YOUNG people who regularly visit a place of worship are less
likely to be involved in petty crimes such as shoplifting,
vandalism, and illegal music-downloading, and they are also
unlikely to use drugs, a study led by Mark Littler, a Ph.D. student
at the University of Manchester, suggests.
"This research implies that the act of visiting a place of
worship may trigger a significant reduction in the likelihood of
involvement in certain types of criminal and delinquent behaviour,"
In the study, Mr Littler questioned 1214 adults aged between 18
and 34, last July. "In line with existing American research, my
results suggest that it is the act of mixing with fellow believers
that is important, regardless of whether this is via formal
worship, involvement in faith-based social activities, or simply
through spending time with family and friends who share your faith.
The important thing is exposure to people who encourage pro-social
behaviours, and can provide sanctions for their breach."
Full details of his work, which was funded by the Bill Hill
Charitable Trust, which works for the relief of poverty and the
promotion of the Christian religion, will be published later this
The survey gathered information on littering, skipping school or
work, using illegal drugs, fare-dodging, shoplifting, music piracy,
property damage, and violence against the person. More serious
crimes were too rare to be able to show a significant pattern.
"These results suggest a more positive picture of Britain's
religious life than the doom and gloom you might read about it in
the newspapers," Mr Littler said. "But they are not necessarily a
blow to the proponents of atheism: religious practice is just one
way of gaining exposure to the pro-social behavioural norms that
are at the heart of this relationship; other, more secular
activities may equally serve a similar role."