It is a common belief that those who are religious live seemingly pure lives full of joyous content.

However, a new study suggests that it may actually be a belief in hell and supernatural punishment that motivates people to do good rather than faith in forgiveness and happily heaven after.

According to an analysis taken from a World Values and European Values survey of nearly 144,000 people in 67 countries between 1981 and 2007, psychologists have discovered lower crime rates in social climates where the majority of people believe in hell as opposed to those who believe in heaven.

Lead researcher Azim Shariff, director of the Culture and Mortality Lab at the University of Oregon, explained the results by saying:

The key finding is that, controlling for each other, a nation’s rate of belief in hell predicts lower crime rates, but the nation’s rate of belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates, and these are strong effects.

Shariff suggests that although religious belief is generally perceived as a colossal theory, once it is broken down into different concepts, different relationships begin to appear. In this case, they are two differences going in opposite directions.

Interestingly, previous research in both 2003 and 2011 by the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion and Harvard University also found that a belief in hell had more of an affect on social behaviors than a belief in heaven.

Researchers said their discoveries support previous findings that various dynamics in religious beliefs largely predict higher crime rates.

The study did account for factors like nations’ dominant religion, income inequality, life expectancy and incarceration rate.

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