Correlations between religion and objectional beliefs/behaviours

Pax Christi, everybody!

I know this is primarily irrelevant political diatribe, some of which has already been addressed by Inspiringphilosophy, but he makes two claims here I think everyone would find interesting:

One was that the more religious you are, the more likely you were to advocate for torture. From my understanding, this came form a poll from 2009.

The other claimed that polls show that the more religious you were, the more statistically likely you were to engage in molesting children and mob violence. For the first part of this claim, I found this paper here from the late 90’s that might be what he’s talking about; it was based off of a self-report survey involving 397 students from a Southern University, and the results showed that there were significant relationships between religiosity and child sex abuse by both relatives and non-relatives, the relative molestation being associated with Fundamentalist Protestantism and non-relative being associated with more Liberal Protestant groups, the people involved not regularly attending church or even being religious themselves. But the trouble is two-fold: we know that pedophiles use all kinds of institutions to prey on children (American Schools are not exempt from this, but even still, that’s hardly “secularism’s” fault), and I don’t remember anywhere in The Bible where Jesus says touching kids is a-okay.
Saturation of Church in State - YouTube

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Jesus already addressed this:

Depart from me. I never knew you.

I’m not sure if the correlation with torture and religion is supposed to make me feel a certain way. Religion itself is so vague it means little to me. An evangelical Protestant recently told me a poll of evangelical Christians showed 1/3 of them didn’t think Jesus was God which blew my mind.

Not a fan of torture but I could see it’s utility in many cases. Not for “suspected” terrorists. “Known” terrorists are another issue. But they would need to be known incontrovertibly by hard evidence which excludes mere eyewitness human testimony which just isn’t reliable enough to justify torture.


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the ability of people to do poor statistics also leads people to the conclusion that the religious people are more likely to be criminals concluding that religiosity dies not lead to a better society. interresting is that the believe in hell seems to impact crime rates


I work for a Christian organization and every three years we are required to take an online child abuse prevention course. Most people think of “pedophiles” as monsters who lurk outside schools with white vans luring kids into their lairs with candy, but in reality, the vast majority of child sex abuse happens in homes at the hands of trusted friends or family members. We were taught that the statistically most likely child abuser is a devoutly religious married man with children in his 30s or 40s, or in other words, our husbands, friends, and closest colleagues. This is a sobering thought, and churches and Christian organizations need to do much better as far as educating people and employing common sense child safety standards.


Totally agree, this is depressingly true.

I also agree with this. Paedophiles are not ‘monsters in the cupboard’ as often portrayed, and yet I do think they are often predatory in the way they go about their behaviour. Grooming is one example of predatory behaviour. Another is camouflaging with their surroundings. Sadly, one reason I think so much abuse happens in religious contexts is that they often provide the predator with a habitat in which they can more easily hide from detection. Such as, not running proper checks, being overly trusting, favouring those in authority, defending the misuse of religious texts by the abusers, cover-ups, etc.

However, I do think it is also worth pointing out that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Just because a religious person (in the US) is more likely to advocate torture, does not mean that they advocate torture because they are religious.


It’s easy to make a sweeping accusation.

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“Of the 1050 victims in our sample, 404 had been in Roman Catholic, 130 in Protestant, and 516 in non-religious institutions.”
The scandal is made worse for religious institutions because of the claim laid to morality.

In the private sphere the statistics might be biased towards the prevalent worldview of a country, so data would need careful stratification, and even in secular institutions you might find religious employees. THE LIZ LIBRARY: LIZNOTES Child Abuse Statistics Male versus Female gives a good example of the problem.

If you apply stratification by other criteria such as wealth one might find that wealth and religiosity dont go well together, but that was already noted in biblical times :slight_smile: And in Epsteinian circles its a business transaction with high customer and client satisfaction anyhow, and not a sexual offence.

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Yes. My very first thought regarding this thread.

But one thing is suggested quite strongly regardless. Religion is not the answer to every problem.

Nor is atheism, of course.


We were taught that the statistically most likely child abuser is a devoutly religious married man with children in his 30s or 40s

Interesting! Here in the UK (I was a paediatric nurse and did child protection training yearly), the most statistically likely abuser is a man who is resident with children but not related to them – that is, mum’s boyfriend. That may reflect the relative rarity of marriage in the UK and the relatively fluid nature of live-in sexual relationships here.


Figure 6 in Child sexual abuse in England and Wales - Office for National Statistics.

Child abuse is probably a global problem that happens in all kind of societies. Problems in some groups tend to be associated with group membership, other cases are treated as something done by an individual.

Cases associated with group membership show both a positive and a negative side. The positive side is that people assume that people within this group should have a better moral standard - there is some amount of respect towards this group. The negative side is often worse: the behavioral codes within the group makes child abuse possible and/or attract abusers, as Liam wrote.

The problem of torture is more tied to culture. That a believing Christian supports torture is something that is a no-no in my country (horrible idea!) but seems to be possible in the US.


I think it may be because a large portion of Christians in America are conservatives and conservatives tend to support the army no matter what ( except for getting rid of don’t ask don’t tell ) and the military definitely was recognized for a lot of stuff that broke Geneva Conventions and things that technically were within them, but was obviously not being done in the spirit of them. Like “ monstering up and bathroom breaks “.


I would say that there is much blindness among the US Christians. The same is probably true in other cultures and countries, although the blind spots may differ. It is easier to note the blind spots when you are watching from outside.

I have nothing against patriotism, it is common in most countries, and I understand the urge to get information that would prevent terrorist attacks in the near future. The attitude that the end justifies the means is not ok. Torture is one of those ‘the end justifies the means’ things.

We sometimes forget that we Christians are primarily citizens of the heavenly kingdom, only secondarily citizens of the country where we were born or live. If there is a conflict of interest between the national culture and the will of our heavenly Father, we should listen what our Father wants and obey Him. The problem is that we are sometimes blind to those conflicting interests, ‘business-as-usual’ tends to turn the monitoring-and-analyzing brains off.


Much of what I think has already been said, but I think there is a need for examples. Correlation is a necessary but insufficient proof of causation. In other words, you have to have correlation, but by itself it is not enough. All sorts of correlations can be found in the “data” and there may be many reasons why it does not show causation.

Let’s say we go to modern day Israel, the Jewish State. We might find a correlation between serious crime, like murder or rape, and being Jewish. Before anyone accuses me of being antisemitic, there is going to be a correlation between anything, like righteous living, and being Jewish. That is because most people in any sample of anything in Israel are going to be Jewish.

Let’s take another example closer to home. One might assert that there is a correlation between watching pornography and sexual crime. However, most people who watch pornography do not commit sexual crimes.

Negotiating one’s way through the tricky minefield of statistics is difficult, especially for those with no training in statistical analysis. One can even see examples of people cherry-picking results from the data to “prove” the opposite of what the data actually shows … and they get it published in a journal!

Some people are so committed to their theories that they believe their correlations actually prove it. They release it to the common media and we see it announced as fact.

The implications for law and crime can be quite serious. Let us imagine a situation where one person accuses another of sexual assault. The accusation can cover all genders. It appears to be a case of he/she says versus he/she says. Some statistical work might show that, in the majority of cases, where a woman accuses a man of rape, she tells the truth. So, we come to a particular case, and it is a matter of she says … he says. How can the jury decide? Should a statistical summary be used, or should the matter be decided by the merits of this particular case? If one chooses to go with the statistics, the matter is decided on the balance of probabilities. However, this is quite different from “beyond reasonable doubt”. The problem is even more accentuated when the matter is decided by statistical analysis, because if that happens, the case then adds itself to the calculation of statistics. The “balance of probabilities” becomes a self-fulfilling mantra.

Correlation can also be a marker for something else that is the actual cause. Let me say from the start that the following is a hypothetical case. Suppose a correlation is shown between young, single migrant men and sexually transmitted diseases. Which of the aspects of young, single migrant men is the causative factor? Is it their ethnicity, their race, their singleness, their morality or a combination of these factors? You can bet that politicians will exploit the unknown for their own political purposes.

Surveys from other parts of the world begin to suggest that the crucial factors are being young, single and alone, and being a migrant. Is this an indication of their morality? Well, young, single and alone, migrants may well be poor and so can only afford street-level prostitutes with questionable hygiene standards. Whereas young, single and alone, migrant men who are wealthy avail themselves of high-class prostitutes whose hygiene practices are State regulated.

I hope that some of the above illustrates the difficulties in teasing out causation from correlation.

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Clearly we need to torture any pedophiles.

Or anyone else we do not accept? Just for the sake of expressing our emotional dislike?

Is this a primitive reflection of our distant past, or something that exists beneath the polished skin of modern humans?


Not soo distant. These kinds of punishments were very much in use only in the last century, in fact I believe there are still countries that still use physical punishment, even if semi-officially.
And Bible seems to be giving it a green light. Ok, maybe not torture, but just physical punishment. But then isn’t it the same? So maybe it’s a valid question if there’s correlation between support of this kind of justice and being a Christian.

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There is something that can be said for corporeal punishment though:

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Yes, corporeal punishments have been used in the near past and still are in some countries (sharia law, etc.). At some point, punishments went even to the worse side of the guidelines of very old laws, like that of Hammurabi (lex talionis). Some considered that the punishment should be worse (more suffering) than the original crime. This is not supported even by the OT. It can be argued that NT gives a model of milder punishments.

Things have changed towards more humane punishments. When I was a child, mild physical punishment of children was ok and widely used. Now any kind of physical punishment is forbidden by the national law.

Demand for harder punishment of crimes seem to happen where people feel unsafe. This is perhaps a common exception of the general trend towards more humane punishments.


What happens when attempts at verbal convincing fail? Do you just let the child run into the street?

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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