University of Oregon Professor Azim Shariff and University of Kansas Professor Mijke Rhemtulla published an interesting study in the scientific journal PloS One finding that people who believe in heaven are more likely to commit a crime. It appears that the promise of fire and brimstone of hell is a far greater motivator for good conduct than the harps and cherubs of Heaven.
The study also found that people who believe in hell are less likely to commit a crime. A curious contrast. The data base for the study is huge — the professors collected data from surveys conducted between 1981 until 2007 with 143,197 participants in 67 countries.
The conclusion appears to be a bit of an extrapolation. It appears not based on individual accounts and actions but the comparison of national beliefs with national crime statistics. They compared the beliefs in these countries with data for homicides, robberies, rapes, kidnappings, assaults, thefts, auto thefts, drug crimes, burglaries and human trafficking. I was a bit skeptical about such an extrapolation since countries can have a myriad of different collateral influences. However, the professors do take these variables into consideration in reaching their intriguing conclusion:
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.
However, there were individual behavior studies that were considered. In one such test, participants were allowed to pay themselves where there was a correct amount known to the participant. Those who believed in heaven on average took more money than they were entitled to. “Participants in the punishing God and both human conditions overpaid themselves less than 50 cents more than what they deserved for their anagrams, and did not statistically differ from the neutral condition, those who wrote about a forgiving God overpaid themselves significantly more-nearly two dollars.”
The study flips the assumption of many politicians who decry the rise of atheism as threatening our social fabric. It also suggests that human are far more responsive to the notion of threats in tailoring their conduct than redemption. A vengeful God with an appetite for eternal punishment appears to concentrate the mind more than those striving for eternal bliss.
17 thoughts on “Heaven Can Wait: Study Finds That People Who Believe In Heaven Are More Likely To Commit Crimes”
“I saw a Chevy Chase movie where a paper boy kid was chasing him around on his bicycle demanding “I want my two dollars!” Meanwhile, grandma was strapped to the roof of the car. The kid didn’t get his two dollars. Then grandma got lost in the shuffle somehow.”
It is easier to train robots and ego fulfilling clones if you threaten them with eternal hell. The alternative would be to raise them responsibly and as free thinkers, facing the end of life as the END, as in all done.
I was programmed to fear the end of life. I was programmed to accept good people go to heaven. Its warm and fuzzy, easily teachable and accepted by youth. Very similar to Santa Claus, what child does not want Santa. My conspiracy theory is this, My catholic faith made me fear death, my catholic faith convinced me if I remained a good catholic I had nothing to fear about death. HUH ! No wonder they have been around 2000 years. I broke away gradually, I have been soul alone in the deep dark of 3 am. wrestling my egos end surrender, to nothing. It’s difficult to walk into the light of Reality when it has been covered by soothing lies fed from the breast, and air with every breath.
. .NON ——-no existence
.. .NON NON ——-all existence
.. .. NON NON NON ——-no existence
Make hay while the NON NON shines, nothing ever shines ever, before or after. That’s it… Two letters one word. We are all tween the ends.
The best lesson found by me in an atheistic philosophy, everything is valuable, everything is worthy, all life precious. I believe one needs a just God to justify Hate, to justify Killing on a massive scale. It can be argued that God is a justification for war. You may substitute sacred unifying belief for the god word if you want to get picky AND rational. One man kills for ego, an entire nation kills for the sacred.
To me the only sacred thing is life, and the continuation of nature, which is the womb of life. If we humans screw up, nature will replace us.
.. de Gaulle said “the cemeteries are full of indispensable men”.
The Earth is full of indispensable species …that have been dispensed with. We ain’t as great as we think.
At the end of this song a choice appears of 6 others, I suggest sampling Mississippi God damn, I am 57 Ms.Simone was before my awareness, do any of the not quite as youthful as I posters here have any memory of her?
The G.D. song seems to have a quite powerful radicalism in it for 1963.
BarkinDog 1, June 25, 2012 at 8:40 am
Why is it that those who believe in heaven and hell promote and advocate the death penalty. Thou Shalt Not Kill.
Because, as anon and Frankly have explained, the law applies to “Thou” but not to exceptional people in the box.
Most bullies believe in heaven enough to be dick heads about linking to the outside world.
But not anon and Frankly, because they are prophylactic tolerant birthers who declare that enlightenment is the propaganda of links to other places.
CLH, maybe, but what about Leviticus 18:22? That still seems to be very popular.
Tony C- I agree, re your response to Barkin Dog, that televangelists are the very image of a modern major reprobate. They’re kinda nuts, and don’t believe, even for a moment, the bullstuff they spout.
However, I would like to point out (for those who might not have been raised among a bunch of religious fanatics) that most christians hold that the commands in the Old Testament are not binding, as they were superseded by the New Testament. Or rather, they believe the New Testament is the current controlling precedent. And they still advocate the death penalty, despite the example set by their deity of sacrificing himself rather than smiting his enemies. Hmmmm…..
“Participants in the punishing God and both human conditions overpaid themselves less than 50 cents more than what they deserved for their anagrams, and did not statistically differ from the neutral condition, those who wrote about a forgiving God overpaid themselves significantly more-nearly two dollars.”
I saw a Chevy Chase movie where a paper boy kid was chasing him around on his bicycle demanding “I want my two dollars!” Meanwhile, grandma was strapped to the roof of the car. The kid didn’t get his two dollars. Then grandma got lost in the shuffle somehow.
Correlation is not causation. http://xkcd.com/552/
science is also largely not Science until it has been repeated, tested, cited.
That said, in the words of my dad, “Don’t wait until someone is dead and then put flowers on their grave.”
Or in the words of Penn Jillette in his essay, “There Is No God”,
… Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around…
I have to agree with Frankly that the study seemed to reach the conclusion the
Social Scientists were looking for and that with all their mathematical extrapolation to correct for bias, there were perhaps basic suppositions that rendered them merely interesting arguments. I personally believe that many criminals are merely desperate and/or stupid. May con-men and cheaters on the other hand are merely people somewhere on the scale of sociopathy. In either event fear of eternal punishment/reward are merely comforting concepts, to which lip service is give, but play very small roles in the decision to behave in an unethical and/or amoral manner.
@BarkinDog: Why is it that those who believe in heaven and hell promote and advocate the death penalty.
The Bible calls for it, even in non-murder cases. Read your Old Testament; a child that disobeys their father shall be put to death. Any person that works on the Sabbath, whether an adherent of the faith or not, shall be immediately put to death by stoning; Moses has a stranger captured and stoned to death for gathering sticks for firewood on the Sabbath.
The Bible instructs its disciples that physical punishment, and sometimes death, are the price of disobedience and sin. The death penalty for murder is justified by the Old Testament. And, BTW, Christians are no different; some of the first words out of Jesus in the New Testament is his claim that he does not come to change one jot or tittle (tiny marks on letters made in Hebrew script) of the Old Testament law, and disobeying it will result in damnation.
Putting people to death for sin is not a damnable offense for a devout adherent of the Bible, not even for the killers of abortion doctors. For the devout adherents, and I have heard them say this myself, God’s law supersedes Man’s law.
I am an atheist, btw, I don’t believe any of this crap, I am just answering your question. Anybody that believes the Bible is infallible believes the death penalty is a just sentence for somebody that is truly guilty of murder. Or guilty of gathering sticks for a camp fire on the Sabbath.
Arthur: I believe most of those televangelists are hedonistic sociopaths exploiting religion for the free money and adulation they receive.
Why is it that those who believe in heaven and hell promote and advocate the death penalty. Thou Shalt Not Kill. There aint no exception for those in Texas and even the Sears Roebuck Bible does not have some exception written in which says: Y’all can.
Given the level of data he had to work with and the bits I have been able to read about this work it appears the professors got the conclusion they wanted. This is not scientific research they did, it is a mockery of the scientific method and furthers the degradation of real science in the population at large.
Why am I not surprised…….
IF this is the case, then why is it that the fire and brimstone preachers are among the worst malefactors? It seems that the televagnelists big wigs who are all playing around, KNOW that God is watching, yet they keep on doing their bad actions. That tells me that either they do not believe in God, or Hell or that they have a get out of jail card in forgiveness on the part of God.
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