Belief = morality and law-abiding behavior. Is there evidence to support this position?

Most christians would say yes.  Recent studies definitively say otherwise.  Which will I rely on? Let’s see. My choices are: a Bronze age text written during a time when we didn’t know where the sun went at night, or actual social science studies conducted in the last decade or so. I’m going with the science on this one.

“Religiosity does not have a significant effect on inhibiting criminal behavior (Cochran et al. 1994; Evans et al. 1996; Hood et al. 1996). ‘‘The claim that atheists are somehow more likely to be immoral,’’ asserts Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi (2007, 306), ‘‘has long been disproven by systematic studies.’’ *note 1

Zuckerman goes on to say;

“If religion, prayer, or God-belief hindered criminal behavior, and secularity or atheism fostered lawlessness, we would expect to find the most religious nations having the lowest murder rates and the least religious nations having the highest. But we find just the opposite. Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious nations where belief in God is deep and widespread (Jensen 2006; Paul 2005; Fajnzylber et al. 2002; Fox and Levin 2000). And within America, the states with the highest murder rates tend to be highly religious, such as Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with the lowest murder rates tend to be among the least religious in the country, such as Vermont and Oregon (Ellison et al. 2003; Death Penalty Information Center, 2008). Furthermore, although there are some notable exceptions, rates of most violent crimes tend to be lower in the less religious states and higher in the most religious states (United States Census Bureau, 2006). Finally, of the top 50 safest cities in the world, nearly all are in relatively non-religious countries, and of the eight cities within the United States that make the safest-city list, nearly all are located in the least religious regions of the country (Mercer Survey, 2008)“. *note 1

How do atheists compare on “moral issues” like watching porn, divorce, stealing, and pedophilia?

Porn: There are two kinds of Christians in America — those who watch porn and those who lie about it. A new study by the Barna Group shows that 64 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women admitted [the number is very likely much higher] to viewing pornography at least once a month, compared to 65 percent of men and 30 percent of women who identified as non-Christian and said they watched porn at the same rate.  So equally, for all intents and purposes. *note 2

Divorce: A 1999 Barna study (Barna Research Group Survey 1999, 2007) found that atheists and agnostics have lower divorce rates than religious Americans. And according to Kosmin (2008), divorce is a widespread phenomenon that affects the religious and secular in roughly equal measure.  35 percent of christians report cheating on their spouses in an extramarital affair.

Stealing: I couldn’t find a specific study comparing the religious and secular directly, but I could find a veritable cornucopia of news items regarding high profile christians convicted of fraud and financial crimes, mostly around paying taxes and misappropriating church funds for personal gain. Conversely, there are few who were atheists. I welcome reader input if you know of any. Here are a few examples:

  • Jim Bakker – Created the PTL organization. Convicted of fraud and conspiracy charges after illegally soliciting millions of dollars from his followers.
  • Hogen Fukunaga – Founder of Ho No Hana who was given a twelve-year jail sentence for fraudulently gaining 150 million yen from his followers.
  • Kent Hovind (Dr. Dino) – founder of the Creation Science Evangelism ministry. Willful failure to collect, account for, and pay over Federal income taxes, knowingly structuring transactions in Federally-insured financial institutions to evade the reporting requirements, and obstructing and impeding the administration of the internal revenue laws.
  • L. Ron Hubbard – Founder of Scientology. He was convicted of petty theft and ordered to pay a $25 fine in San Luis Obispo, California 1948 and in 1978 was convicted of illegal business practices, namely, making false claims about his ability to cure physical illnesses in France. He was sentenced to four years in prison, which was never served.
  • Henry Lyons – Former President of National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Convicted for racketeering and grand theft.
  • Barry Minkow – Head pastor of San Diego’s Community Bible Church, and founder of the Fraud Discovery Institute, who had turned to religion and entered the ministry after release from prison for the notorious ZZZZ Best fraud, returned to prison in 2011 for further acts of securities fraud while serving as a clergyman.
  • Sun Myung Moon – Leader of Unification Church, imprisoned for criminal tax fraud in the 1980s. *note 3

Pedophilia: There are studies that demonstrate that the faith community is even more vulnerable to abuse than secular environments.


The christians have won this one hands down. Just the information on the RCC alone was too large to include in a blog post. * note 4

What is the inescapable conclusion honest people draw from all this data?   Secular societies and individuals are equally or better behaved than their religious counterparts.   Funny thing is, atheists are better people without the threat of eternal punishment as a motivator, and believers just can’t seem to “control themselves” when it comes to sin in spite of it.  So, when you parrot Psalm 14:1 at me I’m not impressed, all you’ve managed to convince me of is that you’re just another liar for jesus.

*note 1  [See “Criminality And Moral Conduct” para: Zuckerman on Atheism ]

*note 2 [ ]

*note 3 [ See Wiki page Criminal Religious Leaders ]

*note 4 [ See Sexual Offenders Within the Christian Community ]

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4 Responses to Belief = morality and law-abiding behavior. Is there evidence to support this position?

  1. migarium says:

    Reblogged this on unnecessary news from earth and commented:
    Thank you first of all for sharing a good article, my Earthling friend persedeplume.:)

    And I am, from another point of view; so I would like to approach the issue in terms of the belief of a Muslim country. So regarding Turkey’s status. Why Turkey? Because it is the only secular Muslim country of the world. Even, the works of public officials in Turkey are limited by the principle of secularism as will not be seen in the majority Western countries. Even its constitution is one of the first three unchangeable article: “Republic of Turkey is a secular country.”
    After the elections in 2002, a right-wing party, which has adopted the religious characterized to came to the country’s leadership. And this party is still in the management of country. The head of the party, that he is currently president of the Republic of Turkey. And if we look; we can find that he used the constant the religious rhetoric, and he and his party try to change the basic structure of the country thoroughly with changes in laws. In education, health, social space, public space, almost everywhere, the religious referenced people came to the position and authority.

    Result: As much as the last 12 years; the prisons of Republic of Turkey, have never been filled than throughout the history of 93 years.

    59,429 people were in prison in 2002.
    More than 152,000 people are in prison at the end of the 2014.

    Blackmail, wounding, the proportion of perpetrators of crimes such as sexual harassment and extortion have increased to 3.8 percent in 2012. The level of 1.2 per cent was in 2006.

    The largest increase in these years, with 658,7 percent, it has occurred in the number of children using one or more synthetic drugs.

    Violence against women has increased by a record-breaking 1,400 percent.

    There is more, but I think it is enough.

    Developing a language through using datas over religion and trying to remove the ethical values and state”secular principle” has led to social collapse in Turkey.

    My opinion is, as you can see in this example, there is no real supporting evidence “Belief = morality and law-abiding behavior.” Quite the contrary, religious discourses is causing an increase at the social collapse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • persedeplume says:

      Thank you, dear Migarium. I’m glad you found some meaning in my article. I have watched Turkey from afar slide slowly into the religious abyss and often wonder how our dear friends the atheists, agnostics, and secular peoples are faring. I hope you all remain safe now and in the future. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • migarium says:

        Anything in Turkey is not as perceived from the outside, as same as the other countries. I think, if the people today could speak freely in here, there are too many agnostic and atheist in this country will be seen. But international hypocritical policies prevent to this. The other side my Earthling friend, as an extraterrestrial, I can try to not attract attention by the public in anywhere on this planet, becasue of that some alien issues:)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Think Always says:

    Fantastic post! Very complementary to my last post, where I pointed to the incarceration rates. You supplied a bunch of great info here. Good work!

    Liked by 1 person

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