Thursday, June 21, 2012

Belief in heaven linked to more crime according to study

Evidently, the carrot is not better than the stick.  According to a recent study from the Department of Psychology of the University of Oregon, belief in heaven may actually be counterproductive when it comes to influencing prosocial behavior.
Though religion has been shown to have generally positive effects on normative ‘prosocial’ behavior, recent laboratory research suggests that these effects may be driven primarily by supernatural punishment. Supernatural benevolence, on the other hand, may actually be associated with less prosocial behavior. Here, we investigate these effects at the societal level, showing that the proportion of people who believe in hell negatively predicts national crime rates whereas belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates. These effects remain after accounting for a host of covariates, and ultimately prove stronger predictors of national crime rates than economic variables such as GDP and income inequality. Expanding on laboratory research on religious prosociality, this is the first study to tie religious beliefs to large-scale cross-national trends in pro- and anti-social behavior.

Why might this be the case?  Churches don't generally advocate criminal behavior. 

One possible answer might be found in the apocalyptic Christian attitude that we don't need to take care of the planet because the Rapture is coming soon.  Religious faith allows people to care less about the environment than they would absent a belief in God.  

Maybe this idea bleeds over into taking care of other people.  If a person steals from or even kills another person, the belief that everything will be made right in heaven might make the act more palatable.  


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