Eric Schwitzgebel, Associate Professor of Philosophy at University of California at Riverside and author of The Splintered Mind blog, commented last month on research on the links between religiosity and sexual offending behaviour.
As he explains, the researchers analysed the criminal records and self-reported religious affiliations of 111 male sexual offenders in prison in Australia:
[The analysis] indicated that […] those who maintained religious involvement from childhood to adulthood had more sexual offense convictions, more victims, and younger victims, than other groups. Results challenge assumptions that religious involvement should, as with other crimes, serve to deter sexual offending behavior.
In a thoughtful commentary (which is worth reading in full, along with the comments), Eric points points out:
The general literature on the relationship between religiosity and crime is mixed and difficult to interpret. If only we could randomly assign religiosity! 😉 Unfortunately, the social factors affecting religiosity are entangled with those affecting criminality. Furthermore, the literature may be distorted by the fact that null results are hard to publish and by the prior commitments of the researchers (many are from religiously affiliated institutions, for example).
- Donna Eshuys & Stephen Smallbone (2006). Religious Affiliations Among Adult Sexual Offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment 18(3): 279-288