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It seems as if every time there is a mass murder incident, the religious right comes out of the woodwork to say that things like this happen because our society is too secular or that we teach evolution in public schools, etc.

Rick Warren didn't disappoint:

UPDATE:  Rick Warren said that this tweet dealt with a different issue:

Now, however, Warren has explained that his “tweet” had nothing to do with that, but was related to a parent’s question about his daughter’s sexuality.  He left this comment on the website Exploring our Matrix:

    TWITTER’S limit on words allows no context for statements. A lack of contxt causes misinterpretation. So when you tweet what’s on your mind, people preassume (incorrectly) that you are talking about what’s on THEIR mind. This is a clear example. My tweet was a brief response to a question to me about SEXUAL PROMISCUITY. It had NOTHING to do with the tragedy in Colorado.! I had received this email from a dad: “Pastor Rick, my daughter told me her teacher said in class “There’s nothing wrong with sex with multiple partners! Sex is a natural, inate drive, and any attempt to limit it to one, single partner is a manmade construct.” THAT is what I was commenting on. Unfortunately, you also incorrectly presumed the context.

So, this won't be aimed at Rick Warren but rather at those who have implied that this shooting had something to do with the fact that religion's hold on our country is weakening.

So, what does the data actually say?  More below the fold.

I found it harder to get data that correlates with acceptance of evolution versus propensity to commit violent crimes.  But I was able to get the following:

1. Percent of atheists in the US population verses percent of atheists in the US prison population.

2. Religiosity of a country versus homicide rate (per 100,000 population) in a country.

Yes, I know; there are many who say that they accept both religion and evolution.  I don't want to get into the debate as to whether acceptance of evolution (as scientists understand it) is compatible with a religion, as a matte of dogma, says that humans were an intentional creation.  I have an opinion on that matter but will not address it here.  

I will instead look at the questions:  "does being religious lead to better behavior" and "does a society being religious drive down the homicide rate".

Finding one:  atheists are less likely to be imprisoned than believers.

In *1997*, the Federal Bureau of Prisons released the professed religious adherence rate of those in the U.S. Federal Prison system.

Christians make up about 80% of the American population AND prison population.

However, Atheists make up about 8% of the American population but only 0.2% of the prison population.

Now, of course, one can claim that those in prison are lying about their religious beliefs or that there is a hidden variable lurking (e. g., there is a higher rate of atheism among the most educated).  But the data does NOT back up the claim that the religious behave more morally or virtuously than the non-religious.

Finding two: There data suggests that the more religious countries have a higher homicide rate than the less religious countries.

The data for this "back of the envelope" regression comes from here

http://en.wikipedia.org/...

and here

http://en.wikipedia.org/...

I ranked the countries in terms of religiosity by the percentage of those saying "religion is NOT important" (1.00 means: everyone said that religion is unimportant, 0.00 means that no one said that religion is unimportant) and then in terms of homicide rate: number of homicides per 100,000 population:

Notice anything?  I decided to take the 50 countries that have a listed homicide rate and regress "percent saying religion is unimportant" verses "homicide rate" and got the following:

y = 23.4 - 29.8 x.  The relation is not linear (not expected to be) as r^2  = .153.  The data:

Once again, there is nothing to suggest that religiosity drives down the homicide rate; in fact, one can argue that there is just the opposite effect.   Again, I am aware of lurking confounding variables here.  

My whole point of this little exercise:  those who claim that things like murders are caused by a lack of religion simply don't know what they are talking about.

1:52 PM PT: Here is data from a more rigorous study (thanks to Shawn Russell):

http://epiphenom.fieldofscience.com/...

This data suggests a negative correlation between religiosity and violence in society; there is a statistically significant effect.


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