Religious Criminals are Liars?

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Yesterday I posted a response to a comment made by a reader on my 22 Ways Religion Promotes Crime page. He made a few other comments on the page, so here they are, followed by my responses:

You also ignore the prison ministries that have tried to change prisoners’ attitudes toward life. Many of them become Christians in order to convince the parole board they have changed. They hope to be let out sooner than expected. When they poll religious views of prisoners they all say they are innocent of their crimes and they suddenly believe in God. So the point you’ve made is absurd.

Well, I think you ignored the second little statistic at the top of the page that talked about religious training. This is referring to religious training as children, before they ever became criminals.

You say that prison ministries are trying to change attitudes, but the statistics show that people are more likely to recommit after being in prison, so they’re not doing the greatest job of it, and yet churches everywhere continue to claim that religion makes you a better person.

You then say that many become Christians to appeal to the parole board, but in your previous comment you claimed that our prisons are controlled by atheists and they heavily discriminate against theists, which accounts for the statistics. If this were true, why would these prisoners be doing this?

If you talk to prisoners you find that, for many of them, religion is all they have, and it means a tremendous amount to them. It’s hard to fake that. Even if they were faking it, they would still be surrounded by religion. They’d still have to read the books and attend church to keep up the facade. If religion is really so affective at making people good, wouldn’t all that religious immersion have at least some positive affect on them?

Now, this is totally unrelated and irrelevant to this conversation, but I had to throw in the point that, for a criminal looking for parole, joining a religion and claiming innocence are two very different things. I don’t see how a parole board is going to want to parole someone who is obviously guilty, but still in denial. It seems like the prisoners would be shooting themselves in the foot by claiming innocence. I personally think it’s likely that there’s more innocent prisoners admitting guilt for the sake of the parole board than guilty people claiming innocence.

However, your point here is a real world, testable defense, and I like that. If this were true, we could confirm it scientifically with further testing.


I think your reaction to the statistics at the top is an emotional one, so lets try looking at this in a hypothetical, less emotional context.

Let’s say you’ve got a multi-billion dollar, international company that sells nothing but products that prevent cancer. Most people in the world believe they work. The scientists that tested the products all believe they work, and they have a number of chemical and logical formulas to back up their assumptions.

But then, once deployed into the real world, a few people start doing statistical analysis of the people using these products and finds that on average, they are actually more likely to gain cancer, not less, at least from a statistical perspective.

The company would then make defenses. “The test group wasn’t large enough”, “the analysts were biased”, “those people were all living under power lines”, “they weren’t using the products properly.” They’d have explanations for these statistics, and many of them would be convincing. However, neither the company nor its loyal customers are able to provide any other statistics to counter the originals, nor can they produce any solid evidence that their explanations are correct.

Now, would it be ethical at this point to simply write off these statistical findings as irrelevant and rely on the data that came from the labs or the company’s advertising, or our inherent belief that these products work?

No. These are people’s lives we’re talking about here. If there’s any evidence that these products don’t do what they claim to, we have a moral obligation to explore more deeply, to do everything we can to produce real world, confirmable evidence, and to really address the issue, rather than just attacking people who bring it up and sweeping it under the rug.

Here are a few more blog posts about my theory that religion promotes crime:

New study raises questions about religion as deterrent against criminal behaviour
Religion vs Methamphetamines
Masturbation, Homosexuality, and Christian Impostors
Atheists Don't Believe in Love?
Response to 22 Ways
Even More Atheist-Theist Debate
More Atheist-Theist Debate
Jeffrey Dahmer Interview Segment
Crime is not Logical
About My Page, 22 Ways

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