‘Spiritual’ young people more likely to commit crimes than ‘religious’ ones

7

Woman confessing by Alexandre EggertYoung adults who deem themselves “spiritual but not religious” are more likely to commit property crimes — and to a lesser extent, violent ones — than those who identify themselves as either “religious and spiritual” or “religious but not spiritual,” according to Baylor University researchers.

The sociologists’ study, published in the journal Criminology, also showed that those in a fourth category — who say they are neither spiritual nor religious —are less likely to commit property crimes than the “spiritual but not religious” individuals. But no difference was found between the two groups when it came to violent crimes.

“The notion of being spiritual but not associated with any organized religion has become increasingly popular, and our question is how that is different from being religious, whether you call yourself ‘spiritual’ or not,” said Sung Joon Jang, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. He is lead author of the study, “Is Being ‘Spiritual’ Enough Without Being Religious? A Study of Violent and Property Crimes Among Emerging Adults.”

He noted that until the 20th century, the terms “religious” and “spiritual” were treated as interchangeable.

Previous research indicated that people who say they are religious show lower levels of crime and deviance, which refers to norm-violating behavior.

The researchers analyzed data from a sample of 14,322 individuals from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. They ranged in age from 18 to 28, with an average age of 21.8.

In the confidential survey, participants were asked how often they had committed crimes in the previous 12 months — including violent crimes such as physical fights or armed robbery — while property crimes included vandalism, theft and burglary.

Past research shows that people who report themselves as spiritual make up about 10 percent of the general population, Jang said.

“Calling oneself ‘spiritual but not religious’ turned out to more of an antisocial characteristic, unlike identifying oneself as religious,” said Baylor researcher Aaron Franzen, a doctoral candidate and study co-author.

In their study, the Baylor researchers hypothesized that those who are spiritual but not religious would be less conventional than the religious group — but could be either more or less conventional than the “neither” group.

“We were thinking that religious people would have an institutional and communal attachment and investment, while the spiritual people would have more of an independent identity,” Franzen said.

Theories for why religious people are less likely to commit crime are that they fear “supernatural sanctions” as well as criminal punishment and feel shame about deviance; are bonded to conventional society; exercise high self-control in part because of parents who also are likely to be religious; and associate with peers who reinforce their behavior and beliefs.

Significantly, people who are spiritual but not religious tend to have lower self-control than those who are religious. They also are more likely to experience such strains as criminal victimization and such negative emotions as depression and anxiety. They also are more likely to have peers who use and abuse alcohol, Franzen said. Those factors are predictors of criminal behavior.

“It’s a challenge in terms of research to know what that actually means to be spiritual, because they self-identify,” he said. “But they are different in some way, as our study shows.”

In their research, sociologists included four categories based on how the young adults reported themselves. Those categories and percentages were:

  • Spiritual but not religious, 11.5 percent
  • Religious but not spiritual, 6.8 percent
  • Both spiritual and religious, 37.9 percent
  • Neither spiritual nor religious, 43.8 percent
Share.
  • boblgumm

    Sure wish the Baptist study told us whether those claiming the “neither spiritual nor religious” designation are more likely to commit crimes than those of the “religious but not spiritual” and/or “both spiritual and religious” designations, as it wasn’t pointed out (unless I missed it). I suspect the reason is that the non-believers display better values on this issue than the religious folk.

    • Katamari

      I think you’ve probably hit the nail on the head boblgumm. :)

    • Reading Comprehension

      Quote:
      ——————-
      Young adults who deem themselves “spiritual but not religious” are more likely to commit property crimes — and to a lesser extent, violent ones — than those who identify themselves as either “religious and spiritual” or “religious but not spiritual,”

      …those in a fourth category — who say they are neither spiritual nor religious —are less likely to commit property crimes than the “spiritual but not religious” individuals. But no difference was found between the two groups when it came to violent crimes.

      ——————-

      We are left to guess in the realm of property crimes but there is “no difference” between the NS&NR and S&NR for violent crimes.

      • boblgumm

        So if I am reading your response correctly, the nonbelievers are less less criminal than the spiritual but not religious folks. But you have still not answered my question about the relative criminality between the religious but not spiritual folks and the non religious non spiritual folks. What’s the skinny here?

        • Reading Comprehension

          If people identifying themselves as NS&R or S&R are less likely to commit violent crimes than those identifying as S&NR and there is “no difference” in violent crime between the S&NR and NS&NR crowds then it is clear that NS&NR is more likely (though unclear to what extent) to commit violent crimes than those claiming NS&R or S&R.

          This leaves a lot of ambiguity about how NS&NR compare to S&R or NS&R for Property Crimes. Unfortunately, I do not subscribe to Crimnology or any websites carrying the full research document but from reading this article, and the abstract for this study, the focus was on those identifying as “Spiritual.” If you are able to get the actual numbers from the article they would be interesting to see how the statistics stack up for each group.

  • centrality

    At the very least, this study should have asked people to define what they mean by “spiritual, but not religious.” It seems to have made an assumption that spirituality is an escape from the demands of a religious life, made a (flawed) hypothesis and tested it with techniques whose details are not available.

    A common motivation for people to call themselves “spiritual, but not religious” is because they have to work and live in a multi-religious environment, each with its own religious beliefs, taboos and judgments. The only way one can reasonably live in such environments without creating friction is to dig deeper for the roots of religion — and become “spiritual, but not religious.”

  • Afroman

    I guess the overall study was based on correlating the behavioural characteristics of each mentioned group, and not to define a relationship of the level of crime each group is prevalent to commiting. To say that ” Young adults who deem themselves “spiritual but not religious” are more likely to commit property crimes — and to a lesser extent, violent ones — than those who identify themselves as either “religious and spiritual” or “religious but not spiritual,”, I personally believe is just a deduction based on the responses. In other words if I had said I was ‘religious’ not ‘spiritual and then in a later question about my view on owning a gun, positive or negative, could lead to the conclusion that more R + NS either endorse gun violence or not.

    Do I think that more knowledge about whether respondants should have expanded on why it is hey identify with each category? No, for the reason bing that each category is self explanatory. Spirituality deals with personal practice and belief and Religion deals with communal practice.

    Do I think that this study is relivant and accurate? No. Not enough was done to reach final conclusion, this is more of a pre study and publishing something like this is just not worth the read.