Incarceration Rates
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25-10-2010, 11:25 PM
 
Incarceration Rates
I know I'm going to regret posting this when I hear the first coherent answer, since math really isn't my forte at all. Curiosity wins out over better judgment quite frequently, so here it goes ...

I hear and read a lot about the rates of incarceration among believers and non-believers in the United States from atheists defending the idea that religious belief doesn't increase morality. For example, by some estimation only .21% of the total prison population (of about 2.3 million) is atheist, which would presumably leave 99.79% inmates with a belief in some kind of religion or god.

Considering the percentage of the total population that is religious compared to the relatively small population of atheists, aren't we sort of asking the wrong question? Isn't the bigger question the ratio of each population that is incarcerated?

If the total religious population of the US is 293 million (85.9%) and the total atheist/agnostic/non-believer population is roughly 26.8 million (14.1% - controversial I know), don't believers still come out ahead in the stats? (I apologize in advance for grouping all three together.)

Now, I know that prison stats aren't an absolute measure of "morality", (and that the stats differ fairly widely, especially those about the total population of atheists) but I hear it thrown around a lot and want to know that what I'm asserting is at least sort of accurate. The only reason I ask at all is that I hear this so often from atheists as an argument for atheism.

Okay, unleash the math minds ...
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25-10-2010, 11:41 PM
RE: Incarceration Rates
I'm not a math mind myself but I stay well enough away from that argument for one very good reason.

Many people "find" god in prison. If you look like your trying to change to better your behavior (even if you fake it) then your more likely to get parole.

By engaging in Christianity they hope to win votes on the board. Prisons are not really a great environment to use as a general template.

Now divorce rates....
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26-10-2010, 12:00 AM
RE: Incarceration Rates
(25-10-2010 11:25 PM)athnostic Wrote:  For example, by some estimation only .21% of the total prison population (of about 2.3 million) is atheist, which would presumably leave 99.79% inmates with a belief in some kind of religion or god.

These are the numbers I have read about on several different sites. One site states that "they didn't find god after they were incarcerated." The only thing I have found to try to discredit them is the usual religious denial, but no numbers based on any research, forget credible evidence. Godless may be right about the numbers being off, but it would be one huge kick in the pants to religions if they were accurate.
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26-10-2010, 08:08 PM
RE: Incarceration Rates
We should be more concerned about the truth then kicking anyone in the pants though. Tongue

Also these arguments tend to commit a fallacy of correlation = causation. That's why I don't use these arguments.
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26-10-2010, 09:23 PM
RE: Incarceration Rates
Quote:Also these arguments tend to commit a fallacy of correlation = causation.
Indeed. For example, 30 thousand people resigned from the evangelic lutheran church of Finland in a week after a TV discussion on gay marriage. But if it wouldn't be known that there was a TV discussion, the increase in resignings might be taken as a sign of people losing faith.

Just because your jails are full of theists, doesn't mean that theism has much to do with their crimes (or atheism in not doing crimes [education and better living?]), it might just be a common feature among crime-doers.

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26-10-2010, 10:11 PM
 
RE: Incarceration Rates
(25-10-2010 11:25 PM)athnostic Wrote:  I know I'm going to regret posting this when I hear the first coherent answer, since math really isn't my forte at all. Curiosity wins out over better judgment quite frequently, so here it goes ...

I hear and read a lot about the rates of incarceration among believers and non-believers in the United States from atheists defending the idea that religious belief doesn't increase morality. For example, by some estimation only .21% of the total prison population (of about 2.3 million) is atheist, which would presumably leave 99.79% inmates with a belief in some kind of religion or god...
My math mind was unleashed years ago, and hasn't found it's way home since.
However, I do think we're looking at this the wrong way in as much as we know morality is not universal. Nor is morality that is installed by adherence to religious tenets, consistent or inviolable. And why would it be? The Christian Bible Old Testament is replete with verses that lend evidence to an immoral God. So Theists who may claim religion and God belief instills morality are in error because the prime role model that would be held accountable for instilling that quality is in deficit itself.

I think morality is a matter of self-worth after the first tangible role models imparted a standard, such as parent(s), as well as culture and society.

So I don't think the prison population reflects a standard in parallel to the majority of the world population being Theist and as such the majority of incarcerated inmates being such are an example that religious morality is untenable. It's up to the individual, and who they are as far as their self worth is concerned. If they're incarcerated, they're mentally sound enough to know right from wrong. If not, they're usually found not responsible due to mental defect and are hospitalized, or are sent to a prison psyche ward. So that while being held accountable for their crime(s), they're also recognized by the courts as a danger to society because they do not possess the mental faculties to be trusted as a rational person, free among them.
(I once watched that cable feature, "Lock Up", wherein an inmate there was found incapable of discerning right from wrong and because of the serious nature of his crime, which was attempted murder, he was sentenced after he confessed he was not safe to be free in society, to life without parole.)

All that being said, what it amounts to as far as I see it is people are either good or they're not. They can cling to superstition thinking that's going to make up for their deficit or scare them straight, but if/when they're not decent in the first place, mythology isn't going to save them or us from them. Atheist inmates just go to show that's at least a reasonable observation on my part.

As for inmates finding "god" in Prison, that can be because in many jurisdictions the standard issue for new inmates includes a King James Bible. The emphasis being a Judeo-Christian faith system, even going so far as to have chapel rooms in prisons, while the 1st amendment guarantees are not ignored for other inmate faiths. However they can be hard to enforce on one's own behalf when an inmate is well outside the mainstream.

In any event, incarcerated inmates be they Theist or atheists, just go to show if there was a God it would certainly help to prove it by saving us from criminals, and if morality was instilled by God there wouldn't be any. While the atheists just go to prove, they're criminal because they have no one and no thing to blame but themselves. (Not including of course the wrongly accused in the equation)
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27-10-2010, 12:24 PM
RE: Incarceration Rates
Allow me to preface by stating that I am a former corrections officer (jail guard). I must say that through my experience, and no formal study on the subject, I cannot believe many of the statistics gathered by any such polls with regard to inmate information. Often (and I mean REALLY often) inmates will "find god" because they believe they will be shown more mercy during parole hearings, disciplinary hearings, etc. They believe (and in some cases correctly) that by finding god, they are appearing to be a "better person". It was always amazing to me how tightly they held on to this belief (almost like a religous zealot?) that authorities would release them early, or somehow otherwise reward this miraculous transition to a god-fearing, down right moral individual. They hold onto this lie of enlightenment so tightly that they will tout their newfound religion until the day of their release. Let me give an example:

"Joe" was an inmate on my former caseload. He came to me one day with a grin on his face. He told me that he wanted to meet with the Super (read-Warden) to discuss his early release. Of course all the inmates ask to meet with the super, so of course I, as this inmates case worker, had to assess whether his request was warranted. My approach was simple. I simply said, "early release?? Congratulations Joe! Why are you being released early?". He told me that he "found god" (to which I replied, "great! I didn't know he was missing! Where'd you find him?") and that since he was now a good person he should be released. The readers Digest version is that Joe found god because another inmate told him that if he said that, we would have to let him go. Joe's brain was severely affected by many years of serious drug abuse, and he would believe nearly anything you told him like it was the gospel truth. (lol) The other inmate gave Joe a bible, and that was that. Joe was now a "godly man" as he put it. I had asked him at one point why he was carrying the bible around, and he said god told him thats what "godly men" do. I asked if he had told god that he couldn't read, and was met with a somewhat blank stare. Joe had no idea what reigion even was, and yet if anyone had asked him, he would have vehemently professed his devotion to god. He would, in essence, be referred to as a theist.

Now what you may be thinking, my fellow forum members is, "But wait a minute here Stark. That's an interesting story, but is it really common enough to skew statistics beyond an already allowable margin of error?" My response is, most definitely, beyond a doubt, based on my personal experience, YES. Perhaps this story is a bit extreme, which I suppose is why it specifically warrants telling. But the grasp many inmates hold on religion, not as a mean of enlightenment, but as a means of "fooling" the authorities, is a firm grasp indeed.

I do apologize for the somewhat long story, but it's just a small example of why statistics gathered from incarcerated individuals simply cannot be trusted. The realevance it has to the thread topic may be little, but I thought it worth sharing anyhow.

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28-10-2010, 01:27 AM
RE: Incarceration Rates
Stark Raving. Thak you for that post. I found it very enlightening, no pun intended.
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