I’ve heard atheists brag about the statistics on how few atheists are represented in the prison system (less than 1%) as compared to everyone else. What they are trying to prove is that you do not need God or a religion to be a good, moral, law-abiding person. While this may be true for some, this argument is nevertheless perplexing because it does not stand up to scrutiny.
First of all, it doesn’t take much to realize that the prison system probably doesn’t consist of too many of the highly-educated, upper middle class. A notable portion of the middle class, maybe, but more than likely those lacking in finances and a decent education make up the majority of the incarcerated (i.e., the lower middle class and the poor). So how many of these people are likely to ever use the term “atheist” in their communities or circles? More than likely close to zero as they probably had more immediate priorities to focus on. Thus the non-religious would be just that–not religious and without God in their lives, but without a need to label themselves as “atheists.” “Atheist,” like “Bohemian” and “eccentric” are mainly terms of the elite, not the common man.
Another very obvious fact is that many in prison find religion while in prison; whether it be Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or various other faiths. Ample time for reflection while incarcerated gives many time to go from being “an aimless drunk/cheat/thief/insert sin here” to being a “born-again Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/insert religion here.” Atheism, on the other hand, would not offer a prisoner the comfort, solace, and guidance offered by various faiths.
Which begs the question: If many had to find God and religion while in prison, doesn’t that mean that they were without God and religion to begin with? Doesn’t that make them de facto…atheists?