What Percentage of Prisoners are Atheists? It’s a Lot Smaller Than We Ever Imagined

What percentage of prisoners are atheists?

This is an important question with serious implications. If the number is high, it lends support to the idea that atheists are immoral (***Edit***: I should’ve made clear that not all prisoners are in jail for immoral reasons, though that is certainly the stereotype). If the number is low, it might provide some proof that, indeed, atheists have their own moral compass that doesn’t involve a holy book.

For more than a decade, if you Googled this question, you were directed to one of two websites, both referring to the same information (though even that’s in dispute) given to a “Rod Swift” by Denise Golumbaski, a research analyst at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. According to them, atheists made up 0.2% of the prison population:

There were always a lot of problems with that information:

  • The percentages did not take into account prisoners whose religious affiliations were unknown or who did not respond at all.
  • The data in question is more than 15 years old. Whatever it may have represented in the past, it’s practically irrelevant now.
  • There’s no link to any official document with this data, only HTML code that has gone unverified for well over a decade.
  • The websites talking about this data aren’t unbiased. They’re clearly atheist sites trying to make atheists look good. While numbers don’t lie, without the primary documents, it’s hard to evaluate how objective this information is.
  • Golumbaski, the research analyst, no longer works at the Federal Bureau of Prisons… so we couldn’t even confirm that she did this research.
  • The Holysmoke.org website this information appears on doesn’t exactly exude credibility.
  • It has been said that the U.S. doesn’t even keep any data on the religious beliefs of inmates. Tom Flynn once wrote in Free Inquiry: “… no prison I know of has permitted researchers to catalogue inmates’ religious affiliations. No such data has been kept by any department of corrections — or if kept, no such data has been released.”

Simply put, if a pastor offered this as evidence that Christians were all-but-absent in the U.S. prison system, we’d mock the hell out of them. We’d ask for better evidence. We wouldn’t let them get away with such flimsy data.

So why, as skeptics, do we keep regurgitating this information?

As far as we know, it’s just hearsay. That’s not to say it’s wrong, only that we really don’t have a good reason to believe it other than “this guy on the Internet said so.”

But if you go online, none of that seems to matter. The 0.2% number — based off the Holysmoke.org website — pops up all over the place. Google shows more than 24,000 inbound links to the site. Plus, it seems like whenever an atheist talks about morality, this statistic inevitably comes up.

A few examples:

In a viral 2010 blog post for the Wall Street Journal, Ricky Gervais used the data to support his own atheism:

You see, growing up where I did, mums didn’t hope as high as their kids growing up to be doctors; they just hoped their kids didn’t go to jail. So bring them up believing in God and they’ll be good and law abiding. It’s a perfect system. Well, nearly. 75 percent of Americans are God-fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-fearing Christians. 10 percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists.

He repeated it again on Twitter just a couple of months ago:


In a 2009 paper published by Sociology Compass, researcher Phil Zuckerman of Pitzer College cited the data (and the Adherents website, which links back to the Holysmoke.org site) when explaining how the negative stereotypes people often have of atheists aren’t rooted in reality (PDF):

In many people’s minds — and as expressed so clearly in Psalm 14 cited at the outset of this essay — atheism is equated with lawlessness and wickedness, while religion is equated with morality and law-abiding behavior. Does social science support this position?

But when it comes to more serious or violent crimes, such as murder, there is simply no evidence suggesting that atheist and secular people are more likely to commit such crimes than religious people. After all, America’s bulging prisons are not full of atheists; according to Golumbaski (1997), only 0.2 percent of prisoners in the USA are atheists — a major underrepresentation.

The 0.2% number has also been cited in book after book after book — including Victor Stenger‘s New York Times bestseller — and op-ed pieces, all referencing the exact same data.

If the statistic is wrong, we must stop using it. But can we really confirm or deny this information?

Yes we can — and I finally have some definitive information to back it up.

Earlier this month, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Bureau of Prisons asking them about the religious makeup of prisoners. Over the weekend, to my surprise, I received a response. Not only did they have the information, they gave me a faith-by-faith breakdown:

So… what do we learn from that information?

Of the prisoners willing to give their religious affiliations (and that’s an important caveat), atheists make up 0.07% of the prison population.

Not 1%.

Not even the 0.2% we’ve been using for so long.

Atheists constitute an even smaller percentage of the prison population than we ever imagined. (That includes prisoners whose affiliations were unknown. If I used Golumbaski’s method, the number would be 0.09%.)

In addition to that, Protestants make up 28.7% of the prison population; Catholics, 24%; Muslims, 5.5%; American Indians, 3.1%. I’ve put together a bare-bones spreadsheet with these numbers here — feel free to do with that what you will.

Keep in mind that these numbers only cover prisoners who self-reported their religious identification. They don’t represent all prisoners in the system. We will likely never have perfect numbers… but neither did Rod Swift.

We’re also only talking about prisoners in the federal prison system — about 218,000 people — not all prisoners in America.

Prisoners can change religious affiliations, too. We don’t know if these numbers represent what they believed when they committed their crime(s) or what they believed after they went through some personal transformation.

Finally, it’s also important to note that 17% of prisoners reported no religious preference. They’re not necessarily atheists and may even believe in a higher power. We really don’t know. 3% were “Other” and 3.44% were “Unknown.” We can’t assume these people are atheists or Christian or anything else. However, if you combined the Atheist/No Religious Preference groups and lumped them together as “Nones,” as some sociologists do, you’d get 17% of the prison population… I’m not sure that tells you anything useful, though, because of the murkiness of the labels.

When you look at Swift’s numbers from 1997 and the information here, there are some rough similarities. Yes, the raw numbers are different (we have a lot more prisoners now!) and some of the proportions have changed, but it seems very plausible to me that Swift really was given that data by Golumbaski.

Were we wrong to quote the 0.2% number for this long? Not necessarily… but I still don’t believe we had a good foundation for that. Using a shoddy website with no verifiable information as the basis for a claim we make is the type of thing we expect from religious people. We must be better than that.

Here’s another question worth asking: How does the prisoner data compare to the religious makeup of the general population? In other words, are atheists over-presented or under-represented in prison?

If you look at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (PDF), you’ll see that self-described atheists make up 1.6% of the population. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (PDF) puts atheists at 0.7% of the population. (If those numbers seem awfully low to you, make sure you’re not confusing atheists with the ever-rising percentage of “Nones.”)

In both cases, atheists are *very* under-represented in prison and that’s heartening to see. (The proportion of Catholics in prison is about on par with their makeup in the general population, Muslims are over-represented in prison, and Protestants appear to be under-represented though you really have to look at individual denominations to get a clearer picture of what’s happening.)

Given the data we have, and acknowledging its limits, self-professed atheists constitute an even smaller percentage of prisoners than we ever thought.

For what it’s worth, I tried to get in touch with Golumbaski, the research analyst at the Federal Bureau of Prisons whose response to Swift gave us the oft-cited 0.2% number. I wanted to confirm that she actually worked at the FBP and that Swift’s information represented research she had done. While it appears she did work with the FBP at one point (she was mentioned in a 1997 paper put out by them, though the paper makes no reference to prisoners’ religious beliefs), she now works at a private law firm. I left her a message, but have not heard back.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Sven2547

    Thanks for getting this info! I’ve been trying to point out for some time that the 0.2% figure was unreliable, and we needed something more concrete.

  • Art_Vandelay

    If we were trying to figure out if religion makes people adhere to the law better, I think we have to take the nones.

    If we were trying to figure out if atheism makes people break the law more, that .07 number will work.

  • decathelite

    Good work like this is why I’m a member of the skeptic atheist community. Even when the numbers are in our favor, we’d still like to make sure they’re accurate.

  • Brian K

    The “NO PREFER” category is pretty sizable, do you know if it stands for “no preference”? There’s probably a lot of agnostics, and not-willing-to-admit-atheists in that bucket.

    • flyb

      It would certainly be handy to have some definitions with these categories. Does “no preference” mean that the prisoner selected that or could it mean no response at all? And what about the “unknown” category?

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        “No preference” does not include those that did not respond. the Stats only showed numbers of those who did respond. (See paragraph 3 from the letter sent to Hemant)

        • flyb

          Thanks. Missed that.

    • ShoeUnited

      No Preference probably indicates the segment that believes Jesus is the son of God but don’t have any other religious affiliations.

  • ORAXX

    I’ve had occasion to know a number of people who worked in corrections. They’ve all said the same thing, namely the first thing prisoners do is get ‘born again’, if they’re trying to game the system. I would certainly like to believe the tiny percentage of atheists in prison is a true reflection of the atheist community, but realistically, we cannot dismiss the possibility that prisoners simply aren’t telling the truth about religious affiliation.

    • JET

      My initial thoughts exactly. How many prisoners ‘get religion’ before they go up in front of the parole board?

      • ORAXX

        More than a few.

    • Tainda

      Exactly what I was thinking reading this.

    • Pattrsn

      I thought something similar, how many converted to make their prison life easier. Someone would have to do a study on conversions once in prison.

      That said, the study definitely does not support the contention that atheism makes a person less moral, or at least with less inhibited when it comes to committing crime. Also I think the high number of no preference, the third highest percentage, indicates that there’s a sizable number of inmates who don’t convert in general.

      • JJP

        I worked in fed prison for a very long time. Inmates report their religion long before they ever know anything about what is offered by the Chaplin. And, a small population of the inmates ever use the chapel, mostly the extremists are found there. Also, most who don’t have a religion listed that I encountered, were that way out of some sort of protest, not because they didn’t affiliate with one or the other.

    • Drew M.

      I was about to write something very similar.

    • Physicalist

      Yep. And, if the corrections officers are Christian (and how many aren’t?), you might find it worthwhile to pretend to find Jesus. Plus there are some perks to belonging to a religion: Getting to attend religious services, forming alliances, etc.

      • allein

        Getting to attend religious services

        I wouldn’t normally count that under “perks”…but then if I were in prison it might be better than the alternative.

        • sane37

          Time out of your 6×8 cell is always a perk.

        • John L

          I attended chaplain services in Officer Candidate School for the Army National Guard simply to be able to sit down in a quiet environment for a short time and get refuge from the constant mental and physical harassment. I wouldn’t do it now, but I was perfectly comfortable with my decision at the time.

          • cheesypoofs

            I did the same thing! Except I church hopped every week ;) My favorite was the Wicca kids, just sat in the grass under a tree for a few hours. However when I said I was not religious the first Sunday I was told to either go to a service or clean the barracks :/

    • Anymouse

      What? Christian prisoners might be bearing false witness?

      • Thalfon

        It’s more like not-necessarily-Christian prisoners are trying to look Christian (or extra-Christian) because the system is skewed in favour of people who buy into the Christianity schtick. I don’t know that we should necessarily blame those trying to game the system when the system is set up specifically to be gamed in this way.

    • Talia

      If they’re self-reporting, then there’s no value in lying about it. If they were trying to game the system, it would be far more convincing to claim atheism when stating your “religion” and then have a fake conversion in the time before you were to meet the parole board.

      • ORAXX

        There may be no way to accurately test this.

    • Epinephrine

      Glad someone brought this up; non-theists of various stripes claiming Christianity in order to get benefits is certainly possible, and in that atmosphere claiming to be an atheist may not be the safest choice, with atheists possibly simply stating they have no religious preference to avoid persecution.
      I would use statistics like these only with great care – they’re not comparable to other surveys, as the populations, methods, and motivations involved are likely very different.

    • judyt00

      those stats are taken from the prison admission questionaire. doesn’t matter what they change to, that was the religious affiliation of the prisoners when they entered

    • Mark Benford

      Of course, these pressures exist outside of prison, as well. How many people self-report religious affiliation in our society (or even go through the motions of observance) without actually holding their stated beliefs, because their boss, customers or constituents expect them to be Christian.

      • ORAXX

        I know an awful lot of non believers who played things very close to the vest as a matter of self preservation.

    • Miranda Flemming

      I recall my pentecostal mother doing prison visits to convert them

  • the moother

    It’s not surprising in the slightest… atheist’s moral compasses are logically derived.

    Religious people, on the other hand, have their morals handed to them by liars and charlatans at the pulpit. And said liars and charlatans either get them from the worst book(s) ever written or they make them up as they go along.

    (disclaimer: there are plenty of immoral, criminal, asshole atheists too of course)

    • Blacksheep

      80% of Americans believe in God, to begin with, so you need to factor that in. I have a feeling that number is much higher among minorities, who sadly make up the bulk of the US prison population. So in many ways this is a racial / demographic issue, not just a religious one. I also have a feeling that most atheists come from groups least likely to wind up in prison anyway – namely white, middle to upper class people with college educations.

      • Mario Strada

        I think you may be right here. However, this is the federal prison system, not state penitentiaries. It would be interesting to have a socio economic picture of the federal prison population compared to the outside.

        I would think (but I have no idea) that in the fed there would be more white collar criminal and other higher level inmates.

        It certainly would be interesting to have a 50 state study of religious affiliation in state prisons.

        • goddess

          This is what I would do.

          1. I would ask the prisoner if they were innocent. (That would tell me a great deal about his sincerity).

          2. I would ask the prisoner the name of the Church (or temple or Mosque) they frequented.

          3. I would confirm with the Church, or temple or Mosque if the information was accurate.

          4. I would ask them how often they went to service.

          5. I would then ask them questions about their faith. Do they know it or not?

          OF course, if someone is interested in scientific research. This blog confirms my suspicions. He is a parrot for his cause.

          • Ibis3

            Um. I guess you didn’t notice that Hemant wasn’t doing research. He just filed a FOIA request. The authorities keeping the data weren’t doing a survey, just collecting self-reported affiliations of federal prisoners.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            believe it or not, even two people sitting in the same religious ceremony don’t agree on “what their religion is.” you see this all the time with xtians, but pretty much all religious people do it. this is a more modern age; no one has the legal or even philosophical right to tell someone else how define a faith or belief system.

            we’re talking about stuff that is made up, invisible, and not real. trying to impose a “scientific” standard is almost silly. sure, there are other ways to collect this data, but in the end, self ID is actually probably one of the more reliables ones. i agree that the answers could be more detailed. as in “and what does the phrase “church of christ” mean to you, exactly?”

    • WoodyTanaka

      “It’s not surprising in the slightest… atheist’s moral compasses are logically derived”

      Speak for yourself. I’ve an atheist for my entire adult life and I have never derived my morality from logic, in the main, as much as I have based it on empathy, emotions of all kinds, (from anger, hatred and fear to love, compassion and a sense of justice and fairness) and rationality, with only a spirinkling of logic included.

      • 3lemenope

        I’d go one further and say that morality is primarily a task of valuation, and so cannot be based only on logic. The secret sauce of why something matters, either in a good or a bad way, is emotion.

  • C Peterson

    We have to keep in mind the intricacies of causation and correlation.

    While I do think it likely that atheists tend to operate according to better ethical standards than religionists (not necessarily theists), I also think that they are likely to be smarter… and smarter criminals are less likely to be caught. Interpreting numbers like these is difficult.

    • Nate Frein

      Or they simply tend to come from better educated backgrounds, with more money and with more opportunities outside of crime.

      • flyb

        And better lawyers!

        • C Peterson

          I agree with both you and Nate. It is well known that higher education and higher economic status both lead to higher rates of acquittal in criminal cases. Also, the sorts of crimes that people with money and education get involved in are less likely to be prosecuted, assuming they are even detected. And certainly, the majority of imprisoned criminals had low income backgrounds.

          • Nate Frein

            And certainly, the majority of imprisoned criminals had low income backgrounds.

            And are guilty of actions that really shouldn’t involve jail time (or even be crimes, for that matter).

    • b33bl3br0x

      I agree and I don’t think it proves that non-believers are more ethical or moral. However, it does, I think, go a good way towards establishing that atheists are not as a rule, far more likely to commit crime, which is the claim being refuted by presenting the statistics.

      • letmeeatcake

        simply not being in prison does not automatically make someone a good or moral person…

        • Tracytheclown

          The fact that such a low percentage of the prison population is Atheist shows that religion does not automatically make someone a good or moral person either.

        • b33bl3br0x

          holy thread necromancy batman…

          Again, if you read precisely what I wrote…

          I agree and I don’t think it proves that non-believers are more ethical or moral. However, it does, I think, go a good way towards establishing that
          atheists are not as a rule, far more likely to commit crime, which is the claim being refuted by presenting the statistics.

          I added some emphasis in bold. Try reading it again, and this time, go for comprehension.

          There is a small group of people who claim that most (there are actually a some who claim “all”) crime is committed by non-christians and atheists. These data directly refute that claim. They also suggest that atheists may be less likely to commit crime*. That’s pretty much all they do.

          *These data do not take into account the fact that economic stability tends to decrease a persons reliability upon religion, and likelihood to commit violent crime; People with greater economic stability also tend to be convicted of crimes at a lower rate (even if they commit them at a commensurate rate), and thus one could argue that a decrease in representation of atheists from the population at large may be expected based upon our justice system. I don’t know how one would control for that.

          ::Language edited to correct for the fact that the word data is the plural.::

    • Spuddie

      It also could be fewer “jailhouse conversions”.

      Joining some religions in prison confers some benefits in prison such as protection of being part of a given “tribe”, possible lower likelihood of being molested, increased perceived credibility at parole hearings, or better food (like kosher or halal meals)

      • C Peterson

        It really says a lot for religion when you have to join the Christians to get protection from the Muslims, or vice versa!

        • Spuddie

          There are a lot of things people do in prison that they would not usually do “on the outside”.

    • The Captain

      Also I expanded in another post, not all things that are “criminal” are “immoral”.

      • C Peterson

        And not all things that are immoral are criminal.

    • Anonymous

      Assuming someone is smarter based on belief or disbelief in and of itself is… not very smart. Logic is one thing, being able to apply knowledge or “being smart” is another.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I totally *love* how Hemant has moved from blogger to investigative journalist!

    Way cool.

  • b33bl3br0x

    FWIW, I remember that the original reported statistics were supposed to have been gathered when the prisoners entered the federal corrections system as a questionaire for a period of one year.

    So the data represented affiliations when entering the system and reflected nothing about people who were already in the system before they implemented the questionaire.

    The new data may carry the same caveat, and be valid for a similar time span, and only as of entering the prison system.

  • BrandonUB

    Thanks for putting in the effort to collect, aggregate, and post the numbers. Much appreciated!

  • Rain

    Well you know what they say about statistics. There are statistics, damn lying statistics, dammit stop lying you damn statistics, and damn stop your damn lying you lying damn statistics you. (I forget who it was who said that.)

    • allein

      This sentence seems to have gotten longer since the last time I saw you post it… ;-)

    • Mario Strada

      The phrase is actually :
      “There are Lies, damned lies, and statistics”

      Mark Twain used it but it’s possible it wasn’t his.

      • Rain

        Thanks I knew there was a “damn” in there somewhere.

    • PoodleSheep

      5 yard penalty for horribly butchering a good quote.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Wow.
    Thank you, Hemant for being so conscientious in applying skepticism to those old assumed numbers and their questionable source. We must be just as skeptical about claims that seem to favor us as claims that seem to disfavor us.

    And thank you doubly for your effort to find more credible and reliable information. I hope that this can quickly replace the entrenched dubious data in all those books, articles and internet remarks that you cited.

    • Smiles

      Funny how you don’t see Joe Klein backing up “factual” claims.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        It’s entirely possible that Richard has managed to accidentally* meme** himself instead of the intended target.

        *Yeah right. Self-worshipping atheists. :P

        **YES THAT IS A VERB NOW

        • Smiles

          lol, I mean it only to help in the effort. …that, and I have a need for consistency. :-)

    • John Gills

      Thank you Hemant and thank you Richard. One of my mottos is “Trust your heart, but check it out – even if it hurts!” It’s nice that this didn’t hurt, and also provided positive reinforcement for the atheist position.

    • HollowGolem

      We must be ESPECIALLY skeptical of claims that seem to favor us. That’s how you fight confirmation bias.

  • Godless

    Again, Hemant, you play the interpretation game when it comes to statistics. Let me advise you for a moment. People who profess to be religious are not necessarily people who are religious. Actions speak louder than words, correct?
    And so, what I would have liked to have seen added from your Freedom of Information request is how many of them profess their innocence as well as their religion. UNDERSTAND HEMANT???
    You’re good, but not that good. Go ahead and continue to deceive your audience.

    • Pattrsn

      Thanks for the desperate rant Gd, Always good to have a bit of crazed straw grabbing to liven up the comments.

      • Godless

        Of course. You must think that they would have professed their guilt as well, correct??
        I guarantee you, 99% would have professed their innocence. You swallow this bull as easily as it is delivered.

        • Pattrsn

          You can guarantee can you Gd? Well Gd’s word’s good enough for me.

          • Godless

            Yes. See how gullible you are?

            • Godless

              Oh, I got a frowny face. Did you think I expected a reply that was intelligent?

              • Pattrsn

                Are you talking to yourself now.

                • Godless

                  You haven’t supplied an argument yet, except ad hominem. That is, “against the person,” not the logic.

                • Pattrsn

                  I tell you what, if you can make an actual logical argument or evidence, instead of just a bunch of rants based on wild supposition intersped with insults then maybe I’ll respond instead of just making fun of you.

                • Goddess

                  So then, like a good teacher, tell me what my mistake is? Please, I’m waiting.

                  Hemant requests information of religious affiliations for prisoners, correct?

                  He takes the data without doing any further research into whether or not the prisoners have supplied truthful statements.

                  Again, these are the same individuals that would claim that they are innocent as well.

                  Hemant takes this information at its face value. I have no doubt that the bureau furnished what they had. I doubt the prisoners. I doubt them because I doubt their understanding of the religion they claim to subscribe to. I doubt their participation (if any) in the religion they subscribe to. I doubt their sincerity in seeking to have “converted” while in prison.

                  Nothing is supplied and this parrot simply reports the data as if it were sufficient for his conclusions.

                  these are my arguments.

                • aaa

                  -I doubt the prisoners.-

                  What benefit would it be to the prisoners to lie here?

                  -I doubt them because I doubt their understanding of the religion they claim to subscribe to. I doubt their participation (if any) in the religion they subscribe to.-

                  No true scotsman?

                • goddess

                  The doubts can easily be answered by the information supplied by the prisoner.
                  You have no idea what the logical fallacy means. You should google it again.

                • goddess

                  What benefit would it be to the prisoners to lie here?
                  Don’t you know that Christianity is associated with “conversion”. that is, of turning your life over and starting again?
                  In many parts of the country, religion looks good to a parole board.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Thank you for admitting that Christianity is a gateway to immoral behavior. First comes lying to parole boards, then sex, then dancing.

                • Mario Strada

                  Are you “Godless” or Goddess”? I think your trolling accounts are getting mixed up.

                  You should really manage your trolling better.

                • Edmond

                  Since when has a lack of understanding of one’s chosen religion been an impediment for one to claim to be an adherent of that religion?

                • qwerty

                  Impediment? It’s a strength for most of them. If most of them sat back and looked at what they thought they believed, they would probably be surprised.

                • goddess

                  You have a point. But for someone to claim to be someone or something is not simply a problem limited to religion. Therefore, to use your own words: the term adherent would mean nothing. Hence, this data is meaningless.

                • Pattrsn

                  He takes the data without doing any further research into whether or not the prisoners have supplied truthful statements.

                  Probably because that would be absurd. I’m sure we can assume that some aren’t telling the truth, but we could easily assume that Christians are pretending to be atheists as assume that atheists are pretending to be Christian. So perhaps there are no atheists in prison?

                  Again, these are the same individuals that would claim that they are innocent as well.

                  Really? Lets see, according to the Global Registry of Claims of Innocence, 15% of American inmates claim innocence, a bit lower than your claim of 99%. And if you consider that the American Justice system is far from perfect the 15% figure might not be far off the truth.

                  . I doubt the prisoners. I doubt them because I doubt their understanding of the religion they claim to subscribe to. I doubt their participation (if any) in the religion they subscribe to.

                  Again this is just wild supposition, you’ve given no reason for your doubts, and no evidence to support them. This is also a beautiful example of the logical fallacy known as the “No True Scotsman”.

                  Nothing is supplied and this parrot simply reports the data as if it were sufficient for his conclusions.

                  This parrot? Logical fallacy number two “Ad Hominem”

                  these are my arguments

                  This is what I was referring to earlier, since you don’t actually have any argument beyond a couple of logical fallacies and unsupported suppositions, why would you expect anyone to take you seriously.

    • Edmond

      Why don’t you consider filing your OWN Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Bureau of Prisons? Then YOU can request the information which Hemant failed to do to satisfy you.

      • goddless

        Why should I request any information. Hemant is the one that requested it and then published this silly pitiful excuse of a serious interest in searching for the truth.

        If his “research” was so valid and so conclusive, then he should try to publish this in a scientific journal (maybe the journal of the APA).
        I would like to see the letter that he receives from them. I would hope he would publish it.
        He knows that his conclusions are the same monkey science that Nazis used to show the results they wanted to see.

        • Edmond

          Because if you request your own information, then you can show how you think it should be handled. You could show that it CAN be handled in the way you prefer.
          The above info was collected on well over 200,000 inmates. It’s probably simple enough to collect info on their religious affliliation through polls or surveys, but what you’re asking for are the PLEAS entered by each individual.
          I’m sure we could collect the national statistics on the ratios of guilty-to-not-guilty pleas, and apply them to the above groupings. But knowing the national average is not going to give us the actual distributions per religious group. This info would have to be collected together with the religious data. Call me crazy, but I think most prisons only care about the verdict, not the plea.
          You’re right to put the word “research” in quotes. This is not scientific. It isn’t complete enough to be published. It simply isn’t science (and so it certainly isn’t Nazi “monkey” science). Hemant gave many caveats to help view this data in proper persective (it’s based on self-reported data, prisoners can change religions at any time, only federal prisonsers, etc). He never claimed it was rock-solid evidence of anything. It’s only intended to be useful and informative, as long as we keep the limitations in mind.

    • Mario Strada

      Are you insane? Why would the bureau of Prison even keep that data? The only data they may have would be what these prisoners plead in court, which is meaningless since it is usually a legal maneuver.

      If you start going around the prison and ask each inmate if they are guilty or not, guess what you are going to get: 99% innocent.

      For the intents of this exercise, you have to assume they are all guilty because they are in PRISON. Surely some of them are innocent but self reporting of guilt or innocence is preposterous in prison and makes no sense here because the question we are trying to answer is not “How many innocent (or guilty) people are Christian”. We are trying to answer “how religions are represented in federal prison”. Their claimed innocence or guilt is irrelevant because it is unknowable.

      The best you may be able to do is to search for some statistics as to how many prisoners have been found innocient after being convicted and apply that to the data.

      Good luck matching that with their religious affiliation though.

      It’s insanity.

      • Godless

        Mario Strada: “The only data they may have would be what these prisoners plead in court.”
        Wow! How smart. So, we would have that data, correct?
        What does that data show? That they are honest? That they are clever?
        Religious conversion in prison has been used by prisoners as a “show” to convince others that they are new men, new women and there is an association, like it or not, with Christianity and with “conversion.”
        Must I go on? Must I spell things out more clearly? Or can you now interpolate between the points.

        • Mario Strada

          Please explain the methodology you would use to gather that data you think is so important. Or shut up.

          • goddess

            This is what I would do.

            1. I would ask the prisoner if they were innocent. (That would tell me a great deal about his sincerity).

            2. I would ask the prisoner the name of the Church (or temple or Mosque) they frequented.

            3. I would confirm with the Church, or temple or Mosque if the information was accurate.

            4. I would ask them how often they went to service.

            5. I would then ask them questions about their faith. Do they know it or not?

            OF course, if someone is interested in scientific research. This blog confirms my suspicions. He is a parrot for his cause.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              That would be a pretty good study. Do you have any idea how hard it would be to actually do? IRB approval, writing and rewriting questions, then coding and collating the thousands (and you would need thousands) of results. There’s a reason professors have grad students (plural, lots) do all that.

              So you have a lot of work ahead of you. Chop chop!

              • goddess

                Oh, Feminerd. I’m not the one that published these bogus results. If Hemant wants to draw the conclusions he made from his silly little pathetic “research” then he should be held accountable, rather than applauded and then told to let someone else do it for him.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  How are they bogus results? He filed a FOIA request, understood and wrote about the limits of his data set, and posted what he got. We generally assume people don’t lie on this sort of anonymous survey, because in the past when we have double-checked, people usually don’t lie, so we don’t double-check everything.

                  You have a lot of social science/polling study in front of you if this is your best argument against it. You don’t like the results so you argue they’re bogus because … he didn’t write his own survey instead of using freely available data? You want him to reinvent the wheel?

                • Matt D

                  How are they bogus results, “goddess”?

              • 3lemenope

                You were being very nice. As far as I can tell it would be a nearly useless study.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Well, it wouldn’t tell us anything new. It would be useful for goddess’s own edification though!

            • 3lemenope

              1. I would ask the prisoner if they were innocent. (That would tell me a great deal about his sincerity).

              Actually, it would tell you nothing about their sincerity, since you don’t actually know whether they did what they were convicted of doing (or are you under the impression that only guilty people get sent to prison?), and you don’t know how sincerity in regards to reporting guilt or innocence correlates with the qualitatively different matter of sincerity in self-report of religious affiliation.

              2. I would ask the prisoner the name of the Church (or temple or Mosque) they frequented.

              3. I would confirm with the Church, or temple or Mosque if the information was accurate.

              And if the church or mosque refuses?

              4. I would ask them how often they went to service.

              Why do you believe that sincerity of belief correlates with a higher quantity of service attendance?

              5. I would then ask them questions about their faith. Do they know it or not?

              If you actually went ahead and applied this particular criteria, you’ll find that nearly nobody is a theist. Religious knowledge among the religious is abysmal. It doesn’t make them less religious.

      • allein

        “Don’t you know everybody’s innocent in here?”

        “Only guilty man in Shawshank…”

  • Godless

    This is what you get when you pick and choose your data. Where are the psychological reports? Where is the sociological data?

    • blasphemous_kansan

      Your comment below shows a fundamental failing of what ‘statistic’ means. You do the same with ‘data’ here.

      People get to pick and choose their own data. That’s how we learn things about things. And if there’s a problem with the conclusions reached, then people get to use the same dataset, or additional datum, to debate their veracity. Do you have a problem with this particular set of data and analysis, or any additional data and/or relevant conclusions to present, other than this bizarre non-sequitur about whether or not a prisoner insists he’s innocent? What’s the point? Hemant has provided data and conclusions. You’ve provided insults and derision. How’s that working out for you? Facts work better.

      Edit: “People get to pick and choose their own data. “:
      I obviously mean this in the “What question will I try to answer today?” way, and not in the “Which conclusions will my biases allow me to accept?” way.

      • Godless

        No, there is no flaw in understanding statistics, for the purpose of statistics is not simply to come up with any conclusion, but to come up with the most reasonable conclusion.

        • blasphemous_kansan

          Thanks for the non-answer, and for ignoring every question that I had earnestly directed to you in the hopes of having a discussion. I’m sorry I wasted the time now. I’ll take this as you confirming that you can find no flaws in the current data and analysis.

          We done here?

          • Goddess

            Yes. Thank you for your straw man argument.

            • blasphemous_kansan

              Sigh. Don’t you just hate it when someone insists that they want to play chess, they invite you to a game, then they shit themselves, smear it in their hair, and insist that they’ve won?
              (analogy borrowed from another commenter)

              Have a good one.

              • Goddess

                Nice argumentation. I must hand it to you, you can shit from your ass and from your mouth.

      • Goddess

        I also forgot to ask: Where is the verification of the data? That is, a collaboration of the data. Once the government asked for their affiliation, did they then go back and verify it?
        The question I ask is no different than an atheist who would demand collaborative information before reaching a decisive conclusion.
        Hemant is a parrot. He writes about what is given to him. He is not a good investigative reporter, nor is he using sound scientific methods to ensure the data is accurate.
        He is a mouthpiece for his cause.

        • blasphemous_kansan

          Oh, now you want to have a discussion.

          Oh wait, I read your comment, and you really don’t have any questions for me. You seem to be on some little personal tirade against Hemant. I won’t humor you further.

          Peace.

          • Goddess

            I won’t humor you further = surrender or giving up.
            That’s okay. I got better things to do as well.

            • blasphemous_kansan

              I’m sure. These threads won’t troll themselves!!!
              Get to work!

              • Goddess

                You’re right. You’re not a man of your word. That’s okay. I deal with them all the time in the prisons.

                • Matt D

                  I’m sure prison is an environment you can relate to and thanks for stating you work in prisons or have experienc with them. It helps clear up your angry motivations for disagreeing with these statistics.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              Claiming a win after lots of troll feeding = being a troll.

              • goddess

                I can respond to your arguments whenever you give one. You’re just another kool aid drinker

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              Congratulations. You just pissed your pants on purpose and declared it makes you smarter than everyone who had to smell it, because you MEANT to stink.

    • RowanVT

      Psychology reports? If I go to a psychologist they’ll somehow be able to find my *true* religion or something? Is your comment an attempt at the “No True Scotsman” fallacy?

      • Godless

        No, not at all. Like a good atheist, you try to explain what someone says before asking them to explain. Good job.
        A psychologist will be able to determine someone’s sanity. A sociologist understands the role religion plays in society…and with a parole board.
        Finally, I would also include a theologian. At least they would be able to find out whether or not the prisoner has a basic understanding of the religion they profess.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      No, this is what happens when you do what you can with the data you’ve got. We’d love to have more information, but we don’t have it. So we can leave the 15 year old extremely suspect data out there, or we can move forward with something more reliable and include the necessary caveats.

      You’re welcome to go get some more data if you’d like to make the picture more clear.

      • Godless

        No, this is what you do when you don’t ask for more information: you twist and bend the information you have so that you can get the results you want.
        Thank you!

  • Michael Riley

    Doesn’t it seem a bit disingenuous to (often eagerly) claim the “nones” in other surveys as evidence of the decreasing influence of religion, while distancing yourself from them (“I’m not sure that tells you anything useful, though, because of the murkiness of the labels.”) in this case?

    • RowanVT

      Except that we’ve said in the past that the “nones” might still have people who believe in higher powers, but do not have a *religion*. The percentage of actual atheists is smaller than the percentage of ‘nones’, though we fall into that category.

    • Pattrsn

      No

  • Sprayer Bugmann

    Notice that there are NOT any Pastafarians on that list. Once you’ve been touched by His Noodley-Goodness, you never break the law. R’Amen.

    • keddaw

      That’s because smoking the holy weed is protected under the 1st Amendment otherwise you’d all be in prison!

      • The Other Weirdo

        Blasphemer! Pastafarians don’t smoke the holy weed. We snort the snort the Spaghetti of Life.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Um, ow.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Can’t we just … ingest it? Along with the Beer of Joy?

          • The Other Weirdo

            No! Our God has blessed us and demands this one thing. Surely you would not go against the word of That Which Brings Forth Pastey Joy?

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              Of course I would! All true Pastafarians know that sometimes, His Noodley Goodness just wants to fuck with us, to make sure our reasoning skills and boundaries are intact.

              • The Other Weirdo

                R’amen, sistah!

  • Jude

    “Science”?

    Is that a short form for “Christian Scientist”, or did 17 people actually list Science as their religion?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I think so, but that got me thinking, no Scientology?

      • RowanVT

        Scientologists have good lawyers.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          But they’re quick to dump members who aren’t earning them money or advancing their reputation.

          • Cafeeine

            That wouldn’t make someone change their self-reported religion. In fact, I’m aware that there are a few self-described Scientologists that don’t follow the Church proper.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              True. Some of course do, because the cult so actively, thoroughly, and spitefully ostracizes “failures” that they can’t possibly not sometimes throw out the cult in response, but there’s room for some.

              Incidentally, Google Headset Vince and Scientology for an interesting read.

              • thebigJ_A

                That was written before he got arrested for beating a hooker.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Yep. Way to piss off your fan club, Vince.

  • revyloution

    I think a relevant point is the discussion about the ‘Nones’. Many atheists are ready to embrace the fastest growing segment of the religious population as one ‘us’, even though other studies have shown a significant portion of those Nones showing a reluctance to association with atheism.

    If you are going to discount the 17% of non-affiliated inmates as ‘not true atheists’, I I think you should be honest and not count the Nones either.

    • Morva Ádám

      “17% non-affiliated inmates”?

      Unknown: 3.443%
      Other: 3,018%
      That 6.46%, tops.

      What are you talking about?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Check the “NO PREFER” line. Hemant estimated it at 17%. That isn’t the same thing as “non-affiliated”, but it’s close enough for most purposes.

        • Morva Ádám

          Oh boy, how did I miss that? Thanks for the correction.

      • revyloution

        “Finally, it’s also important to note that 17% of prisoners reported no religious preference.”

        From the article above. You should read it, quite informative.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Considering you didn’t use the actual label for the category, snarkiness isn’t warranted.

          • revyloution

            Fair enough. sorry Morva

    • Mario Strada

      That’s a valid argument. However, when I see the “nones” embraced by the atheist community is usually to show that Christianity is starting to loose its grip on society. We do consider some of the nones possible atheists but no one ever claimed they are all atheists. In fact, even the possible atheists in that group are “nones” because they self report as none. If they were ‘committed’ atheists they would self report as such.

      • 3lemenope

        Well, it may not be claimed in exactly that way, but at least lately agnostics have become the new bisexuals insofar as atheists tripping and falling over each other to claim that they don’t really exist and are just lazy/cowardly atheists, much like both the heterosexual and homosexual communities tend(ed?) to claim about bisexuals.

        So the assuming of the “nones” rides closely on the back of self-serving definitions that allow atheists to claim that all nones are “really” atheists even if they themselves don’t know it/wish to claim it.

        • Mario Strada

          That could be, but my personal impression of the “nones” is that they are mostly Deists and Apatheists (even though many of them would be hard pressed to even define either term).
          There is nothing wrong with either group, it is what they are but there are plenty of people I know that believe in god and shun organized christianity. They would be “nones”. Also there is people like my daughter, whom was brought up as an atheist but that really doesn’t give a crap one way or another. She is an atheist by definition, as she doesn’t believe in god, but would likely mark the “none” checkbox if asked.

        • Ibis3

          It’s rather problematic for you to equate the two circumstances. The argument about agnostics is merely a semantic one: that because theist and atheist are mutually exclusive categories that necessarily include everyone, agnostics are therefore a subset of atheists (i.e. if you believe that at least one god exists, you are by definition a theist; if you’re not a theist you are an atheist by definition).

          The erasure of bisexuality is about a false dichotomy and the failure to recognise that sexual orientation is a spectrum rather than a binary.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Nope, us bisexuals are STILL getting shit on from both sides.

      • revyloution

        Very true. It is nice to see Christianity loose it’s deathgrip on American culture. I just don’t see it as an enlightened revolution of thought. Look at England, and the prevalence of nonsense like astrology and homeopathy, or my home state of Oregon where we have one of the highest unvaccinated populations in the US, and a chiropractor/accupuncturist on every street corner.

        I wish we wound have a revolution of reason, but the evidence seems to point to most of humanity being scared, superstitious primates.

  • WoodyTanaka

    It looks to me that the numbers are roughly what they are in the general population, considering the limitations of the data. I don’t think they are useful for any purpose other than to debunk the notion that not having a particular religion means you will be immoral.

  • Morva Ádám

    What does “Ch Christ” mean?

    What does “Nation” mean?

    • flyb

      My guesses would be Church of Christ and Nation of Islam. But those are just guesses.

      EDIT: Looks like the longest affiliation on the list is 10 characters so they must have thought this was the best way to abbreviate the names to fit their data system.

      • Morva Ádám

        Thanks. :)

    • Stev84

      Church of Christ. Though there are several sects going by that name. I guess this means one of these:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Church_of_Christ
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churches_of_Christ

      • Morva Ádám

        Thank you.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    The thing about religious conversions in prison is that if they are statistically significant, it tells us that Christian privilege is strong enough to warrant false conversions. This means that religion loses by comparison in any case: Either Christianity is correlated with committing and being convicted of federal (and presumably state) crimes, or it is correlated with special treatment even if a felon and inmate, even at the federal level, or both.

    • Blacksheep

      “…or it is correlated with special treatment…”

      That may indeed be. But Christianity also offers something valuable to inmates, especially on the guilt and repentance front. Being in prison is most likely rock bottom for most people, and if Christianity offers peace of mind it would make sense for an inmate to embrace it.

      (as a Christian I would say it’s because God is working in their lives, as an atheist you might say it’s a placebo affect, but either way I get why a prisoner would embrace faith beyond privelege / special treatment).

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Oh no doubt some conversions are real, and of those, some unknowable percentage are part of positive changes. IIRC though, there’s data suggesting that conversions don’t make ex-cons less likely to commit further crimes. Anyone remember that?

        And course a lot of of that is related to social and economic issues outside religion. Ain’t complexity grand?

  • A3Kr0n

    Things like watermarks just piss me off, and make me forget what I’m angry about.

    • goddess

      So atheists get pissed off by watermarks. Hmmm…another intelligent subscriber.

      • RobMcCune

        A christian who draws conclusions from a single occurrence, yet constantly demands more data about everything else. Clearly not a hypocrite.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        So pissy Christian wretches are humor blind. Well, we already knew that.

  • Magicthighs

    Here’s what youtube user Desertphile, one of the contributers of holysmoke, said about this issue in a video a few years ago:

    “This evening I noticed a YouTube video by zakiechan titled “Atheist.” That video cites data I originally published in the year 1997. This no longer surprises me, since I have seen that data has been used and abused in scores of places on the Internet. The data is usually used by atheists to show that the prison population in the United States is made up mostly of Christians, with a tiny fraction of one percent of the prison population being atheists.

    If I had known the data would be misused and abused I would not have published that data.

    In brief, the history of that data is as follows. In the FidoNet message conference called HOLYSMOKE in 1997, the issue came up regarding the hypothesis that atheists commit far fewer crimes than theists; one of the people who held the contrary opinion, Jesse J., said quote “Indeed, if there were no God, I would _have_ to be selfish, I believe, because there would be no one else watching out for me, and no reason to put anyone or anything ahead of me.” His argument was that people must believe in a god or gods to be ethical, moral, and law abiding. His belief was known to be false, yet nobody in HOLYSMOKE could point to hard data showing it was false. And by the way, I would hate to be this guy’s neighbor if and when he ever abandons belief in his god.

    One HOLYSMOKE contributor, Rod S., decided to contact the Unites States Federal Bureau of Prisons and ask if there was data regarding the religious affiliations, if any, of incarcerated prisoners. Research Analyst for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Denise Golumbaski, performed a database query on 5 March 1997 that compiled that data, and mailed it to Mister S.

    Of the 96,968 prisoners in Federal facilities who reported a religion affiliation or reported they were atheists, 156 of them said they were atheists. The overwhelming majority said they were Christians.

    In 1997 I widely published the data in FidoNet, Usenet, and in two skeptic related magazines. If I recall correctly, the Bay Area Skeptics also published the data. The Freedom From Religion Foundation contacted me asking if the data was legitimate; if I recall correctly, so did Fundamentalists Anonymous. I told them all what I will say now.

    It was never my contention, nor Mister S’s, that the numbers actually mean anything. For all anyone knows, 100% of the USA Federal Prison Population is made up of atheists. Or flying saucer cult adherents. Or Branch Davidians. The only thing the data shows is that most prisoners said they were Christians: that does not mean they were.

    There are many reasons why atheist prisoners would say they are Christians: Christian prisoners in the United States are granted privileges other theists, and non-theists, are not granted. It is in atheists’ self-interest to say they are Christians.

    I should also note that this does not mean there are more atheists in USA Federal prison than 0.21 per cent: it just means that the probability there are many more is very likely”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fxudpm3MsY0

    • Gwenny Todd

      DAVID!! I have often used his data when arguing on Tribes.net and Newsvine.com.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      “The only thing the data shows is that most prisoners said they were Christians: that does not mean they were.”

      That’s a No True Scotsman if I ever saw one! Aren’t we always saying that self-identified Christians ARE Christians?

      • Magicthighs

        It’s not a No True Scotsman, he doesn’t claim they’re not Christians because True Christians don’t exhibit a certain behaviour or characteristic. What he’s saying is there are reasons why non-christian prisoners might claim to be Christians, so you can’t assume that the data are truly representative.

  • The Captain

    Wow Hemant, first off excellent job on the research! Really interesting, and frankly you did a job that someone should have done years ago, kudos to you and thanks. But this does bring up a few points that bothers me about this and why I hate the use of these statistics in any way.

    First being, why would we consider the incarceration of a person to be an indicator of their morality? This whole argument assumes that crime always equals immorality. But that’s not the case. Most people in our prison system are there on drug charges, something I for instance do not think is immoral. (I actually consider drug offenders political prisoners. Not strictly jailed for their politics, but for the political benefit of others). A jailed baptist on drug charges is no more immoral than a free atheist to me (hell they could be even better, what if the atheist is just better at crime?). Now even with the vast amount of people in our prison system being there for drug offensives, there also are the ones for whom crime was the only option left. Is a “free” atheist who walks out on a child really more “moral” than the guy who got caught holding up a store to put pampers on his kid?

    Also it begs another even bigger question, socioeconomic demographics and race. Lets face it atheism is most prominent among middle-upper middle class white people. Middle-upper middle class white people are already less likely to go to prison than most other people regardless of their religion, by a long shot. Now that’s not because of religion, it’s social economic reasons and racial bias in the justice system. Hell just the fact that most atheist are white statistically means they are less likely to actually go to jail for committing same crimes as a minority would (a minority that is statistically more religious). That right there taints the basic premiss of the no jail=morality argument.

    Most people in prison are poor and under educated, most atheist are comparatively well off and better educated. Comparing the incarceration rates between these two and using that to then make a comparison outside of education and wealth is pointless. Many minority kids are in our prison system long before the age when many middle class white kids even start to question their religious beliefs. They are already institutionalized before most atheist realize they are atheist. That points to a socioeconomic reason for the incarceration, not moral failings or religion. How can you even compare two guys in their late 20s, one being the atheist college educated middle class white guy from a good home, to the black guy who’s spent most of his time on the street due to a single parent and was first in jail at age 14 and say that the atheist is more moral?

    TLDR: Frankly our justice system is just too much of a mess to even make any comparison of morality by using it and we need to stop using any of these statistics.

    • Godless

      Yes, excellent job in the “research”…that is, asking for a piece of paper with some information on it. Is that research? I don’t remember my research being so easy when I had to defend my dissertation.
      Wow! If that’s all it took to write a research paper! Good job Captain Crook!
      Well, Hemant is a public school math teacher in a failed public school system. He should stick to calculating numbers, that is a lot easier than putting together the pieces of a puzzle.

      • The Captain

        Thanks for addressing none of my points or even showing you read anything past the first two sentences, but instead hijacking my comment so you can continue to shit up the comment section here with your personal and stupidly idiotic little crusade against Hemant.

      • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

        Wow, did Hemant kick your puppy or something?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Goooood. Let the butthurt flow through you. Soon you will be the master.

      • talkingsnake

        Not that Hemant needs me to defend him, but…

        I did a little “research” myself. He graduated with a Masters in Math Education from DePaul. I’m going to go out on a twig and say he knows what research is. And while we can all agree it is not using the Google all day, at least he took the time to file a Freedom of Information Act request and get some current data which he is trying to verify further.

        So yes, I’d say this qualifies as a bit of research.

        None of this explains why someone shit in your cornflakes this morning and caused you to put your foreskin scarf on.

        I would give anything to have someone as bright as Hemant as a teacher where my kids go to school. He is obviously a sharp guy, and yet he works for a modest wage in one of the most important jobs there is.

        But I’m glad you found a way to make yourself feel superior while at the same time being a complete douche canoe.

        Is the irony of you here yammering on Mr. Public School Math Teacher’s widely read and well respected blog with those types of comments completely lost on you? You are a buffoon.

        • The Other Weirdo

          Um. “…foreskin scarf…”? What? Just, what?

    • rwlawoffice

      Excellent post. I agree that the prisons are filled with poor and under educated people. This I believe is more of a reflection on our society and the breakdown of the family then it is on the status of the religious beliefs of those in prison.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Agreed except that ‘breakdown of the family’ can mean just about anything the speaker wants it to.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk6gOeggViw

        • rwlawoffice

          The breakdown of the family has a lot of factors but in my opinion the major one is men not living up to their responsibilities.

          As for the video, the conclusion that abortion helped the crime rate because unwanted children were killed and therefore could not commit crime is just silly. The same could be said for any statistic when you kill 50 million people.

          • Pattrsn

            Personally I think it all went wrong with the breakdown of the extended family. America went to hell when the average illusory family went from three generations to two!

    • TheG

      I’m sorry, but there is a hole in your logic. You make the assumption that religion plays no influence in socioeconomic status. I can see a strong argument that could lead to some excellent research that religion is causative, not just correlative, to a degree with socioeconomics.

    • Aurelien

      Oups, I just added a comment that mostly repeats what you said here about socio-economics. I should have read all comments before posting mine. :-/

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    As a practical matter, if I were in prison (shudder) and up for parole, I’d be claiming to be a born again Christian because parole boards seem to eat that shit up with a spoon. I certainly wouldn’t let on that I didn’t believe in superstitious nonsense. yes, it’s dishonest, but sometimes you do what you gotta do.

  • Morva Ádám

    The 2012 Win-Gallup research puts the number of atheist Americans to 5%.

  • beatonfam

    It would be interesting to ask the same question of each states prison department, combine them and compare with the overall statistics for the country. Thus comparing prison populations across the board to the nation across the board. I would also be interested in prisoners affiliations before incarceration and during. As a few others have said, how much does incarceration alter religious beliefs.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    It would be helpful if someone could convert those into percentages, then compare with frequency in the general population.

  • Keyra

    Another argument the most desperate of New atheists make. There is such a thing as in-prison conversion (especially when in front of a parole board to make themselves believe they’ll go easy on them and whatnot), also considering the fact that less atheists in the world exist compared to rest of the world population; people’s faiths and beliefs have very little-to-nothing to do with their crimes

    • phantomreader42

      If “people’s faiths and beliefs have very little-to-nothing to do with their crimes”, then why do christians keep babbling about how they’re so much more moral than everyone else, and demanding that the dogma of their sick death cult be enforced by law? Oh, yeah, because christians are lying hypocritical bigots with a lust for power.

  • Jhudstone

    It amazes me how often atheists get this wrong.

    If you want to know whether or not atheists are more immoral than others, you don’t measure what percentage of them make up the prison population, you measure what percentage of them make up the lawyer population.

    • Glasofruix

      Aren’t those usually jewish? :)

      • Jhudstone

        Possibly, but then again so is Jerry Coyne, so that may not matter.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Do the doctors get to cancel out the lawyers when it comes to ethnic moral rectitude?

      • letmeeatcake

        …someone can be jewish without practicing judaism…some jewish people are atheists…and some people claim whatever religion their parents had as if it were their ethnicity…even if they normally never give religion a second thought…

  • BenFromCA

    Very useful information, Hemant! Based on these numbers, I think I’ll avoid all Protestants and Catholics. They seem to be the most amoral of the bunch.

    • goddess

      You should probably avoid all blacks as well, for the percentage of blacks is very high in prisons.
      You see what you get from erroneous conclusions and when you don’t know how to apply data properly???
      BenFromCA…stay there please!!!!

    • Matt D

      As if their past behavior wasn’t already an indication of this.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Don’t Protestants and Catholics together make up the majority of the U.S. population?

  • loopsyel

    If we want to make the causation argument (laughable), by these numbers, we’re being beaten out strongly by the Pentecostals, as there are reportedly many more in the general public. Of course, if that what it takes to be good, count me out!

    Goodness raking by the Pew numbers (lowest to highest ratio of % in prison to % total; tossing out smaller, vague or missing groups)

    1. Pentecostal
    2. Atheist
    3. Mormon
    4. Orthodox
    5. Protestant
    6. Adventist
    7. Jehovah

    — Break Even (i.e. below affiliation goes to prison at higher percentage than population) —

    8. Catholic
    9. Church of Christ
    10. Jewish
    11. No Preference
    12. Buddhist
    13. Hindu
    14. Other
    15. Muslim

    The categories jump too much between studies. We need a unified survey to start with, even before worrying about lying prisoners.

  • Frank

    Morality is not always made into law.

    What are the number of people who covert in prison? No faith to faith.

    I’d suggest doing a little introspection as to why you feel the need to justify your unbelief. Sounds like the religion you reject actually still controls you. Very telling indeed.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      The church brainwashed me from the time I was in kindergarten until high school. Choir boy, altar boy and twice on Sundays with Thursday choir practise. That I feel the need to devote so much time to participating on atheist blogs surprises me, but perhaps it shouldn’t.

      That you feel that a person should be embarrassed by the lasting effects of forced indoctrination does not speak well of you. It’s kind of like victim blaming.

      • Frank

        I am so sorry you missed the point.

        • thebigJ_A

          Apparently so did I, so maybe you just weren’t very clear. What correlation is there between “justifying one’s unbelief”, as you sneeringly call it, and being controlled by religion.

          Many people here *were* controlled by a religion, once. Now they’re free and talking about it. In spite of efforts like yours to silence them.

          • Frank

            First of all I am not threatened in the least by people abandoning their faith. Its tragic but everyone makes their own choices in life.

            My point is why is there a need to prove that atheists are just as good or better than religious people. Reeks of insecurity and if you were honest shows the religion you reject , in some way, still has power in your life. As I said its very telling.

            People who are secure in their beliefs have nothing to prove.

            • Matt D

              Atheists do not need to prove anything, we merely react to the accusations of the religious that we aren’t “moral”, or can’t be trusted.
              Hence some of us make efforts to prove otherwise, and it seems to be quite effective, judging by your strong reaction to it. I think we need to pursue this line further, actually.

              • Frank

                As I said you are free to make your own choices. If you want to mistake my mental musings as some kind of encouragement for you, go for it. its not like it will make any difference in the end. You still will look foolish and insecure.

                • Matt D

                  Uh, I wasn’t commenting on the first sentence of your post, but the part that stated..
                  .
                  “why is there a need to prove that atheists are just as good or better than religious people”.
                  .
                  If you think calling me names and pretending you read my mind doesn’t appear foolish or insecure, that’s your own lookout. I’m done with you.

                • Frank

                  Yes run away as expected.

                • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

                  You still will look foolish and insecure.

                  But only to you so who then gives a f*&k what you think.

                • Frank

                  You seem to care.

                • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

                  And so it seems you do too. That is care enough to continue reinforcing our assertions by lobbying your objections to it

                • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

                  Actually Frank I do care. So strike out what I said, that was my emotions and vodka getting the best of me. Frank I care because you make me want to be a better Atheist. I don’t think many Atheist’s are really hurt by the things you say. Sure you catch a few off guard, admittedly I get caught up at times too, but in reality, I suspect of others and in truth for me, your trolling is cause for self improvement. Matter of fact you are one of the many reasons I am pushing myself to learn more about critical thinking and sound reasoning. Perhaps my reasons for doing that may very well be trying to find an argument that convinces you, but in the long run, I will learn from my erroneous thought processes, that you often point out, and be a better person for it. You are providing an invaluable service to, at least me and hopefully, the Atheist community. Please keep up your good works.

            • The Captain

              “My point is why is there a need to prove that atheists are just as good or better than religious people. ” because religious people go around telling everyone they can that atheist are not as good or moral as they are. It’s not “insecurity”.. it’s defending yourself from false accusations.

              • Frank

                What I hear from Christians is that God is the source of morality and without God you simple just make it as you go along and therefore morality becomes relative.

                I believe that God created everyone with an internal moral compass but without having a true north it easily gets askew.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Any gods’ decrees are the ultimate in subjective morality.

                • Rob Bos

                  That’s surprisingly generous of you. Yes, people’s moral compass need calibration from time to time. Most of us (and we would say that you, too) get it from one another, through mutual agreement and consent.

                • Frank

                  In other words a moving target. Thanks for the confirmation!

                • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

                  And you have every right to believe that. Atheism does not require a moral compass. Atheism does not even require morality to exist. Atheist’s can not claim that, their acceptance of insufficient evidence for the belief in god’s, gives them any moral truths superior to that of religion’s. We do however abide by the laws of the land and strive to live a conscientious life. By drawing upon historically acceptable ethical standards many Atheists feel they are good and just people. But yet, there are no requirements made by Atheism to live a moral life. Since, and once again I must point out Atheism is not a religion, it makes no claims of moral truths nor is a philosophical position. The only claim that Atheism makes is that “there is insufficient evidence proving the existence of gods.” Living a moral life is a conscious decision we make by our own volition.

                • Frank

                  You say “Atheism does not even require morality to exist” and yet this whole article is about the supposed superior morality of atheists. Too funny! Blind in one thing I guess means blind in many things.

                • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

                  This article is about the numbers of reported Atheists in prison which does not suggest anything about superior morality all it suggests is Atheist’s think before they act. Something you seem to be unskilled at.

                • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

                  Uhhhh, if you navigate using true north, you’ll get lost. True north only refers to the “up” on a map. You navigate with the magnetic north, which can be found on the lower marginal information on the map, by taking true north and adding o subtracting the magnetic angle from your map. Am I the only one who paid attention in land navigation class? I would accuse you of metaphor fail, but this provides me with a good jumping off point. You don’t navigate with true north, but you use it as a guide *when logic dictates it*. If it make sense with rational inquiry (I.e. when you apply the magnetic angle). If you just blindly apply true north you’ll just get your ass lost and stray into a minefield or a lake. Yes, I went all Army nerd on you, but it at least saved your tortured metaphor.

                  Atheists keep bringing up the moral question because Christians won’t keep bringing it up. It’s almost a transcendental level of trolling. State that your invisible friend is the source of all morality (and in doing so ignore its vile and immoral actions that give lie to that statement). If people don’t object, claim that it’s so obvious that their is no objection. If they do, accuse them of having to compensate for something. Heads you win. Tails we lose. Take your nonsense elsewhere.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  We just may have to keep you around.

                • Frank

                  Thanks for confirming your ignorance.

                • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

                  That’s not exactly a response. Please, go ahead and show me how I’m being ignorant. What about what I said makes me ignorant. MAKE A CASE, not a self-righteous throw-away line.

                  You know, if you can…

            • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

              Atheist’s don’t make an assertion of belief. We do however have a consensus that there is insufficient evidence proving the existence of supernatural deities at least until the theists prove otherwise.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Actually, you missed the point. It was a rebuttal by example. And it refuted your Christlike pissiness very thoroughly.

        • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

          Your right by golly! Religion does still have an influence in our lives, it is an inconvenient consequence of the times, but does that prove that we feel insecure in our assertion, absolutely not. Your claim that we are insecure and need to defend our position is a false assertion. Atheism makes no claim that it is a region nor does Atheism make any claim of truth. Atheism makes only one claim “there are no gods.” This is not a truth or a fact this is because the theists have yet to supply credible, verifiable, evidence supporting their claim that “god exists.” The lack of evidence is beginning to prove to the world that there are no supernatural deities and that theism is an untruth or a false assertion. As a result of this Atheism is becoming popular, it is gaining influence and people are becoming confident that Atheism is a valid and true position to assert. So in short; we are not defending our stance on Atheism because we feel insecure, we are defending it because we and the rest of the world are growing ever more secure in the idea that there are no gods.

    • Rob Bos

      Lacking a church, one reaches out to like-minded persons. Atheist blogs often function as ersatz support groups for the ex-religious; who else to understand what we went through?

  • eric

    Still not a fan of the whole argument. The prison system is inherenltly coercive and you just can’t trust any survey in which the prisoners might perceive one answer as more likely to lead to less jail time than another. Its not a question of whether the surveyers anonymized the data. I’m sure they did. Its a question of whether the prisoners answering the question truly believed it to be anonymous, and I bet quite a large percent didn’t think so.

    The very high feedback is a clue here. They got something like a 75-80% response rate. That’s unusual for voluntary surveys – it should be lower. So there’s some indirect indication that at least some of the respondents responded because they figured they’d get something out of cooperating – which makes their answers untrustworthy.

    • Erp

      I suspect the high feedback is due to this not being a survey but rather the religious classification of the prisoners. Those who report as Jewish might get kosher meals. Those who report as Muslim might get halal meals and different mealtimes during Ramadan. Christians might get to go to Sunday services (except 7th day adventists who have Saturday services). Those of a particular faith might get visits by a vetted volunteer minister of that faith, etc.. They may be allowed to keep certain religious items pertaining to their registered faith. If they die, a minister of the appropriate faith might be notified.

    • Rob Bos

      I would like many more upvotes to give to this post! There are some big advantages to coming out Christian in an environment like that.

  • Ibis3

    I haven’t read the comments here yet, but this stat is pretty meaningless for determining a correlation between godlessness and law-abidingness in a country where the demographics of the prison population have so much to do with race. Even the question “How does the prisoner data compare to the religious makeup of the general population?” assumes that everyone in the general population is equally liable to end up in prison given the same behaviour, which is clearly not the case. Let alone how this doesn’t take into account education, poverty, and history of family violence, things which are more likely to affect whether someone ends up on the wrong side of prison bars, than religiosity or lack thereof. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that federal prisons are not disproportionately full of atheists to a great degree.

    • alconnoly

      I totally agree. However the correlation with poverty etc is probably lower in federal than state prison. I am of the understanding, that many white collar crimes are prosecuted federally, and many more thuggish crimes tend to fall into state prosecution. Anyway hard to get beyond the grey in all this.

  • Free

    The reality is that faith is what pleases God according to scripture not morality first. According to scripture God has placed a conscience in each one of us rather believer or non believer. So, it is not surprising that an atheist has a moral compass. This is only adds validity to the wisdom of scripture and of God’s existence. It is also not surprising based on the ratios of total population in the US vs prison population. I would expect a reasonably high number of inmates being Christian due to the evangelization of the system. Whether there are true conversions is between them and God.

    • AnonyMous

      The reality is that conscience is an evolutionary adaptation according to genetic sciences and not just sociology. According to Evolutionary evidence Genetically Opportunistic Directives (GOD for short) have placed a conscience in each one of us. So, it is not surprising that an Atheist has a moral compass. This only adds validity to the wisdom of history and of evolution’s existence. It is also not surprising based on the ratios of total population in the US vs prison population. I would expect a reasonably high number of inmates being christians due to the immoral nature of their religion. Whether there are true conversions is between them and their conscience.

  • Malcolm McLean

    You measure the number of atheists in the population by sending a man round with a clipboard, stopping people in the street, and asking them to tick a box representing their religion. You measure the number of atheists in prison by asking prisoners to formally identify themselves as such for the purposes of chaplaincy.

  • evodevo

    If this is the federal prison system, the stats may be accurate. In a LOT of state and local prisons, if you don’t identify as Christian, you will be cut out of a lot of privileges, including counseling, work-release, special events, library access, TV access, etc. You have NO power as a “guest of the state”, and the guards/administration can make things difficult if they are evangelically-minded, and you are perceived as resisting the “good news”. You also don’t know how confidential the results may be on self-reporting surveys. How do you know the admin isn’t reading them/able to identify your answers, etc.? As a prisoner, you don’t.
    I also imagine a lot of the Muslim self-identification may be among black prisoners. Solidarity and relationships can keep you alive in those circumstances.

  • Mike

    Oraxx beat me to what I was going to say. As a former juvenile corrections officer, inmates who chose to attend religious services also get out of clean up duties during that time or just get a chance to see a different wall than they look at all week. I would say religiosity on prisons is likely very skewed.

    • Rob Bos

      For sure. I probably would claim to be Christian in a prison, just to avoid making waves. I hear there are some impolite people there.

  • S Cruise

    Don’t forget: Christians are sinners. Prisons – like churches – are bound to be full of them.

  • StopObama2013

    Straw man argument but I wonder why atheists feel the need to keep reminding everyone how moral they are? Guilty conscience I presume.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      You can presume all you want, but I simply get tired of people telling me I need God to have a ‘moral compass’, and furthermore that since I don’t have one, any discussion on the subject with me is a waste of time.

      Kind of like making the argument that you’re right which means the other person must be wrong, which proves you’re right.

      Q.E.D.

      • StopObama2013

        So you must be feeling rather guilty if you let what other people think of you effect you so deeply, Rich. I don’t think you’ve proved anything but I presume you think you are right.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Neither of us has proved anything. And I presume you feel more right than I do. Right?

          To put it another way, why do Christians feel the need to keep reminding everyone how amoral atheists are?

          p.s. what is it with the classic-trolling on this post? Did Hemant set out some kind of extra strong troll-bait or something?

          • StopObama2013

            Rich, why would you presume? I wasn’t attempting to prove anything and I wasn’t the one who concluded my initial post with Q.E.D. Now to answer your question, why do pigs fly? You seem like an angry atheist, why is that?

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              I’m replying because I’ve got 15 min to kill and some extra troll food in hand. Nobody is trying to prove anything. You’re just trying to poke people into getting a response. Sorry, but I’ve got an errand to run, so now’s the time for you to beat your chest and proclaim that not only do atheists feel guilty, and are angry, but are cowards too.

              Sigh. Even godlessness did a better job than that.

              • StopObama2013

                I guess an adult conversation is beyond your ability, Rich. Sorry, my mistake. Atheists are Cowards? I’m not sure of that one. Fools no doubt.

                • Rob Bos

                  Sounds like grumpy gus needs a hug.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  ok, I’m back. Naw, Brian is just giving us an example of how not to evangelize. You know, more Pharisaical and less Christ like.

            • Equiliari Silvolunaris

              “You seem like an angry atheist, why is that?”

              You are attempting to provoke, why is that?

            • phantomreader42

              You seem like a lying death cultist sack of shit, why is that?

              • Guest

                Thanks for discrediting Hemat’s post about the morals of atheists so well.

                • phantomreader42

                  Thanks for admitting that you’re functionally illiterate and too much of a coward to address anything honestly.

    • Bdole

      Are you guilt free, then?

      • StopObama2013

        Yep. I did feel guilty when I was an atheist.

        • The Captain

          Atheist do not feel guilty of being atheist. But “Guilt” is a good thing. It means a person is internally evaluating how they have treated another and if that treatment was bad. It usually leads to a changing in behavior towards others for the better. Humans that do not feel guilt are usually refereed to as psychopaths.

          • Rob Bos

            Well said. Guilt is an entirely normal emotion, and shows that you’re probably doing something wrong. I feel guilty when I hurt someone, and that shows that I need to make up for it.

        • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

          I honestly doubt you were ever an Atheist. Had you been you would know that Atheism has zero influence over emotions since Atheism is not a standard of morality or ethics.

          • StopObama2013

            LOL, then why be so concerned with having others think your moral and feel the need to broadcast your foolishness? That is what Hemat is arguing, fool. What does TBJ stand for anyway? Thoughless Brainless Jerk?

            • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

              what, you don’t know what TBJ stands for? How does it feel being ignorant?

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              Right, because you would be unconcerned if 3/4 of the population of your country was of a religion that commonly teaches that you are immoral, and had in fact crafted laws discriminating against you on that basis, that continually tried to discriminate against you even when those laws were declared unconstitutional, and whose members controlled every branch of government at every level, every agency, and every industry.

              Are you more of a terrible liar or more or a witless git?

              • StopObama2013

                Oh you poor little thing. I feel so bad for you. Need some cheese to go with that pathetically disturbed and dishonest whine?

        • Bdole

          About what?

          • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

            I think he felt guilty for leaving his theist brethren behind on the stupid bus.

          • RobMcCune

            About missing church and sleeping in that one Sunday, that made him an atheist for an entire week.

    • Rob Bos

      I believe this article was more Mehta’s desire to come to the truth of the matter. Many people have been quoting a figure of doubtful provenance, so he went out and tried to get some better ones. It’s laudable, and shows a desire to face the truth, even if the truth sucks.

      • StopObama2013

        Nothing you said, Rob, changes the fact that Mehta’s argument is a straw man. An appeal to statistics is a logical fallacy.

        • Rob Bos

          I happen to agree that the actual percentage of atheists in prison is likely to be under-reported, because there are serious advantages to declaring fealty with some established religion. I think that’s the argument you’re talking about. As for “appeal to statistics” being a logical fallacy, bollocks. If you roll a fair die a thousand times, you’ll get about 1/6th of each number, and the average value will be around 3.5. Statistics is a solid science. The numbers here are hinky, though, and biased by any number of factors.

          • StopObama2013

            If you roll dice 1000 times you could actually end up with snake eyes 1000 times, although the probability of that actually happening are low. And it is highly improbable that you would get anywhere near an 1/6 split. These statistics are faulty for the very reason you sight. These statistics also do not say anything about the overall morality of atheists, one reason being that Hemant doesn’t define the word. They may or may not say something about the prison populations self-identification.

            • Rob Bos

              Yes. Statistics predicts the exact probability with which you can get snakeyes 1,000 times, in fact. (1-5/6)^1000. Which is .. a very small number, but, as you say, non-zero. You even used the word “probability”, which shows you do in fact believe that statistics is a valid approach.

              The underlying data set is hinky, I agree, and does not, as you say, say much about the overall morality of atheists. You’re agreeing with me in a very dickish fashion.

              • Rob Bos

                I should add that it’s the very hinkiness of the original data set that motivated Mehta to go get better data. Which I respect. It makes me wonder how one COULD get good data on the subject. His approach is probably as good as it gets without expensive and time-consuming surveys.

                • StopObama2013

                  So what you’re saying, Rob, is that it okay to use hinky data as long as such statistics supports our presupposition.

                • Rob Bos

                  It’s difficult to understand where you got that conclusion. Bad data leads to bad conclusions. But acknowledging that it’s bad and asking why it’s bad, and in what way it may be biased and how to correct for it, well, that’s just sense.

              • StopObama2013

                Rob, but you can resort to ad hominem if you feel the need. The statistics in this case do not support the contention Hemat is making about them, which is my point, regardless of whether they are hinky or not. You started with the statement “I believe this article was more Mehta’s desire to come to the truth of the matter.” But he uses a false argument, so not I don’t think we’re in agreement.

                • Rob Bos

                  Cool, well, that’s fair enough, where do you think he went wrong in his reasoning?

                • StopObama2013

                  The first problem was starting with a presupposition that atheists aren’t moral because Christians say that atheists aren’t moral. I don’t know that Christians think atheists can’t be moral, and Christian scripture doesn’t teach that to be the case. Christian teaching does say that atheists are spiritually lost, which is a different state than being moral. The second problem was defining general morality based on a prison population and not offering a definition of the word moral. There is no legitimate basis for the comparison, since not all immoral people are incarcerated. The only thing this data says is that 161 atheists self-identified as atheists. Third, you need to assume that this sample of the federal prison population is representative of the general prison population across the country, in state, county and municipality prisons, and it may or may not be. Fourth, getting a “better data set” to corroborate a false argument, still prove nothing with respect to morality. I could come up with some other issues of logic but it’s late. Peace.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  So far you’ve demonstrated a lack of knowledge as to what a strawman or an ad hominem is. Going for the gold next?

                • StopObama2013

                  C.L. what’s that stand for? Clue-Less obviously.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  I’ve heard that 7 out of 10 Christians aren’t doing a good job of living out the actions nor living with attitudes of Jesus. Only 14% or about 1 in 7 exemplify both attributes. The majority of believers tend toward the Pharisaical, demonstrating an unloving attitude and uncaring in their actions toward a lost and dying world. The majority of Christians aren’t living out a Christ-likeness.

                  Would you say that your insults on here exemplify the Christ-like behavior of loving one’s neighbor?

                • StopObama2013

                  What insults? More like questions posed to rude individuals. So Rich please step down off your squeaky soapbox before you fall and hurt yourself on your own righteousness.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Brian, please stop being such a hypocrite. You’re acting like an asshole, while professing that one should not go around acting like an asshole.

                • $821192

                  Rich, are you always so pompous and arrogant while playing the role of the nasty blog cop? Rob and I had a decent discussion, C.L. came in with the typical rudeness of an angry atheist. Lighten up and realize its rude to interject your arrogance into others conversations.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Brian, you’ve been arrogant and rude from the moment you poked your head in here. Which is your prerogative. I’m just very amused at the vast difference between what you say here and what you preach elsewhere.

                • $821192

                  Rich, that’s only because you lack understanding, and obviously aren’t very self aware, but that’s typical of the arrogant attitude of atheists.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  I almost care enough to go back through this post to count how many of your comments contain a direct insult, to ascertain the likelihood that you’re able to make a comment on here without insulting anyone.

                  Nah, I don’t care that much :-)

                • $821192

                  Thanks, Rich, for playing along in my little experiment that proves the thesis of Hemat’s post is inconsistent with the realities of atheism. Did you care that atheists were issuing insults? Nope. That’s because you have no objective basis for your claim about morality. You live by a double standard and can’t see the inconsistencies in your own thinking. And, you call me hypocritical LOL. Glad you found my blog. Bye.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Did I express a care that atheists were issuing insults? Well, I didn’t express a care on this post. But if that’s what it takes to support your conclusion, that’s up to you. It still has nothing to do with your actions however.

                  That’s because you have no objective basis for your claim about morality.

                  That would be kind of like me assuming you have no ability to be a decent kind person based on what you’ve demonstrated here. I actually doubt that’s true. But the anonymity and distance of the Internet can do wonders for making people forget their manners.

        • Sam d

          Have you been reading the other comments? No one here claimed its a foolproof argument not even the author.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

      The only person in this forum who needs to be concerned with guilt is the christian. The christian has the option to live a life of utter hedonistic values and in total immorality because as long as he asks for forgiveness one second before he dies he is supposedly washed of his sins and is free of all guilt. And this is the exact reason why you are trolling this forum.

    • AnonyMous

      Hey Brian, What a pretty daughter you have but I wonder do you and them
      use Nare to keep your monobrows from growing across your face?

    • Jim Olson

      No, they feel the need, when indeed they do feel the need, because they are constantly bombarded with assertions that because they are atheists, they are by definition immoral.I cannot believe, guest, that you have led so sheltered and narrow a life that you did not already know this.

    • Sam D.

      What’s your problem? People here are just looking into facts. It has nothing to do with guilty consciences, it is about seeking the truth. This article was not “reminding everyone how moral they are.” The author was very honest about a faulty statistic and set out to get the facts straight. You must be not very into science or logic I presume.

  • Roger Morris

    Surely this is just a reflection of the nominal, cultural Christianity as reflected in the wider American society? Many more would automatically self-identify as “Christian” in America as compared with other western nations. I think you would find the percentage of “No religion” prison inmates in more secular European and Australasian countries would be significantly higher – reflecting the more secular societies these people operate within. These stats just represent a microcosm of the society they live within.

  • Wayne D

    I don’t think this gives the true picture. Since the atheists population is so small, it only stands to reason that their percent of prison population is going to be small. A more true picture would be what percent of atheists and other groups are in prison.

    • Obazervazi

      Yup, take a look. The article specifically mentions atheists being underrepresented in prisons. Please read the article more closely before commenting.

  • Bdole

    Looks like I need to join the Raelians to be a truly good person.

  • Rathje

    Or it could just mean that atheism tends to be a pastime of the bored wealthy.

    They don’t tend to commit crimes either.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

      Sounds legit.

    • Rob Bos

      If only!

      • Rathje

        It’s not a hard bar to reach – if you’re anywhere from middle class on up – you pretty-much count as “wealthy” on the overall world scene.

        • Rob Bos

          Sounds like a good argument to increase worldwide standard of living.

        • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

          Well, from a worldly perspective making $1200 or more a month makes you pretty wealthy, hell, compared to the bulk of the planet’s population that makes you down right super elite.

        • Rathje

          Point being – atheism is a luxury good for the indolent and pampered. Which counts a huge chunk of most of the first world.

    • Jim Olson

      No, Rathje, it couldn’t.

  • DougI

    Good bit of original investigative journalism and skepticism. Blogs tend to be lacking in that sort of thing.

    • Rathje

      Hardly all that “investigative” – they’ve been bragging about this statistic over on Dawkins.net for years.

      It’s not even original.

      • DougI

        This is the first I’ve heard of anyone double checking the statistic and getting a FOIA request for the more accurate number. I’d be seeing that article you’re referring to on the Dawkins site.

  • Gwenny Todd

    RIP, Rod Swift. I’ll always remember you from HolySmoke.

    HolySmoke, the religious food fight echo, was on FidoNet in the late 80s and early 90s. A lot of the members are my friends on Facebook. LOL There’s still a lot of stuff at skeptictank.org and . . . a whole section devoted to what *I* said at tdavis.org.

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    FYI, According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, the number of “Convinced atheists” in the US is up t 5%. – http://redcresearch.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/RED-C-press-release-Religion-and-Atheism-25-7-12.pdf

  • smrnda

    A good start, but more research definitely needs to be done.

    First, it might be a good idea to compare the religion people belonged to when they committed their crimes versus what they report at the time of the survey. If a person was a protestant when they committed a crime, and became a pagan in jail, should they count as a ‘pagan criminal?’ Or is their affiliation at the time of the crime more important?

    Second, I think it would be better to restrict the type of prisoners to violent offenders only, as most people will agree that violent persons and sex offenders should be in jail. Other types of crimes – a good case can be made that nonviolent drug offenders shouldn’t be in jail to begin with, and it’d be better to just examine populations which really ought to be in prison. Plus, getting busted for a non-violent crime depends a lot on demographics. How many white college kids really risk getting busted for drug use, as opposed to minority youth who are subject to ‘stop and frisk’ policies? If I was doing research, I don’t want to portray any nonviolent drug offender as an example of a ‘criminal’ since I want to make it clear that I think its absurd that you go to jail for that.

    Commendations though for getting what info you could – prisons are not always helpful with research, as I’ve done a lot of it in the past and often got stonewalled.

    • Jim Olson

      And I believe that you are just the person to conduct this research since you are so convinced it should be done.

  • Jonida Sanço

    I love that 17 people wrote Science as their religious affiliation. Brilliant!

    • The Other Weirdo

      They were the ones who were trying to genetically engineer Godzilla because they hate Japan, and that shit’s racist.

  • sane37

    Considering that “finding God” can and does reduce prison time, I wouldn’t make any assumptions on belief rates in prison for any measure.

  • PDavis

    I wonder if the percent of Muslims is influenced by the higher percent of Black men in the prison system who convert to Islam rather than to Christianity since they feel that Christianity failed them.

  • Rusty Yates

    Hemant, thank you for taking the step and doing the deed. This kind of behavior makes me proud to be an atheist.

  • connorwood

    This post is interesting, but it conflates religious self-identification with religious behavior, for both atheists and religious people.

    The reason why atheists are underrepresented in prisons is that people who self-identify as atheists tend to be of upper income and education brackets. They also tend to come from relatively privileged backgrounds that don’t put them in the life paths and situations that lead to crime.

    And at any rate, the implication that somehow religion leads to crime is not accurate. Religious people who actually PRACTICE a religion, by which I mean going to church, taking part in small groups, attending temple or mosque, commit crimes at a lower rate than the population at large. (See, e.g., http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07418820000096371#.UebC5OB9yvQ) I’d be very surprised if a large percentage of the self-identified Catholics, Protestants, and other religious types in prison were active members of a religious body before going to prison.

    • keddaw

      I totally agree, but since this is being used to counter a ridiculous argument in the first place (that atheists are hedonists with no morals and no respect for others) then I think it’s valid to show that the prison population doesn’t reflect this.

      Should someone try to say that atheists were ‘better’ than religious people using this study then I’d ask for some multivariate analysis to remove the influence of education, income, race, location etc. etc. In fact, FOI request might make this information available, perhaps someone with standing and the requisite skills should do this… Hemant?

    • Jim Olson

      Very convincing, and I could just as convincingly assert that real atheists, those who actually practice atheism never commit crimes.

      • Lyra Belaqua

        But can you really “practice atheism”?? Atheism means you believe in no gods. To my it seems to be implying that you have to actively reinforce the thought that there are no gods on a frequent basis. Whereas to me, atheism is a conclusion I reached, and while I like to debate it and ponder it, I don’t have to reinforce my “belief” or thought over and over again. It doesn’t need defending in that manner.

        As to we never commit crimes, I’d say we rarely commit serious crimes, or crimes that harm other people or animals. I frequently speed, which is technically a crime. But I’m not reckless. I’m aware of my surroundings and don’t speed to the point of losing control or putting someone in danger.

  • DK13

    in any case, this is a meaningless stat without 1) incorporating “nones”, agnostics and other categories, and 2) controlling for demographics. The people self-identify specifically as atheists are, on average, far more white, privileged and male than the general population. Atheism in America tends to arise most frequently in very sheltered conditions.

  • MandoZink

    I am sorry that I had to add to these statistics, but I was sentenced in Louisville, KY last year for the crime of marijuana cultivation. I served 6 months until I got out on shock probation. This was the same marijuana that had recently gotten me through chemotherapy, and which I gave away free to other cancer victims, having seen how well it worked relieving my own nausea. I was sent to the Muhlenberg County Jail to serve my time and was the only atheist there. Almost every other person there had a bible next to their bed and nearly all mentioned their commitment to Christianity at some point. Most all of these people were ill-mannered, mean-tempered, had multiple illegitimate children and referred to women only as whores. They were a truly reprehensible collection of warped belief systems.

    As a compassionate atheist who treats people with dignity and considers personal integrity to be a civil responsibility, this was a difficult and embarrassing thing to endure. I kept my view of religion out of any conversation there.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Well, just for the record, you didn’t add to the statistics, since they’re Federal. But it sheds light on how meaningless it can be to use incarceration rates to say anything about morality.

      I think the real story here isn’t atheist morality or even atheist incarceration rates, but how willing we are to gloat over bad data, when less-bad data is that easily available. Fifteen years and nobody bothered to check the source.

      Confirmation bias is equal opportunity.

  • Lucifer

    This number is skewed by the benefits of being religious in prison. You get to leave your cell for church on Sunday and other program times. You get access to outside food or coffee sometimes. You are given special consideration for passes and parole if you are religious.

    Unfortunately you can’t put much weight into these numbers, but they make a fun talking point.

  • Steve

    One suggestion: Atheism is quite likely disproportionately attractive to the wealthy or upper middle class elite, who tend to not go to prison. I’m surprised any confounding factors like this were never mentioned.

  • De Doc

    Well done! This is some super news with the updated numbers. Hemant not only got the goodies, but put the skeptical eye on them too, so as to minimize the amount of spin.

  • Jonathan Duran

    Just a thought…This would need to be verified, but it would seem that this information would be most likely gathered during an intake process for each inmate, thus reflecting the inmates religious attitudes shortly before or upon arrival at the prison, not after some random amount of time in prison or for the benefit of a parole board. Unless we assume a majority of the inmates to be forward-thinking enough to lie on their intake paperwork in preparation for a parole hearing years later, it may be safe to assume this these numbers reflect the religious affiliation of the inmate prior to any “jailhouse conversion” that may take place after incarceration.

  • Osame Kinouchi

    There is also an economic sociological factor to consider. Negros are overrepresented in the population, due to well know economic factors, and most american islamics are negro. This explains the overrepresentation of islamics. Catholics are represented by another economic disfavoured population, latines. I think that white middle class catholics are underrepresented in jail population. Since protestants also have, in average, middle class situation, this explains that they are underrepresented. And since there is a strong correlation between atheists and midlle class white university young mans, even nerds, is is comprehensible that they also are underrepresented in the prision population. This also explains why the NAS has so many atheists compared to the average scientific population (average scientists). Most of the great scientists are nerds! Se the correlation between geek syndrome, autism and atheism:
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0036880

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2039690/Atheism-autism-Controversial-new-study-points-link-two.html#ixzz2SGx403TA

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Um… what the hell? Did you just call black folks “Negros”? Did you just warp in from the 50′s or something?

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Rita appears to be a non-native-English speaker. I’d assume cultural/language confusion first.

      • Osame Kinouchi

        Sorry, here in Brazil, the politically correct expression is negro, to call people as black is offensive…. Only now I perceived that it is just the contrary in USA… Sorry all black people!

      • Jim Olson

        Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt.

      • Osame Kinouchi

        Sorry, here in Brazil the politically correct term is negro, and to call people black is offensive. I only noticed that the inverse occurs in USA due to your observation. Thanks, and sorry all american black people here.

    • Lyra Belaqua

      Interesting point. but while family and traditions may be a contributing factor, I’m not sure race is a be all end all. But it’d be an interesting study to explore on a larger scale. (I just tend to like studies)

  • Osame Kinouchi

    This reference could be relevant: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0039048

    Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates

    Abstract

    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.

    Citation: 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

    Editor: Tiziana Zalla, Ecole Normale Supérieure, France

    Received: February 13, 2012; Accepted: May 17, 2012; Published: June 18, 2012

  • freemage

    I guess my initial reaction is, “Why the hell do we NOT have a study of this? Surely, some sociologist working on their doctorate would find it a useful study to perform?” It would need to include three things, actually–religious affiliation as a child, religious affiliation prior to arrest, and current affiliation. And there’d need to be a clear demarcation between “Believes in Jesus but doesn’t go to Church” and “non-believer”.

    • Lyra Belaqua

      I would LOVE to read something like that!!! Nerd me coming out :)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Being skeptical of the earlier data makes sense, and it meant that atheists couldn’t crow about how underrepresented we were in prisons. But I’m not sure that’s the takeaway. Rather, since the only available data was shoddy, the Christians could never say the opposite, that atheists were morally deficient human beings, because they likewise had no solid information (and what little we had undercut that claim).

  • dcl3500

    I have to wonder, are there certain privileges that go with being religious in prison? When I was in the army I went to church on Sunday morning because basically it was a couple of hours of the week where I could go relax without a sergeant hanging on my shoulder telling me to do this or do that. Could this be one of the driving forces of religion in prisons?

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      I’ve read accounts of basic training during Vietnam where any recruit that didn’t say they were Christian ended up scrubbing floors with toothbrushes every Sunday morning. Ugh.

  • Greg T Reich

    I like that you did a FOIA request on the information…I called the Bureau a decade ago about the 0.2% stat to verify its validity. They verified the information with me then and I wrote an article about it for the Michigan Atheists Newsletter. Like you, I didn’t trust the sources, because I didn’t find an official document on the web.

  • DavidA11

    This is an example of a terrible article on atheism (with which i myself identify).
    For example, you’ve forgotten about all the potentially confounding variables. Moreover, having few atheists in the system doesn’t imply few criminal atheists. It could just mean most atheists are white (most prison population is made up of African American males), higher-than-average-income (most prison population has a low socioeconomic background), smart enough not to get caught, etc… Let’s not make injudicious statements about stuff just because we want to feel good. And let’s leave statistical analyses of immorality to psychologists (and even them I don’t trust!).

  • Pikecology

    It’s
    the “free ticket to heaven if you believe” option that causes a lot to
    turn to religion. Many obviously feel guilty – and it’s the one (very
    easy) way to “ask forgiveness”… the Key words, given by most clergy;
    “believe and you are forgiven”…so they turn to this easy ticket.

    The
    tougher ticket is to repay, re-tribute, renew what they did wrong.
    This is practically never done. Perhaps this would make a good TV
    series; “Atheists ex-cons who paid back” (or “PayBack” – or more
    realistically, “Payback’s a b____”) but it would be largely fiction.

  • Rachael

    I don’t think the above statistics are a good representation of morals or even of who commits crimes. Just because there are less self-labeling atheists in prison does NOT mean that less are committing crimes. Perhaps, as a group with a higher % of education, they are better at avoiding getting caught. (Or, maybe as a more educated group they are committing different types of crime? Or that crime goes down with education, not atheism.)

    Also, are a higher percentage of self-labeling atheists still white? If so, the social justice issues surrounding race could also be a factor in this # being lower than the PEW stats.

    While you make a good poing about avoiding using unreliable stats, let’s not replace them with other stats that probably don’t represent the point Atheists are trying to make with them.

  • Verimius

    There’s probably a lot of social pressure in prison to take on a religion (or at least appear to do so), considering how atheists are viewed in society. Can you imagine going before a parole board and saying that you’ve found Christ, versus telling them you’re an atheist?

  • Craig

    Born again til your out again…

  • Papa Todd

    I would imagine that many of those that find religion while in prison to “play” the system, were not atheists before, and were probably in the “none” category. They need to ask what type of household (religiously) they were raised in, and whay beliefs they held before going to jail/prison.

  • Ignatius Cheezburger

    It seems to me that the only responsible use for these figures is to show that there is no correlation between one’s religious affiliation and one’s moral or ethical behavior. In other words, the assertion “you can’t be good without God” not only wrong, but simply irrelevant to the larger questions of morals and ethics.

  • Jax

    If atheists are less then 15% of the population, it makes sense that the number would be low. Why isn’t that factored in?

  • heenan73

    Howzabout relating those numbers to the total poulation; you’re a math teacher … you do the math! ;-)

  • mj

    no it may not be exact, but how far off can it be? 1%?? 2%??? the fact remains that most prisoners are religious.. it’s not like they quited 0.2% and it’s actually 99%.

  • http://movingthelamppost.com/ Augustine Dunn

    I have some serious issues with this data as well. In fact I dont think its any more reliable than the other data.

    I happen to be a non-believer, but even these stats about atheists making up such a small proportion of the prison population are MASSIVELY flawed. For one thing, there are huge pressures to “affiliate” with a gang upon incarceration and those gangs dictate your life to you. If they say you are christian, then you better not be caught saying anything different or you will reap the consequences. Also, there are activities like Chapel and other things that let you get out of your cell for an hour or so that are based on religious affiliation. Also, there is a perception that claiming a religious affiliation will look good to the parole board.

    This is just the beginning of why these stats are NOT worth touting; their basis in on VERY shaky ground to put it VERY politely. There is such a thing as confirmation bias remember and it doesn’t just apply to anecdotes. With out MUCH better controls for confounding factors (realize that these data you present have ZERO controls) stats that LOOK like data are actually WORSE than no data at all.

  • Sam

    First of all I want to say I am impressed by this article and your honesty.You really dug out the facts for yourself and it was really interesting to read.

    I still don’t find it very shocking or telling that the population of atheists in prison is so low. Even you yourself stated that self-ascribed atheists make up 1.6 % of the population, and while they are underrepresented in prison, it still is not by a significant amount. Muslims were the most over-represented.. looking for explanations of why this could be, the first thing that comes to mind is that for a long time (especially since 9/11) there has been very hostile attitudes towards muslims.

    Also according to my source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States

    Protestants make up 48% of the US population. “You said Protestants make up 28.7% of the prison population.” So that would mean Protestants are under-represented in prison as well. So basically what Ricky Gervais is saying is bs. Because if we are going % of population to % of prisoners, Protestants are just as insignificant in prison as the Atheists. He tries to shove his atheism down peoples throats as much as some religious people.

    • Sam

      *You said “Protestants make up 28.7% of the prison population.”

  • guerillasurgeon

    There are other sources such as:

    http://www.pewforum.org/2012/03/22/prison-chaplains-exec/

    Which might add something to the debate.

  • AugustineThomas

    Most atheists are severe Christian heretics, actually having made themselves apostates, who got rid of God, but kept all the Christian morality.
    So perhaps they don’t go to prison.

    Also Christianity is for sinners, so, I for one, think it’s great news that sinners are becoming Christian!

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Most atheists are severe Christian heretics

      Nonsense, sorry. Christianity did, however, get its morals from earlier philosophical ideas, before it was civilized by Enlightenment values, allowing us to finally progress a bit more.

      Considering that, it would be more accurate to say that Western Christians absorbed and kept the better secular philosophical points while still mouthing the language of Christianity.

      • AugustineThomas

        Unfortunately, as the secularists love to remind us, they kept pedophila, “man-boy” love, honed by the Greeks.
        But they eventually corrected slavery, which the Greeks and Romans didn’t.
        They invented charity and the modern hospital, which the Greeks and Romans didn’t.
        Furthermore, the very culture that now rightly chastises the Church for not having done enough about pedophilia in the Church, would be IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT THE CHURCH.

        This world wasn’t even close to rising out of barbarism until Christ our Lord came to die for our sins.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and automatically judge and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some subconscious factors are in this, to begin with. People who are often atheists will refuse to fully say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, ‘no religious preference’, even though it can be often considered a lack of belief, also can simply mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will tell themselves that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists in prison, if they don’t say that they don’t have a religious preference, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free, and then when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about religious views, some types of morality of religious based topics are disputed, one example of an argument about this being:
    Pro-Religion Person: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them and they have a moral code written in a grand book.
    Anti-Religion Person: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ’, they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is okay.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison are most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5%, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and %1 having some credibility says something, but not too much.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I’m what many consider, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist, leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and automatically judge and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some subconscious factors are in this, to begin with. People who are often atheists will refuse to fully say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, ‘no religious preference’, even though it can be often considered a lack of belief, also can simply mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will tell themselves that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists in prison, if they don’t say that they don’t have a religious preference, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free, and then when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about religious views, some types of morality of religious based topics are disputed, one example of an argument about this being:
    Pro-Religion Person: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them and they have a moral code written in a grand book.
    Anti-Religion Person: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ’, they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is okay.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison are most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5%, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what many consider, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist, leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and automatically judge and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some subconscious factors are in this to begin with. People who are often atheists will refuse to fully say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, ‘no religious preference’, even though it can be often considered a lack of belief, also can simply mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will tell themselves that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists in prison, if they don’t say that they don’t have a religious preference, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free, and then when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about religious views, some types of morality of religious based topics are disputed, one example of an argument about this being:
    Pro-Religion Person: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them and they have a moral code written in a grand book.
    Anti-Religion Person: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ’, they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is okay.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison are most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5%, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what many consider, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist, leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and automatically judge and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some subconscious factors are in this to begin with. People who are often atheists will refuse to fully say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, ‘no religious preference’, even though it can be often considered a lack of belief, also can simply mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will tell themselves that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists in prison, if they don’t say that they don’t have a religious preference, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free, and then when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about religious views, some types of morality of religious-based topics are disputed, one example of an argument about this being:
    Pro-Religion Person: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them and they have a moral code written in a grand book.
    Anti-Religion Person: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ’, they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is okay.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison are most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5%, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what many consider, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist, leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and automatically judge and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some subconscious factors are in this to begin with. People who are often atheists will refuse to fully say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, ‘no religious preference’, even though it can be often considered a lack of belief, also can simply mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will tell themselves that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists in prison, if they don’t say that they don’t have a religious preference, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free, and then when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about religious views, some types of morality of religious-based topics are disputed, one example of an argument about this being:
    Pro-Religion Person: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them and they have a moral code written in a grand book. Thus, it is almost given that they are naturally good people.
    Anti-Religion Person: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ’, they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is okay.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison are most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5%, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what many consider, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist, leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and automatically judge and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some subconscious factors are in this to begin with. People who are often atheists will refuse to fully say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, ‘no religious preference’, even though it can be often considered a lack of belief, also can simply mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will tell themselves that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists in prison, if they don’t say that they don’t have a religious preference, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free, and then when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about religious views, some types of morality of religious-based topics are disputed, one example of an argument about this being:
    Pro-Religion Person: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them and they have a moral code written in a grand book. Thus, it is almost given that they are naturally good people.
    Anti-Religion Person: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ’, they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is okay.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison are most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. As you can see, this quite a debatable statistic also. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5%, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what many consider, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist, leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and automatically judge and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some subconscious factors are in this to begin with. People who are often atheists will refuse to fully say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, ‘no religious preference,’ even though it can be often considered a lack of belief, also can simply mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will tell themselves that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists that generally aren’t convinced atheists in prison, if they don’t say that they don’t have a religious preference, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free, and then when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about religious views, some types of morality of religious-based topics are disputed, one example of an argument about this being:
    Pro-Religion Person: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them and they have a moral code written in a grand book. Thus, it is almost given that they are naturally good people.
    Anti-Religion Person: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ,’ they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is okay.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison are most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. As you can see, this quite a debatable statistic also. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5%, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what many consider, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist, leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and automatically judge and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some subconscious factors are in this to begin with. People who are often atheists will refuse to fully say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, while no religious preference can be considered a lack of belief, it can also mean mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will themselves as well as other people that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists that generally aren’t convinced atheists in prison, if they don’t say that they don’t have a religious preference, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free, and then when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a negative cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about religious views, some types of morality of religious-based topics are disputed, and one example of an argument between a unwavering Christian and an anti-theist could be:
    Unwavering Christian: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them and they have a moral code written in a grand book. Thus, it is almost given that they are naturally good people.
    Anti-Theist: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ,’ they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is okay.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison are most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. As you can see, this quite a debatable statistic also. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5%, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what many consider, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist, leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and automatically judge and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some subconscious factors are in this to begin with. Some of the time, people who are atheists will not say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, while no religious preference can be considered a lack of belief, it can also mean mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will themselves as well as other people that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists that generally aren’t convinced atheists in prison, if they don’t say choose the option ‘no religion/preference’, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free earlier, and then, when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a negative cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about one’s own religious views, many types of morality on religious-based topics are disputed, and one example of an argument between a unwavering Christian and an anti-theist could be:
    Unwavering Christian: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them and they have a moral code written in a grand book. Thus, it is almost given that they are naturally good people.
    Anti-Theist: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ,’ they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is acceptable.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison is most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. As you can see, this quite a debatable statistic also. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5% in reality, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what many consider, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist (the belief that there is no god, but that concrete proof doesn’t exist), leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and instantly judge it based on that and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some subconscious factors are in this to begin with. Some of the time, people who are atheists will not say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, while no religious preference can be considered a lack of belief, it can also mean mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will themselves as well as other people that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic, or just nonreligious but not qualifying to be considered an atheist.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists that generally aren’t convinced atheists in prison, if they don’t say choose the option ‘no religion/preference’, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free earlier, and then, when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a negative cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about one’s own religious views, many types of morality on religious-based topics are disputed, and one example of an argument between a unwavering Christian and an anti-theist could be:
    Unwavering Christian: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them to do good, and they have a moral code written in a grand book. Thus, it is almost given that they are naturally good people.
    Anti-Theist: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ,’ they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is acceptable.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison is most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. As you can see, this quite a debatable statistic also. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5% in reality, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much, in my opinion.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what some people, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist (the belief that there is no god, but that concrete proof doesn’t exist), leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Guest

    I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and instantly judge it based on that and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some psychological and subconscious factors are in this to begin with. Some of the time, people who are atheists will not say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel or sound attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or a belief that a god does not exist. However, while no religious preference can be considered a lack of belief, it can also mean mean you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will themselves as well as other people that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic, or just nonreligious but not qualifying to be considered an atheist.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists that generally aren’t convinced atheists in prison, if they don’t say choose the option ‘no religion/preference’, will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free earlier, and then, when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a negative cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about one’s own religious views, many types of morality on religious-based topics are disputed, and one example of an argument between a unwavering Christian and an anti-theist could be:
    Unwavering Christian: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them to do good, and they have a moral code written in a grand book. Thus, it is almost given that they are naturally good people.
    Anti-Theist: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ,’ they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is acceptable.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison is most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. As you can see, this quite a debatable statistic also. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5% in reality, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much, in my opinion.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what some people, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist (the belief that there is no god, but that concrete proof doesn’t exist), leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Laurence Lu

    Here is my viewpoint on this considerably controversial topic. I don’t want anybody to read the first few sentences of this relatively long comment and instantly judge it based on that and up/downvote. I’ll put my religious view at the end.
    Some psychological and subconscious factors are in this to begin with. Some of the time, people who are atheists will not say that they are when the ‘no religion/preference’ option is given. It seems more natural and is usually more accepted than saying that they are an ‘atheist’, which often has a negative feel, sound, or attitude attributed to it. Also, being an atheist generally means that you have a lack of belief in a god or the belief that a god does not exist. However, while no religious preference can be considered a lack of belief, it can also mean that you don’t believe in a god nor necessarily disbelieve in it. Sometimes, people will themselves as well as other people that if they are not a convinced atheist, they are in a way, an agnostic, or just nonreligious but not qualifying to be considered an atheist.
    Something else to consider: Most atheists that aren’t convinced atheists in prison, and if they don’t choose the option ‘no religion/preference’, they will probably choose one of the ‘mainstream’ religions that seems at the moment to suit them the best. Catholicism, the biggest branch of Christianity, is a very popular choice. This is often used to gain favor so they can be set free earlier, and then, when they get out of jail or prison, they forget about their faith or set it aside, often becoming repeat offenders in a negative cycle.
    On the other hand, while there are some lies or self-mislabeling about one’s own religious views, many types of morality on religious-based topics are disputed, and one example of an argument between a unwavering Christian and an anti-theist could be:
    Unwavering Christian: Christians believe that they have a god to guide them to do good, and they have a moral code written in a grand book. Thus, it is almost given that they are naturally good people.
    Anti-Theist: Christians also believe that if they ‘accept the gift of Jesus Christ,’ they go to heaven, unless they commit an extremely ‘sinful’ act, meaning that whatever they do that isn’t a huge offense is acceptable.
    In my opinion, both have an element of truth in each of their statements, however part of each statement have some stereotype and generalization.
    And even though the number of atheists in jail or prison is most likely higher than what is said in the statistics, it probably still is at least a bit under-presented. The number of atheists in America is highly disputed, ranging from 1%-15% for the most part. As you can see, this quite a debatable statistic also. Atheism to me is the the belief that there is no god, or at least a lack of belief of a god that leans toward the belief that there is no god or deity. So it’s probably at least 5% in reality, up to maybe 12% or so from what I can observe. Still, numbers like 0.07%, 0.2%, and 1% having some credibility says something, but not too much, in my opinion.
    Well, I told you that I would put my religious views at the end, right?
    I am what some people, including me, to be an Agnostic-Atheist (the belief that there is no god, but that concrete proof doesn’t exist), but leaning somewhat closer to being an atheist than an agnostic, however. I have tried to put as little bias in this as possible. I hope that whoever reads this considers my point of view on this topic.

  • Aurelien

    Interesting article, thanks. Just one thing: the under-representation of atheists in prison, and the over-representation of muslims has more to do with the average wealth and education of these people. Atheists often belong to fairly wealthy and educated population groups. Muslims often belong to poor and under-educated groups. This is due to social and economic reasons, not moral, cultural or religious ones. The magic formulae is “poor = under-educated = prison”, *not* “muslim = immoral = prison”. If you agree with this, it might be a good idea to make it clear in your article, because I would be very worried if atheists started to use the same arguments as some religious people (“atheist = immoral = prison”).
    Cheers

  • peter

    answer is easy, religious are stupid so they are more likely to do crime and more violent

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad the author brought up the idea of the religious or irreligious nature of the entire country compared to the prison population, however just giving out percentages from the prison population and the overall population doesn’t suffice. We need Raw Data (numbers) in order to see what percent of atheist are prisoners instead of what percent of prisoners are atheist.

  • Joe Anon

    Does any breakout data exist which separates the Latino Catholics from the non-Latino Catholics?

  • EvidenceBasedDecisions

    So by comparing with self reporting from national surveys, prisons are OVER represented by :
    - 70% Buddhists
    - 64% Catholics
    - 27% Jehovahs Witness
    - 4% Jews

    They are UNDER represented by :
    - 32% Protestants
    - 60% Hindu
    - 87% Atheist

  • brownone

    His data is based on a questionnaire not the actual beliefs practiced by these prisoners. If you really started asking faith questions about how they live or what they know about Christ then you will see an entire different pictures. You will see an individual who is religious on paper but an atheist in practice. What do I mean by atheist? Prager definite the atheistic mind as “If there is no God, the labels “good” and “evil” are merely opinions.
    They are substitutes for “I like it” and “I don’t like it.” They are not
    objective realities. The motivation of an criminal is about that than living by an absolute concept of right and wrong. The call of Christ is the surrender of self for the best of others even if I lose everything in the process. Christ made it clear that many would call him Lord but they would deny him by their self-centered lives.

    • Gehennah

      Wrong definition of Atheist.

      And Atheist is simply one who does not believe in a god. But nice try there. You are just simply trying to impose the no trust Scotsman fallacy into the issue which doesn’t quite work since even Christians cannot figure out within themselves what a true Christian is.


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