Monday, March 11, 2013

Study suggests that religion helps criminals justify their crimes.

Courtesy of Slate:  

In 1996, noted criminologist Jewel asked a question that has long haunted those hoodlums prone to pondering the existential consequences of their actions: “Who will save your souls after those lies that you told, boy?” For generations of American crooks, the answer has been “religious do-gooders.” As a 2006 Federal Bureau of Prisons report put it, “faith groups have become involved in offering formal programs within prison to bring about not only the spiritual salvation of the inmates but their rehabilitation in the profane world as well.” The idea is that spiritual rebirth may help tame the criminal impulse, and set wild hearts on the straight and narrow. 

Maybe not. A new study in the academic journal Theoretical Criminology suggests that, far from causing offenders to repent of their sins, religious instruction might actually encourage crime. The authors surveyed 48 “hardcore street offenders” in and around Atlanta, in hopes of determining what effect, if any, religion has on their behavior. While the vast majority of those surveyed (45 out of 48 people) claimed to be religious, the authors found that the interviewees “seemed to go out of their way to reconcile their belief in God with their serious predatory offending. They frequently employed elaborate and creative rationalizations in the process and actively exploit religious doctrine to justify their crimes.” 

In the end, the authors found, “there is reason to believe that these rationalizations and justifications may play a criminogenic role in their decision making.”

I think this is one of those things that most of us probably realize deep down, but not something which gets much discussion simply because it is an uncomfortable reality of life.

One of the topics always up for discussion when I was in my "searching for meaning" phase during my twenties was "How could religion possibly have an influence on criminal behaviors if all you have to do as a Catholic is go to confession, or accept Jesus as your personal savior, to be absolved of all of your past sins?" To me it always seemed that you could do just about anything without fear of eternal damnation, so long as you were willing to kiss God's ass with your dying breath.

That is why I was never impressed with the argument that religion is necessary to provide a moral framework for human beings. I actually thought quite the opposite and believed the "Get out of Hell Free" card encouraged anti-social and criminal behaviors by making these individuals feel they answered to a higher authority than our human laws, and it was an authority who could essentially be bribed at the last minute to forgo any punishment. 

However those of us who are directed by internal, rather than external, controls make our choices based, not out of fear of punishment, but from a feeling of connection to those around us and a fundamental sense of right and wrong.

Which might help to explain why non-believers make up only 1% of the prison population in this country.


  1. I've long believed that Christianity promotes irreponsibility. There's no effects one has to carry as a result of misbehavior: all you have to do is claim you're sorry. What can you possibly learn from that? Not only that, but Christianity has to be propped up: in the history of Christianity, it has gone hand in glove with governmental authority. From the very beginning, they tried to convert civil authority- the monarchy- first, and then have the monarchy promote the faith. To this day, Christianity wants in the schools- which is State time- and it wants the courts and the lawmakers too. I don't expect an atheist ever to be elected: at least, not knowingly so. People running for office have to profess a religious faith. And the prison: literally a captive audience.

    Christianity just isn't particularly impressive as a religion: it always has to be propped up and enforced by authority. This despite the fact that the only recorded words relative to civil government from its founder is, "Render therefore unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and to God that which is God's."

    1. Leland10:47 AM

      Would it surprise you to know that we DO have a secularist in Congress right now? And she is open about it. The people knew she was non-religious. She basically claims the same thing as an agnostic, but simply balks at the terminology. She took her oath of office swearing on the US Constitution. Kyrsten Sinema is her name. Oh, and by the way, she is also openly bi-sexual!

      Further, Kyrsten replaced openly atheist Pete Stark of Arizona.

      And of course, we have practitioners of other major religions in Congress this year. We have one woman who took her oath on the Buddhist book of guidelines. (No, it isn;'t their form of a bible! I just can't remember what it's called.)

      Progress IS being made.

  2. Anonymous3:20 AM

    "The devil made me do it...." Right??

  3. Anonymous3:41 AM

    Well, a crime for most people is an in-the-moment act and most have the ability to learn from their mistakes and go on to live better lives. I don't know if it's justification but just showing people that the past is only a teacher and not something to dictate the future.

    1. Anonymous1:32 PM

      Anon @3:41 AM

      A crime for most people... "MOST" ???

      Link or citation, please.

    2. Leland3:03 PM

      1:32, how would YOU have said it?

  4. Anonymous4:00 AM

    I've never understood it either.

    Even for those that don't rationalize away their crime, the ones who do admit they committed a crime are still okay with it because they know their god has forgiven them of everything. Their conscience is clear.

    "But you tortured, raped and killed six little girls".

    "I don't care what you think. I don't answer to you. I answer to god and god has forgiven me."

  5. Leland4:08 AM

    I have always felt - even as a youngster - that christianity was too easy. At least in judaism and islam, penitence is generally required to be sincere and the sin not repeated. As these current believers seem to think in christianity, they just say "I'm sorry, lord and walk away". They seem to prefer to completely ignore that second half of the requirement for forgiveness - "go and sin no more". It seems that the modern religious screamers are the worst offenders, too. At least, they were in all the churches I visited when I was in MY searching mode.

    Religion (I believe) has always been a shelter in which to hide. I mean, look at the idea of Sanctuary in christianity. (Does that even work in the US?)

    So the idea that the twisted mind of the criminal (and I do NOT mean insane or anything along those lines, just a different mind set) would jump on christianity as a way of justifying what they do/did does NOT surprise me.

    I would be interested, however, to know if a similar study was performed for the other two monotheistic religions or if it was included in this one.

    1. What it seems most Christians don't adhere to is the 'repent' part of asking God for forgiveness. Asking God for forgiveness includes repenting of the the action that compelled asking for forgiveness. Repent = turn away from the action, cease doing it.

      The 'sin' is forgiven, but the consequences do not simply disappear because you are sorry. The actions are to be repented off, don't do that thing anymore.

      Cheap 'grace' is to be sorry, ask to be forgiven, and continue the at best inappropriate, at worst 'sinful' behavior. Without the 'repent, turn from wicked ways' part of forgiveness is not necessarily received. Part of forgiveness, including the 'repent' part, is forgiving oneself.

    2. Leland9:15 AM

      I thought I said that.

  6. Anonymous4:33 AM

    "The Devil made me do it."


    "God will forgive me my sins."

    Two imaginary mental myths perpetuate justification for violence.

    We're just (monkeys) humans, after all. :-]

  7. Maple6:12 AM

    The most interesting fact -- worth spreading -- is that non-believers make up only 1% of America's prison population. That pretty well blows a hole in the theory that atheists are immoral, dreadful people, to be shunned at all costs!

    1. Anonymous1:39 PM

      Now wait just a minute here, Maple, the devil uses all kinds of trickery to deceive, and using my own words to obliterate my talking points is a low blow that only the Prince of Darkness or perhaps, Lawrence O'Donnell himself might use. It's as bad as a gotcha question about what books I read. Lay off.

  8. George Zimmerman said it was "god's will" that he stalked and murdered Trayvon Martin.

    1. Cardinal Dolan - a contender for the next emperor at the conclave - just wrote on his online diary and has repeated it to pressers that he was never taught that screwing kids was wrong at the seminary NOR is it stated in the bible that screwing kids is a sin no foul, no sin and hey di hoe, keep tithing to the princes of the church, that liquor cabinet doesn't fill up for free!

    2. Anonymous11:48 AM

      The 'family party' pervs on parade:

      Republican religious rage-a-holic anti-gay activist Earl "Butch" Kimmerling was sentenced 40 years = raping 8-year old girl he prevented being adopted by gay couple who adopted her brother.

      BTK serial killer, Republican zoning supervisor, Boy Scout leader and church president Dennis L. Rader pleaded guilty to performing a sexual act on an 11-year old girl he murdered.

      Republican County Constable Larry Dale Floyd = soliciting sex with an 8-year old girl.

      Republican judge Mark Pazuhanich pleaded no contest to fondling a 10-year old girl and was sentenced to 10 years probation.

      Republican Party leader Bobby Stumbo was arrested for having sex with a 5-year old boy.

      Republican Mayor Philip Giordano is serving a 37-year sentence for raping 8- and 10-year old girls.

      Republican Mayor John Gosek = soliciting sex from two 15-year old girls.

      Republican County Commissioner David Swartz pleaded guilty to molesting two girls under the age of 11 and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

      Republican legislator Edison Misla Aldarondo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping his 9yr old daughter until she was 17

      Republican campaign worker Mark Seidensticker is a convicted child molester.

      Republican anti-abortion activist Howard Scott Heldreth is a convicted child rapist in Florida.

      the rest of the list:

  9. I have always thought that the first line of defense in developing and instilling good moral and empathetic behavior in children was the teaching of responsible parents, not the church.

  10. It goes deeper than the "get out of hell free" card. As a child who grew up in an abusive, intensely religious home, I can tell you that religious fundamentalism goes beyond providing instant etch-a-sketching of bad behavior, and often provides justification for it. Want to beat your kids? "Spare the rod and spoil the child." Want to have sex with someone who doesn't want to? "Weak flesh," or, alternatively, "She was wearing clothes no good Christian girl would wear," or "in a place she shouldn't have been." Want to indulge in hate crimes? You've got Leviticus. Genocide? Most of the Old Testament. Adultery? King David, who killed a guy so he could have his wife, and still got to be called "a man after god's own heart." Fundamentalist and conservative religion is about one thing--perpetuating the rule of white anglo saxon males over everybody else. Is it any wonder that a theology built on that basis is frequently employed to justify all sorts of "might makes right" behavior?

    1. Carla Fay Tucker - ruthless ax murderess "found god on death row" and had the fundies panties in a wad trying to save her since she "repented" and made cute photo op prayer photos to prove it.

      I've pointed out to the born again fundie ilk that they're giving out golden tickets to the worst of the worst so the criminal can spend an eternity in heaven with their victims who would consider it pure hell..

  11. I know a few people who were converted in to believers while in jail... It is more than saying I am sorry and go your way.. There were a complete conversion and a complete turning away from sins and ways. They became a different person(this is the best I can explain). One man I know was in jail for atempted of murder, was suppose to serve 25years. He was a dangerous person, who was on the street at 14, after being attacked abusive mother. He got saved in prison and was released after five years. A pastor helped him, he got his GED, BS degreed, he became a successful businessman (I worked for me) and went on and got his MS and Dr. He is also a pastor and have been reaching out to other inmates who will be release soon.

    People who on the outside don't understand or they have seen too many false Christians who preaches one thing, but their life style is the opposite. Sometime people pretent to get by using churches to get what they want and never convert. They do what it is necessary to get out of jail early. There are people like my former employer. his sister and others, who are truly converted and more on in their lives. Even after salvation, repend is more than i am sorry, it is a complete turn around from that sin , or you will never be forgiven.

    1. Leland10:55 AM

      I have no problem with those who are truly repentant. They "go and sin no more" which is SUPPOSED to be the whole point. I would be willing to bet that the majority of those of us here on IM have known far too many fakers who CLAIM it, but never really are.

      As soon as I hear someone claim to be "a born again christian" I run like hell away from that person. A true "born again" doesn't brag about shit like that.

      So while what you say may be the truth - and truly the truth - what you are sayING is not accurate in the long run, merely the exceptions that prove the rule.

    2. Anonymous11:02 AM

      The FBI gave the standard profile of a serial killer, "He is a person with few friends. He became much more religious just before he started murdering people."

      Almost all serial killers start quoting one verse after another from the Christian Bible ----> information on serial killers being sexually inhibited and there views on sex and religion at

      From interviews made by Kinsey Institute: "incest offenders were the 'most religious' of any offenders, nearly half being classed as devout. Nearly all of these devout men were members of Pentecostal sects or were 'hard-shell' Baptists and Methodists."

      Hitler was a Roman Catholic alter Boy and wrote of wanting to be a Catholic priest. He and his men in charge of killing six million Jews were Catholic religious fanatics until death.

      Stalin went to college to be a Protestant Christian minister. as president of Russia and time after time had millions murdered.

      Bruce Lee murdered 26 people. The Flint Journal article says "Bible reading was his only consolations" and he quoted the bible saying "Matthew 6, verse 24 no servant can be a serve of two masters."

      David Berkowitz (Corbis) called the SON OF SAM, murdered more than 10 women. "He called himself a born again Christian"

      Berwid: "I was searching the bible and soul searching and I decided God wanted me to do that."

      The Yorkshire Rapier "was on a divine mission and felt he had been chosen to hear the word of GOD (JESUS)." He murdered 11 girls.

      Miller a serial killer had that thing called faith, believed in Jesus..... he was always carrying the Bible.

      Sampson Kanderayi, a mass murderer called The Ax Killer, killed more than 30 people. "he did it to appease evil spirits." He was a rabid Christian

      Watts, The Sunday Morning Slasher killed 11 women. Says he did it "to eliminate evil spirits".

      Jeffery Dahmer is a typical serial killer. He killed more than 23 young men and eat many of them....creationist fundamentalist domestically abusive father.

      Then, lest we forget fanatically religious woman who drowned her five kids in the tub because she was preached that rowdy rambunctious kids were possessed by the devil...can't recall her name.

      Susan Smith, incest victim of rabid religious republican politician dad whom grew up to drown her two sons by driving it into a lake.

      Born again fundamentalist joke murdering their spouse via "Christian divorce" because murderers can repent & go to heaven but adulterers cannot.

  12. There was a study done years ago reporting that over 90% of death row inmates & the worst of serial killers, serial rapists & pedophiles behind bars were raised in fanatically religious environs.

    Raising your child via religions teaching the "other" is a lesser human being makes those others prime victims validated by the belief system that created the monsters.

    Dahmer = raging fundamentalist family; Manson = raised by raging fire brimstone bloodlusting Baptist preache whom Manson credits for teaching him to manipulate people to do his will ...the list is endless which includes Bundy. Ed Gein, as well.

    Mormons have manifested some of the most ruthless & prolific killers by teaching their sons "the thoughts in your head are a green light from god" , , , which green lights their behavior no matter how heinous the crimes.

    The "Jesus Camp" children were being taught how to fight & kill as "warriors" as we've seen in the documentary...those types of children are who grow up to become the worst of the worst.

    Pedophile priests and the endless headlines found weekly are parade of preachers arrested for rapes, murders, pedophilia ...all proving the fact they do exploit biblical teachings to validate their crimes quite clearly. Most victims of perverse men in black collars have stated they were told BY the perv pulpit pounder "god" demanded them to serve the perv's perversions & demands their silence.

    The Catholic churches literally excommunicated child victims & their families who did not follow orders of the local diocese edicts to NOT report to legal authorities. (An Australian priest just testified recently in open court that from the Vatican down it was a given...that the only way to breach celibacy rules was sex with a with children & other men do not breach the rules which is why the bosses just shuffled them off to other congregations with more victims awaiting)

    Today...a bible thumping virulently anti-gay "rising star" Republican's healines:

    A rising star in the GOP has had his political ambitions destroyed after being arrested on 113 felony sex charges.

    Eric Bodenweiser, 53, a rabid anti-gay activist and member of the Delaware Family Policy Council was a near lock to win election to a seat in Delaware's state senate , , probably still will be since the more perverse they are the bigger their fan base.

    Here is an ongoing (smaller list) of preachers behind bars:

    A massive list is at:

    and more:

    1. correcting link for baptist preachers behind bars:

      direct list . . it's shocking:

      the victim statements are gut wrenching!

  13. Anonymous2:49 PM

    My opinion about the Catholic Church was formed and set during my teen years, when I saw criminals, adulterers and others screw around before church, go in, get absolution, and, the minute they got out of church, go right back to the same behavior as before, and claiming they would be absolved of their sins, because they confessed.
    That is, when I realized that organized religion is nothing but a farce and a power play.

  14. Anonymous3:06 PM

    When we bought our house, we decided to add a few things to make it more open and light. We decided on a contractor that was recommended to us by the company making some of the add-ons (Lindal). Turns out, he claimed to be a devout Christian (which should have been a RED FLAG), and having been a member of the 'million man march' on DC in the 1990s.
    Well, if any of you ever saw the movie 'the money pit', then you pretty much saw hat happened to us. That guy took is to the cleaners, because, unfortunately, we had had no experience with contractors before, and we trusted his references. I even checked with the BBB, and he had a clean record - until our case. After he got out of town with our money, and most work either done shoddily or not at all - we could not live in the house for almost a year, and when he left, he left two walls wide open, just covered with tarp... - he went up north and did more of these things. One day, the cops came to us and inquired about him. He had fleeced at least ten other people by then, but had left the country. Good Xtian ...

  15. Anita Winecooler6:40 PM

    I've always found it amusing to see prison shows where these animals "found Jesus", and even more perplexing is these wack job women marrying murderers, rapists, thieves, cannibals, etc. etc. for the same reason, if it's good enough for God to forgive, it's good enough for them? And they start families with them?
    I don't doubt the findings in that study one bit. When religions give people the tools they need to justify abhorrent behavior because "Jesus Saves", The Bible says..., The priest will absolve me of my sins... etc... There's no thought needed, just do a b and c and God's "Magic Eraser" does the rest.


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