EUGENE, Ore. — There are a lot of obvious factors that can lead to a town’s high crime rate, but a belief in hell might play a role too.
A University of Oregon Professor came to this conclusion after conducting a study that recently appeared in the Public Library of Science Journal Plos One.
The findings surfaced from 26 years of data involving nearly 144,197 people in 67 countries.
Basically, if you believe in hell and that you will be punished for you actions, crime tends to be lower.
Those living in areas where people believe in heaven and a forgiving god, the crime levels are higher.
Professor Azim Shariff says he studied nine serious crimes including homicide, rape and robbery. Shariff says the study found it’s the aspect of religious punishment that corresponds with the lower levels of crime.
Shariff says the findings were somewhat surprising when stacked up against economic and demographic indicators.
“It seems like there is a case to be made for the causal direction that religious punishment does actually lower unethical behavior where as forgiveness does seem to license people,” adds Shariff.
“People usually react, I feel like if they have a threat of punishment or some consequence that they are afraid of,” adds Doug Barron, a University of Oregon student.
The study looked at classroom cheating and found students were more likely to cheat if they believed in forgiving gods.
Shariff says the new findings show that supernatural punishment is emerging as an effective cultural innovation to get people to act more ethically towards each other.