Beyond Durkheim: Religion and Suicide Author(s): Rodney Stark, Daniel P.

Doyle, Jesse Lynn Rushing Source: Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Jun., 1983), pp. 120-131 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1385672 Accessed: 12/05/2009 00:28
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Doyle is a Research Assistant at the same institution. In a postscript we integrate our work with that of WhitneyPope (1976).Durkheimwas amazingly uninformedand misleading about elementaryfeatures of religion in 19th century Europe. but also by other work we have done using American data from as long ago as 1906.Criticalparts of his analysisrest on arguments that never should have passed even moderatelyinformedinspection. DOYLEt JESSE LYNN RUSHINGt This paperreconsidersthe impact of religionon suicide.whose devastatingcritiqueof Durkheimeven cast doubt on the existence of differentialProstestant-Catholicsuiciderates in 19th century Europe. Despite Durkheim'sreputation as a founding father of the sociology of religion.a topic first raisedby Durkheimin 1897.often invoked in our discussions of the social nature of conformity. as we turned our attention to the phenomenonof suicide it became necessary not merely to invoke Durkheim.religious effects cannot be reducedto those of social integration .Moreover. We find a potent religious effect. Having clarifiedthese matters. In previous papers on delinquency. Emile Durkheimhas served as something of a patron saint . Nor were these directedtowardsperipheral concerns. Department of Justice. Pope's position is not only strongly supported by the findings we report here.we foundhis writingto displayamazinginnocence of elementaryfacts aboutreligionin Europe at the time he wrote. University of Washington. 22 (2): 120-131 120 .We do find supportfor Durkheim's claimthat a lackof socialintegrationproducessuicide.but to reread him. We look first at Durkheim'sargumentand find it inconsistent and unconvincing. That these matters were not recognizedlong ago probably reflects the persistence among social scientists of the same biases and unfamiliaritythat led Durkheim himself into error. *This research was conducted under the auspices of the Center for the Assessment of Delinquent Behavior and Its Prevention. 77JN1990017from the National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. whether those membersmainly are Protestants or Catholics. It was funded under Grant No. but only as a necessary preface to the task of more adequately assessing the relationshipbetween religion and suicide. tRodney Stark is Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington. However. high rates of church membershipare associated with low suicide rates. contraryto Durkheim. But. Daniel P. 1983. but no denominationaldifferences.we find that for a scholarreveredas a foundingfather of the sociology of religion. That is. as was the late Jesse Lynn Rushing. Time and again in Suicide (1897) his open contempt for religion and his lack of knowledge of it led him to frame obviously wrong arguments.with integration controlledpowerfulreligious effects persist. U. The granting agency is in no way responsible for analyses or interpretations presented in this paper.S. ? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. We then empiricallytest Durkheim'smajor assertions using contemporarydata for American SMSAs. In a seriesof paperswe (Starkandvariousassociates)have reexamined the roleof religion as a central element in sustaining the moral order.Beyond Durkheim:Religion and Suicide* RODNEY STARKt DANIEL P. Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. In this paper we do not exhibit these shortcomings in Suicide as an exercise in intellectual history. and cult formation. we attempt clearer statement of the relevant hypotheses and analyze pertinent data. The results were rather disappointing. crime.

so Durkheim that an epiphenomenon that religion has the power to unite its adherents into a "single moral acknowledged community"(1915:47). For Catholics. Durkheim opened his discussion of denominationaldifferences in suicide rates by differencesbecause arguing that the theology cannot be the cause of Protestant-Catholic variation on this matter: is no there theological . The fact is that at the time Durkheimwrote the Roman Catholic Churchimposed vastly heavier theological and social sanctions against suicide than did most Protestant groups. As Marx grumbledthat religionwas an opiumof the people (thus admitting was potent enough to producefalse consciousness).a sacramentthat the RomanCatholic indeedthe tenet that salvationrequired Churchgranted or withheld from the dead and dying. this made it impossible for him to regardreligious pluralism as anything but prima facie evidence of the breakdownof social integration. he found it impossible to apply this point of view consistently. and as we shall see. they both prohibit suicide with equal emphasis. Fundamentally. To commit suicide a devout Catholic had to decide that life was less bearablethan eternal damnationwould be. Protestantism lacked the theologicalmeans to match Catholicismin prohibitingsuicide. that Protestant-Catholic comparisonswere but a proxy variablefor degreeof socialintegration. or absolution.not only do they penalize it morally with great severity.and burialin holy groundwerewithheldfromsuicides. Durkheimpreferredto treat religion not as something in itself. Sacramentssuch as funeralservices.the ban against burialof suicides had realimpact. like Marx. . But they lacked the concept of mortal sin. Since in many Catholiccommunitiesthere were only Catholiccemetaries. in effect.For Catholics. Durkheimwas in close accord with Marx that religion is an illusory epiphenomenon rooted in objective social arrangements.. The discussion is very inconsistent because Durkheimdid not regard religion as "real. It is true that Protestants also held suicide to be sinful.. In asserting that religionis but the reflectionof society.suicidebroughtgreat stigma and sufferingfor family and friends. but both teach that a new life begins beyond the tomb where men are punished for their evil actions." yet sometimes he wanted to attribute to it real effects. In Suicide he argued that this social reality was integration. Religious rituals are the means by which the group. denying and invokingdirectreligious effects.and in most of his writing. He seems alreadyto have held this view when he wrote Suicide.a sin that in and of itself prevented salvation of the soul. suicide was classified as a "mortalsin" .In TheElementary Forms of the Religious Life (1915)he concludedthat religionactually is the symbolization of society itself.RELIGION AND SUICIDE 121 DURKHETMRECONSIDERED A lengthy sectionin Suicideis devotedto exploringand explainingthe very substantial differencesin suicide rates between Catholic areas and most Protestant areas in Europe near the turn of the century. but only as an elaborate reflection of more basic social realities. But beyond these marked theologicaldifferenceswere the perhapseven more compellingdifferencesin sacramental practices. And. is characteristic of Suicide. Therewere no similarpractices amongmost Protestant groups in the late 19th century. and Protestantism just as well as Catholicismnumberssuicide among them (1915:157). In short. This is simply wrong. worships itself and reaffirmsits solidarity. Trying to have it both ways.

"Next.but differencesin degreeof social integration. ." to drive the biologists from the field? . he wrote. a conclusionprobably based primarilyon Great Britain's low suicide rate.122 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION Now it is possible that even these quite dramaticdifferencesin doctrineand practice did not influence suicide behavior.there arises among them "a spirit of free inquiry. "the Catholicaccepts his faith ready made. Instead. respect for traditionis knownto be general and powerful in England" (1951: 161). he cited the existence of laws concerningthe observanceof the Sabbath and prohibiting stage portrayalsof Biblicalcharacters. Finally. Simply because Durkheim ignored these profound differencesis not to establish their unimportance. Durkheim wrote as follows: "Fundamentallytraditionalistby nature. "the 1.What we do know is that these theologicaldifferencesseemed to coincide with substantial differences in suicide rates. it had a suicide rate that was lower than that reported for most of the Catholicnations andregionson whichDurkheim presenteddata Durkheim it evident that his reputation in that make this two away" paragraphs "explained problem his of of cannot rest as a sociologist religionsurely upon knowledge elementaryfacts about religion in Western Europe. It does not seem to have that several Jewishcommunities) occurred to him (exceptin the specialcase of encapsulated individuals communities so that most moral faiths couldgenerateindependent. Protestantism per se was regarded as a lower degree of social integration. We thus reach the conclusionthat the superiority of Protestantismwith respect to suicideresults fromits being a less strongly integratedchurchthan the Catholic church (1951: 159).they (women) govern their conductby fixed beliefs and have no great is so concerned in workthat elsewhere Shouldone interpretthis as biologicaldeterminism intellectualneeds (166). He offered no evidence.Catholicismreflects "strongly integrated social groups" (1951: 208-209). co-existing in a society would experiencea high degreeof social integration. Considerthe basis he offered for this conclusion. when noting statistics that women were less educated than men. He began by asserting that "the Anglican churchis far more powerfullyintegrated than other Protestant churches"(1951: 160).SouthernEuropeanslack civilization. Durkheim attributes this differenceto theology! Here Durkheim based his argument on crude stereotypes of Catholics and Protestants. in suicide In Durkheim's differences causes of Protestant-Catholic judgment. without scrutiny."But the "Protestant is far more the author of his faith. the less it dominateslives.the "real" were not theological. Protestantism and free inquiry are by definitionthe "overthrow of traditional beliefs" (1951: 158). Why? Surprisingly.Nor did he wonderabout variations across nominallyCatholicor Protestant nations or regions in the proportions of the population who actually participatedin the religion.First."Indeed. Given his line of argument. he was forcedto regard religiouslypluralistic societies as inherentlyweakly integrated.But that is a matter that remains to be investigated. In fact the book is rife with crudestereotypes. Great Britain constituted a most serious negative case.1Hence. And. This line of analysis led Durkheimto his fundamentalconclusion: . Although a Protestant nation. Because Durkheimregardedreligionas a reflectionof society. the greater concessions a confessional group makes to the individual judgment." Because Protestants must seek individualsalvation without mediationof the church. the less its cohesion and vitality.so do the Scandinavians.

Moreover. But Durkheim seemed innocent of the rapid and amazing growth of Methodism.1980). THE DATA This paperbecamepossible when reliableestimates of churchmembershipfor various ecologicalunits of the United States becameavailable(Stark. Finally. then the British case is even more devastating than he knew (or acknowledged). The Anglican church was not the only Protestant state church. nor was it the only Protestantchurchwith an episcopal(hierarchical) structure. If pluralismmust result in a low degree of social integration. for an irreligiousperson. when he did note the markededucationaldifferencesbetween Protestant and Catholicnations (and knowing education was positively associated with suicide).accurate rates for . not as a possible source of spuriousness.to examine the possibility that religion as such can have a potent inhibiting influence on suicide. only a minority (30%)of British church members were Anglicans (Currieet aL. of the existence of Scottish Presbyterianism.he attributedthese differencesto the impact of the spirit of free inquiryfostered by Protestantism.These rates are based on a 1971 census of religious bodies (Johnsonet aL. Surely it is plausible that the belief that earthly suffering is but the prelude to immortality has sustained many who might otherwisehave lost heart. as Durkheim believed. or whether religion is itself a social fact.Nor does he appearto have known that by the time he wrote there were as many Roman Catholics as Anglican church members in Great Britain (and Ireland is not included in the statistics). we shall use secular measures of social integration not only to examine their impact on suicide. By adding Jewish synagogue membershipand membershipin predominantlyblack denominations. Moreover. As he dismissed the importance of doctrine in inhibiting suicide. In this paper we attempt to fill this silence . Durkheim'spreoccupationwith differentialProtestant and Catholic suicide rates probablyled him away fromasking about the impact of religionin generalon suicide.This external organization clearly shows inner unity incompatible with pronounced religious individualism"(1951: 161).Durkheimwas relativelysilent.But of these possibilities.Thus.to say nothing of the many other groups such as Baptists and Quakers. Indeed. if Marx meant what he said about opium and false consciousness he would likely have agreed with the notion that religion can serve as a potent compensatorin the face of adversity and suffering.For at the time Durkheimwrote. Surely Protestant bodies in Britain and the many the presenceof a multitude of non-conforming over conflicts (includingcivil war) religious pluralismwere not state secrets unknownon the continent. but to see whether religionis but a proxy variablefor this more basic social fact. We shall also look to see if in contemporaryAmerican society there remains any specifically Catholic effect.RELIGION AND SUICIDE 123 Anglican clergy is the only Protestant clergy organized in a hierarchy.Durkheimdid not even hint at the extraordinaryreligiouspluralism of Great Britain. 1977). so did he ignore the potential of religion to relieve the pressures that. as Durkheim claimed. Indeed. 1974). Durkheim failed to concern himself overmuch with the possibility that Protestantism might be only adventitiously associated with secular forces inhospitable to social integration. might make life not worth living.The state churchesof Germany and Scandinavia are but obvious exceptions.

But there is no reason to suppose that such incidents are a systematic source of errorin ecological rates.but that the results of massive victimization surveys have made it evident that official crime statistics are in fact quite accurate (Hindelang. Limiting analysis to SMSAs removes that problem. Of course. then Protestant-Catholic comparisonsmight be exaggerated by reporting bias.000. Utah.But. the nature and operating principles of modern bureaucracies are at considerablevariance with notions of covering up suicides for the sake of the family. 1980 and forthcoming). 1978).A second possible source of systematic bias might be that suicide will be in Catholiccommunities.124 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION the generalpopulationwere created.S. common sense would suggest that if social underreported pressures are strong enough to bias reporting suicides in Catholic communities such pressuresalso ought to inhibit suicides. and coroners sometimes successfully "hush up" a suicide so that it does not turn up in officialstatistics. Oregon. down to 250 per 1. A commonconcernabout bias in suicide rates is that reportingis more accuratefor larger cities than for small towns and rural areas.If so. there seem good grounds not to expect Catholic-Protestantdifferences in suicide in the U. Admittedly.Elsewherewe presenta lengthy deductivetheory of religion. but it seems unlikely that only reporting differences would be involved.however. Churchmembershipvaries greatly across SMSAs from 966 church members per 1. .ought to rest with those who postulate systematic bias. Douglas (1967). Harsh criticisms have been directed at official data on suicide. we cannot demonstrate the absence of systematic bias in suicide statistics. It would be witless to deny that families. we think that religious commitment in and of itself ought to prevent a substantialamountof suicide. today.Contrary to Durkheim.000 population in Provo. some people commit suicide in ways that evade detection.Here it is sufficient to but sketch some of the ways in which religion may make life worth living and thus prevent suicide. The burdenof proof. why it arises and what it does for people and societies (Stark & Bainbridge. The pertinent questions concern the degree of error and systematic bias in the error. have also been subjected to harsh charges of bias and inaccuracy. More to the point. CHURCH MEMBERSHIP AND SUICIDE Ourintentionin this paperis to searchfor directreligiouseffects on suicide. as we consider at length below. has argued that all such statistics are but reflections of complex processes of social construction .000 in Eugene. We note that crimestatistics objectionable.Therewe offer a detailed argumentabout the many ways in which religion assuages all mannerof human disappointments. for example. And such proof must also be systematic.that whether a given event will be classified officially as suicide depends on many factors that fluctuate by time and place.Here we use StandardMetropolitanStatistical Areas (SMSAs) as the unit of analysis. Suicide rates for SMSAs are from the Bureau of Vital Statistics report for 1971 and thus are contemporarywith the church membershiprates. physicians. Finally. Bureaucraciesoperate with an inertia and disregardfor individuals that may be highly but whichought to producequite reliabledata. The rate for the nation as a whole is 557 members per 1. not anecdotal. But simplyto acknowledge some measurement erroris not necessarily to concludethat a measureis worthless.

But it is noteworthy that it is the "other-wordly" concernsand doctrinesof religionsthat make them so much more effective in this respect than other voluntary organizations. This is. No one knows how to construct a society in which there is no stratificationand hence no relative deprivation. Pastors will listen to troubles.RELIGION AND SUICIDE 125 First of all. But one hardly needs to believe in religion to suppose it has effects. if one thinks that Jesus knows and cares. Turning to the data. in the form of ProtestantCatholic contrasts. I. on the one hand. Like Durkheim. Grantedthat these are all "this-worldly" aspects of religionsand in that sense somewhat akin to Durkheim's reduction of religion to social relations. But for millenniareligions have convincinglypromisedlife beyond death. a very substantial and highly significantnegative correlation obtainsbetweenchurchmembership and suicide rates: -. Put another way. may also underlie the relationship we have found between church 2.percentpopulation unemployed. The point seems patent.most social scientists seem to feel that since they judge religion to be false it really can't do anything for people. But theology. Yet social scientists have ignored religious effects in most areas of research for most of this century.can plausible promises of solutions be extended. But beyond these directmeans by whichreligiousorganizationscan influencepeople's lives.The lonely do find sociability in church. But the gods can offer heavenly glory in returnfor earthly suffering.But we must pursue several other variables of interest before we conclude this study. Controlswere imposed for population size. or the local Democratic caucus. .2None reducedthe originalcorrelation. welfare offices. Humans are beset with desires and disappointments which cannot be convincingly compensated by worldly means. one thinks one's problems are overwhelming and unsharable. If religion does offer real comfort then this surely ought to be reflected in suicide rates. percent populationwith less than 8 years of schooling. on the other. religious organizationsare easily accessible to people and are a generous source of affect and self-esteem. well above . of course. a wholly testable hypothesis that is not to be taken on faith. are the truly potent means to compensate and comfort people that are uniquely religious.No scientific means exist to achieve immortality.001).Lonely. If this relationship is not spurious then religion does have a major deterrent effect on suicide. it makes a difference if. or. of the supernatural. percent population over 18. using 214 SMSAs as the units of analysis. The churchmembershipand suicide correlationwas examinedunder a series of control variables.36 (significant.impoverishedwidows can't get the same levels of response from country clubs.percentpopulationwho are college graduates. Thomas' admonishment that things peopledefineas realhave realconsequences might have sufficed to help social scientists to see that for believersfaith is real. W. Other members do rally to the support of those overtakenby misfortune. Only by invoking the power of the gods. percent of families below poverty level. percent populationover 65. CATHOLICISMAND SUICIDE We have criticizedDurkheimfor ignoring theological explanations of the differential suicide rates of Protestant and Catholic areas.

Whenwe examinedthe impactof Catholicism on suicidewe foundno significanteffect That is. That is. Indeed.Over the decades it has become increasingly common for Catholic suicides to receive the sacraments.Thirdly. pastors began to take the position that a person who committed suicide while mentally ill did not commit a mortal sin and thus could receive the sacramentsof the church. the churchhas held mental defectives as incapableof sin. In consequence. Secondly.But today we would not expect to find such differences.as suggested by Durkheim's time the Since that Catholic effect has vanished because of many comparisons.but no portion of this is producedby any specific Catholicinfluence.church may have been right aboutreligion.Religion appearsto matter.Durkheim's Protestant-Catholic comparisons may have reflected mainly differences in church rates.Thus. SometimesDurkheimmeant .126 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION membershipand suicide. But to test his reductionwe must resolveambiguitiesin his use of that term. However. we are able to hold churchmembershipconstant while letting the proportionof Catholicchurch membersvary to see if Catholicismper se has an effect. That is. Catholicnations and regionsmay have had considerably higher membership churchmembership rates than did most Protestantnations andregions.Thus.for their theological and social bases have all but disappeared. Catholicdoctrinehas always held that to sin one must be mentally competent. there is a very substantial effect of church membership. Several interpretations of these findings are possible. rates are reflections of integrated membership primarily SOCIAL INTEGRATION For Durkheim. liberalizationof Catholictreatment of suicide.Durkheim America. Independenceis achievedwhen we introducethe proportionof churchmemberswho are Catholicsinto the analysis. but it doesn't seem to matter what kind of religion that is. Thus. it may be that in contemporary more social relations. there might never have been a in doctrineand sacramental Catholiceffect despitemarkeddifferences practice. In moder times psychiatric ideas have had considerableimpact on Catholic thought. First. pastors now tend to infer an unsound mind from the act of suicide itself. little remains of the once profound differences in the definition of suicide between Protestant and Catholic bodies. We still suspect that theology could have played an important role in the marked differences in Protestant and Catholic suicide rates reported by Durkheim. religion reflected no more than social integration. Thereis a modest tendency for churchmembershiprates to be higher in SMSAs with a higher proportionof Catholics. precisely because we suspect that theology can influence behavior we do not expect to find important Protestant-Catholicdifferences in suicide today. To investigate the effects of Catholicismon suicide the appropriatemeasure is the proportion of church members who are Catholic. Thus the two are confounded. for example. This is because the Roman Catholic Churchno longer stigmatizes suicide as it once did. in Durkheim's time Catholicism per se did have an independent impacton suicide. This is because the proportionof an SMSA's population who are Catholic church members already has entered into the computation of each SMSA's church member rate.

therefore Protestant communities were less integrated. yet they must be separated in order to examine their independent impacts on suicide. thus continuing to be unaffiliated. No such data are at hand. Indeed. does influence social integration as Durkheim claimed it did. The most conceptually useful definition of social integration is in terms of social networks.RELIGION AND SUICIDE 127 social integration to refer to "collective states of mind" (1951: 170). is defined as a network of relations without referenceto any cultural elements that might support these relations and which might dominate the exchanges among network members. It becomes possible to see if religion.as we have defined it. A person with troubles can be helped by others who can share or even solve the problems. Not only can close attachments to others prevent suicide. out of. the reconnecting process is impeded. for example.Indeed.then.Durkheim'sanalysis interpersonal . and other such organizations. The trouble is that Durkheim fused religion and social integration. That is. a measure of population turnover . Otherthings being equal. The greater the density and intensity of interpersonal attachments among members of a group. Protestant communitiescould not. a fraternallodge. Durkheimtook it as axiomatic that Catholicismwas better able to create collective states of mind and thus to sustain intensivecollectivelife becauseit did not permitdissent. In more stable communitiesnewcomers are more easily reconnectedto a church or other organizationsby neighbors and fellow workers who are members. Hence.it also is easy to see how it would influencesuicide.is a reasonable inferential measure of social integration. To the degree that one's neighbors and fellow workers are themselves newcomers and unaffiliated. in communities having primarilya stable membershipthan in communities made up primarilyof newcomers and transients. lack of close ties can be the basis for depressionand despair.the movementof peopleinto. andwithinmetropolitan areas. this particularmeasure of social integration is of special relevance in this study because in earlierwork we alreadyhave found it to be a major factor in variations in churchmembership rates. there must be greater social integration. "intense collective life.This effect of moving is undoubtedlygreatly amplifiedin communitieswhere large proportionsof the population move often. But he also argued that religiousbeliefscreate socialintegrationthroughtheircapacityto supportan "intense collective life" (1951: 170). People who move must reaffiliate with a church.And people who move often must reaffiliate often. If population turnover has an impact on church membership. a service club. including churches.and some people may move again before the normal lag time is up. But a wholly satisfactory inferential measure is available. The trouble is that Durkheim fused religion and social integration. At the very least there will be some lag time in reaffiliation. High rates of populationturnovererodeall kinds of voluntary organizations. Catholiccommunitiesenjoyed consensus on religion. the more the group can be said to be socially integrated. yet they must be separated in order to examine their independent impacts on suicide. Defined in this way the concept is devoid of cultural content. but lack of attachments can contributeto the motives for suicide. social integrationin this study in terms Ideally. we wouldwant to operationalize of the density and intensity of network ties in these SMSAs." as Durkheimput it.This conceptualizationfrees us from the grip of tautology.

That is. as we have mentioned. We concludethat both variables play an important and independentrole in suicide. It combines rates of in. for the state of integration of a social aggregate can only reflect the intensity of the collective life circulatingin it. This directs our attention to examinationof the correlationsbetween populationchanges and suicide with church membershiprates held constant.and out-migration. churchmembershipand population change account for 17 percent of the variance in suicide rates. To examine the joint effects of these variables we entered them into a regression equation and produceda multiple r of .some SMSAs showing little change achievedthis without having highly stable populations .27).. as expected. that religioninfluencessuicidemerelyas a reflect of underlying variations in social integration?Our first test of his thesis produceda resounding.41. the correlation betweenchurchmembership and suicideis only modestlyreduced(from-. we prefer to see religionas to some extent an interveningvariable.rapid population growth is.and out-migration with residential moving within the SMSA to produce the proportionof the population who have been .However. For a more refined measure we must limit the analysis to only the 60 largest SMSAs.while the most rapidly growing SMSAs must perforce contain large proportions of newcomers and transients.then.36 to -.the remaining effect is substantialand highly significant. Thus. Clearly. Yet.they merely had a balance between in. Is Durkheimcorrect.a somewhatcrudemeasureof population turnover. here too the remaining relationship is robust and highly significant. Controltheories of deviance are traced back to Durkheimin part because of the emphasis he placed on the bonds between the individualand the group.32 to . Nevertheless.32). Together. For all SMSAs only a somewhat crude measure of populationturnover is available: percent change in population size over the past decade. It is more unified and powerful the more active and constant is the intercourse among its members (1951: 202). This moderately reduces the originalcorrelation(from.21). for a group to be said to have less common life than another means that it is less powerfully integrated.39)."With populationchanges heldconstant. Furthermore.then. 1982).128 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION of the effects of marriage and family on suicide is wholly consistent with this line of argument. we are both fair to Durkheims'fundamentalposition and to the needs for a conceptually clean measure of social integration to introduce population turnover into this analysis. very strongly correlatedwith rates of church membership (-. this group will includethose cities with the most stable populations. relationship Rather than reduce the effects of religion to those of social integration.For the largest 60 SMSAs a much more sensitive measurecould be constructed (Crutchfieldet al. some portionof the original is spurious.Thus religiondoes play a modest role in linking social integration and suicide.the 214 SMSAs differgreatly in theirpopulationchangeover the decade 1960-70. "No.Undoubtedly.. Populationchangeis. Thus it is not surprisingto find that this measureof socialintegrationis very robustly related to suicide rates (. Still. As he wrote: . one of the ways in which lack of social integration influences suicide is by undercutting religious organizations.SMSAs with rapid rates of populationgrowth tend to have the highest suicide rates.

With church membershipcontrolled. .33.55.44. Perhapssome trace of a Catholic effect will turn up in this earlier period.43. Moreover. we found very substantialeffects on suicide.effects in accordwith the basic argumentsdeveloped in Suicide. Population turnover was found to be very highly correlatedwith the suicide rate: . 1916. why would it not influence their decision to go on living? Ourfailureto find any Catholiceffect on suicideraises the possibilityeitherthat these differences were spurious when observed by Durkheim. our data reveal a strong religious effect on suicide independent of social integration. the Pittsburgh SMSA had the lowest: .37. not entirely sure why these effects are so much more robust in the subset of cases. Using population turnover as an inferential measure of the density and intensity of interpersonalrelations in metropolitan areas. also robust and highly significant.and 1926. With the data at hand this questioncannotbe resolved. CONCLUSION The data suggest Durkheim was quite right to stress the importance of social integration in explaining suicide. these findings provide one more striking example of the futility of trying to dismiss religionas an epiphenomenon.001). But Durkheimwas quite wrong to claim that religious effects on suicide are no more than a reflectionof social integration.With populationturnovercontrolled. Sincewe werenow workingwith only about a third as many SMSAs as in ourprevious analysis our first concernwas with zero orderrelations. The correlationbetween the church memberrate and suicide was much higher in this subset of SMSAs than in the full set. In our judgment.the correlationbetween churchmembershipand suicide was reducedto . if faith does comfort the faithful. a still robust and highly significant finding.In workwe have just begun we are assemblingAmerican data like those used in this paperfor 1906.RELIGION AND SUICIDE 129 geographicallymobile within the past ten years. Why shouldit be more "real"to reduce religious effects to those of social integration? When we observe millions making considerablesacrifice for their faith.We have seen that his arguments against religious effects per se were faulty and his factual claims about religionin late 19th century Europe were often dead wrong.60. with two highly significantzero ordercorrelations(above. or that changes in Catholic treatment of suicide have led to changes in Catholicsuicide rates.67 and r2 of . thus raising the correlations. We were. must we maintain that they gain no "real" value from something they appear to value so highly? And. The answerlay in the fact that the larger SMSA's ave more reliable suicide rates. CaliforniaSMSA had the highest rate: . at first.the task was to examine the three-variable relationship.30. And the mean was . But a control for size did not raise the correlationin the full set. rising to -61. In any event. Once again controls for proportionCatholichad no effect whatsoeveron the findings.The San Diego. There is considerablevariation on this measure of population turnover. Using regressionto estimate the joint effects of populationturnoverand religionon suicide produced a multiple r of . Since these are the largest SMSAs it is plausible that variations in SMSA size reducedthe correlationin the full set.the correlationbetween population turnover and suicide was reduced to .

Pope's most devastingpoints about Durkheim'stheory are not germaneto this paper.Instead.William Sims and Rodney Stark in press "Homicide. it now seems thereneverwereany consistent that Britainwas the most in suicide. After this paper was written.Robert.S." Criminology20: 267-278. In the United States all these linkageshave beenbroken.Here we have tried to demonstratethat one such consequenceis to cushionthe despairand desperation that can drive people to take their own lives. 1977 Churches University Press.Emile 1951 Suicide. we refer to an act as well as to a book? REFERENCES Bainbridge. Spauldingand George Simpson. Swaim.cultural.ought to have had the highest. several developmentstook place that might have prompteda revision. Durkheim.repeated. 1915 The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. while Durkheim'swere for Europe.just nineyears afterthe publication of Suicide.therewereno Protestant-Catholic differences (Bainbridge& Stark. muchmorespecificallya religiousfactor.In Europe. Douglas. Durkheim of religionin Britain. And this brings us to the second major development.With these corrected.we want to makeit clearthat ourremarksabout the reluctanceof social scientists to regard religion as a significant social fact do not reflect private religious concerns. New York:The Free Press. Shouldwe speak morekindly of the dead?Or is it perhaps time to suggest that when we speak of Durkheim'sSuicide.In time we were convincedthat these differenceswere spurious. 1967 The Social Meaning of Suicide.suicide nationin Europeand thus.Tr.Little did we know they didn't exist at all For. in press). Pope revealedthat Durkheim's arithmeticwas riddledwith convenienterrors. His ought to have admitted the possibility. The first of these developmentswas our subsequentfailureto find any Catholiceffects on suicide in 1906. One need not be faithful to see that faith may have important consequences. Admittedlyour findingsareforthe UnitedStates. And here. less education.misrepresentations. so Pope detected him in similar. This led us to concludethat thereprobablynever wereany real Catholiceffects on suicide.130 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION In conclusion. as we find no Catholic effect on suicide. P.Just as we foundthat Durkheim "overlooked" Protestant-Catholic differences to his theory.and thereforeAmericandata ought to better revealreligiouseffects per in suicide se. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Robert. but alwayspainfully trulyimpressive following Protestant differencesin suiciderates for Europeduringthe 19th century.Catholicismis greater agrarianism.MichaelGeerkenand WalterGove 1982 "Crime rate and social integration: A researchnote. not until a reviewerkindly brought it to our attention did we learn of Whitney Pope's (1976)superb critiqueof Durkheim'stheory and. Jack D. 1916." The Annual Review of the Social Sciences of Religion 5.We carriedthrough our reassessment of Durkheim. awarethat Durkheim hadreported Catholicourdata wherethey led. suicide. John A. but in pursuit of its social impacts. Hindelang.not the lowest.we decidedto leaveit in the record. and religion.we suspect that Catholicnations had substantiallyhigherchurchmembership rates in the 19th centurythan did Protestant nations.Catholic-Protestant differencesare inextricablyintertwinedwith a maze of other historical.Whereour workand his makecommoncause is that. Joseph W. Crutchfield.or Latin culture. Alan Gilbert and Lee Horsley Oxford Oxford: and Churchgoers.For example.as many of the points we raise did not attract his attention. 1978 "Race and involvement in common law . Ratherthan dropourcritique of Durkheim forignoring the profoundly different of suicidein Catholic conceptions and Protestanttheology.despite the theological factorsby whichthey couldhave beengenerated. scientist woulddestroy his or her reputationfor good.and social differences. or 1926. We do not write on behalf of faith.For.We think this is an advantage. Nor ought we ignore his misrepresentation contributionmight have been much greater had he forcedhis theory to fit the facts ratherthan revising facts to fit the theory.We decidedinstead to appendthis postscript because we think it importantnot to obscurethe fact that science is cumulative. even more important.Pope discoveredthat Durkheimdid not find one either. according pluralistic Such revelationsabout a contemporary social rate.whetheror not this factoris operative.New York:The Free Press. Currie. Michael J. In America.HereCatholicism is not confounded with factors such as less industrialization.his expose of Durkheim'sarithmetic. Tr.

S.Membership Rates for 1980 Estimating Church Ecological Areas. Department of Justice. Washington. Jr. Stark. No. coming SSSR Volume Number1 MONOGRAPH SERIES RichardK. No. Ct. Pope. Chicago:University of Chicago Press. U. sects and denomination.S.50 postage paidI Vol. Fenn's OF SECULARIZATION A THEORY TOWARD Focusing upon conflicts over the scope and location of the sacred in modern societies.50 postage paidI Gall Gehrig's . 3 $5. Rodney . National Institute of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 19: 114-128. Out of print. D. Volume Number3 AN ASSESSMENT AMERICAN RELIGION: CIVIL Through a comparative analysis of divergent theories and research. this volume assesses the value of the civil religion concept for the social scientific theory of religion.RELIGION AND SUICIDE personal crimes. Volume Number2 WilliamH. Stark. Government Printing Office. Forth.C. Law Enforcement Assistance 131 Administration. Swatos. and England.'s INTODENOMINATIONALISM: THEANGLICAN METAMORPHOSIS Proposing a new typology of churches. 2 $5. Rodney and William Sims Bainbridge 1980 "Towards a theory of religion: Religious commitment.S. this work provides a socio-historical analysis of the development of Anglicanism in the U. Whitney 1976 Durkheim's Suicide: A Classic Analyzed." American Sociological Review 43: 93-109. Available from: SSSR Business Office Box U-68A Universityof Connecticut Storrs.A Theory of Religion. 06268 Vol. this work presents a multi-phase model for the analysis of secularization process.: U.

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