Saturday, July 16, 2011

High Church atheists assault reason. Low Church atheists assault you.

Internet Superintelligence Vox Day has a great post  on the growing population of atheists in prison:
The explosive growth of atheism... in prison
Atheists often like to erroneously claim that Christians are more likely to be imprisoned than atheists. Both Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have made this bizarre, and irrelevant, appeal to atheist "morality". But these arguments are inevitably based on nothing substantive, and more importantly, they are belied by actual prison statistics. While the USA doesn't keep comprehensive statistics related to religion, the UK does, and it's here that we can see the actual facts of the matter.
What is interesting is that it appears atheists have become significantly more criminal since I found the 2002 statistics when writing TIA. (Since then, the UK Ministry of Justice has gotten its online act together and it's much easier to find the relevant annual statistics.) In the seven years between 2002 and 2009, the number of imprisoned High Church Atheists rose 475%, from 0.17% of the England and Wales prison population to 0.84%. That's still fairly small, of course, but it's worth noting that it is a larger percentage of the prison population than is represented by any of the following religions and denominations:
Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Quaker, United Reformed Church, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, Christian Scientist, Coptic Christian, Greek/Russian Orthodox, Mormon, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seven Day Adventist, BaHai, Jain, Pagan, Rastafarian, Scientologist, Zoroastrian.
I love Vox's distinction between High Church Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, Myers) and the Low Church (incarcerated) wing of the cult.

And the observation that atheists have become significantly more criminal of course excludes atheists in power-- State Atheism-- who have always been criminals.  When atheism assumes state power, criminality and genocide become mere atheist office politics.

However, as I pointed out in TIA, the correct comparison between Christians and atheists is not between all Christians and self-identified High Church Atheists, but rather between all Christians and all No Religion atheists, less agnostics. It is easy to demonstrate why this is so, the inevitable Atheist Dance notwithstanding, given the correct definition of an atheist as "one who believes that God does not exist" rather than "one who calls himself an atheist". This assertion is supported by the action of the atheists at the British Humanist Association and their census campaign, which asserts that is an individual's identification with a religion - or presumably, identification with a specific appellation - irrespective of the extent of their religious belief or practice is not the appropriate concept to measure. And while one could argue that "no religion" is not perfectly synonymous with "belief that God does not exist", it is safe to assume that most, though not all, no religion individuals are practical atheists even if they are not inclined to call themselves atheists. It is also in keeping with the practice of Richard Dawkins, the British Humanist Association, and many vocal atheists to consider "no religion" a form of atheism.
It seems that the Low Church atheists are twice as likely to end up in prison as their percentage in the population would suggest.
The reason this matters is that is the Low Church atheists of the No Religion variety who make up 33.1% of the prison population, more than twice the 15% of the general population. (The 15.1% number is from 2001 and will likely be around 20% in the 2011 census; I will update the numbers accordingly when they become available.) The statistical overrepresentation of no religion atheists in prison is surpassed only by Buddhists (0.3% general, 2.2% prison) and Muslims (2.8% general, 11.9% prison). 
So, keep this in mind the next time that an atheist attempts to claim that atheists are more moral or less criminal than Christians. All they are doing is cherry-picking the most intelligent subset of the atheist population and comparing it with the entire intelligence spectrum of the Christian population. Since low IQ tends to correspond highly with criminal behavior and imprisonment, it should come as no surprise that self-styled Atheists are less likely to be found in prison than no religion atheists.
Who would have imagined that atheists who deny objective moral law and eternal accountability would hurt other people at a much higher rate than theists who accept moral law?

Life is strange.


  1. Scraping the barrel, Mike, so to speak?

  2. Professor Tchernyshyov,

    I see that you are a physicist. Would you be willing to comment on the following nonsense penned by Victor Stenger:

    "I will begin with the origin of the visible universe. Our knowledge today allows us to push back in time to barely a trillionth of a second after the universe began. Extrapolating from there to the origin, we find that the universe began in a tiny (but not infinitesimal) region of space. Now, information only exists when it is embodied in some physical system, and we know that there is a limit to how compact information can be. This tiny region of space could not have contained more than a few bits of information -- far too little to specify the universe that evolved from it.

    As the universe expanded, it could hold more information. This created an environment in which order could emerge -- as, over time, through an endless series of random events, it did. But the tiny amount of information contained in the very early universe was not enough to include any plans of some creator at that time. This allows for the possibility of a deist god who set things up, started things going randomly, and then left. It does not allow for some specific plan of creation to be embodied in the universe from the beginning. A God with such a plan can be ruled out beyond a reasonable doubt."

  3. The Equality and Human Rights Commission found that in 2008 the proportion of "no religion" is 49% (Table 6) for men in the general population. Only 40% of men and women say they "believe in God" (Table 11).

    Only 9% of the general population identify as Roman Catholics (Table 5) while 33% of the Prison population do.