Making Religious and Secular Crime Attributions: An Examination of the Effect of Religion and Attribution Style on Correctional Orientation

Jody L. Sundt, Indiana University

Numnerous historians and contemporary observers have noted that religious beliefs play an important role in shaping crime attributions and preferences for punishment. Researchers have yet to consider, however, the extent to which crime is attributed to supernatural or religious forces. This study examines religious and secular crime attributions and explores the effect of religion and attribution style on correctional orientation. Results of a national survey of prison chaplains revealed that the lack of a good religious background was seen as an important contributor to criminal offending. Attributing crime to a lack of religion, however, was unrelated to support for punishment, the death penalty, or rehabilitation. In contrast, religious beliefs such as fundamentalism, belief in religious forgiveness, and punitive religious dogma were related to the participants' correctional orientations, especially their preferences for punishment and the death penalty.

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Updated 05/20/2006