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.
Imo, I did some more questionable things when I was a "believer." After all, "god" was helping/guiding me.
Formal studies have show a correlation, but it's just that the same pathologies that lead to extreme religiosity also tend to promote arrestably criminal conduct. They do not show that the level of relgiosity leads to incarceration though. No "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy going on here. There is a significant statistic that has led to these deeper studies and there IS a relationship if only because of a common causal element. The drug behavior often grows out of the same pathologies as well. While it is true in the U.S. the majority of people incarcerated are often drug related, that isn't the case for many other nations (Portugal comes to mind).
Atheists tend to be largely critical thinkers and other studies have shown most of the prison population has difficulty with that essential skill. It's not an argument FOR atheism. It's only a statistical consequence of a certain mindset. Critical thinking usually helps prevent criminal conduct and often leads people to question religion, hence the correlation.
@Greg - RE: "The majority of people held in our prisons are there on drug charges, not because their Theist/Atheist views."
Assuming your comment was directed at my earlier one, at no point did I say that anyone was imprisoned for their beliefs, I said that 90+% of the prison population expressed a belief in a god.
Significant difference --
I have known ministers and lay folks that have done a prison ministry. These few have always described their experience as trying, but successful.
Statistically, I do wonder. Theists generally have a history of 'good report' for themselves, but can turn ugly if anyone else intrudes. Knowing the recidivism rate for ministered and non-ministered prison populations would be helpful. Tracking the metaphysical commitments of the ministers/lay might be telling, if a large population could be studied. I expect that guilt could work, but different types of 'insight' therapy, might work also.
- Atheists' tendency to be more critical thinkers probably makes it a little harder for horrible people to be accepted by them.
- Christianity and Islam have a very convenient "all you have to do to go to heaven is join" feature built into their belief system, so horrible people are obviously more easily accepted.
- Which is horrible, because... well, you know. The religions will naturally get more horrible people, and just be generally horrible.
- Atheists' greater analysis of morality would put them in a better position to put their past darknesses into perspective-- I'm guessing that's fairly healthy.
- It definitely depends on the crime. The problem is "I used to rape children," and "I used to steal TVs" are essentially equivalent statements in modern Christianity because Christianity's inherent aim is recruitment, not morality.
I myself turned my life around with reason instead of faith. Kind of. I mean, I used Buddhism as an initial template, but it's sort of a "religion" of reason. Plus science has a good deal to say about morality and can be very useful in putting "right living" into perspective.
These are good points, especially the "all you have to do to go to heaven is...".
A lot of thought-control idealisms, especially cults, even push the idea that it's up to you to cure your mental illness, or other infirmity. It's the mind-over-matter promise, but if you don't believe in it enough then the consequences you suffer are merely your fault.
To me one of the first standards you can hold religion to is its mission statement, its core concept. You can apply that to different religions and get different conclusions, but when you get to Christianity and Islam you notice it's all about "accepting the lord and savior" and "spreading the word" and... well, basically their core concepts seem to be recruitment. Which I didn't see any intrinsic nobility in.
Yes, at some point they start looking more like a multilevel marketing scam...
Jeffrey Daumer speeking for Christ and against evolution, just does something for me! Jeffrey surely learned something about the evils of evolution during his killing spree. It seems like he might have learned something about human anatomy atleast. I expect that killing more animals might have helped him learn something deep and offered insights. Tasting human flesh, and drilling holes into human skulls, could have been a real education. Even learning how to be a predator, could allow him some understanding about predator/prey relationships.
Do I feel a moment of demented desparation of the theists? At what point did the interviewer turn the camera off, and vomit into the nearest waste can, or mention that, 'Thanks Jeffrey, for your expert evaluation of evolution and your learned support for Christ. Now when I think of Christ and his teachings, I'll think of you!' Retch!
Ok... so I've quickly flipped through the comments written so far and I feel a little embarrassed to be the first and hopefully not the last person to say this but... I found Atheism and I turned my life around.
I grew up in tough neighborhoods and most of my friends grew up to be career criminals. I was always different though and in many ways it made me one of the toughest in among my friends. First I was blessed with an above average I.Q. and second I had an equally intelligent and completely arrogant and condescending mother. Even though she was the one who forced me to go to church, catechism, and youth group she also constantly pushed me to be the better person. She drilled her arrogance into me and explained that we are Gomez(her maiden name.. my dads side was ghetto) and Gomez is better, Gomez is morally superior, Gomez is significantly more intelligent, and Gomez has class and culture. Besides her religion she forced her books, music, and art on me. She dragged me to museums and made me write book reports appart from ones I had in school. I was put in honors classes and even took college courses for high school credit. She signed me up for plays and encouraged me to play sports. I fought her so fucken hard and she never gave up. I ran out the door as soon as I turned eighteen and went strait into getting high every day and beating the crap out anyone who messed with my friends.
I got out of jail in 98' and decided I did not want to be one of those older guys I met in there. My mothers arrogance had won out and was now permanently stuck in my head in the form of my conscience. I took a long look at those older guys and I just couldn't shake the thought that I was better than that. So I did better I turned things around a bit and that's when I became a machinist but it was not good enough. I still got high and drank enough to kill a little person. I still fought my mother and I was always pissed off. One day I was so pissed I just said "fuck everyone and fuck this place". I always wanted to see NYC so I got in my truck and drove.
At this time I had already figured out I was agnostic and I was tired of praying for nothing. I found a machine shop right away but I was still sleeping in my truck. For six months I slept in my truck and without any friends or family to hang out with, without a home to sit and watch tv in all I could do was walk everywhere, hang out in parks, libraries, museums, and the gym(thats where I showered everyday). I got into the best shape of my life and after watching a youtube clip of Hitchens I read his books and since I was reading more books within that six months than I had ever read in my entire life combined I didn't stop with Hitchens. I even went back and read the bible cover to cover only to cement my Atheism. I finally felt truly free and I figured out that it wasn't my mom I was fighting but my religion.
I suppose my mother deserves most of the credit for making me into a better person but it was Hitchens who showed me that I am a better person.
I still fight with my mom and she thinks my atheism is just a phase.