Lies, damned lies and atheists in prison

October 6, 2008 at 1:56 pm 33 comments

There are some statistics that atheists love to repeat. One of them is this: “About 8-16% of America’s population are atheists, but only 0.21% of the prison population are.”

This page is apparently their source for that. It gives the numbers for prison inmates, and their reported religious groupings, on 5 March 1997. (I wonder why do no atheist ever mention a more recent study? Is this particular 11-year old study the one with results that best match their agenda?)

But wait a minute. These numbers apparently also say that 19,7% of the prisoners population chose not to answer this question, or was perhaps not asked, or perhaps just ticked a box named “other religious view” without naming their view in it. Now, the prisoners that were not asked are probably not much different from anyone else. We do not know how many of those were numbered in the sample.

But the prisoners who chose not to answer? It make perfect sense that an atheist will be less likely to honestly answer that question. (It may indirectly affect his chances for parole, for instance.) And with a tick box for “Catholic” or “Muslim”, but none for atheist, it is likely that some atheists will be among those who just tick “other” without filling in the word atheist. 

The people who chose not to answer could, fairly speaking, include anything from absolutely no atheists at all to all atheists, without exception. Atheists could, if these statistics were accurate, anything between 0,21% and 19,95% of the prison population in the USA. Since many (probably the mayority of) people who do not believe in God or the supernatural- fail to identify themselves with the label of “atheist”, you could assume their true number will be higher.(And Catholics, for example, could be anything between 38,16 and 58%. But it is unlikely that someone would hide his religion from prison authorities. I therefore hold that the number of Catholics will be closer to the former.)

Apparently the “atheists are 8-16 % of the US population” do not hold up to scrutiny either. Other studies claim that 98% of Americans believe in God, and that only 4% of them have no religion. (Note: Numbers for “no religion” or even “unbelief in God” do not equate, even closely, to self-claimed atheism. Many non-religious disbelievers in God would not label themselves as atheists. Using- and grossly inflating- the percentage of unbelievers in America for atheists in the general population, while using only self-proclaimed atheists for the prison atheists, is intellectually dishonest.)

Statement 1: The percentage of atheists in America is, at most, only 1/4 to 1/8 as many as the statistic users tell us. (The difference between 8-16% and the 2% who do not claim to believe in God.)

Statement 2: The atheists in prison may be up to 95 times as many as reported. (The difference between 0,21% and [19,7+0,21]%)

Conclusion: It seems very hard to conclude that atheists are under-represented in American prisons. They may, or may not, have failed to mention their atheism to authorities. In other words, the statistics are inconclusive.

————

PS: It seems people with no religion are 105% overrepresented in British prisons. In other words, unbelievers in Britain seem to be more than twice as likely to be in prison. And while Christians account for 39.1 percent of the English and Welsh prison population, they make up 71.8 percent of the total English and Welsh population. Christians are, therefore, seriously under-represented, and nonbelievers seemingly very over-represented, in prisons in England and Wales. (Inmate Information System. Cencus 2001, Office for National Statistics)

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Highlight: 20 February: Anne There are times in the Bible when God orders the killing of people. Is that cruel? Does it contradict “thou shalt not kill”?

33 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rod Swift  |  March 14, 2009 at 9:08 am

    But there has been more recent statistics. Here’s the ones from the UK Home Office…

    http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/hosb1501.pdf

    Indeed, their statistics have emulated the US results of Golumbaski (1997), in which, at paragraph 17: “Inmates with No religion formed an important minority at around 30% of the total population. Only 1% of these were Agnostics and Atheists. The remainder had no stated religious affiliation.”

    Atheists are under-represented in prison popluations.

    Reply
  • 2. Retha  |  March 16, 2009 at 6:50 am

    Rod, you forget that some people who do not label themselves with the words “atheist”or “agnostic” are unbelievers in God too. Here is Vox Day in his book “The Irrational Atheist”, describing more than just one cherry-picked group from that UK source: (Appendix notes his, bold mine)

    The most easily identifiable factor separating Low Church atheists from their High Church brethren is [that]…. they simply don’t describe themselves as atheists. Instead, they show up on various religious surveys as “no religion” or occasionally “secular.” Their beliefs are distinctly recognizable as atheistic, as they don’t believe in God …, they don’t believe in the supernatural, and they don’t belong to religious organizations, but a failure to openly embrace an atheist identity is not the only significant distinction of the Low Church atheist.
    ….. In the year 2000, there were 38,531 Christians of twenty-one different varieties imprisoned for their crimes, compared to only 122 atheists and sixty-two agnostics. …this would appear to be a damning piece of evidence proving the fundamentally criminal nature of theists while demonstrating that atheists are indeed more moral despite their lack of a sky god holding them to account*
    However, there also happened to be another 20,639 prisoners, 31.6 percent of the total prison population, who possessed “no religion.” And this was not simply a case of people falling through the cracks or refusing to provide an answer; the Inmate Information System is specific enough to distinguish between Druids, Scientologists, and Zoroastrians as well as between the Celestial Church of God, the Welsh Independent church, and the Non-Conformist church. It also features separate categories for “other Christian religion,” “other non-Christian religion,” and “not known.”
    At only two-tenths of a percent of the prison population, High Church atheists are, as previously suggested, extremely law-abiding. But when one compares the 31.6 percent of imprisoned no-religionists to the 15.1 percent of Britons who checked “none” or wrote in Jedi Knight, agnostic, atheist, or heathen in the 2001 national survey, it becomes clear that their Low Church counterparts are nearly four times more likely to be convicted and jailed for committing a crime than a Christian.**
    ————————
    *There are some silly bits of information floating around the Internet claiming to prove that Christians are fifty times more likely to go to prison than atheists. Of course, by cherry-picking this data, one could claim that English and Welsh Christians are 315 times more likely to go to prison than atheists and be superficially correct. One would have to be an intellectually dishonest ass to do so, though.
    **3.84 times more likely, to be precise. Census, April 2001, Office for National Statistics. While Christians account for 39.1 percent of the English and Welsh prison population, they make up 71.8 percent of the total population.

    Reply
  • 3. Looking around and trying to understand  |  May 2, 2009 at 9:51 am

    [...] 2, 2009 There is another thought that popped into my head regarding the atheists in prison statistics. What does the form look like that produce these [...]

    Reply
  • 4. Joe  |  July 27, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Here’s another though about about cherry picking data. Why do christians never talk about the parts of the bible that tell people to MURDER children that are disobediant (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)? Or to MURDER people that work on the sabath day? Or to MURDER any number of people that simply disagree with christianity? (have a look yourself)
    How about how SEXIST the bible is? If GOD is fair and all knowing, why did he condone sexism?
    “1 Corinthians chapter 14 – As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. ”
    Wow, I wonder how many women break this rule? Heck, I know a femail preacher, guess after a life of devotion, she’s just a normal sinner for preaching gospels.
    “1 Timothy chapter 2 – Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.” I wonder how many women’s rights advocates have read this one? How many teachers are women?
    How bout this “Cherry Picked” question? If GOD is all powerfull, why doesn’t he just defeat the devil for good? Why does he send innocent children to hell that simply did not get to meet a preacher and died of starvation at or before 10yrs age?

    Just because your afraid of dying doesn’t mean you should make whatever up to make you feel better, especially when it advocates murder, rape, and even slavery.

    So, why doesn’t god heal amputees? God has infinite power right? then why did he only heal deaf/blind/sick? all easily faked in those days when people actually believed that germs and disease were just the hand of god. I guess all those Christians that get CANCER are just being tested, even though the BIBLE says if you pray for it then god will grant it. Still, we have people with cancer, aids, and worse who have been worshiping your god all their lives, though…. He helps people’s favorite team win, but wont cure cancer from kids. Thats REAL fair and loving….
    “Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” I can find at least 5 other places where you are told that asking for it in prayer and you will receive it. All from the so called words of Jesus.
    I wonder how many Faithful have asked for cancer or aids to be cured. How about all those evil people praying for kids to eat, that still die a horrible slow death of starvation. Yeah, god loves them a LOT to ignore their prayers.

    If you can go through the entire website listed below, and still believe in god, then you need some serious mental help.

    whydoesgodhateamputees.com <– Plenty of evidence here

    You use the products of science (computers, cars, makeup, TV), but refuse the evidence it brings. That's pretty hypocritical, just like 90 percent of the bible.

    Reply
  • 5. Simpleton  |  August 1, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Retha, you say “Rod, you forget that some people who do not label themselves with the words “atheist”or “agnostic” are unbelievers in God too.”

    Except that, Retha, you are making unfounded assumptions that those who do not label themselves with those words are unbelievers.

    They may be just as well be Christians, Muslims, or deists who do not want to label themselves.

    Many Christians, for example, do not call themselves Christian these days. They call themselves spiritual, and they believe in God.

    Reply
  • 6. Simpleton  |  August 1, 2009 at 12:52 am

    “PS: It seems people with no religion are 105% overrepresented in British prisons. In other words, unbelievers in Britain seem to be more than twice as likely to be in prison.”

    Er, there is a difference between people who state “no religion” on their questionnaire and those who are unbelievers.

    The former may or may not be unbelievers.

    Reply
  • 7. Retha  |  August 1, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Retha, you say “Rod, you forget that some people who do not label themselves with the words “atheist”or “agnostic” are unbelievers in God too.”

    Except that, Retha, you are making unfounded assumptions that those who do not label themselves with those words are unbelievers.

    No, I dont. I, for instance, am one of the people who do not label myself as “atheist” or “agnostic”, but I don’t label myself as “unbeliever” or as “no religion” either.” Ergo, my words “you forget that some people who do not label themselves with the words “atheist”or “agnostic” are unbelievers in God too.”

    Reply
    • 8. Erik  |  October 1, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      No religion is not the same thing as no belief in god you can say no religion but still believe in god

      Reply
      • 9. Retha  |  October 2, 2013 at 6:46 am

        Yes. I say that in the article too.

  • 10. Retha  |  August 15, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    I noticed Joe’s comment in my spam box while cleaning up today, so I authorized the posting of it. Ironically, his very first question “Why do christians never talk about the parts of the bible that tell people to MURDER children that are disobediant (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)?” is not applicable to me. On my Afrikaans blog, I already answered that one (in Afrikaans, not a language most of the people here will read.) In short, that verse apply, by context of Exodus 21:15 too, to drunkards who physically abuse their own parents, who have already been helped to improve their behavior, but who don’t listen. Children is meant in the sense not of age but of being offspring from a parent (who, in this case, is abused by their own adult child.) In modern context, it applied to the kind of stories we hear about unemployed drug-abusing adult kids who beat their own parents and steal their parents TV’s and jewellery to sell them for drug money.
    The court, in that society, would have given the death penalty to those parent-abusing drunkards. (It was not appropriate in that society for anyone else to decide someone needed the death penalty, it was then, as now, their court’s job.) The court needed testimony from more than one witness. And the relationship between the laws of Deuteronomy/ Leviticus and the new Testament is rather complex. The new Testament has several verses on that relationship that has to be read in context.

    How about how SEXIST the bible is? If GOD is fair and all knowing, why did he condone sexism?

    One of the verses you quote is something the Bible appears to quote from elsewhere, and then refute. You give the quote without the refutation! The other is a verse where an individual, Paul, say he don’t allow a woman (probably one particular woman he and Timothy knew) to teach. Brush up on your scholarship before quoting those!

    Or to MURDER any number of people that simply disagree with christianity?

    The advent of Christianity was after Jesus. That already limits the part of the Bible you need to search for potential quotes about “MURDERING people who disagree with Christianity” to 27 books (the New Testament) out of 66. (People cannot disagree with what they never heard.) Now, I am almost sure you can give me not a single Biblical quote that tells people to murder those who disagree with Christianity- In fact, Christianity started on the other end of prosecution, with their leader being MURDERED, and Christians being murdered. (Of the original 12 disciples, 10 were, according to the historic sources, murdered for their faith.)

    Why does He send innocent children to hell that simply did not get to meet a preacher and died … at or before 10yrs age?

    I answered that one on my Afrikaans blog too. The simple answer is: The Bible do not say they will be in hell. It say those who knowingly chose against God, will be in hell. Those who chose for Him, will be in heaven. There are people who, for some reason, (like living far from where the gospel could be heard, or before Jesus, or who died small) fall in neither category. Several biblical clues tell us God can judge them fairly too. For example, there are apparently some people who never knew Jesus in heaven- like Abraham, the people of Nineveh etc. The Bible say things like in the day of judgement, the people of Sodom and other sinful cities wil be judged more kindly than those from Capernaum and Bethsaida. And “hell” in the English represent at least 3 terms in Biblical Greek and Hebrew. Do your homework on which word for hell is used where, what the differences in meaning is, and who is promised a horrible punishment, before cherry-picking and twisting data to tell it is unfair. (Off-topic: Whoever gave you the idea a six- or nine-year-old cannot choose Jesus – he/she/they were wrong.)

    So, why doesn’t god heal amputees? God has infinite power right? then why did he only heal deaf/blind/sick? all easily faked in those days

    This answer is from Rich Deem, at http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/why_wont_god_heal_amputees.html :

    …there is at least one healing of an amputee that has been recorded. When Jesus was being arrested prior to His trials, the disciple Peter took a sword and, missing the mark, sliced off the ear of the high priest’s servant:

    And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:50-51)

    Jesus responded by calling a halt to the violence and healing the man’s ear. It should be noted that He did not pick up the severed piece of ear, but merely touched the stump to heal the man’s ear.

    Conclusion: The number 1 allegation of the site you link to is a lie. Jesus did, according to the NT, heal at least one amputee.

    If you can go through the entire website listed below, and still believe in god, then you need some serious mental help.

    Either that or the believer who goes through there finds objections to it that you may not be clever/ informed enough to notice?

    You use the products of science (computers, cars, makeup, TV), but refuse the evidence it brings.

    Please mention a piece of scientific knowledge that I both use and reject. Untill you mention that, your argument is nonsense.

    Summary: Your first sentence “Why do christians never talk about the parts of the bible that tell people to MURDER children that are disobediant ” contain both a lie (Christians DO talk about what that mean in context) and then an out-of-context statement that you cherry-picked.
    Your last paragraph is either a lie or an unproven statement (calling me someone who reject evidence) and then a conclusion (I am being hypocritical) based on that lying/ unproven assumption. You then extend your criticism of me (hypocritical) to “90% of the Bible” without giving any link to a verse-by-verse analysis of 90% of the Bible, that shows it hypocritical.
    And in between a dishonest begin and end, you put several other lies and cherry-picked, out-of-context statements.
    Do you expect me to discuss every word in your dishonest allegations, or your link to other equally dishonest claims? You did not even check the facts on the things you claim in your comment to be true. How can you check out the (un)truth of the rest of the website you link to?

    Reply
    • 11. Retha  |  August 28, 2009 at 10:58 pm

      The day I noticed and approved Joe’s comment (thus making it appear to you, my blog visitors), I sent Joe an e-mail to say his comment appeared and was answered. He thus knows of my answer, but apparently chooses not to react to this answer.

      Reply
  • 12. TJJ  |  October 21, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Atheists and agnostics don’t consider their world views to be religions, so it makes perfect sense that they would select “no religion”. From what I gather, the very few atheist/agnostic answers were write-in responses.

    Reply
  • 13. Aaron  |  September 7, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Hi,

    This is very interesting. I was uncomfortable with this widely circulating statistic already, particularly in the context of the UK. I believed there was a distinction between the kind of atheist or agnostic that is aware of the label, and understands the philosophical perspectives well enough, and the kind of person that was not raised religious and has never considered the question.

    The former is likely to have a clear moral code in place and one they are willing to defend through use of reasoning. “high brow” atheists (they may resent the term ‘high church atheist in fairness!’) often critique religious morality and theological concepts, history, texts and doctrines. This implies a high level of education, probably postgraduate, so it is little wonder the crime rate is so low in this group.

    The latter (low church / low brow) may not actually have reflected on morality at all, except from perspective of self-interest and avoiding fines or jail. The education level is probably, well, low.

    I guess there is a tendency by high-brow atheists to forget there is this large body of individuals that are atheists but have no opinions about religion whatsoever – or philosophy, or history, or science, or morality! While I would prefer someone to be a self-declaring atheist/agnostic than Christian, in turn i would prefer them to be Christian to “non-religious”.

    I suspect the pattern will differ according to the natures of the crimes committed and the country, and also with other socioeconomic, political and ethnic factors. I have read for example that sex offenders are disproportionately religious – whether they convert in jail because they are badly harrassed i couldn’t determine. The other option is they have not handled strict religious teaching on “sexual vices” well, and have snapped as a result of the restrictions, or been forced into secretive guilty type of lifestyle with regard to sex. By contrast, the broad “non religious” group are more likely to be in jail for burglaries. Crimes also differ between distinct religions with a correlation to ethnicity. Hindus are more likely to be found guilty of financial misdealings in the UK, probably because bribery & corruption is a cultural phenomenon in their native India.

    It is all very complicated, but thank you for drawing attention to the amorphous body of “non-religious” people, that are an important variable in weighing up the practical advantages of religion. I am an atheist but i have had some difficulties weighing up this balance between reasoning / naturalism, and social stability. This is such an important issue there should really be a lot more studies available in a broad selection of countries.

    What i could glean (hypothesise) with a quick analysis of my own using public data, is that when ONE religion approaches saturation in a country or region it can become excessively doctrinal, authoratarian, and antiprogressive, having implicit or explicit impacts on education level, and then the crime rate rises for this reason instead. Romania has banned teaching the theory of evolution for example – choosing to fudge science to allow religion to remain conceptually unchallenged.

    Some more determinate conclusions: The most impoverished countries with highest crime rates are the most religious – but would likely be even more anarchic without religion. Also, the poorest states in the USA have highest religiosity and crime rates – with a strong correlation across all states. Homicide rates in the religious country of America are also very high, but this may be due to gang violence as a result of American’s large cities with many different ethnic groups. It cannot be purely guncrime, because other countries with similar levels of gun ownership display lower homidice.

    European countries with relatively high rates of “non-religion / atheism / agnosticism” fair well in comparison to USA across the board in violent crimes, with no overall differences in sexual crimes, but perform worse on car thefts! There is a lot more to be said. The “culture” of a country is just as important as the “religion” that shapes it. If there is good parenting and education then religion is not so important i think. If that falls away as in UK (with its extremely high teenage pregnancy rates), then that has got to be bad news for the country. Education, prosperity and religion form a complex of factors which can all reduce crime, in various combinations.

    Reply
  • 14. Retha  |  September 14, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Aaron, probably the most significant point you made is to say you would like more people to be high brow atheists like you, but you prefer them to be believers rather than low brow atheists. Thanks too for admitting, unlike many other high brow unbelievers, that religious beliefs can actually be a factor for good behavior.

    I think that in a world/ area with no believers, high brow atheism will be pretty scarce (nobody runs around denying things no-one in their vicinity believes) and we will sit with lots of people who was simply not raised religious.

    It will also be great if more studies will distinguish between high brow Christianity (people who often think and talk about God, study the Bible, etc.) and the low brow version (people saying they are Christians, still vaguely believing much of what they learned, but not thinking about it).

    As a little aside, the alleged correlation between sex crime and religious belief is something I draw no conclusions from. Do the studies distinguish between belief acquired in prison and belief at the time of the crime? People accused of such a crime often pretend that they are more sexually respectable (including religious, because that is viewed as sexually conservative) than they really are, to look like they are not guilty. AFAIK, there is no known correlation between: a) Actual religiousness/ religious activity at the time of committing the crime, as reported by people with no interest in the accused criminal’s guilt or innocence, and b) sex crime. Therefore, speculation that the churches’ “strict teaching on sexual vices” leads to sex crime, is just speculation. On the other hand, the secular world’s attitude towards sex verifiably leads to broken homes, poverty, disease, etc.

    Reply
    • 15. Alex  |  November 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      1. Do you realize that when you say “religious beliefs can actually be a factor for good behavior” you basically refer to the fear that those beliefs bring. The whole “good behavior” concept in christianity, as well as other religions, is fear of going to the special place after you die.
      So, you admit that if christians would not be christians they would just go around stealing and killing people as they wish because the “factor” would be gone?

      2. “in a world/ area with no believers, high brow atheism will be pretty scarce”. this is a false assumption. There are countries where declared atheists are over 50% such as Norway and the crime rate, poverty and education have very good numbers. Religion doesn’t provide any sort of education. It only provides propaganda. And this comes from someone that went to all sorts of sunday schools and catechism and was raised in a so called “high brow” christian family.

      3. Of the two categories you enumerate, which one includes the fundamentalist christians? The ones that actually believe creationism and go to church every sunday and become very aggressive in a discussion. Are they “high brow Christianity (people who often think and talk about God, study the Bible, etc.)” or ” low brow version (people saying they are Christians, still vaguely believing much of what they learned, but not thinking about it)”?

      4. There is an obvious connection in the world between lack of education and belief in superstition. The fact that you dissociate yourself from the lots of low-educated christians doesn’t mean they are not there and unfortunately as today’s religions rely on numbers they are being used by those religions leaders, while they believe those religions dogma literally, just like superstition.

      In conclusion, I think christianity might be the beginning of a good idea, just like communism, but cannot be applied in practice because it relies on one fact that is not true: that human beings are fundamentally good.

      Reply
      • 16. Retha  |  November 17, 2011 at 6:50 am

        1.

        The whole “good behavior” concept in christianity, as well as other religions, is fear of going to the special place after you die.

        No. Christians are motivated by loving Him who first loved us, that is the first thing about Christianity. Love drives out fear.

        So, you admit that if christians would not be christians they would just go around stealing and killing people as they wish because the “factor” would be gone?

        No. Christians give more to charity, they historically played a great role in freeing slaves, educating the poor, establishing hospitals, starting universities, starting children’s homes, preserving literature during the ages before the printing press, etc. Without motivation to do good, most would probably not have murdered and stole (did evil), but have lived lives closer to morally neutral, without all that good.
        2. I don’t think high brow atheism is common in places like Norway. They won’t spend their time discussing atheism and finding arguments against belief if they don’t have believers to oppose. How many Norwegians do you meet in atheism forums?
        3. Some “fundamentalist Christians”are not Christians at all by the basic definition of Christ-follower. (See my discussion elsewhere on the No True Scotsman fallacy. This is not that fallacy.)
        Some are high brow.
        4.

        There is an obvious connection in the world between lack of education and belief in superstition.

        There is also a correlation between lack of religion and superstition. Wall Street journal reported in 2008:

        The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won’t create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that’s not a conclusion to take on faith — it’s what the empirical data tell us.
        “What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians….
        This is not a new finding. In his 1983 book “The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener,” skeptic and science writer Martin Gardner cited the decline of traditional religious belief among the better educated as one of the causes for an increase in pseudoscience, cults and superstition. He referenced a 1980 study published in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer that showed irreligious college students to be by far the most likely to embrace paranormal beliefs, while born-again Christian college students were the least likely.

        I don’t deny that the lowly educated Christians you speak about are there – they are part of Christ’s body. I need them and they need me. Where their faith is abused by religious leaders, I speak out for them and against those leaders. (For example, my writings on so-called “Christian” patriarchy!)

        christianity … cannot be applied in practice because it relies on one fact that is not true: that human beings are fundamentally good.

        Interesting. Other atheists dislike Christianity for believing humans are basically sinful, and that flaw needs God to fix it!

  • 17. Z  |  October 1, 2010 at 1:01 am

    I have never met a violent Atheist nor have any one I’ve known who is Atheist ever committed a crime. All the people I’ve known between living in Pennsylvania and NJ who have committed a crime most were Christian, a tiny chunk Muslim and 3 young Jewish guys. 1 of the Muslims re-offended. The rest got their lives together except more than half of the Christians whom I have known. I am Atheist and all the Atheists I’ve met talk more than fight. Atheists are talkers. Christians are violent, over obsessive people and I have no idea who you people think you are saying that Atheists are in any was easily comparable to the number of religious people in jails. Some of the worst crimes in history were committed in the name of GOD. I can never feel that passionate about something that I would hurt another person over it. You hate gays, women are meant to have babies and can’t protect themselves against pregnancy, you dislike Atheists, you dislike everything that is different.

    Reply
    • 18. Retha  |  October 1, 2010 at 7:14 pm

      Z, if you claim most of the criminals you know were Christian, and that Christians are violent and obsessive, how do you define Christian?

      I have no idea who you people think you are saying that Atheists are in any was easily comparable to the number of religious people in jails.

      You hate statistics, then?

      Some of the worst crimes in history were committed in the name of GOD.

      Name 3 of those “worst crimes in history, committed in the name of God”. Bet they are either not the worst crimes in history (The world’s 3 biggest mass murderers, for example, were 2 atheists and one man who hated Christianity and wanted to destroy it- after destroying Judaism.), or not committed in God’s name.

      I can never feel that passionate about something that I would hurt another person over it.

      Yes. Your sort would never sort out a man who beat up your sister regularly, or go to war to protect your country, or even say something that will hurt someone’s feelings but will help him to be a better person. You are probably opposed to keeping rapists and murderers in prison (They will get hurt there!) and prefer them out on the streets. Your sort would think you are good moral people because you do no harm- and forget that “no harm” is a moral zero- good deeds are a moral positive.
      Some atheists, of course, are the opposite of you- that is where Stalin and Pol Pot comes from.

      You hate gays, women are meant to have babies and can’t protect themselves against pregnancy, you dislike Atheists, you dislike everything that is different.

      We don’t hate gays. In a world that followed our ways there would be not one out of wedlock pregnancy and no unwanted children. Since you obviously dislike Christians (or what you understand under the term) you cannot complain about them disliking you. As for disliking everything that is different, that is neither true nor is there anything wrong with disliking things.
      But seriously- how do you define Christian?

      Reply
  • 19. Retha  |  April 2, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Looking back to Z’s comment: When Z said: “women are meant to have babies and can’t protect themselves against pregnancy” I now think he spoke of the man-centered patriarchy cult (including the Quiverfuls) that call themselves Christian, but are, by evidence in more recent blog threads, not.

    Reply
  • 20. Mr. Reasonist  |  September 21, 2011 at 12:19 am

    I get it. 19% of respondents didn’t answer the question and are likely to be atheists. I base this on absolutely nothing, but that’s ok because I base most of my beliefs on absolutely nothing so I’m used to it.

    Reply
    • 21. Retha  |  September 21, 2011 at 6:43 am

      Your (incorrect) view that I base my beliefs on nothing – do you base that on anything concrete? If so, what?

      Reply
  • 22. Dark Star (@ColdDimSum)  |  December 21, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    A person’s philosophical position about the existence (or non-existence) of God is distinct from that person’s ethical behavior. It is NOT a predictor of ethical or criminal behavior.

    NONE of this data controls for known variables such as education, socioeconomic background, age, sex, employment, type of crime, family background, community ties, etc.

    Anyone quoting some simple %’s of population data and drawing a conclusion from it doesn’t know what they are doing with statistics.

    Read up on studies about the populations of African-Americans in prison to see how foolish this is.

    If you want to reduce crime you empower your citizens, give them viable opportunities to succeed, find ways to strengthen their sense of community and remove divisiveness.

    Reply
  • 23. Leta Bezdecheck  |  January 24, 2012 at 4:54 am

    “But the prisoners who chose not to answer? It make perfect sense that an atheist will be less likely to honestly answer that question. (It may indirectly affect his chances for parole, for instance.)”

    What CENTURY are you living in? My ex husband brought up in court that he was born again and I was an atheist. It embarrassed everyone there and I was awarded full custody.

    Please show me YOUR proof that atheists are less likely to be honest and also include a similar study of the percent of the religions in US prisons that is newer than the one we mention. I’d like to know of one myself.

    Reply
  • 24. Gretgor  |  January 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    While I do agree that your blog entry has no apparent logical fallacies and is talking about something of actual interest, I fail to see how that successfully makes a case against atheism. Even if all people who didn’t respond to the question were atheists, they’d still be underrepresented in comparison to Christians.

    In spite of the fact that I’m an atheist myself, I do believe the reason why there are so few atheists in jail has more to do with the fact that atheists are a minority in the population than with a supposed higher morality from the atheist side. I believe christian and atheist moralities are very similar to each other, they have been shaped by society, not by religious ideology, as much as religious people like to disagree with that.

    Reply
  • 25. Retha  |  January 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Gretgor said: “Even if all people who didn’t respond to the question were atheists, they’d still be underrepresented in comparison to Christians.”

    If a group that makes up only 2% (maximum) of the population, is up to 19,95% of the prison population, they will certainly not be underrepresented.

    Not that I believe they make up that much. I do hold that with so many non-answers, there is no way we can call them underrepresented with any certainty.

    (I think with a number that low, the form probably had tick-off responses for most common religions in America, atheism not on one of those blocks, with a block “Other (specify)”, with a blank space beside that block.
    The minority who ticked that box either neglected to fill in atheist for the most part, or the data typist neglected to type that word from the form into the computer. Typist sometimes skip what they find insignificant.)

    Reply
  • 26. Ryan Kent  |  October 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Gotta sting that it’s 2012 and more recent studies support that compared to Christians in prison, Atheists are represented by a single digit minority. And great job posting the sources that show the Atheists are actually 1/4 the number claimed in general public but 95 times higher in the prison population.

    Oh yeah. You didn’t. Cuz you made those numbers. Cuz Christian bloggers have a tendancy to be damnable liars.

    Reply
    • 27. Retha  |  October 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      What studies, Ryan? It is easy to dislike my numbers, but do you even understand the mathematics involved?

      Reply
  • 28. Eric Layegson  |  November 8, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Facepalm. I love christians who have no idea what an atheist is.
    If you are a non-believer, you are in fact and atheist.

    If you are an agnostic, you are also an atheist.

    If you are an infant, you are an atheist.

    There are two broad categories of atheists. Strong atheists, and weak atheists. Strong atheists proclaim god does not exist. This is what christians think of when someone says atheist. Only problem is, this kind of atheist rare. Most atheists are weak atheists. Or simply put, anyone who does not hold a positive belief in god. Everyone was born a weak atheist. Weak atheists make up the vast majority of atheists in the world.

    An agnostic is someone who doesnt know if god exists or not. That does not address the issue of belief. But typical, if someone has no knowledge of something, then they dont believe it. Most agnostics are therefore atheists, such as myself.

    “(Note: Numbers for “no religion” or even “unbelief in God” do not equate, even closely, to self-claimed atheism. Many non-religious disbelievers in God would not label themselves as atheists.”

    Unbelief absolutely equates to atheism. You simply have no idea what the term means.

    “Many non-religious disbelievers in God would not label themselves as atheists.”

    That doesnt change the fact that they are indeed atheists, by definition.

    If you dont positively believe in god, you ARE an atheist.

    Reply
    • 29. Retha  |  November 9, 2012 at 5:38 am

      Read again -I did not try to define atheism. You quoted a true statement on how people label themselves, not a judgment call on whether the label is right. If you want to count all unbelievers/not-so-sure-ers in the general society as atheists, then knock yourself out. But in that case – regard all unbelievers/not-so-sure-ers in prison – not just those who label themselves atheists and whose labeling was noted by those who compile data – as atheists.

      Please learn to actually read before thinking “facepalm”.

      Reply
  • 30. Retha  |  January 2, 2013 at 6:46 am

    To JohnnyCrash, who’se comment was not approved: You made a long comment that was partly relevant to the topic, and largely irrelevant. Talk about prison atheist statistics and you will be approved, say things like “Why do you hate those who find it impossible to believe in talking snakes…” and you will not.

    Why should I approve comments which are neither relevant to the topic nor have anything to do with me? I do not have the views you seem to assume about atheists, gays or the Bible, and Christians do not believe in talking snakes either, any more than adults believe ventriloquist dummies can talk.

    Reply
  • 31. Erik  |  October 1, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    So what?

    Reply
  • 32. Erik  |  October 1, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Why does either of these statistics matter? The majority of prisoners are believers and wouldn’t you expect if atheists were really actually the immoral ones they would be basically all of the ones incarcerated? However you don’t have that statistic, you have far more god believers than non god believers and with such differing views on morality in society I would expect a variety of people to be in jail. Morality is evolutionarily based NOT god based or divinely inspired thats ridiculous. But why are people but in jail now for slavery of for killing homosexuals? The Bible allows them to do that. Why are people who cheat on their spouses not killed? This argument that jail population shows us something is ridiculous even if 100% of inmates were atheists you have all your work still cut out for you to prove god exists. Which, by the way… YOU CAN’T!!!

    Reply
    • 33. Retha  |  October 2, 2013 at 9:37 am

      Christians do not claim that atheism is the thing that makes immoral. The central character of Christianity, Jesus, called some of the most religious people of his day vipers and white-washed tombs. Christians claim that renewal from the inside by Jesus/the Holy Spirit changes morality. An atheist, Hindu, Muslim or name-Christian who don’t really have Jesus inside are, from the Christian perspective, all people without Jesus/the Spirit of God inside.

      But atheists do claim that they are under-represented and this under-representation teaches us something of their morality. I disagreed, and told why.

      “Morality is evolutionarily based NOT god based or divinely inspired thats ridiculous.”

      That is a baseless assertion that I can dismiss with as little evidence as was given for it.

      This argument that jail population shows us something is ridiculous

      When atheists think they are under-represented, they crow it as if it mean something, When I come up with detailed statistics that atheists are over-represented in British prisons, it suddenly means nothing?

      By the way, I have to warn you to stay on topic. The existence of God, or your interpretation of Bible morality, (cherry-picked out of context verses on slavery and the death penalty within a certain culture, is not part of the theoretical or practical message of Christianity) is not the topic of this thread. For that matter, I cannot even prove my existence to you, if you chose to stay a doubter. (You could, if you chose to, think you are a brain in a vat, with your head imagining me and this conversation.)

      Reply

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