I’m not sure what it means, but a study out of Baylor University claims that those who self identify as “spiritual but not religious” are more likely to commit property crimes than either religious people or atheists.

The statistics broke down thusly:

  • 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

As to why the groups acted they way they did, the study made several guesses:

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.

Until the study is replicated it is probably better not to put too much weight on the figures, much less the analysis, but the study might suggest something about commitment itself. To commit to community, to a set of values, either religious or scientific, (or hopefully, both) may be the real tie that binds humankind together.