Are known atheists more likely to be convicted of violent crimes?

This question came to me after watching a forensics show recently. This lady in Atlanta had been killed and the DA had a pretty strong case against her husband. One of the husband's good friends (whom he owed money to) was also killed. The husband said the friend had came into his house (thinking it empty) to rob him for the debt and surprised the wife, so he killed her, then husband came in and killed friend in self defense. Both men were bookies, by the way.

One of the things introduced in the trial by the prosecution was the idea that the couple was having big problems, including their difference of religion. She was a Christian with "very strong feelings" about her spirituality. He was atheist. Again, the prosecution already had a good case without this tidbit.

What stood out to me was the jury deliberation time. They came back with a guilty in 45 minutes. That's awful damn fast. Do you think the jury just thought "sure he's guilty because atheists have no morals"? Seemed like it was at least a contributing factor.

So, if one of us was on trial for murder or some other violent crime, do you think it would sway a jury to "guilty" due to our lack of religion?

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Actually Roland, I do believe that a jury would more likely convict you if you were a known and open atheist. The reason I believe this is because they would only know the atheist stereotype and what the fundies say about atheists. I still recall working at the factory and when it came out that I was atheist a former "backslidden" Pentecostal told me to my face that if I did not stay away from him we would physically fight. My reply was why should I be fighting him over something that I believe? What would that have to do with him and why would it make him react so violently? He backed off. Some people still want to believe that we eat babies, you know.

I might point out that I was once watching a true murder mystery program on TV where this killer explained why he killed the old religious couple for no reason at all. He claimed he did them a favor by "sending them to heaven."  He even claimed that he liked them.

Statistics will show that more murders (and crimes in general) are committed by theists. Then again, statistics will show that there are more theists than atheists.

Michael, the actual number of atheists and agnostics in the US, according to a Pew Research Poll done in 2012, is about 6%. Now, you're correct in that there are more theists than atheists in the US. The percentage of Catholics in US is 25% of the population. You would expect the prison population to be about 25% Catholic, and you would be correct, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. However, the prison population is not comprised of 6% atheists and agnostics as you would expect.

The percentage of atheists who are incarcerated is seven tenths of one percent (0.07%). On a per capita basis, the religious are still more likely to be sentenced to imprisonment than atheists.

On a per capita basis, the religious are still more likely to be sentenced to imprisonment than atheists.

I wonder what the influence of atheism on imprisonment would look like if one did a regression analysis.

After all, atheism is correlated with other factors such as education and (probably) economic class, which are also correlated with crime.  A regression analysis attempts to tease out the effect of individual factors. 

There is a difference between what a person might put down on a survey ('atheist') and what they would say about themselves when admitted to prison (many would be much more likely to claim some religion). That in itself could skew the statistics.

But prison population (for or against us) should not be an argument. There are plenty of anomalies plainly visible. Statistically certain racial/ethnic/socio groups are over represented in violent crime (even after eliminating drug law violations which are arbitrarily enforced or ignored, murders and violent crime are not ).

Is that a valid argument that those groups are inherently bad? Most people (left and right) would disagree. Because in any group the majority are not violent criminals and those statistics are only looking at the outliers.

Michael, that is why statistics analysis looks at the rate, Per 1,000 christians, how many are convicted of crimes vs. per 1,000 atheists, how many are convicted of crimes.

When I ran the stats on child abuse, I found the highest ratio of convictions for child abuse by occupation was ministers. That is counter intuitive, but that is what the numbers showed. Per 1,000 ministers the rate was higher than per 1,000 carpenters, or 1,000 symphony orchestra conductors, etc. 

So, now, we can look at those convicted for murder by ratio, 1,000 religious vs. 1,000 non-religious. The search is on. 

Joan, you verify my bias about clergy.  Children should not be allowed near them.

: )

I have a hypothesis that many people become ministers because they already have criminal tendencies. They don't actually believe the words that come out of their mouths. Religious people are an obvious mark. By believing in something ludicrous, they stand out to the con man. He thinks, "If they'll fall for that, they'll fall for MY version of that and give me money." 

If I were to renounce atheism and work my way back into the fold, I bet I could get a lot of money out of it. I could write a book. I could get Christians to support me musically and artistically. My dead business might roll the stone aside and with two angels in white by its side, announce to the world that they should give me money. Lots of money. Insane amounts of money.

I suspect my failure to thrive in this community may hinge in part on the fact I've outed myself numerous times. And when more people come around who don't know, I out myself again. And again. And again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Probably I've dug myself a nice little grave here simply by being honest. Those honest, god-fearing Christians don't want anything to do with me.

If I were accused of a crime I didn't commit, I wouldn't like my chances one teensy bit.

Years ago, Davis Grubb wrote a novel about an itinerant preacher who picked the brain of a fellow con with a longer sentence, then traveled to the town where the con hailed from, gaining the confidence of his wife but not of her suspicious children. After murdering the wife, he chases the children through the night and down the river. It was called "Night of the Hunter" and the material made a good movie, the only one ever directed by the great Charles Laughton. Robert Mitchum played the preacher. He had Good and Evil tattooed on his fingers and mesmerized townspeople with his version of the former defeating the latter, his hands all laced together in a struggle of epic proportions. Laughton had to have been an atheist.

That is the creepiest movie I have ever seen! I thought it was stunning. Mitchum was great at being horrible.

Interestingly, now that I think about it, there may be floating around out there, if only on VHS at the moment, Charles Laughton's legendary production of Kurt Weill's Galileo. Weill is famous for having told the House Unamericcan Affairs subcommittee he was a poet and thus unemployed. But the moment the subcomitee hearing ended he left D.C. and got on a ship back to Europe. Weill was an atheist, of course.

Atheist in FundyLand, one of the things I liked about being a christian was all the fun I had. The music, potlucks, and prayer circles offered support and encouragement as long as I did not doubt or question. When my questions became stronger and the answers more dubious, I thought my way out of believing. I lost my community. 

The good news is, I can ask all the questions I want, I can discuss ideas without being admonished, I can express my honest thinking as I build my new community. I have fun, listen to great music without words ... Amazing Grace is a great tune to hum as I putter in my garden. I join with like-minded people in potlucks, have discussion groups, get support and encouragement from a different group of friends. My questions result in feelings of respect, even some praise. I ask the hard questions and keep asking until I find an answer that stands skepticism. I thought my way into atheism and built my community.  

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