Here is a map of countries that have a homogenous religious culture.

For the purposes of trying to assign religions to specific countries, here I am using the term homogenous to describe any culture that subscribes to one major religion at the rate of 50% of populace or higher. I think this is a good barometer for religious penetration. A country with the majority of it’s citizens following the same faith – will by nature – take on similar characteristics across the board. After all, you can be an atheist living in Iran… but no one can argue that you are living in an Atheistic society. Persons of a minority religion will still live day to day in the manner of the culture around them, and be equally wrapped up in that culture’s crime and war patterns.

Here are the estimated cumulative homicide and war death rates by religion, weighted by population size relative to the total…

Christianity:

Dominant Nations- USA, Brazil, Russia.

“Bad Seed” Nations- El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela.

Well Behaved Nations- Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Cuba.

Islam:

Dominant Nations- Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh.

“Bad Seed” Nations- Sudan, Niger, Iraq.

Well Behaved Nations- UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia.

Buddhism:

Dominant Nation- Japan.

“Bad Seed” Nations- Mongolia, Cambodia.

Well Behaved Nations- Japan, Myanmar.

Hinduism:

Only 2, as you can see for yourself.

My thoughts:

It’s probably a bit controversial to read too much into violence patterns based on religion, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.

The much higher rate of murders committed in Christian countries, is primarily caused by the South American and African “hot zones” which they are concentrated in. It’s possible these nations would be quite violent no matter what their national religion happened to be. Or it could be quite telling… you decide. It should be pointed out, that the cumulative Christian Homicide Rate is helped out substantially by the large populations of Europe, which contribute low rates to the tally.

As you see in the graph above, Muslim homicide rates also tend to be higher than Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Muslim homicide rates are still quite low compared to world wide totals though. I believe the cultural restriction on alcohol consumption is at least partially responsible for this… possibly as much as a 30% increase in homicides would be present if this alcohol restriction were not in place.

Buddhist and Hindu violent death rates clearly lead the field – with totals well within the Low Likelihood and  Peaceful range. Since both are dominated by two very peaceful nations (Japan and India), this comes as no surprise. One theory I have for the divide between these two major religions and their Christian and Muslim counterparts, comes down to the tone of their religious beliefs. In Christianity and Islam, there is a very clear emphasis on judging the moral actions of others. There is a distinction between those who are properly subscribing to the belief system which is laid out, and those who violate it. Both religions, while paying lip service to the universal morality of “thou shall not kill”, still tentatively condone violently punishing those who break the rules. Killing purely in the name of one’s religious beliefs is still extremely rare, but I believe this tone extends to daily transactions of all sorts: there is a culture of taking action against those who are perceived as “wrong”. In simplified terms, these are extroverted societies, extremely concerned with the actions of others.

By contrast, Buddhism and Hinduism are both very inward looking faiths. The major tenants of these religions have to do with prioritizing one’s inner peace, and not so much concerning yourself with the moral development of others. Basically, they are introverted cultures, and introverts tend to shy away from dramatic personal confrontations.

Another demographic cause of higher Christian and Muslim murder rates has nothing to do with religion and morality at all. Less established nation-states, only recently coming into their own national identity, tend to choose either as their faith of choice. Think of the rather unhinged and politically challenged nations of Africa, they are almost entirely Christian or Muslim, with neither of the other 2 major faiths represented in any meaningful way. Therefore, the Christian and Muslim VDRs are demographically punished for merely being “catchy” religions, which people have been gravitating to for over a thousand years.

Un-Homogenous Nations:

For the record, here is a list of countries with a more spread out balance of religious allegiance. With none registering higher than 50% of populace for any single belief system.

Maybe it’s not the worst thing to lose a World War? Here is a comparison of respective violent death rates amongst the 5 primary powers of World War 2 since 1946.

While the US and Russia have engaged in semi regular military conflicts in their respective attempts to dominate the post-war world; Germany, Japan, and the UK have opted to sit this one out. It should be noted though, that Japan and Germany had lowish homicide rates before WW2, so their return to those lows shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The big change came from the total dialing down of any military adventurism, which used to be the norm with these 2 nations… and the UK as well.

The United States gets a bad rap for being a violent place, but is that true? The discussion is usually put forth with the comparison of US homicide rates to that of Western Europe. I regard this as an unfair way to base the conversation. After all, these highly developed countries possess some of the lowest violent death rates in the world… to only use them for comparison is like comparing every basketball player to Michael Jordan, it simply isn’t fair.

I would argue that the United States bares as much in common with various other countries from around the globe, as with Western Europe. Here is a comparison of countries with populations between 100 and 350 million inhabitants. VDR is based on most recent statistics available.

As you see, the US is in the middle of the pack when alongside these nations.

In The United States, the age group that gets murdered the most often are 15-24 year olds. Their “death by assault” rate was 13.5/100,000 in 2008. The average soldier killed in battle hovers around 23 years old, meaning we can presume that this demographic is also hit the hardest during times of war as well. A society with a high percentage of this age group, I would suggest, will likely have a higher rate of murders and other violent deaths.

15-24 Age Breakdown Countries 2010 Estimates-alphabetized

15-24 Age Breakdown Countries 2010 Estimates-numeric order

Countries with similar USA breakdowns

Again, this comparison of countries with similar rates of 15-24 year olds shows the US as soundly in the middle. The only real country pattern to be gauged is that the United States apparently is very similar to Eastern European countries in this demographic area. It should be noted that the US, and these countries, have less of this demographic than 72% of countries, so they are older societies than most. This results in an average VDR between these countries of 4.9, which is respectably low (see Low Likelihood description). The oldest countries (Greece, Japan, Spain, Italy, Andorra) are usually European, and do have low Violent Death Rates. Next are the homicide rates of the 10 youngest countries (in so far as their % of 15-24 year olds).

These 10 countries averaged 14.8/100,000 homicide rates, which is quite high. These nations are from all over the world map, but no European or North American locations. Only Iran and Uzbekistan managed to keep decidedly low homicide rates, despite having more than 22% of their populations in the 15-24 age bracket. It’s hard to say in a “chicken or the egg” sense how to look at this trend. Are these countries less in control of their homicide rates because of their high numbers of youths? Or is the fact that these countries are already innately out of control the factor that causes people to die younger, and by extension push the proportion of youths up?

And next…

US and other rich nation's homicide rates

Ok, this is where the United States looks bad. In a comparison of the 10 wealthiest countries, according to per capita income levels reported by the IMF, the US is definitely the most violent. Of these countries though, notice that the US is 18 times larger than the next biggest (Netherlands= 16,500,000); in fact, the wealthiest 5 nations have less than 5 million in population.

Of these nations, the US has below average population growth (less that 1%) along with Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Australia; For Qatar, Luxembourg, Brunei, Singapore, and Ireland though, their expanding populations would cause one to think they might have a bigger problem with crime. Is there even a correlation to crime and high population growth? Looking at these nations it wouldn’t appear so.

For some countries too, their populations happen to contain an ethnically homogeneous (more than 80% of a single ethnic background) population (Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, Ireland, Netherlands, Austria), for these, one could conclude that the distribution of such wealth has been a more or less painless affair. There are less clear lines drawn between the “haves” and the “have nots”. Of the remaining (Qatar, Brunei, Singapore, United States) at least 2 are dominated by Chinese immigrants, which tend to be rather peaceful in their disposition. Qatar however, is an even more mixed bag of backgrounds than the US, due to it’s enormous reliance on foreign workers… but so far (assuming their crime stats are relatively accurate) this has not caused any societal destabilization in so far as homicides are concerned. So I don’t conclude that there is a correlation between a “melting pot” and violence per se.

Here is a comparison of so called “Quagmire Wars”, and the cost in terms of military dead between different historical superpowers. I’m using the term “quagmire” to simply mean a war that was unpopular at home at the time.

United states and chechen war death rates quagmire

The United States investment in the Vietnam War comprised a steady escalation, and then de-escalation during a 10 year period. The Soviet Union and it’s war in Afghanistan, while suffering much monetarily and politically, did not necessarily cost that many troops in relation to it’s population during the 1980’s. Great Britain had  long standing conflicts in South Africa (the Zulu and Boer Wars) which flared up quite intensely at two different periods near the end of the 19th century. Russia also had two flare ups during the comparatively recent First and Second Chechen Wars; the losses were fairly staggering, in large part because in this chart I am counting both the Russian military, as well as the Chechen militia and civilian deaths. In a case of “You want ‘em? You got ‘em”, Chechnya never actually broke away successfully, so they are to be counted as Russians, which they remain today; and as such, they count as dead Russians.

biggest cities in the world murders

Here is a comparison of homicide rates amongst so called “Alpha World Cities” as defined by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC). I have zoomed in so that the disproportionately high murder rate of Caracas does not dominate the view.