About that commandment…

I recently learned that, by at least one measure, New Hampshire, where I grew up, is the least religious state in the country (actually, it’s tied with Massachusetts, its neighbor to the south), and also has the lowest murder rate. A coincidence? A glance at the following table I created after reading a post on my favorite blog for heathens suggests not.

All six states in which at least 7 out of 10 people say that religion is very important in their lives are among the top 13 states in per capita murders.

Among the dozen least religious states, the only one that cracks the top 30 in murder rate is Alaska, which is 12th. Alaska and Utah are outliers here, but in opposite ways, with Utah ranking 12th in religiosity and 41st in murder rate. Perhaps Mormons and Baptists have different ways of settling interpersonal scores.

I realize that it would be facile to claim that religiosity, in particular conservative Protestantism, breeds violence. But it’s clearly far more complicated than that. For one thing, we can’t say that the people doing the killing are the ones also doing  most of the praying. One could just as easily hypothesize that in places where people are more likely to be killed by other people, they turn to faith out of fear. I don’t believe this either, but it’s not a ferociously out-to-lunch idea compared to some of the garbage floating around cyberspace.

About the only genuinely sound conclusion anyone can draw from these data is that religiosity, while probably not a cause of serious social ills, is certainly no salve for them. We’ve seen this in various other areas already — for example, states with a high proportion of believers consistently rank way up there in the rate of teen pregnancies, suggesting that the anti-contraception, sex-is-evil proselytizing popular in such states is, well, impotent.

(Sources: the Pew Research Center and the 2014 FBI Uniform Crime Report.)

Rank MURDER RELIGION Rank
State Murders/

100,000

(2014)

State % Religious
1 Louisiana 10.3 Alabama 77 1
2 Mississippi 8.6 Mississippi 77 2
3 Missouri 6.6 Tennessee 73 3
4 South Carolina 6.4 Louisiana 71 4
5 Maryland 6.1 Arkansas 70 5
6 Nevada 6.0 South Carolina 70 6
7 Delaware 5.8 West Virginia 69 7
8 Florida 5.8 Oklahoma 66 8
9 Alabama 5.7 Georgia 66 9
10 Georgia 5.7 North Carolina 65 10
11 Tennessee 5.7 Texas 64 11
12 Alaska 5.6 Utah 64 12
13 Arkansas 5.6 Kentucky 63 13
14 Michigan 5.4 Virginia 61 14
15 Illinois 5.3 Missouri 60 15
16 North Carolina 5.1 South Dakota 59 16
17 Indiana 5.0 Ohio 58 17
18 New Mexico 4.8 New Mexico 57 18
19 Pennsylvania 4.8 Iowa 55 19
20 Arizona 4.7 Kansas 55 20
21 Oklahoma 4.5 New Jersey 55 21
22 California 4.4 Indiana 54 22
23 Texas 4.4 Wyoming 54 23
24 Virginia 4.1 Florida 54 24
25 Ohio 4.0 Maryland 54 25
26 West Virginia 4.0 Nebraska 54 26
27 New Jersey 3.9 Michigan 53 27
28 Kentucky 3.6 Pennsylvania 53 28
29 Montana 3.6 Arizona 53 29
30 Kansas 3.1 North Dakota 53 30
31 New York 3.1 Delaware 52 31
32 North Dakota 3.0 Illinois 51 32
33 Nebraska 2.9 Idaho 51 33
34 Wisconsin 2.9 California 49 34
35 Colorado 2.8 Nevada 49 35
36 Wyoming 2.7 Minnesota 49 36
37 Washington 2.5 Rhode Island 49 37
38 Connecticut 2.4 Montana 48 38
39 Rhode Island 2.4 Oregon 48 39
40 South Dakota 2.3 Hawaii 47 40
41 Utah 2.3 Colorado 47 41
42 Idaho 2.0 New York 46 42
43 Massachusetts 2.0 Washington 45 43
44 Oregon 2.0 Alaska 45 44
45 Iowa 1.9 Wisconsin 45 45
46 Hawaii 1.8 Connecticut 43 46
47 Maine 1.6 Maine 34 47
48 Minnesota 1.6 Vermont 34 48
49 Vermont 1.6 New Hampshire 33 49
50 New Hampshire 0.9 Massachusetts 33 50

 

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