Here is a Piece from Psychology Today.
Plante casually claims that religious people are "better citizens" and "behave better." And without citing any sources, he tells us: "Research has consistently found that religious people are less likely to engage in criminal behavior, marital infidelity, alcoholism, unprotected sexual activity. . ."
In other words, according to Plante, if you're not religious you might be a good person, but on average you are more likely to have these undesirable characteristics. This is a bold assertion that, of course, immediately puts secular individuals on the defensive. (Just imagine if the same claims were made against any other minority group.) It is precisely claims like these that lead to many Americans having an unfavorable view of atheists and other nonbelievers.
From Plante's article: "So, to answer the question, "do we need religion to be ethical?" The answer appears to be no but it could be helpful under the right circumstances." [psychologytoday.com]
Here's a Psychology Today article countering Plante's article that nonreligious are more likely to have these undesirable characteristics: [psychologytoday.com]
Here's a study published in the journal Science (2014), which found that religious people aren't more likely to do good than their nonreligious counterparts. [livescience.com]
Anyone who looks at the stats for prison inmates will find that in terms of incarceration, if we assume everyone inside is guilty and ignore racial lmbalance that is unrelated to actual guilt, will find that Christians make up by far the largest number of criminals. I think if we adjust for the aforementioned factors, Christians will still be in the majority of, let's call them misbehavers, shall we? And let's ask, of those who say the religious are better people, whether they think their judgment applies to only one religion. I don't think we need to ask them which one.
Ken, a 66-year-old psychologist from Portland, Oregon. His first message to me:
"I really like your playful, creative, giving being. You're more "spiritual" than most religious people. I'm curious how an "atheist" can live that way."
My response after Skyping with him:
Yesterday a man I used to date, Rich, dropped by as I was kneading four loaves of bread. With a master degree, Rich is highly intelligent and an atheist. Unlike you, Rich immediately saw the insult in your message.
I told Rich you could not understand how I can have loving kindness without attending church and believing in a god. "I get asked that by Christians all the time," Rich replied.
Treating people with kindness and respect is a series of daily choices. I don't need a book or fear of an invisible deity to teach me to behave. At age four, I realized when I am nice to people, they are nice in return.
I would never corner Christians and demand that they explain themselves. Yet you and your compatriots think this is acceptable behavior.
Christians who don't know me often demand, as you did, that I explain:
Why I am an atheist.
How the universe began (as if being an atheist automatically makes me an astrophysicist). "Nobody knows," I reply. "Science is advancing every year."
What happens when people die. "Nobody knows," I reply.
What is "spirituality."
You may think your questions were unique. They were not. Rich and I both find being grilled by Christians rude and tiresome.
I haven’t read the other responses, but I’m sure “This is a crock of shit” is somewhere among them. Is there even a need to explain that religious folk including Catholic priests and Orthodox Jewish-Israeli Settlers commit heinous crimes? I’m not the least defensive about my non religiously.
My purely unscientific and probably biased survey based on 20 years working in prisons tells me that "believers" are certainly no more law-abiding than atheists; indeed, markedly less so. I have never, to my knowledge, encountered an atheist behind bars, and only 5 or 6 Buddhists in that time; whereas I've known countless, extremely devout Christians, Jews, and Muslims, along with several Wiccans, Odinists, and Satanists for good measure.
Whether they were religious prior to committing their particular crimes, or became religious in prison, is a factor that no doubt varies from one to another. But as far as their behavior as "citizens" in the prison environment, I've seen no difference between those who go to the chapel every chance they get, participate in religious groups, and get bible publications in the mail, and those who don't. In fact, some of the most religious are also the worst to deal with, since they seem to feel they're "above man's law" and the rules of the prison because God has forgiven them. And I wager they felt that way before they broke the law, too.
I believe that atheists and agnostics are better citizens. They are free from the bonds of religious ideology, and many of us are also free of doctrinaire political ideologies. That makes more critical and rational thinkers. Also, knowing that we will be scrutinized much more heavily by religious believers, more of us take care that our decisions and actions are more truly moral and democratic.
Christians, as all religionists, commit more crimes, rape more, steal more, beat wives more,...than non-believers.
At least for now. Non-belief is not a basis for good behavior. Yet, it does seem jail/prison inmates are more likely believers, even the 30 percent who are most likely psychopaths.