Articles From the March 1995 Unification News


Religious Faith Deters Crime

by Haven Bradford Gow

An article in the January/February 1995 issue of Common Boundary reveals that violence and crime fast are becoming everyday facts of life for all to many young people in the United States today. For example, between 1984 and 1990, the rate of death from firearms among black males aged 15 to 19 jumped 300 percent, while the increase among white teens was 50 percent. In a survey of 1,000 elementary and high school students in Chicago, we find that 25 percent had seen a murder, 40 percent had witnessed a shooting and more than 33 percent had seen a stabbing.

Moreover, the juvenile violent-crime arrest rate has increased 50 percent between 1985 and 1991. A survey conducted by Lou Harris of 2,500 students found that 15 percent of middle and high school students said they had carried guns themselves, 11 percent said they had been shot at and 59 percent said they knew where to obtain a gun.

That violence has become a shocking and terrifying fact of life for man American youths is made manifest by statistics. For example, concerning the homicide rates for 15-24 year old men, the rate in the U.S. is 37.2 per 100,000. Italy trails the U.S. in second place with a rate of 4.3, followed by New Zealand with 4.2 and Israel with 3.7. For Most of the nations in the industrialized West, the rate is below 2.

According to Dr. Ronald Slaby, A Harvard University social scientist, violent and aggressive young persons often perceive that others- teachers, peers, police and even parents-are hostile toward them... They stay ready to defend or attack. Violent students feel justified because they're only defending themselves... Aggressive teenagers are usually clueless that they themselves create violence.

To be sure, the violence and criminal activity among young people today reflects the violence that already permeates our culture and society as a whole. For example, better than 50 percent of the women murdered in this nation are killed by a partner or ex-partner. Between 1960 and 1992, violent crime has quadrupled from 161 reported crimes per 100,000 to 758 per 100,000. Then, too, children today see on TV 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence before they leave elementary school.

Retired FBI agent William Kelly insists that the increase in crime and violence in our society emanates from the rejection and transgression of traditional Judeo-Christian moral and religious standards and values and from the widespread denial of personal and moral responsibility; he is correct. Indeed, several studies buttress the contention that religious faith and church attendance help people develop good character and avoid anti-social, criminal behavior.

According to a new study by the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, Church attendance ... has been shown consistently to deter juvenile delinquency ... Two published studies show that frequent church attendees have lower crime rates than infrequent attendees; and that a belief in an afterlife with the threat of divine punishment is also associated with lower crime rates ... A 1989 study found that `youths who are bored with church are more likely to be offenders, while those who find most comfort in church are less likely to be offenders.' ... A 1983 study found that the level of religious orthodoxy had a significant effect upon delinquency, i.e., the more orthodox, the lower the delinquency rate.''

Moreover, In a review of 20 published studies, 19 (95 percent) showed that religion plays a positive role in preventing alcoholism and 16 out of 17 of the same studies showed a positive role for religion in reducing suicide. A 1987 study found that moral (religious) beliefs reduced the likelihood of marijuana use among both males and females.''

The Family Research Council study rightly concludes: Religion gives people faith and hope that there are ultimate meaning and purpose in life. It gives man answers to the great questions of life. It establishes a system of moral duties which have worked ... People develop a sense of moral justification from religion, which helps them face temptation, economic deprivation and peer pressure. Indeed, A moral compass based on religion guides people to responsible acts of kindness, caring, benevolence and mercy.

In his book The Brothers Karamazov, Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote: Without God, anything is permitted. But those who believe in and serve the Judeo-Christian God know that human beings have been created in the image and likeness of God and, therefore, possess intrinsic moral worth and dignity; they also know that this Judeo-Christian God has given us the Ten Commandments by which to guide our thinking and behavior, and that there indeed is a heaven and a hell. With belief in this God, we have the basis for the development of order in our souls and in the commonwealth.

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