Violence and Religious Conviction, Strength, and Influence: Do Countries with Strong Religious Beliefs and Higher Religious Participation Rates Experience Higher Rates of Violent Crime?"
Golubski, Christina Marie
This paper analyzes the relationship between violent crime and the intensity of religious beliefs across countries. In particular, it examines whether religion in itself or its provided opportunity to help its congregations forge social bonds deter violent crime. This study tests the hypothesis that strong religious conviction and participation within a country will contribute to lower homicide rates. While current literature has investigated the relationship between crime, both violent and nonviolent, and religion, most studies have been conducted within developed countries, used individual-level data, and focused on minor crimes or teenage delinquency. In addition, most studies have also defined religiosity in a purely Christian context. This study will expand upon those investigations by taking a cross-national perspective, incorporating non-Christian religions, and focusing on violent crime.This study will look at religiosity in a three-fold way: First, through self-identification as a "religious person"; second, through frequency of religious service attendance; and third, through membership in a religious organization. Differences in the results of these regressions may tease out what the literature refers to as the "moral communities hypothesis": The idea that religious communities have lower crime rates not because of religious conviction, but because of the social bonds formed through religious participation.This study will apply four Ordinary Least Squares regressions to test the hypothesis. Data on religiosity come from consecutive waves of the World Values Survey and the European Values Survey, while data on homicide rates come from the World Health Organization. The models will control for economic and social factors that the literature has shown to affect the homicide rates within a country, which include inequality, economic development, urbanization, religious pluralism, and age structure.In the end, only one of the three measurements of religiosity, frequency of religious service attendance, has a negative and statistically significant relationship with violent crime. The other two measurements, self-identification as a religious person and membership in a religious organization, both have positive and statistically significant relationships with violent crime. The combination of these three relationships suggests that active participation in religious services may create the social capital that helps to dissuade violent crime. Higher proportions of the faithful may not be enough to deter violent crime. Religious activity and positive participation can create a welcoming environment, which encourages outsiders who may turn to violent crime to instead become a part of the community. The results also show that other factors, including community participation, economic development, equality, and education, strongly influence violent crime. Overall, policies that can increase active community participation, decrease inequality, promote education, and create economic opportunities will reap more than just economic benefits.
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