Does Christianity really cause criminal behavior?

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Only 0.1 percent of U.S. federal inmates are atheists; a much smaller percentage than the country. Doesn’t this mean that religion causes people to be criminal; or at least that criminals tend to be religious?  This is a claim I’ve heard parroted by more than one atheist debater.  It’s also a claim that, to date, no one has presented research that rules out rival causal factors.  Rival Causal Factors are the things a researcher has not considered that could affect the outcome of an experiment or study. The data itself is not enough to make a conclusion.  My eyes were opened to this when I took criminal justice research in college.  Data alone may be an indicator, but it is not proof.

Is it possible that marginally religious people turn to their religion when they get in a pinch?  Is it possible that some atheist inmates will claim religion to gain sympathy? I could go further with this line of questioning, but the point is, outside of assumption or special pleading, one cannot draw the conclusion that the causal factor of criminal behavior is religion without ruling out other probable causes not shown by raw data.

By the way, if you are rolling your eyes because you are convinced that data alone is enough to draw this kind of conclusion, you might want to check out military intelligence analyst Tyler Vigen’s book Spurious Correlations.  He uses correlating data in a hilarious way to show just how silly it is to draw such conclusions.  For example, the number of people who drowned in a pool actually DOES correlate with films featuring Nicolas Cage.  He also found that the per capita consumption of margarine correlates with the divorce rate in Maine. Do you really thing the causal agent in these two correlations can be decided without further study to find the causal agent?

There must be a reason why some, who are otherwise logically-thinking individuals concerned with numbers and statistics, etc., seem to want to find malice in Christianity.

What are your thoughts?

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