David Badash writes about U.S. Christian pollsters finding that atheists get divorced less often, commit less crimes, and have better educations than Christians. This is more evidence of the fact that one does not need threats of hell, god and a clergy watching over you to make moral decisions. In fact, it could be taken as evidence to the contrary. From the linked article:
In fact, a review of worldwide studies found that criminality and religion go hand in hand. The countries with the most religious people have the highest crime rates, highest sexually transmitted diseases and the highest teen pregnancy rates.
Though I would love to say that religion was causal in these studies, I have to think that it is just correlated with the behaviors listed. Most likely there are more societal issues leading to these problems, such as lower income, lower rates of education, etc. causing more crime and also more religion at the same time. In my experience (not a scientific study…) lower rates of education and income lead more people to seek the “opiate” of religion. The article also mentions that, “Some groups seem to like their flocks ignorant so that pastors’ interpretations of God’s edicts are not questioned.” Sounds right to me. Once you start questioning anything related to religion, you start to notice the giant chasms in the logic.
So if the populace is already less educated, with lower incomes, then not only does crime become seen as a better option, but so does the thought that you can be forgiven for your criminal behavior by saying sorry to an imaginary friend, or that when your life is over you will be rewarded by going to heaven. This seems more likely than religion causing people to become criminals.