prosocial’ behavior, recent laboratory research suggests that these effects may be driven primarily by supernatural punishment. Supernatural benevolence, on the other hand, may actually be associated with less prosocial behavior. Here, we investigate these effects at the societal level, showing that the proportion of people who believe in hell negatively predicts national crime rates whereas belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates. These effects remain after accounting for a host of covariates, and ultimately prove stronger predictors of national crime rates than economic variables such as GDP and income inequality. Expanding on laboratory research on religious prosociality, this is the first study to tie religious beliefs to large-scale cross-national trends in pro- and anti-social behavior.

And HERE is a link to the paper.

Shariff AF, Rhemtulla M (2012) Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates. PLoS ONE 7(6): e39048. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039048

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2 Responses to Belief in heaven = more crime?

  1. mouthyb says:

    FINALLY! If I have to hear my professors say, one more time, that religion is an important focus of sociological study because it’s a predictor of social stability and a decrease in crime, I may end up running for the hills.

  2. Is crime in Sweden & Norway really greater than crime in the US and is crime in Spain really less than crime in the US? I could see how the former might happen if Sweden & Norway had greater property crimes but then I would expect Spain to come above the other three countries.

    If you pick & choose what counts as a crime you might be able to get a variety of results.