Monday, March 11, 2013

Religious Belief and Criminal Behavior

Nobody trusts atheists. Asked why, people commonly answer that since they don't believe God is watching them, and don't think they will suffer for their misdeeds, atheists will do whatever they want.

But so far as I can tell, religious belief has very little impact on how people act. On the contrary, it seems to me that believers can always twist their faith around to justify whatever they think is necessary. Like followers of Jesus waging "just" war. Some academic criminologists, curious about this question, interviewed American street thugs about their religious beliefs and found that they have no religious doubts about their careers:
“God has to forgive everyone, even if they don’t believe in him,” insisted one 33-year-old enforcer for a drug gang, with a vested interest in avoiding damnation for the murders he had committed. A 23-year-old robber called Young Stunna suggested that the circumstances of his upbringing would absolve him of his crimes: “Jesus knows I ain’t have no choice, you know? He know I got a decent heart. He know I’m stuck in the hood and just doing what I gotta do to survive.”

Indeed, many of those surveyed used their understandings of faith to justify their own criminal behavior. A 25-year-old drug dealer called Cool suggested that God doesn’t mind when you do bad things to bad people:

"Also another thing is this; if you doing some wrong to another bad person, like if I go rob a dope dealer or a molester or something, then it don’t count against me because it’s like I’m giving punishment to them for Jesus. That’s God’s will. Oh you molested some kids? Well now I’m [God] sending Cool over your house to get your ass."
Even gang enforcers think they are doing God's will.

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