How religion cuts crime: Church-goers are less likely to shoplift, take drugs and download music illegally
Daily Mail, Great Britain
14 January 2014
People who regularly visit a place of worship are less likely to get involved in low level crime and delinquency, according to new research.
A survey from Manchester University found a direct correlation between higher visits to religious places and lower crime figures, especially in relation to shoplifting, drug use and music piracy.
Researchers believe this is because religion not only teaches people about 'moral and behavioural norms', but also spending time with like-minded people makes it less likely they'll get mixed up with the 'wrong crowd'.
As part of the project, more than 1,200 18 to 34-year-olds from across all the UK's major faiths were were asked about their worshipping habits.
They were also asked about any past misdemeanours, and the likelihood they would commit low-level crimes in the future.
In total, researchers asked respondents about eight varying types of delinquency including littering, skipping school or work, using illegal drugs, fare dodging, shoplifting, music piracy, property damage and violence against the person.
Although the study found varying degrees of correlation between increased church visits and decreased crime rates, the most significant were seen in relation to shoplifting, the use of illegal drugs and music piracy.
The researchers did not include more serious, high-level crimes because they 'were too rare for the data to be able to show a significant pattern.'
PhD student Mark Littler from the university led the project. He said: 'This research implies that the act of visiting a place of worship may trigger a significant reduction in the likelihood of involvement in certain types of criminal and delinquent behaviour.
'In line with existing American research, my results suggest that it is the act of mixing with fellow believers that is important, regardless of whether this is via formal worship, involvement in faith-based social activities or simply through spending time with family and friends who share your faith.'
The study is the first time this type of analysis has been carried out in the UK and is due to be published later this year. It was funded by the Bill Hill Charitable Trust.
Littler added: 'These results suggest a more positive picture of Britain’s religious life than the doom and gloom you might read about it in the newspapers.
'But they are not necessarily a blow to the proponents of atheism: religious practice is just one way of gaining exposure to the pro-social behavioural norms that are at the heart of this relationship; other, more secular, activities may equally serve a similar role.'