Note: I wrote this for my old blog after the Sandy Hook shootings. And little has changed since then; you still have those saying “we need GOD back in our schools”, as if that would solve anything.
So I decided to crunch some data (this was from 10 years ago, of course) and to the surprise of no one, religiosity positively correlated with homicide rate.
Note: I am NOT suggesting that religiosity leads to the desire to murder; it is likely linked to poverty or possibly a coping mechanism for a violent world.
The encore post follows:
There was a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut today, and 27 people are dead (mostly kids). Of course this is horrible; I can’t imagine the reaction from the other kids, parents, grandparents and other loved ones. My heart goes out to them.
Some perspective: where the death of a kid is sad, and more shocking when it is unexpected and enraging when it is as the result of an intentional, senseless act, death from these events is not the biggest risk that kids have. Here is a bigger one that doesn’t make the headlines (because it doesn’t kill as many at one time):
In 2009, a total of 1,314 children age 14 and younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those 1,314 fatalities, 181 (14%) occurred in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Out of those 181 deaths, 92 (51%) were occupants of a vehicle with a driver who had a BAC level of .08 or higher, and another 27 children (15%) were pedestrians or pedalcyclists struck by drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher.
In short, drunk driving crackdowns can save more kids than, say, potential measures to prevent such massacres.
And don’t even get me started on wars…
But what about this event? Of course, the debates over gun control open up full throttle. You will see: “we need more gun control” and “guns don’t kill people” and “if only the teachers or others were armed, they could have killed the gunman.” Yeah, sure, to the latter.
And of course, we have the usual: “see, God let it happen because we turned away from God”:
(uh, the less religious countries have much lower rates of violent deaths than we do) I’ll post some data at the end of this post.
But while I have an argument that makes sense to me, I realize that I had little or no data to back up my argument. So I found an article that did pose some data:
So what are the factors that are associated with firearm deaths at the state level?
Poverty is one. The correlation between death by gun and poverty at the state level is .59.
An economy dominated by working class jobs is another. Having a high percentage of working class jobs is closely associated with firearm deaths (.55).
And, not surprisingly, firearm-related deaths are positively correlated with the rates of high school students that carry weapons on school property (.54).
What about politics? It’s hard to quantify political rhetoric, but we can distinguish blue from red states. Taking the voting patterns from the 2008 presidential election, we found a striking pattern: Firearm-related deaths were positively associated with states that voted for McCain (.66) and negatively associated with states that voted for Obama (-.66). Though this association is likely to infuriate many people, the statistics are unmistakable. Partisan affiliations alone cannot explain them; most likely they stem from two broader, underlying factors – the economic and employment makeup of the states and their policies toward guns and gun ownership.
Firearm deaths were far less likely to occur in states with higher levels of college graduates (-.64) and more creative class jobs (-.52).
Gun deaths were also less likely in states with higher levels of economic development (with a correlation of -.32 to economic output) and higher levels of happiness and well-being (-.41).
And for all the terrifying talk about violence-prone immigrants, states with more immigrants have lower levels of gun-related deaths (the correlation between the two being -.34).
Of course, these are STATISTICAL findings (e. g., Connecticut is a blue state); and yes, we have gun deaths in Illinois…a LOT of them, especially in Chicago.
Here is another list of facts about mass shootings: the US is more prone to these than other countries (duh) and the mere presence of more guns doesn’t lead to more gun deaths (Switzerland is an example). Switzerland does require firearms training though.
Data on Religiosity Vs. Homicide rate (reposted from an earlier blogpost about theater shootings)
WASHINGTON — Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Friday that the shootings that took place in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater hours earlier were a result of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs” and questioned why nobody else in the theater had a gun to take down the shooter.
I suppose that if I had a different upbringing, I’d laugh at such absurd statements. Unfortunately, I grew up among superstitious people who think EXACTLY like that. Whereas I am grateful I no longer have to associate with that crowd, I feel the need to point to, well, statistical evidence. Let’s look at homicide rates by country:
(rates: per 100,000 population; the US rate is 4.8 per 100,000; we rank 27’th:
What do you notice? That’s right; the less religious countries are also LESS violent.
I decided to run a regression on the religiosity versus homicide rate; here “x” is “percent saying that religion is UNIMPORTANT” and “y” is homicides per 100,000 population.
The regression formula is y = 23.4 – 29.8 x which means that the the higher percentage of the population saying that religion is unimportant, the lower the homicide rate.
Vertical axis: homicide rates per 100,000 population. Horizontal axis: percentage of population saying that “religion is unimportant” That is about as clear as it gets, though the relation is non-linear (and really shouldn’t be either).
and of course, this is highly non-linear; r^2 = .153.
Then look at the US prison population (FBI statistics):
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.
Bottom line: atheists are LESS likely to commit crimes than believers, though some of that might be due to factors such as educational level.
In any event, there is zero evidence for the claim that being religious and believing in superstitions makes someone more moral.