The sort of thing Mike Flynn was born to write about

Study finds people who believe in heaven commit more crimes

It’s a “study”, so you know it’s Science[TM]

Still, some questions arise.

More crimes than…?

“More” means what?

“believing in heaven” means what?

If four atheists such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot order the deaths of 100 million victims while a hundred subscribers to Richard Dawkins Youtube channel live lives of bourgeois smugness, but 10 members of Rev. Billy Bob’s Trailer Trash Church of Snake Handling knock over 10 Kwiki Marts, does this mean “believers in heaven” commit “more” crimes?

I think the takeaway is that if you belong to a tiny sect of atheistic nihilists, every 100 atheists gets a bonus mass murderer, absolutely free of charge!

I’m an English major, but I think I’m starting to figure out this whole statistics thing–at least as well as the English major who go on to write stories about “studies” that “prove” extremely dodgy propositions.

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  • TC

    Study aside, I have wondered about both the “once saved always saved” doctrine held by many Protestants and the idea held that nobody goes to Hell ( except maybe Hitler, Stalin, &c) now popular among fellow Catholics.
    I can’t imagine that feeling completely safe from Hell doesn’t have SOME effect on behavior.

    • Ted Seeber

      I completely agree. As an autistic, it took me *decades* to understand Church teaching on Heaven and Hell, and I can say in that time, assurances of salvation certainly *DID* have a negative effect on my behavior.

      The atheists are right about Once Saved Always Saved- if your external morality tells you that it doesn’t matter and you’re going to heaven anyway, then that is license to be as immoral as you feel like.

  • I dearly hope whoever wrote that opening sentence wasn’t an English major.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    “University of Oregon’s Azim Shariff and University of Kansas’s Mijke Rhemtulla finds that people who believe in hell are less likely to commit a crime while people who believe in heaven more likely are to get in trouble with the law.”

    Interesting. The study doesn’t appear to compare the crime rates among persons who report that they believe in Heaven or in Hell with those of persons who report that they don’t believe in any punishment or reward in the afterlife. The article describes a study which compares crime rates among persons who report that they believe in
    Heaven (higher crime rates)
    with persons who report they believe in
    Hell. (lower crime rates).

    It surprises me that anyone would design a study like this: I would have thought that the population who believes in Heaven and the population who believes in Hell could be illustrated by two circles nearly completely overlapping (in one of T. Kreitzberg’s famous Venn diagrams). Evidently that is not the case. Evidently, according to the designers of this study, the two populations would be represented by circles that overlap almost not at all.

    Which doesn’t sound right to me. After all, don’t a significant number of people believe in both Heaven and Hell? Not “either / or”. “Both / and”. What about their crime rates? Did the researchers just randomly toss “both / and” respondents in with one or the other group? If so, that would be very bad. Did the researchers toss out the “both / and” respondents altogether? If so, that would be worse.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Whoa, you’re on to something there. The headline is VERY deceptive. The study doesn’t have a thing to do with “atheists vs. believers,” which I guarantee was the goal of the headline. The study is believers of heaven vs. hell.

      As Marion points out, isn’t there quite a bit of overlap? The likely scenario is that nearly everyone who believes in Hell also believes in Heaven, though not all believers in Heaven believe in Hell (think how many quasi-spiritual people you know who think everyone is going to Heaven automatically).

      The question the study (probably accurately) answers is: does a fear of damnation affect your likelihood to commit crime?

      As Mike Flynn once said, Someone once claimed that conclusions in the Social Sciences [sic] were of two kinds: 1.Obvious 2. Wrong.

      This is almost certainly a case of #1, dressed up to look like atheistic triumphalism.

  • Andy

    I think this rates right there with the member of the New Hampshire State Government who said that folks who go to Kindergarten commit more crimes?

  • Lloyd Petre
  • Ted Seeber

    I decided to write a better survey. Because I’m genuinely interested in a slightly wider data set. I’m also interested in seeing if Mark Shea + Leah Libresco + all the places I read on slashdot will give me anything close to the number of responses I would need to become statistically significant (which I figure is about 7 million).

  • I have also read that belief in hell keeps a lot of people from committing financial fraud.