New study: religion doesn’t deter criminal behavior.

We’re often told that religion makes people better.  It turns out, it actually reinforces any behavior, even immoral behavior.

The U.S. study found that through “purposeful distortion or genuine ignorance,” hardcore criminals often co-opt religious doctrine to justify or further their crimes.

The findings could have important implications, the researchers say, for how faith-based services are administered within the corrections system.

Prison ministries shouldn’t just be about presenting religious doctrine because some inmates might take religious teachings to excuse their behaviour, lead author Volkan Topalli, a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University, said in an interview Monday.

Wait, you mean people just have a habit of saying that god endorses their behavior, whatever it is (while claiming that god’s instructions to everybody else are not “True” Christianity)?  You mean that a god forgives you for anything, not for contrition, but just for believing the proper absurdity, could make people think they’re morally off the hook for…anything?

Who’d have thunk it?  I mean, aside from every atheist who has been screaming it for the last few decades…

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    Imagine that, religion allows bad people to create a narrative to allow them to continue to do bad things.

    Don’t worry, they aren’t true Christians.

  • baal

    “It turns out, it actually reinforces any behavior”
    This is in my top 3 definitions of Bad-Things(tm). Holding onto an idea despite facts, reasoning or outcomes that suggest a change cannot but create harms. Hold any idea you like but subject it to revision based on facts, outcomes and arguments? I suspect that if you do that for a while, you’ll be decent likable person who makes the world a better place.

  • http://Disqus Obliged_Cornball

    “People have to understand that presenting religious doctrine to people isn’t enough to change their behaviour,” he said. “(Faith-based services) have to be systematic and about behaviour change — religion has to be a vehicle, rather than the goal.”

    I’ve been saying something similar for awhile now. I think that most people find more of themselves in religion, regardless of what their religion tells them what to find. People who are already concerned about doing good are usually made wonderful by religion, whereas people looking for an “escape clause” justify their atrocities. None of this has any bearing on whether or not religion is true, but it should certainly give pause to those who think religion can just smooth over human nature.

    • http://Disqus Obliged_Cornball

      *tells them to find*

    • SB

      “a while” ;)

  • smrnda

    Christianity is a great religion for a sociopath. The sociopath, by saying a few magic phrases, becomes completely forgiven, and within the scheme of Christianity, it’s the people who the sociopath harms who become the bad people by refusing to offer the forgiveness that the Christian god so abundantly makes available. It’s a cheap way for a lousy person to feel better, or even superior, to people who are actually decent, without any effort required.

  • k’Sheyna V

    Hell, I could have told you that. I’m in a homeless program in central California where about 100 people are assigned sleeping bags each evening and climb on a bus to sleep in a circuit of churches (mostly christian, 1 Jewish, 1 Muslim) from one night to a week. I’m the only atheist, with 2 pagans I’ve ID’s. Everyone else is christian, and won’t shut up about it. They’re always praying, bragging about how blessed they are and how God is in their heart. Yet something goes missing just about every night. I had a $200 iPod stolen from under my pillow at 4:30 a.m. when I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I guess the bitca considered herself blessed. Christians and christianity disgust me more and more every day. Unfortunately, every homeless program is run by some church or another, which means there’s no one I trust to watch my stuff even to go pee.

  • Chucky

    Actually, as the paper says, other studies have shown that religious belief *is* correlated with reduced criminal activity. That isn’t what this study is about. It is about the way criminals try to rationalise their crimes, often doing that through “purposeful distortion or genuine ignorance” of the religious belief they are supposedly following.