More God Less Crime


Father Scharbach mentioned in his sermon this past week that we have been told on the highest authority that the world will know that we are the followers of Jesus by our love for one another. He also mentioned that he found that a sense of community was weaker in Catholic churches than in Protestant ones, and it was not simply a function of size. I have thought that Catholics have a better theology of the church, but Protestants often have a better practice.

Nor is this simply a matter of warm, fuzzy feelings, but has serious practical effects. Criminologists have noticed that the religious attitudes of an isolated individual do not have a lot of effect on his (almost always his) likelihood of committing crimes. But once a person is a member of a believing community, his beliefs have a major effect on the likelihood that he will commit crimes.

And it looks like the closer the community, the less the likelihood. The sociologist Lee Ellis found that “among the main Western religions, membership in the Jewish religion is associated with lower crime rates, compared to Christian religious membership as a whole; and, among Christians, Protestants as a whole have lower crime rates than Catholics.” Jews, combining religion and ethnicity, have a very close community, and therefore have the least crime. I believe that in the whole history of the United States that no Orthodox Jew has ever been convicted of murder.

This is a negative measure, but it indicates that a religious community is important in forming character – not exactly the latest news, but it is nice that scientists have noticed it.

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