Christianity and

the Murder Rate

Strange thing about the relationship between religion (specifically Christianity) and murder...

...for the most part the relationship runs in reverse of what you might think... least if you use church attendance as your measure of "religious."

Consider these facts:

Church Attendance Rank

Murder Rate

#1 Louisiana

twice the U.S. average

#2 U.S. Bible Belt

significantly higher than U.S. average

#3 United States

base line for comparison

#4 Britain

1/6 that of the United States

#5  France

1/7 that of the United States

#6 Australia

1/5 that of the United States

#7 Sweden

1/5 that of the United States

#8 Japan

1/5 that of the United States

With the exception of possibly Italy, Belgium, and Ireland, there are few advanced nations that have high rates of church attendance and low rates of murder. (In the latter case, of course, you have to discount decades of war between Protestants and Catholics.)

Does all this mean that religion primarily Christianity causes violence?

No, as Steve Chapman so clearly points out in his recent Slate article (where I stole most of the above data), relationships don't necessary mean causal relationships.

So what does this mean?

First, I have no doubt that Christianity has done tremendous good...

...kept families together

...provided strength and consolation for many people during difficult times

...inspired charitable organizations and causes

...pacified anger and in the process kept quite a few people alive

At the same time we are also faced with the clear reverse relationship between church attendance in most countries and murder especially in the United States.*

Since Christianity espouses peace, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek...

...and assuming that church attendance doesn't somehow work against these central Christian concepts...

...we must look for other related (or reversely-related) factors.  

Here are some factors that, statistically, tend to be reversely related to church attendance:

  • educational level
  • economic status
  • social tolerance (acceptance of people that are "different")
  • liberal viewpoints

Makes you wonder about some things, doesn't it?

>>Even so, the issue seems to go beyond this.

As reported in the Journal of Religion and Society, in 2005, when the top 18 "prosperous democracies" are compared, a reverse relationship becomes evident between "quantifiable societal health" and "religious fervency."

In other words, the more religious a society is the more social problems that society has.

By social problems they are talking about suicide, teen pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, homicides, divorce, and child mortality.

How can this be?

Possibly it's the "fundamentalist" mentality in religion -- be it Christianity or Islam -- and the type of people that are attracted to this mind set, that are associated with these issues.

* As one reader pointed out the United States has much higher gun ownership percentage than any of the other countries listed. More readily available guns means more deaths by guns.

Numerous studies support the basic tenets of this article.  Consider, for example, Think religion makes society less violent? Think again - Los Angeles Times, 10/30/2015