Is the Devil a Great Cop? Belief in Hell Associated With Low National Crime Rates

By Sophie Bushwick | June 25, 2012 12:44 pm

An illustration of hell from the 12th-century encyclopedia
Hortus Deliciarum

Religion takes a two-pronged approach to encouraging good behavior: breaking the rules warrants supernatural punishment, while positive actions can earn a blissful afterlife. To most effectively promote a moral lifestyle, however, religious leaders may want to scrap the heavenly reassurance and preach more fire and brimstone: While belief in hell is strongly associated with lower crime rates, belief in heaven is actually tied to more crime.

For 67 countries and more than 143,000 participants, psychologists compared three decades of data about belief in heaven, hell, and God to information about the rates of ten different crimes, including homicide and robbery. They found that religious beliefs were better predictors for five of the ten crimes than either poverty or income inequality.

The researchers point out that they have not proved that religious beliefs affect crime, only that the two are associated. Nonetheless, they suggest that the fear of supernatural punishment can effectively control groups of people, encouraging social behavior and cooperation. “Unlike humans,” they write in their PLoS ONE paper, “divine punishers can be omniscient, omnipotent, infallible, and untouchable—and therefore able to effectively deter transgressors who may for whatever reason be undeterred by earthly policing systems.”

[via io9]

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Crime & Punishment
MORE ABOUT: belief, crime, heaven, hell, religion
  • Velkyn

    It’s rather sad to think that some humans need a “bogeyman” to control themselves.   This also begs the questions, why do so many people appear to convert in religion and if there is some “god” why it does nothing to demonstrate itself if it wants the same “justice” we do.  Free will doesn’t cut it, unless one assumes a god that is *not* the gods of the standard religions since they all repeatedly interfere with humanity (only modern theists, especially Christians, have attempted to rewrite their religions and give their god a new MO ignoring what they supposedly believe it’s done in the past)

  • HenryD

    You have a loving God who will forgive you if you repent, people know they have an escape clause.  Just like little kids, you need to scare the heck out of them to get them to behave.

  • film izle

    very good

  • Hhyapster

    This is why all nations have laws for their citizens to follow.
    The religious bullshits never prevented priest from committing molesting /sex crimes, why should their beliefs deter misdeeds?


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