I haunt the ‘religion and spirtuality’ section of yahoo answers. This has lead me to the observation that many Americans sincerely believe that all atheists are conscienceless materialists, willing to murder good Christian babies for a laugh, devoid of any kind of morality.
This is something of a strange viewpoint. Atheism is considered ‘pretty normal’ in Europe. In fact, there are a few countries now where atheists are the majority. Religion is much less of an issue here. Partly because we bundled all our religious fruitcakes onto ships and sent them to America, but mostly because we’ve seen enough religious conflict to last us to the next millennium. Admitting you are an atheist in the UK will be just a passing comment, and not some ‘coming out of the closet’ moment.
So, I thought I’d gather a few facts on the behaviour of atheists and religious people, for comparison.
Number of each group in prison in 1997
The Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics on religious affiliations of inmates. The following are total number of inmates per religion category:
Response Number %
Catholic 29267 39.164%
Protestant 26162 35.008%
Muslim 5435 7.273%
American Indian 2408 3.222%
Nation 1734 2.320%
Rasta 1485 1.987%
Jewish 1325 1.773%
Church of Christ 1303 1.744%
Pentecostal 1093 1.463%
Moorish 1066 1.426%
Buddhist 882 1.180%
Jehovah Witness 665 0.890%
Adventist 621 0.831%
Orthodox 375 0.502%
Mormon 298 0.399%
Scientology 190 0.254%
Atheist 156 0.209%
Hindu 119 0.159%
Santeria 117 0.157%
Sikh 14 0.019%
Bahai 9 0.012%
Krishna 7 0.009%
Total Known Responses 74731 100.001% (rounding to 3 digits does this)
Unknown/No Answer 18381
Total Convicted 93112 80.259% (74731) prisoners’ religion is known.
Held in Custody 3856 (not surveyed due to temporary custody)
Total In Prisons 96968
Compare this to the numbers of godless heathens in the population at large, about 10% in 1997…
Currently about 51% are Protestants, 24% Catholic,3.3% Christian ‘other’, 0.8% Muslim.
This works out as atheists being about 50 times less likely to commit an imprisonable offence.
Catholics are about 2/3 more likely than average to be criminals. Protestants are a less likely (about 2/3 as criminal as average).
Muslims are about nine times more likely to be in prison.
The high number of muslims is reputed to be because of the high conversion rate in black males in prison. However, the UK is over-represented by Muslims too, 12% of the prisoners, 3.1% of the population. This might be to a lot of them being poor immigrants, but a Dutch study showed that they commited more crime even weighting for socio-economic status.
So, do atheists condone the use of torture? Apparently not.
According to a survey posted on the National Catholic Reporter, here are the percentages of people who say that torture is never justified:
31% White Protestant
31% White evangelical
32% Overall Population
Here are the numbers who think that torture is often justified:
15% White Protestant
13% White evangelical
15% Overall Population
I have to say, Catholics aren’t coming across well here.
So, are religious morals more likely to help you to keep your marriage together?
Religion % have been divorced
Born-again Christians 27%
Other Christians 24%
Atheists, Agnostics 21%
Or do religious ideals compel you to do more charitable work? Nope, atheist doctors do more charity work too. Possibly it’s because the Catholic doctors have bigger families to feed.
Researchers from the University of Chicago and Yale New Haven Hospital report that 31 percent of physicians who were more religious—as measured by “intrinsic religiosity” as well as frequency of attendance at religious services—practiced among the underserved, compared to 35 percent of physicians who described their religion as atheist, agnostic or none.
The news gets worse for the religious. It seems, the higher your IQ, the less likely you are to believe in God.
This isn’t exactly shocking news, it’s been pretty well hammered out in various psychology papers before. A decent quote for this article is that..
A survey of Royal Society fellows found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God – at a time when 68.5 per cent of the general UK population described themselves as believers.
A separate poll in the 90s found only seven per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God.
When the British say ‘believers’, it usually means ‘the kids are christened and we go to the midnight mass at Christmas’. The actual number of churchgoing Brits is… well, I don’t personally know any. About 3%, so I’m told.
So how religious are Europeans? Lets look at the religiosity of Europe… the darker the purple, the more they pray.
You have to remember that ‘being religious’ in Europe is generally a less ‘go to church/smite the heathens’ and more ‘get the kids into that nice church school’. One of the more amusing factoids I came across was that Catholic Italy has the lowest birthrate in Europe, 1.1 child per woman. So I take their protestations of good Catholicism with a grain of salt. You could hardly say the ungodliness and anarchy go hand in hand from comparing the least religious states with the most. Norway, Sweden and Holland are renowned for their kindly social systems and law abiding citizens. Switzerland is one of the dullest-I mean, tidy and law abiding, places on the planet. But a belief in god seems pretty uncommon there. Another example of an atheist country renowned for its law abiding citizens is Japan.
So, does atheism lead to irresponsible sexual behaviour in children? Now, that is harder to examine. Lets look at the teenage pregnancy rates of these countries compared to America (all developed countries with a high GDP).
Adolescent childbearing is more common in the United States (22% of women reported having had a child before age 20) than in Great Britain (15%), Canada (11%), France (6%) and Sweden (4%); differences are even greater for births to younger teenagers. A lower proportion of teenage pregnancies are resolved through abortion in the United States than in the other countries; however, because of their high pregnancy rate, U.S. teenagers have the highest abortion rate. The age of sexual debut varies little across countries, yet American teenagers are the most likely to have multiple partners. A greater proportion of U.S. women reported no contraceptive use at either first or recent intercourse (25% and 20%, respectively) than reported nonuse in France (11% and 12%, respectively), Great Britain (21% and 4%, respectively) and Sweden (22% and 7%, respectively).
Since America is by far the most religious of these developed countries, it can’t be said religion is any kind of factor in stopping the children getting up to mischief. It actually seems that the less religious a country, the less irresponsible underage sex you get. Probably because of realistic contraceptive education programs.
Another common charge is that ‘all modern morality is derived from religion’, and that we are living by some ancient god’s moral code, even if we don’t accept it. Well, since I’ve seen altruistic behaviour in house-pets I’m fairly sure have never read the bible, I can declare that ridiculous. Religious morality is derived from humans own natural behaviour, not vice versa.
So, in summary, the less religious you are, the more… law abiding, intelligent, monogamous, charitable, moral and sexual responsible you are likely to be.
Obviously, a threat to civilisation as we know it.