Common Denominator

Kevin Lewis

March 10, 2011

Finding the Faithless: Perceived Atheist Prevalence Reduces Anti-Atheist Prejudice

Will Gervais
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Although prejudice is typically positively related to relative outgroup size, four studies found converging evidence that perceived atheist prevalence reduces anti-atheist prejudice. Study 1 demonstrated that anti-atheist prejudice among religious believers is reduced in countries in which atheists are especially prevalent. Study 2 demonstrated that perceived atheist prevalence is negatively associated with anti-atheist prejudice. Study 3 demonstrated a causal relationship: Reminders of atheist prevalence reduced explicit distrust of atheists. These results appeared distinct from intergroup contact effects. Study 4 demonstrated that prevalence information decreased implicit atheist distrust. The latter two experiments provide the first evidence that mere prevalence information can reduce prejudice against any outgroup. These findings offer insights about anti-atheist prejudice, a poorly understood phenomenon. Furthermore, they suggest both novel directions for future prejudice research and potential interventions that could reduce a variety of prejudices.


Exceptional Behavior or Exceptional Identity?Overreporting of Church Attendance in the U.S.

Philip Brenner
Public Opinion Quarterly, Spring 2011, Pages 19-41

It is well established that religious service attendance is overreported on conventional surveys. However, research has focused almost exclusively on overreporting in American survey data. This study extends the current body of research by pursuing the following question: Are Americans the only overreporters, or is this a ubiquitous survey artifact inherent to conventional survey measures of religious service attendance? Overreporting is estimated as the difference between directive measures from conventional surveys and those from time diaries. The survey artifact is examined across 14 countries and over four decades, highlighting the consistency and extremeness of (over)reported American religious participation, in light of concordance between modes in other countries. Findings suggest that American religiosity may be exceptional not in terms of actual behavior, but rather in terms of identity. As a result, this study adds to our understanding of American exceptionalism by drawing a distinction between religious identities and religious behavior.


Polarized Protestants: A Confessional Explanation for Congressional Extremism

Nicole Asmussen
University of Rochester Working Paper, September 2010

I explain the increasing party polarization of members of Congress over the last 30 years by examining changes in the religious makeup of the parties' congressional contingents. Conservative evangelicals have exited the Democratic Party and entered the Republican Party, being replaced by more liberal members of mainline or black Protestant denominations. In measuring the impact of members' personal religious orientations on polarization, this argument differs from the existing literature, which has focused on institutional or constituency explanations-most prominently, rising inequality. I find that, in the aggregate, the relative size of the parties'evangelical contingents is highly correlated with party polarization, and that, at the individual level, evangelical members vote more conservatively than their mainline Protestant counterparts, when controlling for party, district religious demographics, and other relevant factors. The results also cast doubt on inequality as a source of polarization and question whether the conventional wisdom about evangelicals' involvement in politics is applicable to evangelicals in Congress.


Health Capital and the Prenatal Environment: The Effect of Ramadan Observance During Pregnancy

Douglas Almond & Bhashkar Mazumder
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, forthcoming

We use the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a natural experiment in fasting and fetal health. In Michigan births 1989-2006, we find prenatal exposure to Ramadan among Arab mothers results in lower birthweight. Exposure to Ramadan in the first month of gestation is also associated with a sizable reduction in the number of male births. In Census data for Uganda and Iraq we find strong associations between in utero exposure to Ramadan and the likelihood of being disabled as an adult. Effects are particularly large for mental (or learning) disabilities. To a lesser extent, we also find that wealth proxies are compromised. We find no evidence that negative selection in conceptions during Ramadan accounts for our findings, suggesting that avoiding Ramadan exposure during pregnancy is costly or the long-term effects of fasting unknown.


Jewish Identity and the Secular Achievements of American Jewish Men and Women

Harriet Hartman & Moshe Hartman
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, March 2011, Pages 133-153

Three questions are addressed concerning the relationship of Jewish identity to secular achievements. Are the secular achievements of American Jews related at all to the strength of their Jewish identity? Which has a stronger relationship to secular achievement, a religious or an ethnic Jewish identity? Do communal aspects or private, personal aspects of Jewish identity have the stronger relationship to secular achievements? Using the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey, we find that educational attainment, labor force participation, and occupational achievements are related to several expressions of Jewish identity, even after controlling for the traditional sources of variation (age, gender, education, family status). Jewish identity, as expressed in terms of religion, ethnicity, communal commitment, and private attitudes and practices, is related to contemporary Jewish secular achievement, albeit differently for men and women.


Religion, Clubs, and Emergent Social Divides

Michael Makowsky
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Arguments regarding the existence of an American cultural divide are frequently placed in a religious context. This paper seeks to establish that, all politics aside, the American religious divide is real, that religious polarization is not a uniquely American phenomenon, and that religious divides can be understood as naturally emergent within the club theory of religion. Analysis of the survey data reveals a bimodal distribution of religious commitment in the U.S. International data reveals evidence of bimodal distributions in all twenty-nine surveyed countries. The club theory of religion, applied in an agent-based computational model, generates bimodal distributions of member commitment.


Religion and Gambling Among Young Adults in the United States: Moral Communities and the Deterrence Hypothesis

David Eitle
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, March 2011, Pages 61-81

Despite voluminous research examining religion as an integrative force and a mechanism of social control, relatively few studies have examined the association between religion and proscribed or morally ambiguous behaviors beyond crime and drug use. The present exploratory study examines the role of religion, at both the individual and county levels, in predicting self-reported gambling problems. Hierarchical linear models are employed to examine religion and self-reported gambling problems using the restricted use data of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. A negative association between religious attendance and problem gambling (at the individual level) is strongest when church adherents per capita is relatively high (measured at the county level). However, when the number of conservative Protestants per capita is relatively high, religious attendance (measured at the individual level) is associated with an increased risk of gambling problems. These countervailing findings are interpreted as supportive of the bonding and bridging capital thesis.


How Holy Wars End: Exploring the Termination Patterns of Conflicts With Religious Dimensions in Asia

Isak Svensson & Emily Harding
Terrorism and Political Violence, April 2011, Pages 133-149

Conventional wisdom suggests that armed conflicts with religious dimensions are inherently difficult to end. Religious appeals seem to make conflict issues indivisible. Yet, religious conflicts do end. In order to understand this puzzle, there is a need to examine the empirical records of the termination process of these types of armed conflicts. In this study, we argue that there is a potential for conflict resolution of religious conflicts without necessarily requiring concessions on the core beliefs and aspirations. We explore this proposition by examining the empirical pattern of Asian armed conflicts with explicit religious dimensions as stated incompatible positions and scrutinize how they are ended. Our empirical analysis reveals that none of the parties raising religious demands has made concessions on those demands. Yet, in about half of the cases, there are accommodations that do not imply concessions on the religious goals. Based on these findings, the study draws out the potential implications for the debate about the role of religion, armed conflicts, and peaceful resolution.


Religious Fundamentalism and Limited Prosociality as a Function of the Target

Joanna Blogowska & Vassilis Saroglou
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, March 2011, Pages 44-60

Two distinct research traditions have established that (a) religiosity implies prosocial tendencies, though limited to proximal targets, and (b) religious fundamentalism (RF) relates to prejudice, often because of underlying right-wing authoritarianism (RWA). Through two studies, we investigated the idea that RF, due to underlying religiosity, also predicts prosociality that is limited to proximal rather than distal targets. Specifically, we found that RF, unlike RWA and because of religiosity, predicted prosociality towards a nonfeminist but not a feminist target in need (Experiment 1) and willingness to help friends but not unknown people in need in the same hypothetical situations (Experiment 2). Moreover, like RWA, RF implied negative attitudes towards the feminist. This limited, not extended, prosociality of people scoring high on RF was in contrast with their self-perceptions of being universally altruistic. Fundamentalism seems to combine religiosity's qualities (in-group prosociality) with authoritarianism's defects (out-group derogation).


The effect of mortality salience and belief in afterlife on the manifestation of homonegativity

Troy Piwowarski, Andrew Christopher & Mark Walter
Mental Health, Religion & Culture, March 2011, Pages 271-279

If derogation of out-groups serves the function of bolstering self-esteem, it is possible that this effect can be counteracted by means of existential relief. Two variables were presented in a 2 x 2 factorial to a population of primarily college students: a mortality salience (MS) variable and an afterlife variable, in which participants read "scientific" accounts that either supported or denied the existence of a literal afterlife. Homonegativity was utilised as a dependent measure of out-group derogation. In the predicted manner, mortality salience and afterlife variables interacted to predict significantly different levels of homonegativity. When participants were subconsciously primed with MS, their psychological need to derogate dissimilar others was significantly lowered if they were assured of an afterlife. These results demonstrate that the effects of MS can be attenuated by presenting existential relief through assurance of literal afterlife.


Competition and Performance in the Marketplace for Religion: A Theoretical Perspective

Mukesh Eswaran
B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, March 2011

This paper, which contributes to the literature that rigorously models religious markets, offers a theoretical framework that incorporates demand and supply sides. The model can accommodate Adam Smith's view that competition may possibly improve on monopoly's performance and also David Hume's opposite view that, because the clergy have an incentive to distort the message of religion, monopoly might possibly improve on competition. Impacts on religiosity of greater diversity and of increased competition in the marketplace for religion are isolated. It is shown that while greater diversity benefits the devout (as claimed by "supply-side" theorists), increased competition dilutes spiritual standards by encouraging monetary donations at the expense of genuine piety. These opposing effects of diversity and competition help reconcile apparently contradictory empirical findings on the American religious market and also those suggesting European "exceptionalism."


Rap on 'l'Avenue'; Islam, aesthetics, authenticity and masculinities in the Tunisian rap scene

Dervla Sara Shannahan & Qurra Hussain
Contemporary Islam, April 2011, Pages 37-58

This paper presents research findings from fieldwork in the rap scene of Tunis. Although the scene is relatively small, especially when compared to its Algerian counterpart, the number of young men involved in rap is expanding rapidly, particularly with the internet as a networking and promoting tool. Throughout the discussion I explore some of the ways that (Sunni) Islam intersects with rap in the artists' lives, lyrics and identities, and the ways that their particular locatedness informs their position within what has been termed the 'transglobal hip hop nation'. Whilst interpreting religion has long been a contested area in Tunisia, it seems that rap here functions as a route to articulating alternative interpretations of Islam, ones which not only unite the artists but offer potential for pan-umma and transglobal connectivities. These potentialities resonate with the idea of a 'transglobal hip hop ummah' and provide the artists with arenas for personal, political, collective and spiritual expression.


Psalms and Coping with Uncertainty: Religious Israeli Women's Responses to the 2006 Lebanon War

Richard Sosis & Penn Handwerker
American Anthropologist, March 2011, Pages 40-55

Many scholars have argued that rituals serve to help individuals cope with challenges that arise under uncertain conditions. Ongoing research has been examining this claim with data collected on how Israeli women use psalm recitation to cope with the stress of war and terror. Here we compare the efficacy of psalm recitation among religious women who remained in northern Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War and women who relocated to central Israel, out of reach of Hizbollah Katyusha attacks. We show that psalm recitation is associated with lower rates of anxiety among women who remained in the north, but no such relationship was found among women who relocated outside of the warzone. We argue that psalm recitation reduces anxiety caused by the uncontrollable conditions of war but is ineffective at combating more mundane, controllable stressors. These findings will be discussed in light of Malinowski's theory of magic and related models.


The Etiology of Stability and Change in Religious Values and Religious Attendance

Tanya Button et al.
Behavior Genetics, March 2011, Pages 201-210

Studies have demonstrated little to no heritability for adolescent religiosity but moderate genetic, shared environmental, and nonshared environmental influences on adult religiosity. Only one longitudinal study of religiosity in female twins has been conducted (Koenig et al., Dev Psychol 44:532-543, 2008), and reported that persistence from mid to late adolescence is due to shared environmental factors, but persistence from late adolescence to early adulthood was due to genetic and shared environmental factors. We examined the etiology of stability and change in religious values and religious attendance in males and females during adolescence and early adulthood. The heritability of both religious values and religious attendance increased from adolescence to early adulthood, although the increase was greater for religious attendance. Both genetic and shared environmental influences contributed to the stability of religious values and religious attendance across adolescence and young adulthood. Change in religious values was due to both genetic and nonshared environmental influences specific to early adulthood, whereas change in religious attendance was due in similar proportions to genetic, shared environmental, and non-shared environmental influences.


Human Rights and Islamic Law: A Legal Analysis Challenging the Husband's Authority to Punish "Rebellious" Wives

Murad Elsaidi
Muslim World Journal of Human Rights, January 2011

Verse 4:34 of the Qur'an has historically been interpreted to give husbands authority over their wives. Even today, such as in a recent case in the United Arab Emirates, Islamic courts have held that the husband has some leeway in "disciplining" wives who act in a rebellious manner to their husbands. This article challenges this interpretation through a comprehensive legal analysis, taking into account (1) the context under which the verse came about, including the societal norms and conditions of the time; (2) the Prophet Muhammad's profound views against violence towards women; (3) the values of marriage emphasized in the Qur'an; (4) the Qur'an's incremental approach to improving social behavior and practice; and (5) the higher objectives of Islamic law.


A Critical Examination of Qur'an 4:34 and Its Relevance to Intimate Partner Violence in Muslim Families

Nada Ibrahim & Mohamad Abdalla
Journal of Muslim Mental Health, December 2010, Pages 327-349

This article examines Islam's position on wife beating in the context of intimate partner violence (IPV). Though research indicates multiple causes of IPV, Islam is often singled out as the main cause for violence against women in Muslim societies, based on the interpretation of Qur'an 4:34 (which seemingly supports wife beating). This verse is often interpreted out of context and Islam's position on IPV is confused with the issue of nushuz (contentiously translated as wife's disobedience, flagrant defiance, or misbehavior). The lack of accurate translations compounds the problem for English readers. This article critically examines the legal meanings and implications of nushuz found in verse 4:34 within the context of IPV. The authors contend that contextual understating of this is imperative for positive clinical engagement with Muslim clients.


The Role of Perceived Religious Similarity in the Quality of Mother-child Relations in Later Life: Differences Within Families and Between Races

Jori Sechrist, Jill Suitor, Nicholas Vargas & Karl Pillemer
Research on Aging, January 2011, Pages 3-27

Despite evidence of the importance of value similarity in predicting parent-adult child relations, little attention has been given to the unique role of religious similarity. Using 1,407 dyads nested within 390 families, the authors examine whether religious similarity predicts the quality of mother-child relations in later life and whether the strength of this association differs by race. Consistent with the authors' hypotheses, religious similarity was found to be an important factor in predicting both closeness and conflict, particularly in Black families. These findings suggest that it may be important to give greater attention to religion when studying patterns of interaction and support in the later years, especially among Black families.


Social Relationships in Religious Institutions and Healthy Lifestyles

Neal Krause, Benjamin Shaw & Jersey Liang
Health Education & Behavior, February 2011, Pages 25-38

The purpose of this study is to see if encouragement from fellow church members helps older people develop and maintain healthy lifestyles. The findings indicate that informal church-based support is associated with healthy lifestyles among older African Americans but not older Whites. In addition, the influence of support from fellow church members on health behaviors is greater for study participants who closely identify with their congregations. The results further reveal that the adoption of healthy lifestyles is not associated with support from people outside the church nor is it linked to formal programs that churches provide to encourage good health behaviors. The theoretical and practice implications of these results are discussed.

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