Finding religion

Kevin Lewis

June 30, 2016

Association Between Religious Service Attendance and Lower Suicide Rates Among US Women

Tyler VanderWeele et al.

JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Design, Setting, and Participants: We evaluated associations between religious service attendance and suicide from 1996 through June 2010 in a large, long-term prospective cohort, the Nurses’ Health Study, in an analysis that included 89 708 women. Religious service attendance was self-reported in 1992 and 1996. Data analysis was conducted from 1996 through 2010.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to examine the association between religious service attendance and suicide, adjusting for demographic covariates, lifestyle factors, medical history, depressive symptoms, and social integration measures. We performed sensitivity analyses to examine the influence of unmeasured confounding.

Results: Among 89 708 women aged 30 to 55 years who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, attendance at religious services once per week or more was associated with an approximately 5-fold lower rate of suicide compared with never attending religious services (hazard ratio, 0.16; 95% CI, 0.06-0.46). Service attendance once or more per week vs less frequent attendance was associated with a hazard ratio of 0.05 (95% CI, 0.006-0.48) for Catholics but only 0.34 (95% CI, 0.10-1.10) for Protestants (P = .05 for heterogeneity). Results were robust in sensitivity analysis and to exclusions of persons who were previously depressed or had a history of cancer or cardiovascular disease. There was evidence that social integration, depressive symptoms, and alcohol consumption partially mediated the association among those occasionally attending services, but not for those attending frequently.

Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort of US women, frequent religious service attendance was associated with a significantly lower rate of suicide.


Religious Workers' Density and the Racial Earnings Gap

Fernando Lozano & Jessica Shiwen Cheng

American Economic Review, May 2016, Pages 355-359

We explore differences between Black and White Non-Hispanic workers in the relationship between childhood exposure to religious workers and a worker's labor market outcomes thirty years later. We identify this relationship by exploiting two sources of variation: we use changes in the number of religious workers within states, and we use states' differences by following workers who moved to a different state. Our results suggest that a one percent increase in the number of clergy increases the earnings of Black workers by a range from 0.027 to 0.082 percent relative to the increase in the earnings of White workers.


Taboo desires, creativity, and career choice

Nathan Hudson & Dov Cohen

Motivation and Emotion, June 2016, Pages 404-421

Two studies suggest that Protestants are more likely than Catholics or Jews to sublimate taboo desires into motives to pursue creative careers. The results are consistent with a synthesis of psychological and classic sociological theories. In Study 1, Protestants induced to have taboo sexual desires were likely to express a preference for creative careers (as opposed to prosocial ones). In Study 2, a national probability sample revealed that “conflicted” Protestants — who had taboo desires but tried to rule their sexual behavior according to their religious beliefs — worked in the most creative jobs. The effects in both studies did not hold for Catholics and Jews. Results suggest that intrapsychic conflict can partially motivate important real-world decisions, such as the choice to pursue a creative career.


Hunter-Gatherers and the Origins of Religion

Hervey Peoples, Pavel Duda & Frank Marlowe

Human Nature, forthcoming

Recent studies of the evolution of religion have revealed the cognitive underpinnings of belief in supernatural agents, the role of ritual in promoting cooperation, and the contribution of morally punishing high gods to the growth and stabilization of human society. The universality of religion across human society points to a deep evolutionary past. However, specific traits of nascent religiosity, and the sequence in which they emerged, have remained unknown. Here we reconstruct the evolution of religious beliefs and behaviors in early modern humans using a global sample of hunter-gatherers and seven traits describing hunter-gatherer religiosity: animism, belief in an afterlife, shamanism, ancestor worship, high gods, and worship of ancestors or high gods who are active in human affairs. We reconstruct ancestral character states using a time-calibrated supertree based on published phylogenetic trees and linguistic classification and then test for correlated evolution between the characters and for the direction of cultural change. Results indicate that the oldest trait of religion, present in the most recent common ancestor of present-day hunter-gatherers, was animism, in agreement with long-standing beliefs about the fundamental role of this trait. Belief in an afterlife emerged, followed by shamanism and ancestor worship. Ancestor spirits or high gods who are active in human affairs were absent in early humans, suggesting a deep history for the egalitarian nature of hunter-gatherer societies. There is a significant positive relationship between most characters investigated, but the trait “high gods” stands apart, suggesting that belief in a single creator deity can emerge in a society regardless of other aspects of its religion.


Religious Beliefs, Gender Consciousness, and Women’s Political Participation

Erin Cassese & Mirya Holman

Sex Roles, forthcoming

Organized religion affords the faithful a variety of civic skills that encourage political participation. Women are more religious than are men by most measures, but religious women do not participate in politics at elevated rates. This discrepancy suggests a puzzle: religion may have a different effect on the political mobilization of men and women. In the present paper, we explore the effect of biblical literalism — a widespread belief that the Bible is the actual word of God, to be taken literally — on political participation. Using the 2012 American National Election Study, we find support for our two hypotheses: (a) biblical literalism is associated with lower levels of gender consciousness, as measured by perceptions of discrimination and strength of ties to women as a group, and (b) reductions in these two factors account for lower political participation among women. Our findings provide new insights into the ways religious and gender identities intersect to influence political mobilization among women, with interesting implications for an American political climate where gender and religion both represent fundamental identities that shape political behavior.


A tale of minorities: Evidence on religious ethics and entrepreneurship

Luca Nunziata & Lorenzo Rocco

Journal of Economic Growth, June 2016, Pages 189-224

Does Protestantism favour entrepreneurship more than Catholicism does? We provide a novel way to answer this question by comparing Protestant and Catholic minorities using Swiss census data. Exploiting the strong adhesion of religious minorities to their denomination’ ethical principles and the historical determination of the geographical distribution of denominations across Swiss cantons, we find that Protestantism is associated with a significantly higher propensity for entrepreneurship. The estimated difference ranges between 1.5 and 3.2 % points, it is larger the smaller the size of the religious minority, it is mainly driven by prime age male entrepreneurs and it stands up to a number of robustness checks. No effects are found when comparing religious majorities, suggesting that the implications of religious ethical norms on economic outcomes emerge only when such norms are fully internalized.


Religiosity and the Cost of Debt

Hanwen Chen et al.

Journal of Banking & Finance, September 2016, Pages 70–85

In a cross-country setting, we document that stronger religiosity is associated with lower loan interest spread. In addition, we show that this negative association is more pronounced in countries with weaker creditor rights, suggesting that religious values play a more significant role in constraining opportunistic behavior in a weaker legal environment. Our analysis reveals that stronger religiosity is also related to other favorable terms in loan contracting, such as larger facility amount, use of accounting-based performance pricing, and lower upfront fee. Corroborating our cross-country findings, we also show that in the U.S. setting, firms in regions with stronger religiosity enjoy lower loan interest spread. Our study contributes to understanding the important role religiosity plays in debt financing.


Dimensions of religious involvement and leukocyte telomere length

Terrence Hill et al.

Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Although numerous studies suggest that religious involvement is associated with a wide range of favorable health outcomes, it is unclear whether this general pattern extends to cellular aging. In this paper, we tested whether leukocyte telomere length varies according to several dimensions of religious involvement. We used cross-sectional data from the Nashville Stress and Health Study (2011–2014), a large probability sample of 1252 black and white adults aged 22 to 69 living in Davidson County, TN, USA. Leukocyte telomere length was measured using the monochrome multiplex quantitative polymerase chain reaction method with albumin as the single-copy reference sequence. Dimensions of religious involvement included religiosity, religious support, and religious coping. Our multivariate analyses showed that religiosity (an index of religious attendance, prayer frequency, and religious identity) was positively associated with leukocyte telomere length, even with adjustments for religious support, religious coping, age, gender, race, education, employment status, income, financial strain, stressful life events, marital status, family support, friend support, depressive symptoms, smoking, heavy drinking, and allostatic load. Unlike religiosity, religious support and religious coping were unrelated to leukocyte telomere length across models. Depressive symptoms, smoking, heavy drinking, and allostatic load failed to explain any of the association between religiosity and telomere length. To our knowledge, this is the first population-based study to link religious involvement and cellular aging. Although our data suggest that adults who frequently attend religious services, pray with regularity, and consider themselves to be religious tend to exhibit longer telomeres than those who attend and pray less frequently and do not consider themselves to be religious, additional research is needed to establish the mechanisms underlying this association.


Does Viewing Pornography Diminish Religiosity Over Time? Evidence From Two-Wave Panel Data

Samuel Perry

Journal of Sex Research, forthcoming

Research consistently shows a negative association between religiosity and viewing pornography. While scholars typically assume that greater religiosity leads to less frequent pornography use, none have empirically examined whether the reverse could be true: that greater pornography use may lead to lower levels of religiosity over time. I tested for this possibility using two waves of the nationally representative Portraits of American Life Study (PALS). Persons who viewed pornography at all at Wave 1 reported more religious doubt, lower religious salience, and lower prayer frequency at Wave 2 compared to those who never viewed porn. Considering the effect of porn-viewing frequency, viewing porn more often at Wave 1 corresponded to increases in religious doubt and declining religious salience at Wave 2. However, the effect of earlier pornography use on later religious service attendance and prayer was curvilinear: Religious service attendance and prayer decline to a point and then increase at higher levels of pornography viewing. Testing for interactions revealed that all effects appear to hold regardless of gender. Findings suggest that viewing pornography may lead to declines in some dimensions of religiosity but at more extreme levels may actually stimulate, or at least be conducive to, greater religiosity along other dimensions.


Is Religious Fundamentalism a Dimensional or a Categorical Phenomenon? A Taxometric Analysis in Two Samples of Youth From Egypt and Saudi Arabia

Johannes Beller & Christoph Kröger

Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

To examine the latent status of religious fundamentalism, we analyzed 2 large samples of Muslim youth from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as gathered in the Youth, Emotional Energy, and Political Violence Survey. We sought to answer the following question: Is fundamentalism a dimensional or a categorical phenomenon? Equivalently, do fundamentalists represent an extreme of religious belief, or do they constitute their own category, differing from nonfundamentalists? Using taxometric methods, we found that religious fundamentalism seems to encompass differences in kind rather than degree. Hence, the results suggest that religious fundamentalists constitute their own qualitatively different category. These findings have important practical and theoretical implications regarding causality, labeling, and assessment.


Religious Heterogeneity and Fiscal Policy: Evidence from German Reunification

Ronny Freier, Benny Geys & Joshua Holm

Journal of Urban Economics, July 2016, Pages 1–12

Theoretical work based on social identity theory predicts that population diversity undermines redistributive public policies. This article tests this proposition exploiting an exogenous shock in diversity due to Germany’s reunification. In contrast to previous work on ethno-linguistic or racial heterogeneity, we specifically analyze religious diversity, which is an increasingly relevant social cleavage in many countries. Our main results corroborate that increasing religious diversity leads to a change in fiscal policies in Bavarian municipalities over the 1983-2005 period. Moreover, we find some evidence of declining individual-level local identification over the post-reunification period, which suggests that the observed fiscal effects are indeed linked to the theoretical mechanism of individuals’ social identification. Finally, we highlight an important mediating role for the democratic process, since the observed fiscal effects strengthen considerably following Bavarian municipalities’ first local elections after the reunification migration wave (March 1996) and a legal change allowing local referenda on public policies (October 1995).


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