Why are atheists less likely to be detained?

Firstly, at the moment I know only two countries in which data have been collected and available to us.

These are: 1. USA.In the US, there are 3.1% atheists, according to the lowest estimate. According to a realistic estimate, it is about 25%. According to surveys, based on voluntary data from detainees, 0.1% of all inmates in state prisons are atheists. Source: Atheists Now Make Up 0.1% of the Federal Prison Population


Then 2nd England: there about 1% of the detainees are atheists.Source: How Many Atheists are in England’s Prisons?

In any case, no matter how one counts atheists, the number of atheists in prisons (USA, England) is disproportionately low.Why this is the case is completely unclear.


At best, one can speculate and cite possible reasons:

  • In prisons, group affiliation is hugely important, so it would be no wonder that atheists also pretend to be religious in order to gain the protection of an internal religious group (counter-argument: the polls are anonymous).
  • Atheists are, on average, smarter, better educated, and have a higher income than religious people.

Less intelligent, less educated and poor people are more likely to end up in prisons.

  • If you want to be released early because of good leadership, it is good to be able to cite a reason that is religious in nature.

Strangely enough, there is a prejudice after religious people or criminals who have become religious are more likely to regret and therefore tend to improve.

  • Religious people are supported in prisons by religious groups outside.

But there is hardly any atheist prisoner support, so it is better not to pretend to be an atheist.

  • …?


It would be interesting to have such figures from other countries, such as Sweden.Because even if you accept all the reasons I have given, the number would still be surprisingly low. However, it is not clear how reliable the figures are, as they consist of self-reports, and we know that they are notoriously unreliable.


The number of atheists in surveys always depends on the type of question. PEW in the U.S. comes in at 3.1% atheists, Gallup at about 8%, which is due to the question alone.Atheist is often defined by an interested, religious side as “someone who is firmly convinced that God does not exist”. Based on this misdefinition of a question, if you come up with a number as low as PEW, you’re more likely to ask if someone believes in God, you get to Gallup’s numbers. If you indirectly ask what seems to me to be by far the best method, you get to almost 25% in the USA.


In any case, I am careful to conclude that atheists are generally more law-abiding or moral than religious people.What can be said, however, is that atheists are generally better reflected in terms of morality. Religious people think they have a basis for their morality that they don’t have to think about any more. Atheists do not have this “luxury”, they have to find out on the basis of their own considerations what is morally correct and what is not. If they do not make such considerations, then all that remains is to make the laws of the respective society the basis of morality. But there is a difference between an all-forgiving God saying “Tare not stealing” or society saying, “If you steal, you will be punished with imprisonment.” In the former case, the consequences are unclear, in the latter they are clear – although the latter of course also applies to religious people. A religious person, if caught stealing, must reckon with prison as much as an atheist, whether God forgives him or not.

As I said, I do not think we can answer the question.Either way, it naturally contradicts the general assumption that religious belief is somehow related to moral behavior, or not as is assumed.