Religion and Crime: Is There a Correlation?

With secularism on the rise in the U.S. several studies for and against religion have flooded the airwaves.


Some people say that an unaffiliated person would be more likely to commit a crime (as they lack moral judgement that religion provides) while others counter that a religious person is more likely to commit a crime due to religious zeal.

Are there more individuals charged with property crimes, such as robbery and theft, in states that are less religious than others?

In this infographic, we’ll investigate whether or not there is a correlation between religion and crime.

the religion and crime correlation

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The State of Religion Vs. Nones

Biblically, people who do not believe in God are “corrupt” and the doers of “abominable deeds” (Psalm 14).

  • There’s also a bit of stigma attached to lack of religious affiliation, but that seems to be dying down.
  • A reasonable conclusion could be that religious people are more morally inclined, therefore less likely to commit a crime.

According to a recent Pew Research Center Roll, being without a religion (or a ‘none’) is on the rise:

  • 20% of U.S. public is religiously unaffiliated.
  • 1 in 3 adults under 30 are religiously unaffiliated.
  • In stark contrast, only 6% of people 65% are unaffiliated.
  • 88% of those without religion stated they were not looking for a religion.

In a massive paper, Phil Zuckerman discussed 9 and 1/2 pages of studies, surveys and polls on how religion, atheism and secularism affect society.

  • The paper is called: “Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions.”
  • He concluded that, if anything, atheism and secularity affect society in a much more positive way than religion.

But Really (says a study), It’s Not About Religion.

It’s about the kind of God people believe in. A recent, comprehensive study of more than 143,000 people in 67 countries suggests that believing in a forgiving God accounts for more violent crime than an unforgiving God.

  • A higher national crime rate can be predicted for a nation that has a stronger belief in heaven than it does in hell.
  • The study itself labels its findings correlative, but the patters of results- lower and higher rates of crime based on a belief in heaven or hell- may be causal.

But You’re Probably Wondering…

Does religion contribute to a less peaceful culture in the US?

Most Religious States:

  • Mississippi – 59%
  • Utah – 57%
  • Alabama – 56%
  • Louisiana – 54%
  • South Carolina – 54%
  • Arkansas – 54%
  • Tennessee – 52%
  • Oklahoma – 48%

Least Religious States

  • Vermont – 23%
  • New Hampshire – 23%
  • Maine – 25%
  • Massachusetts – 28%
  • Alaska – 28%
  • Nevada – 30%
  • Oregon – 30%
  • Washington – 30%
  • Connecticut – 31%
  • Rhode Island 32%
  • New York – 32%
  • District of Columbia – 32%

If the theory holds, less religious affiliation would mean more peace.

10 Most Peaceful States:

  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • Utah
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Iowa
  • Washington

Of these, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington fall into the model: less religious, more peaceful.

  • But Utah, which has the second highest percentage of very religious Americans, is more peaceful as well.

10 Least Peaceful States

  • Louisiana
  • Tennessee
  • Nevada
  • Florida
  • Alabama
  • Texas
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Maryland

Of these, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Oklahoma fall into the model: more religious, less peaceful.

  • But Nevada, which has a low percentage of very religious Americans, is one of the least peaceful states.
  • *based on the Institute of Economics and Peace Index for the U.S. in 2011.

Here’s the Thing:

  • There certainly seems to be a correlation between religious affiliation and the volume of violent crimes. For the most part, more religion seems to produce a negative effect.
  • But remember: correlation is not necessarily causation. There are many other variables that affect the rate of crime.

This infographic has been brought to you by Total Criminal Defense.


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