I'm not asking anyone to divulge their private dark past or if any one has a criminal record but I'd like to know what your thoughts are on it? It seems to me religious groups have targeted the prison population. And I every now and then I hear some testimony of a former criminal turning his life around after finding God and now is accepted by some Christian community.
I know this is too general. Some of the things I'd like to see addressed are: Do you think it is harder for someone with criminal history to get accepted in an atheist community or a Christian community? If so is that a good thing or a bad thing and why? Do you think in an atheist community it is best not to talk about your dark past? Does it depend on the crime? Do you know anyone who has turned their life around with reason instead of faith?
The only semi-famous atheist I know who got into trouble breaking some laws is John W. Loftos who wrote "Why I became an Atheist". But if I remember correctly he was still a teenager when he did them, easily chucked off as youthful indiscretion. And right after that he found Jesus before he became an atheist.
Many cons get Christianity so they can become rich televangelists.
and to get out of prison on "good behavior"
a good question but i am not sure
As someone who worked as a corrections officer in the past I can say that a large majority of those who attended services inside prison walls did so more as a means to exchange inmate information and/or paraphernalia. Bibles are handy storage devices.
The inmates eventually got the female Wiccans into some real hot water with the prison authorities. Being naive and gullible is not advised when dealing with cons.
"Do you think it is harder for someone with criminal history to get accepted in an atheist community or a Christian community?"
I don't think it would make a difference. If I was aware of their criminal past I might be a little more suspicious of their sincerity for a period of time. Unfortunately there are a lot of 'bad habits' one can pick up while living in a den of thieves.
Been around the criminal element myself. I know of what you speak. And interestingly enough there aren't that many atheists in prison. Most of those who wind up there tend to have problems with critical thinking that tend to put them their in the first place and tend to make them susceptible to superstitious thought patterns and holding to traditional beliefs against evidence. These people often have strong egocentric patterns of thought that lead to manipulative conduct. But that is only the statistical majority and each person needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some people wind up in prison even though they don't have the general personality common to the majority of criminals. Unfortunately, they have to adapt to the situation they find themselves in and, as you noted, pick up "bad habits" to survive. Our penal system is not our most laudable institutions at the moment. I'm sure we both could share horror stories.
Interesting topic. I'd speculate that criminal behavior was quelled much more quickly back in our band/tribal days, because evading detection and consequences was probably pretty difficult. I'll bet that a higher percentage of population can become criminals in larger societies as a result of being able to behave anonymously and covertly for long periods of time. When the concept of God enters the equation, more people feel "watched" and subject to possible consequences. So I'd guess that religion usually plays a more effective role than atheism in reducing criminal behavior.
I know that sounds discouraging, but maybe society will evolve better ways to detect and reduce criminal behavior. Maybe it'll be possible to make potential renegades feel more positively engaged with society at large, and feel more responsible to the society, without brainwashing them with God talk.
Just realized I didn't answer the question.
So paragraph 3 above would be:
Atheists have not yet created an institution (e.g. church) to "process" anyone, much less criminals, so I don't think we have enough cohesive support in place yet to effectively rehabilitate or help prevent criminal behavior. (Ouch!)
@ Pope Paul -
"Maybe it'll be possible to make potential renegades feel more positively engaged with society at large, and feel more responsible to the society, without brainwashing them with God talk."
Somehow or other. I think this is a crucial point. It's often said that in smaller communities there tends to be much less crime, and this would appear to be because we have to get on with our neighbours. If our neighbours are always changing, there's less incentive to behave well. Ultimately I think people have to be responsible to themselves and to the well-being of their own lives. If somebody is an out-and-out loner, then people are suspicious of loners, and they are under pressure to behave well because of this. We all live around people, and if we don't, it doesn't matter how we behave, morally speaking, because morality is a social issue.
RE: "in smaller communities there tends to be much less crime" - there are also studies out that indicate that one reaction to overcrowding is aberrant behavior.
It's true that a small community can be claustrophobic, for precisely the same reasons that there may be less crime, and therefore, uncomfortable.