Over the years, countless efforts have been made to find a comprehensive explanation for delinquency. The results of these efforts have offered possible reasons as being both biological and social. It is still debatable as to what forces have the greatest influence on youth crime, but it is undoubted that several factors clearly make an impact. The direct relationships a child has with concrete social elements, like his family and friends, are likely to give some intimation of his involvement in crime. However, it must be noted that there are more abstract contexts for socialization that also exist as potential explanations for a childs behavior.
The most prominent of these less specific forces are the media, community, and religion. It has been argued extensively that these three elements represent a major source of delinquency in the U. S. today. Everyone has at one time or another heard accusations against television, for instance, and how it has such degenerating capabilities in relation to young minds.
Equally common are the various public proclamations about the lack of brotherhood among citizens of this country. These complaints are nothing new to our society; before television was vilified, it was radio, and before radio it was comic books. In short, these problems merely exist as different manifestations of an age-old concern. Another, seemingly less obvious, aspect of this argument deals with the role of religion in society.
In paralleling it to delinquency, for all its power and influence, religion is much more perplexing than the media or sense of community. For one, religion exists on many different levels and is extremely difficult to define in a fashion suitable to the debate. In addition, the fact that religion is such a controversial and sensitive subject only complicates the pursuit of characterizing and understanding it. These obstacles notwithstanding, the multifaceted effects of religion on crime have been argued for centuries. They will likely continue, as people observe that religion influences the behavior of people, serves as a set of values for society, and correlates with delinquency in several ways. The relationship between crime and religion has been explored for many years, with only a handful of theorists drawing any direct conclusions.
Among few others, three of the most influential social philosophers of the past 200 years, Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, have all commented on the importance of religion to this issue. Marx believed that religion existed to give people a false hope for the future and to keep them motivated during the present. In accomplishing this, religion also deterred people from crime by making them concentrate on their social roles, while ignoring the oppression of stratified economic systems. Durkheim asserted that social order could be maintained only if people had common beliefs in something greater than themselves (Jensen and Rojek 309). He saw religion as very interconnected with social values as it contributed to a loss of strong communal bonds between the tenants of Western society. As people begin to believe more in themselves and less in a higher power, Durkheim argued, they become less committed to an interdependent society and highly prone to selfish acts of lawlessness.
Weber, another distinguished sociologist, attributed social deviance to religious factors as well. He believed that religious institutions were intertwined with other institutions, contributing to both progressive and regressive social development (Jensen and Rojek 309). These three attempted to explain the social importance of religion, while only scratching the surface of its relationship to crime. Although they fail to adequately expand on the subject, the ideas of these influential thinkers represent some basic thoughts on the religious causes of crime, and they have led to successive investigations of religion and delinquency.
Surprisingly, facts about crime and religion over the years have been rather indecipherable, as research findings from different studies have frequently produced contradicting results. Studies have shown delinquents being less religious than nondelinquents, religiously similar to nondelinquents, and in some cases more religious than nondelinquents. Even when differences between delinquent and nondelinquent relations to religion have been found, those differences have been only minor and insignificant. In one major study by Hirschi and Stark, it was discovered that high school students held interesting social beliefs relative to their church attendance .