Recently in the Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit

There are No Atheists in Prison Cells

This from Salon:

This week, Pew Research Center published the results of a survey conducted among 40,080 people in 40 countries between 2011 and 2013. The survey asked a simple question: is belief in God essential to morality? 

...In 22 of the 40 countries surveyed, the majority says it is necessary to believe in God in order to be a moral person. “This position is highly prevalent, if not universal, in Africa and the Middle East,” says the report. No surprise there, but Asian and Latin countries such as Indonesia (99%), Malaysia (89%), the Philippines (99%), El Salvador (93%), and Brazil (86%) all fell in the highest percentile of respondents believing belief in a god (small G) is central to having good values.

Interestingly, clear majorities in all highly developed countries do not think belief in god to be necessary for morality, with one exception only: the U.S.A.

Only 15 percent of the French population answered in the affirmative. Spain: 19%. Australia: 23%. Britain: 20%. Italy: 27%. Canada: 31%. Germany 33%. Israel: 37%.

So what of the U.S.? A comparatively eye-popping 53 percent of Americans essentially believe atheists and agnostics are living in sin. Despite the fact that a research analyst at the Federal Bureau of Prisons determined that atheists are thoroughly under-represented in the places where rapists, thieves and murders invariably end up: prisons. While atheists make upward of 15 percent of the U.S. population, they only make up 0.2 percent of the prison population.

The result for Germany's a bit surprising -- just a reminder that despite green energy, a gay foreign minister, and swinger-club sex-and-suckling-pig parties (g - as a friend of mine once said, 'the ultimate integration test for foreigners'), large parts of Germany are still quite conservative. Also, these results are yet another reason no lazy reporter should ever mention 'Catholic Spain/Italy' again.

The atheist result is pretty interesting, although I'm sure it's mostly an artifact of the fact that atheists are richer and more educated than the general population, and are therefore less likely to end up in prison for various reasons. But still, if the New Atheists need a rallying cry, why not 'There are no Atheists in Prison Cells?' NAs, you can have this one for a reasonable licensing fee.


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Christianity is the belief in a god, but it also offers the hope and the concentration on values, that are quite contrarian to money and income attracted lifestyle. It is an offer of hope for people who are lost in the normal succes levels of western societies.

Should anyone wonder that it attracts more the poorer people than the rich ones, more the fallen people than the winner-like types?


I suppose--pure conjecture, admittedly--that most people who identify themselves as "Christian" are Christian in name only; they enter "Christian" on standardized forms, just as readily as they would their height and weight and eye color, without thinking about the import. For these persons, identifying themselves as "Christian" is a remnant of many years of tradition behind their upbringing; and this practive will, if present trends continue, gradually fade away in the U.S., just as it already largely has in Europe.

"Atheists," on the other hand, may tend to be persons, especially in the U.S., who are swimming against the tides of tradition, and so are people who tend to think for themselves and develop their own moral standards: that could explain the statistic you quote.

A priest once told me that he preferred an honest atheist to a hypocritical Christian.

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