Religious Belief and Crime


In a study covering 67 countries conducted by Azim Shariff at the University of Oregon and Mike Rhemtulla at the University of Kansas, the authors compared crime rates to the proportion of citizens who believed in heaven versus hell.  Citizens of the various countries were asked if they believed in either heaven or hell, and the researchers subtracted the percentage of heaven-believers by the percentage of hell-believers; the following remainder represented the country’s “rate of belief.”  Shariff and Rhemtulla found that a higher rate of belief predicted higher crime rates.  Researchers suggested that the comfort of heaven without the possibility of eternal punishment in hell compels one to commit further wrongdoings.  In Monday’s daily chart, The Economist compiled the data into a graph to display the connection between the two variables.  Countries with low crime rates and low rates of belief more often than not fell in the Middle Eastern and Asian regions, while countries in South America tended to possess higher crime rates and rates of belief.
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