As it turns out, all those “spiritual, but not religious types” are more prone to commit crimes than either atheists or religious people.
A study from Baylor University, a Texas Baptist school, attempted to find which religious group has the highest propensity for committing crimes. The researchers asked respondents what type of crimes — if any — they had committed during the past 12 months, and the spiritual group reported the highest amounts of theft, vandalism and burglary.
Agnostics and atheists are less likely that the spiritual types to commit similar crimes, according to the study.
“Calling oneself ‘spiritual but not religious’ turned out to more of an antisocial characteristic, unlike identifying oneself as religious,” said Baylor researcher, Aaron Franzen, a doctoral candidate and the study's co-author.
However, when it came to committing violent crimes, the “spiritual but not religious” category and the “neither spiritual nor religious” category scored similarly.
The study was an exploration of norm-violating behavior. Previous research has shown that people who call themselves religious commit fewer crimes than those who do not, which is a finding this research supported.
The researchers hypothesized in the study that the “spiritual” group would be less tied to traditional church/religious teachings than “religious” people, but were unsure of where they fell among atheists and agnostics.
"We were thinking that religious people would have an institutional and communal attachment and investment, while the spiritual people would have more of an independent identity," Franzen said.
The study was a fairly large one — the researchers analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health of 14,322 individuals, ranging in age from 18 to 28.