Date of Award

Fall 2005

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Karen Van Gundy


This study uniquely examines two religious types and a control group of nonreligious respondents in relation to two classical theories of crime and deviant behavior. The first objective of this research is to determine whether a conventional religion, Methodism, deters crime and deviant behavior better than an unconventional religious type, Shambhala Buddhism, and a control group of nonreligious respondents. The second objective of this research is to examine the predictive capacities of measures for Hirschi's (1969) social control theory and Sutherland's (1947) differential association theory. Constructs for these theories are used to determine the magnitude of mediating and moderating effects on the religion-deviance relationship. I test four separate deviance indices of (1) minor forms of deviance, (2) sexual deviance, (3) illegal drugs and excessive alcohol use, and (4) violent and criminal behavior, with ordinary least square regression models on a sample that contains approximately n = 100 of each religious type (n = 305). Both Hirschi's (1969) social control theory and Sutherland's (1947) theory of differential association are predicted to intervene in the religion-deviance relationship, although evidence for such power is lacking on adult samples and comparative religious affiliations. Analysis of the direct effects of religious type on four deviant outcomes shows that nonreligious respondents and Methodists are very similar on all four measures. Ordinary least squares regression is used to test main effects and partial effects are examined through mediator and moderator models. Contradicting some of the literature on the religion-deviance relationship, a traditional religious type does not reduce deviant and criminal behavior significantly better than the non-affiliated individuals in the control group. Consistent with some of the research on new religious movements, however, people who belong to the nontraditional religious type (Shambhala Buddhism) are significantly more likely than people who belong to a traditional religion (Methodism) to engage in deviant behavior. While mediator models show that social bonds and associations with deviant friends can partially reduce the effect religious type has on deviant outcomes, little evidence surfaced that these theoretical constructs can significantly moderate the religion-deviance relationship.