Outsourcing Morality

My God is just and wrathful;
I fear the day we meet.
He’ll judge my sins and trespasses
From his almighty seat
I’d try to beat the system
But His system can’t be beat—
So while sometimes I am tempted
I will never, ever cheat.

My god is kind and loving
And forgiving of our sins;
In our quest to find salvation
He knows everybody wins
In school, when tests are handed out
He knows my head just spins
So my eyes are on my neighbor’s test
As soon as it begins.

Sciencey stuff, after the jump:

In PLoS ONE this past Monday, an exploration of “Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates“.


As predicted, rates of belief in heaven and hell had significant, unique, and opposing effects on crime rates. Belief in hell predicted lower crime rates,  = −1.941, p<.001; whereas belief in heaven predicted highercrime rates,  = 1.958, p<.001 (Note that these are standardized regression coefficients, so they may be interpreted as effect sizes). Controlling for the effect of belief in heaven, a 1 SD increase in belief in hell resulted in an almost 2 SD decrease in national crime rate; conversely, controlling for the effect of hell, a 1 SD increase in belief in heaven resulted in an almost 2 SD increase in national crime rate. Analyzing each crime individually revealed the same significant pattern of effects for 8 of the 10 individual crimes 

So… the barbaric gods, with threats of fire and brimstone, get the job done. The kinder, gentler, more civilized gods allow us to sin today, be forgiven tomorrow!

How convenient.


  1. says

    Wow, those are disturbing results. I used to try to talk theists out of hell first and foremost, now I’ve got to run a criminal background check before engaging in that particular discourse.

  2. Crudely Wrott says

    If I think I’ll be rewarded
    I can risk being more forward
    But if punishment waits in the wings
    I’ll ponder mostly pious things

  3. Die Anyway says

    The second verse was read with Mr. Rogers’ voice in mind. I can’t quite picture a good voice for the first verse.

  4. David Hart says

    What we need is to found a religion that has a hell but no heaven, and just watch the crime rate plummet :-P

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