More God, Less Crime

A new book by criminologist Byron Johnson argues that there’s enough statistical evidence out there for social scientists to say with confidence that religiosity lowers crime. He also argues that secular bias among social scientists, more often than not, leads them to dismiss this finding.

The book, More God, Less Crime: Why Faith Matters and How It Could Matter More, isn’t going to surprise any Christians, I suspect. Most of us have encountered a fair amount of anecdotal evidence concerning the deterrent faith provides to antisocial behavior. But what Johnson has done here is to analyze literally hundreds of studies that collectively provide a strong objective case for this phenomenon.

Johnson is a professor at Baylor, where he ended up after a state university summarily fired him for writing about religion in a serious way. Get a load of this story he tells about the incident (as summarized by a reviewer in the Wall Street Journal):

When he was a young scholar at Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) in the mid-1980s, Mr. Johnson was told by his department chairman that none of his articles involving religion would count toward getting tenure. Though Mr. Johnson began publishing articles in academic journals about subjects other than religion, two years later he was fired. In his appeal to the dean, Mr. Johnson mentioned his publications and high student evaluations. The dean replied: “I don’t need to have a reason,” adding: “I can let you go if I don’t like the color of your eyes.”

With three small children at home, Mr. Johnson was desperate to save his job. He appealed to the provost, who told him: “You simply don’t fit in here. I think you need to consider getting a job teaching at some small Christian college.” The provost added, according to Mr. Johnson, that he would have “the same problem” at any other state university. Mr. Johnson then said to the provost: “If I were a Marxist we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, would we?” The provost “nodded in agreement.”

Behold the tolerance of the academic establishment!

If you want to find out more about Johnson’s research, you can listen to an interview he did last summer with Tony Gill for the Research on Religion podcast.

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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4 Responses to More God, Less Crime

  1. Dr. T says:

    Better yet, Research on Religion has a new podcast with Prof. Johnson airing on June 20th. The interview focuses principally on the effectiveness of prison ministry programs and what role church-state partnerships have to play in helping solve social problems. The interview has a couple revealing insights about the methodology of the study that were not in the book; insights that give you more confidence in the results.

    This is a great book and a very accessible and enjoyable read.

  2. worldtake says:

    I have not read that book yet, but I plan to. It does at a glance, seem to ignore statistics that point to the opposite conclusion. According to the chart at this site, that compares IQ, poverty rate, murder rate, theft rate, generosity rate, percent who identify as conservative and general health and contentment. The chart clearly shows strong positive correlation with high murder rates, theft rates, lower IQ, and (supposed) conservative values n states with high religiosity, I admit that the positive correlation for generosity is not as clear, but on all the other areas, the more religious you are, the more likely you are to murder, steal, divorce and be not so bright.
    Before you state the obvious, I know that correlation does not necessarily indicate cause and effect. I have heard the “correlation does not mean cause and effect” argument parroted maybe a trillion times and of course it is important to consider when testing the validity of arguments. However, I would like to point out that any cause and effect relationship shown as valid will obviously always have strong correlations — in fact one to one –. but the degree to which there is a positive correlation of variables is the degree that a particular cause and effect relationship can be predicted.
    When I couple this with what I have observed carefully for my 64 years of life — Generally the more intelligent people are, the lower they will score when given a test that tests the level of their religiosity.

    • Dr. J says:

      I’ve seen the numbers to which you refer. They leave out a number of factors which sociologists might say are relevant. To take just one example, I’m sure if someone were to come along and point out that all the states at the top of your list contain disproportionately large black and Hispanic populations and tried to explain the higher incidences of murder, theft, etc., on the basis of that, you’d have a problem with it (as would I). The chart just doesn’t have enough information. I’m looking forward to the podcast interview with this author tomorrow to learn more about his methodology.

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