Is there a relationship between religiosity and homicide in the world (yes and no!)? Here we look at this relationship for 146 using UNODC and Gallup data on homicide and religiosity. Religiosity, or importance of religion, is defined by the question, “Is religion important in your daily life?” from a 2009 Gallup poll. See Part #1 for the relationship in the developed world (i.e. OECD).

The chart shows the relationship between religiosity and homicide, with countries separated into ten regions. There is a clear relationship in terms of:

  • Countries with low religiosity have low rates of homicide (the exception, arguably, is Russia and maybe Venezuela), and
  • Countries with high homicide rates have high religiosity.

There are two further observations:

  • Many countries have low rates of homicide and high religiosity (including countries from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa), and
  • Increasing religiosity within a region tends to result in lower homicide rates or have a negligible effect (South America is an exception).

The United States is an outlier, looking more like an ex-Soviet state or South American country. The US’ closest chart neighbors are Chile, Kyrgyzstan, and Argentina, and the US is more similar to Iran than Canada!


Data and software: The religiosity is taken from a Gallup survey1 and homicide data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and compiled on Wikipedia2. The data was compiled and visualized using Microsoft Excel3.

Ten countries (of the 146 appearing in the religiosity database) have a homicide rate higher than 20 per 100,000 people: (from high to low homicide rates) El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, Jamaica, Belize, South Africa, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, and Colombia.