While prior research tends to confirm a negative association between religiousness and crime, criminologists have been slow to incorporate new concepts and emergent issues from the scientific study of religion into their own research. The self-identity phrase “spiritual but not religious” is one of them, which has been increasingly used by individuals who claim to be “spiritual” but disassociate themselves from organized religion. This study first examines differences in crime between “spiritual but not religious” individuals and their “religious and spiritual,” “religious but not spiritual,” and “neither religious nor spiritual” peers in emerging adulthood. Specifically, we hypothesize that the spiritual-but-not-religious young adults are more prone to crime than their “religious” counterparts, while expecting them to be different from the “neither” group without specifying whether they are more or less crime-prone. Second, the expected group differences in crime are hypothesized to be explained by the micro-criminological theories of self-control, social bonding, and general strain. A latent-variable structural equation model was estimated separately for violent and property crimes, using the third wave of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Overall results tend to provide a partial support for the hypotheses. Implications for criminology and future research are discussed.
Jang, Sung Joon, and Aaron B. Franzen. 2013. “Is Being ‘Spiritual’ Enough without Being Religious? A Study of Violent and Property Crimes among Emerging Adults.” Criminology 51(3):595–627.