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High US Murder Rate Has Nothing to do With Religion

John on December 13, 2007 at 11:18 am

This issue has come up many time on VS, going all the way back to our post about Gregory Paul and his bogus study. Paul made the unsupported inference that the high US murder rate was a function of US religiosity. It has become a well-worn argument among atheists, despite the fact that there is no proposed mechanism, i.e. what about church turns people into killers? Regardless of these failings, the stubbornly high US murder rate (relative to other developed nations) leaves the question open for debate and often manipulation.

I discussed the problem in detail here and at the time wrote:

I have argued before that this murder rate is not a function of American’s religious beliefs, but this is difficult to prove, not least because it necessarily raises the issue of crime and race.

The real problem, I argued, was family breakdown in some urban areas which produces sons without fathers leading to gangs, crime, etc:

I suspect the answer is a combination of drugs, unemployment and, at the deepest level, fatherless households. Of the three, I think fatherless households is the factor driving the other two.

At the time I was somewhat circumspect in my language because, while my conclusion seemed reasonable, I didn’t have the kind of proof that would make it beyond argument.

Now I do.

A recent investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle goes a long way to backing up my suspicions. I’ll present select quotations, but I recommend you read the whole thing if you have any interest in the topic:

In the last five years, 557 people were slain on the city’s streets, making Oakland the state’s second-most murderous city, behind Compton.

Most victims are young, black men who are dying in forgotten neighborhoods of East and West Oakland.

A handful of their killers, speaking from prison, describe an environment where violence is so woven into the culture that murder has become a symbol of manhood.

The inmates say the only difference between these neighborhoods and prison is the absence of walls. The same hierarchies apply – the meanest rise to the top. It’s a survival skill that ensures ownership of drug corners, a sense of self-worth, female attention and protection from attack.

Here we get to the key issue:

Experts fear that the neighborhoods are only getting more violent. There are entire blocks without a single two-parent family, where drug dealers have become the predominant male role models, and children fend for themselves in crowded, chaotic homes where they are routinely exposed to drugs, sex and guns.

Criminal families are on their third and fourth generations. Grandparents – the ones who have historically stepped in to help raise fatherless boys and instill a sense of right and wrong – are dying off.

In short, this is not a racial problem it’s a social problem, a cultural problem.

Increasingly, the young murder suspects coming to the station for questioning seem to lack basic morality, said Sgt. Tim Nolan, who has been investigating Oakland homicides for 17 years.

“There are more and more families where there’s less and less structure,” he said. “Talking to these suspects day in and out, there’s a higher percentage today with no sense of right and wrong. It’s frightening, but we are creating super-criminals.”

All it takes is a look, a put-down or a lost fight, and bullets fly. Disrespect has become the No. 1 reason to kill.

The article goes on to say that many of the killings are revenge killings between families (such as they are) and rival gangs, both fighting for respect and territory. But notice what is not a factor.


Gregory Paul and those that have relied on his “research” wish you to believe that there is some connection between religious belief and the elevated murder rate in the US. As this article demonstrates, the reasons for our poor statistics have literally nothing whatever to do with belief. If anything, they show what happens when we re-engineer society, disposing of traditional religious ideas about marriage and the family.

The cause of the mayhem, if we can narrow it down to one, is the abandonment by men of fatherhood and marriage in favor of “livin’ large.” It’s no coincidence that a quarter of all murders take place among young black males and that this same group has 70+% illegitemacy rates. One thing leads to another. Over time you wind up with ghettos like those described above. Violence flows not from too much religion but, in a very real way, from not enough.

Someone (it may have been CS Lewis) once said that a purely rational man would never marry.  He was right of course. What we see in the ghetto is proof of the principle. The culture that has grown up in these areas and now presents itself in gansta rap isn’t irrational. On the contrary, it’s painfully rational. Do what it takes to survive. Dominate others for your own benefit. As 50 cent put it “Get rich or die tryin’.”

[HT: Hot Air]

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Category: Crime & the Law |

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