Blessed and cursed

Kevin Lewis

March 14, 2017

Roads More and Less Traveled: Different Emotional Routes to Creativity Among Protestants and Catholics

Emily Kim & Dov Cohen

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Western culture has 2 contradictory images of creativity: the artist as intensely emotional versus the artist as sublimator, for whom work becomes the outlet for what is repressed and denied. We show that both images are correct, but that the routes to creativity are culturally patterned, such that Catholic creatives are relatively more likely to take the emotionally intense route and Protestant creatives relatively more likely to take the sublimating route. This pattern is consistent for both the Big-C creativity of historical eminents (Studies 1 and 1b) and small-c creativity of student samples (Studies 2 and 3). The student samples also highlighted the moderating role of Protestant asceticism, as Protestants who were high in asceticism and who also repressed or minimized troublesome emotions were particularly creative. Analyses of behavioral data in previous lab experiments (Studies 2b and 3b) provided conceptual validation of the findings reported in Studies 2 and 3.


Beyond the Classroom: The Implications of School Vouchers for Church Finances

Daniel Hungerman, Kevin Rinz & Jay Frymark

NBER Working Paper, February 2017

Governments have used vouchers to spend billions of dollars on private education; much of this spending has gone to religiously-affiliated schools. We explore the possibility that vouchers could create a financial windfall for religious organizations operating private schools and in doing so impact the spiritual, moral, and social fabric of communities. We use a dataset of Catholic-parish finances from Milwaukee that includes information on both Catholic schools and the parishes that run them. We show that vouchers are now a dominant source of funding for many churches; parishes in our sample running voucher-accepting schools get more revenue from vouchers than from worshipers. We also find that voucher expansion prevents church closures and mergers. Despite these results, we fail to find evidence that vouchers promote religious behavior: voucher expansion causes significant declines in church donations and church spending on non-educational religious purposes. The meteoric growth of vouchers appears to offer financial stability for congregations while at the same time diminishing their religious activities.


Moralizing Gods and Armed Conflict

Ahmed Skali

Journal of Economic Psychology, forthcoming

This study documents a robust empirical pattern between moralizing gods, which prescribe fixed laws of morality, and conflict prevalence and fatalities, using spatially referenced data for Africa on contemporary conflicts and ancestral belief systems of individual ethnic groups prior to European contact. Moralizing gods are found to significantly increase conflict prevalence and casualties at the local level. The identification strategy draws on the evolutionary psychology roots of moralizing gods as a solution to the collective action problem in pre-modern societies. A one standard deviation increase in the likelihood of emergence of a moralizing god increases casualties by 18 to 36% and conflict prevalence by 4 to 8% approximately.


God Versus Party: Competing Effects on Attitudes Concerning Criminal Punishment, National Security, and Military Service

Robert Thomson & Paul Froese

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming

We explore how images of God interact with political party to predict attitudes concerning the appropriate role of government in both criminal punishment and national security. Using the second wave of the Baylor Religion Survey (2007), we analyze the extent to which beliefs regarding God's moral judgment moderate the influence of party affiliation on opinions about the death penalty, fighting terrorism, punishing criminals, serving in the military, and U.S. involvement in the Iraq War. Specifically, we find that Democrats who believe in a judgmental God tend to support more conservative policies. In fact, attitudes converge such that the effects of party membership are erased if rival partisans both believe in a judgmental moral authority.


Why Being Wrong can be Right: Magical Warfare Technologies and the Persistence of False Beliefs

Nathan Nunn & Raul Sanchez de la Sierra

NBER Working Paper, March 2017

Across human societies, one sees many examples of deeply rooted and widely-held beliefs that are almost certainly untrue. Examples include beliefs about witchcraft, magic, ordeals, and superstitions. Why are such incorrect beliefs so prevalent and how do they persist? We consider this question through an examination of superstitions and magic associated with conflict in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Focusing on superstitions related to bulletproofing, we provide theory and case-study evidence showing how these incorrect beliefs persist. Although harmful at the individual-level, we show that they generate Pareto efficient outcomes that have group-level benefits.


Child Abuse Scandal Publicity and Catholic School Enrollment: Does the Boston Globe Coverage Matter?

Ali Moghtaderi

Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: This study examines the effect of negative publicity that arose from public notices of child abuse allegations in the Catholic Church on the enrollment share and number of Catholic schools in the United States.

Method: Fitting least square regressions using diocese-level panel data of Catholic school enrollment share and number of Catholic schools.

Results: I show that the reports of abuse prior to 2002 had no effect on enrollment. Yet, reports since 2002 have had a negative and long-lasting effect and explain about two-thirds of the decline in Catholic schooling. These are substantially larger declines than suggested in previous studies.

Conclusion: I argue that the differing responses to the public notices of child abuse between these two periods are derived from the availability heuristic. This is driven from a fundamental difference in media coverage of the scandal prior to 2002 and afterward. Allegations of child abuse in the Catholic Church received emphatic coverage only after 2002.


Religion and work: Micro evidence from contemporary Germany

Jörg Spenkuch

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, March 2017, Pages 193–214

Using micro data from contemporary Germany, this paper studies the connection between Protestantism and modern-day labor market outcomes. To address the endogeneity in self-declared religion, I exploit a provision in a sixteenth-century peace treaty, which determined the geographic distribution of Catholics and Protestants. Reduced form and instrumental variable estimates provide no evidence of an effect of Protestantism on hourly wages. However, relative to their Catholic counterparts, Protestants do appear to work longer hours. The patterns in the data are difficult to reconcile with explanations based on institutional factors or religious differences in human capital acquisition. Religious differences in individuals’ values, however, can account for most of the estimated effects.


Where Does Religion Matter Most? Personal Religiosity and the Acceptability of Wife-beating in Cross-National Perspective

Jong Hyun Jung & Daniel Olson

Sociological Inquiry, forthcoming

Does religion justify violent acts against wives, or does it reduce approval of this type of intimate partner violence? We examine whether personal religiosity raises or lowers the acceptability of wife-beating. In addition, we investigate how the relationship between personal religiosity and attitudes toward wife-beating differs depending on the overall normative context of the country where a person lives. Using multilevel modeling with data from the fifth wave of the World Values Survey (2005–2008), we find that greater individual-level religiosity reduces the acceptability of wife-beating. More importantly, cross-level interactions show that these reductions are greatest in countries where there is a general lack of normative restraint as measured by the “anomie” scale. These observations suggest that religiosity may influence an individual's norms the most in countries where secular controls are absent or weak.


Religious People Endorse Different Standards of Evidence When Evaluating Religious Versus Scientific Claims

Jonathon McPhetres & Miron Zuckerman

Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Recent research has begun to investigate the relationship between religion and science. However, it remains unclear whether religious and nonreligious people differ on the standards of evidence used when evaluating claims in religious versus scientific contexts. Across three studies (N = 702), we presented participants with effects that were attributed to scientific methodology or to God and asked them to rate how many more times an effect needs to be repeated in order to have certainty in the outcome. Results showed that religious people requested fewer repetitions compared to nonreligious people when an effect was attributed to prayer, and fewer repetitions when an effect was attributed to prayer compared to scientific methodology. Nonreligious people were relatively consistent across conditions. These results suggest that religious people have less stringent standards of evidence when evaluating nonscientific claims. Directions for future research are also discussed.


Islamic Headcovering and Political Engagement: The Power of Social Networks

Aubrey Westfall et al.

Politics and Religion, March 2017, Pages 3-30

This article explores the relationship between headcovering and women's political participation through an original online survey of 1,917 Muslim-American women. As a visible marker of religious group identity, wearing the headscarf can orient the integration of Muslim women into the American political system via its impact on the openness of their associational life. Our survey respondents who cover are more likely to form insular, strong ties with predominantly Muslim friend networks, which decreased their likelihood of voting and affiliating with a political party. Interestingly, frequency of mosque attendance across both covered and uncovered respondents is associated with a higher probability of political participation, an effect noted in other religious institutions in the United States. Yet, mosque attendance can simultaneously decrease the political engagement of congregants if they are steered into exclusively religious friend groups. This discovery reveals a tension within American Muslim religious life and elaborates on the role of religious institutions vs. social networks in politically mobilizing Muslim-Americans.


Heightened religiosity and epilepsy: Evidence for religious-specific neuropsychological processes

Brick Johnstone, Greyson Holliday & Daniel Cohen

Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Fall 2016, Pages 704-712

It has been hypothesised that humans may have an innate neurologic tendency towards being religiously oriented, suggesting that we possess religious-specific neuropsychological processes. Persons with epilepsy provide a unique opportunity to study these relationships given the documented hyper-religious experiences observed with epilepsy. The current study evaluated 19 individuals with epilepsy to determine if epilepsy-related religious experiences (as measured by the Bear Fedio Inventory [BFI]) are reflective of a general increase in behaviours observed with epilepsy (e.g., philosophical thoughts, emotionality), or if they are reflective of a religious-specific orientation. Spearman correlations indicated that: (1) BFI religious-orientation scales are significantly related to philosophical concerns (i.e., nature of the universe), but not measures of emotionality and (2) BFI religious-orientation scales, but not philosophical or emotionality scales, are significantly associated with other commonly used measures of spirituality. These findings suggest that individuals may possess neuropsychological processes that are specific to religious orientations.

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