Kevin Lewis

March 23, 2021

Long live A(me)rica! An examination of the interplay between nationalistic-symbolic immortality striving and belief in life after death
Andy Scott, Jeff Schimel & Michael Sharp
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Terror management theory (TMT) proposes that the awareness of our eventual death is at odds with our evolved desire to live and that humans attempt to resolve this psychological conflict by investing in cultural worldviews that grant symbolic or literal immortality. The present studies examine the interplay between symbolic and literal immortality striving. Three studies show that, following a death reminder, only individuals who did not have a route to literal immortality (belief in an afterlife) increased how long they believe their culture (Canada in Studies 1 and 2, the United States in Study 3), will last by thousands of years. Study 4 demonstrated that this moderation effect cannot be explained by general religiosity; Study 5 conceptually replicated this finding using a different measure of perceived cultural longevity. Finally, Study 6 demonstrates that for those who were highly invested in their nation but did not believe in an afterlife, perceived cultural longevity was associated with decreased death anxiety. These results are consistent with the notion that people possess a primary path to immortality that follows directly from their worldview. The need for increased specificity in study design in TMT and the threat and defense literature more broadly is discussed.

Unchurched Christian Nationalism and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
Samuel Stroope et al.
Sociological Forum, forthcoming


Prior research found that Christian nationalism was strongly associated with voting for Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, the effects of Christian nationalism may depend on voters’ religiosity. Using national data, we assess whether the association between Christian nationalism and Trump support differed for churchgoers and nonchurchgoers and find that Christian nationalism is not significantly associated with Trump support among churchgoing voters. Instead, Christian nationalism is only significantly associated with Trump support among unchurched voters. These results suggest that while religious sentiments remain key correlates of political attitudes and behavior in the United States, these ties may have less to do with embeddedness in traditional religious organizations and more to do with the ways people use religious narratives in everyday life to construct and defend symbolic boundaries. At a time when fewer Americans attend religious services, religious narratives about Christian nationhood may have their strongest political effects when, and perhaps because, they are detached from religious institutions.

Christian Nationalism and Views of Immigrants in the United States: Is the Relationship Stronger for the Religiously Inactive?
Samuel Stroope, Heather Rackin & Paul Froese
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, February 2021


Previous research has shown that Christian nationalism is linked to nativism and immigrant animus, while religious service attendance is associated with pro-immigrant views. The findings highlight the importance of distinguishing between religious ideologies and practices when considering how religion affects politics. Using a national sample of U.S. adults, we analyze immigrant views by measuring levels of agreement or disagreement that undocumented immigrants from Mexico are “mostly dangerous criminals.” We find that Christian nationalism is inversely related to pro-immigrant views for both the religiously active and inactive. However, strongly pro-immigrant views are less likely and anti-immigrant views are more likely among strong Christian nationalists who are religiously inactive compared with strong Christian nationalists who are religiously active. These results illustrate how religious nationalism can weaken tolerance and heighten intolerance most noticeably when untethered from religious communities.

From Christ to Compassion: The Changing Language of Pastoral Care
John Bernau
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming


The rise of neurology, psychology, and psychiatry over the last 100 years has challenged the clergy's historical monopoly on dealing with “personal problems” and mental well‐being. In this study, I document the changing language of pastoral care by analyzing over seventy years of academic articles in the Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling (N = 4,054) using structural topic modeling. Ultimately, I reveal a linguistic shift from the universal to the particular as pastoral care professionals drop language of human nature and morality for that of individual narratives. I also find a decline of overtly religious language since the 1950s in favor of a more ecumenical language of spirituality, hope, and presence. Both of these trends take place alongside a push for “evidence‐based” pastoral care. Together, these linguistic shifts offer insight into a seventy‐year struggle to provide authentic religious care in a world of competing alternatives.

Religiosity is associated with a more feminine intelligence profile: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, 1979
Edward Dutton & Gerhard Meisenberg
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming


Many studies have found a small negative correlation between religiousness and intelligence measured by IQ tests, and many others have found that females are more religious than males. Still other studies have demonstrated that the IQ profile of females is different from that of males, with females tending to be higher than males in some abilities and lower in others. This raises the intriguing question of whether religiousness may be correlated with a more stereotypically female intelligence profile. We tested whether this was the case using the NLSY 79 (N = 12,686). The NLSY shows that religiousness, using the proxy of regular church attendance, is not only higher among females but is also associated with a female profile of abilities even among males (r = 0.92). We argue that this is potentially consistent with evidence that Autism Spectrum Disorder is negatively associated with religiosity.

Attitudes, behavior, and institutional inversion: The case of debt
Dov Cohen, Faith Shin & Robert Lawless
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Psychologists often posit relatively straightforward attitude-behavior links. They also often study cultural arrangements as manifestations of attitudes and values writ large. However, we illustrate some difficulties with scaling up attitude-behavior principles from the individual-level to the cultural-level: Historical attitudes and values can lead to the creation of intermediating institutions, whose value-expressive functions may be at odds with the behavioral outcomes they produce. Through “institutional inversion,” institutions may facilitate rather than inhibit stigmatized behavior. Here we examine attitudes and behavior related to debt, contrast historically Protestant versus Catholic places, and show how cultural attitudes against debt may lead to the creation of institutions that increase — rather than decrease — borrowing. Historical antidebt attitudes in Protestant places have led to contemporary households in Protestant cultures now carrying the highest debt loads. We discuss the importance of supply side factors, attitude → institutions → behavior causal chains, and some blind spots that lead to unintended consequences.

Explaining anti-atheist discrimination in the workplace: The role of intergroup threat
Kimberly Rios, Leah Halper & Christopher Scheitle
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming


Based on the common ingroup identity model and Intergroup Threat Theory, as well as the fact that atheists are among the most stigmatized groups in the U.S., the present experiments tested whether and why people would be less willing to accommodate atheist (relative to Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) employees’ religion-related requests in the workplace. In three studies, participants responded to vignettes depicting an employee who requested to express his/her religious beliefs (or lack thereof) at work — for example, by displaying a quote at his/her cubicle or wearing a pin with a religious (or non-religious) symbol. As predicted, participants were especially unlikely to honor the atheist employees’ requests; this effect was driven by participants’ perceptions that the atheist employees posed a symbolic threat (i.e., were trying to impose their beliefs onto others; Studies 2–3) and, to a lesser extent, a realistic threat (i.e., jeopardized the organization’s economic status and resources; Study 3) in the workplace. Though the effects of participant religiosity were inconsistent across studies, the tendency for reluctance to accommodate the atheist employees’ requests was slightly stronger among religious than non-religious participants. Implications for how anti-atheist bias at work arises and can be mitigated are discussed.

The Origins of Religious Disbelief: A Dual Inheritance Approach
Will Gervais, Maxine Najle & Nava Caluori
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Widespread religious disbelief represents a key testing ground for theories of religion. We evaluated the predictions of three prominent theoretical approaches — secularization, cognitive byproduct, and dual inheritance — in a nationally representative (United States, N = 1,417) data set with preregistered analyses and found considerable support for the dual inheritance perspective. Of key predictors of religious disbelief, witnessing fewer credible cultural cues of religious commitment was the most potent, β = .28, followed distantly by reflective cognitive style, β = .13, and less advanced mentalizing, β = .05. Low cultural exposure predicted about 90% higher odds of atheism than did peak cognitive reflection, and cognitive reflection only predicted disbelief among those relatively low in cultural exposure to religion. This highlights the utility of considering both evolved intuitions and transmitted culture and emphasizes the dual roles of content- and context-biased social learning in the cultural transmission of disbelief.

Faith and Assimilation: Italian Immigrants in the US
Stefano Gagliarducci & Marco Tabellini
Harvard Working Paper, February 2021


We study the effects of religious organizations on immigrants' assimilation. We focus on the arrival of Italian Catholic churches in the US between 1900 and 1920, when four million Italians had moved to America, and anti-Catholic sentiments were widespread. We combine newly collected Catholic directories on the presence of Italian churches across years and counties with the full count US Census of Population. We find that Italian churches reduced the social assimilation of Italian immigrants, lowering intermarriage rates and increasing ethnic residential segregation. We find no evidence that this was the result of either lower effort exerted by immigrants to ``fit in'' the American society or increased desire to vertically transmit national culture. Instead, we provide evidence for other two, non-mutually exclusive, mechanisms. First, Italian churches raised the frequency of interactions among fellow Italians, likely generating peer effects and reducing contact with other groups. Second, they increased the salience of the immigrant community among natives, thereby triggering backlash and discrimination.

From Patañjali to the “Gospel of Sweat”: Yoga’s Remarkable Transformation from a Sacred Movement into a Thriving Global Market
Kamal Munir, Shahzad (Shaz) Ansari & Deborah Brown
Administrative Science Quarterly, forthcoming


Movements seeking to infuse markets with moral values often end up utilizing the market mechanism and support from mainstream actors to scale up, even if it comes at the cost of diluting their founding ethos. But this process can be particularly challenging for movements that are explicitly opposed to using a market mechanism as a means of scaling up. Our analysis of yoga between 1975 and 2016 reveals how a countercultural movement fundamentally opposed to a capitalist market economy but seeking to grow can paradoxically become syncretic with or infiltrated by concepts and beliefs that are core to the market system but incompatible with the movement’s original ethos. We show how, before such a movement can be commodified, it must be de-essentialized, a process that requires stripping away key aspects of its history, context, and religious commitments and transforming collective goals into individual ones. This process involves not only external entrepreneurs looking to mine the movement but also movement leaders seeking wider enrollment of resource-rich actors to scale the movement up. We show how codes borrowed from parallel movements and templates borrowed from markets can be instrumental in driving such a movement’s transformation. Through this extreme case of the yoga movement, we advance understandings of how movements can become syncretic with values and practices they fundamentally oppose.

Sensing the presence of gods and spirits across cultures and faiths
Tanya Marie Luhrmann et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2 February 2021


Hearing the voice of God, feeling the presence of the dead, being possessed by a demonic spirit — such events are among the most remarkable human sensory experiences. They change lives and in turn shape history. Why do some people report experiencing such events while others do not? We argue that experiences of spiritual presence are facilitated by cultural models that represent the mind as “porous,” or permeable to the world, and by an immersive orientation toward inner life that allows a person to become “absorbed” in experiences. In four studies with over 2,000 participants from many religious traditions in the United States, Ghana, Thailand, China, and Vanuatu, porosity and absorption played distinct roles in determining which people, in which cultural settings, were most likely to report vivid sensory experiences of what they took to be gods and spirits.


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