Preaching democracy: The second Vatican council and the third wave
Thomas Barnebeck Andersen & Peter Sandholt Jensen
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming
We use variation in religious doctrine produced by the unexpected Second Vatican Council (1962–65) to investigate the impact of religion on democratization. The Council, which transformed the Catholic Church from defender of the ancien régime into a leading apostle of religious freedom, human rights and democracy, represents the most significant example of institutionalized religious change since the Protestant Reformation. We adopt a difference-in-difference approach to estimate the Council's impact on democracy. Furthermore, we provide historical narratives on how the post-conciliar Catholic Church influenced the democratization process in different national contexts. Our research substantiates that the Church played a decisive role in third wave democratization.
Bringing the Church Back In: Ecclesiastical Influences on the Rise of Europe
Politics and Religion, June 2019, Pages 213-226
Recently, political scientists and economists have redoubled their attempts to understand the “Rise of Europe.” However, the role of the Catholic Church has been curiously ignored in most of this new research. The medieval West was shot through with Catholic values and institutions, and only by factoring in the Church can we understand the peculiar European development from the high Middle Ages onward. More particularly, the 11th century “crisis of church and state” set in train a series of developments that were crucial for the Rise of Europe. The Church was the main locale in which the development of representation, consent, and early bureaucratic institutions took place, and it contributed to creating, integrating, and maintaining the European multistate system. This note demonstrates that current scholarship has failed to factor in ecclesiastical influences and it shows how these gaps can be filled by a more careful reading of prior historical scholarship.
Zakat: Islam’s Missed Opportunity to Limit Predatory Taxation
Duke University Working Paper, April 2019
One of Islam’s five canonical pillars is a predictable, fixed, and mildly progressive tax system called zakat. It was meant to finance various causes typical of a pre-modern government. Implicit in the entire transfer system was personal property rights as well as constraints on government—two key elements of a liberal order. Those features could have provided the starting point for broadening political liberties under a state with explicitly restricted functions. Instead, just a few decades after the rise of Islam, zakat opened the door to arbitrary political rule and material insecurity. A major reason is that the Quran outlines the specifics of zakat as they related to conditions in seventh-century Arabia, without making explicit the underlying principles of governance.
Praying for Justice: The World Council of Churches and the Program to Combat Racism
Journal of Cold War Studies, Winter 2019, Pages 66-96
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, individuals around the world, particularly those in newly decolonized African countries, called on churches, both Protestant and Catholic, to rethink their mission and the role of Christianity in the world. This article explores these years and how they played out in Angola. A main forum for global discussion was the World Council of Churches (WCC), an ecumenical society founded alongside the United Nations after World War II. In 1968 the WCC devised a Program to Combat Racism (PCR), with a particular focus on southern Africa. The PCR's approach to combating racism proved controversial. The WCC began supporting anti-colonial organizations against white minority regimes, even though many of these organizations relied on violence. Far from disavowing violent groups, the PCR's architects explicitly argued that, at times, violent action was justified. Much of the PCR funding went to Angolan revolutionary groups and to individuals who had been educated in U.S. and Canadian foreign missions. The article situates global conversations within local debates between missionaries and Angolans about the role of the missions in the colonial project and the future of the church in Africa.
Does Meaning Motivate Magical Thinking Among Theists and Atheists?
Taylor Nelson, Andrew Abeyta & Clay Routledge
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming
Past research indicates that existential threats related to meaning in life increase religious-related magical beliefs (e.g., belief in God). The present three studies examined more broadly whether threatened meaning influences magical ideation and beliefs among atheists and theists. Amazon Mechanical Turk (N = 1,454) and student participants (N = 50) were randomly assigned to a meaning threat or control condition and then completed measures of magical ideation and beliefs. Across three studies (N = 1,504), we did not find experimental evidence that threatened meaning increases magical ideation and beliefs. However, in Study 3, we also examined the link between the meaning motive and magical ideation and beliefs using an individual difference approach and found that the need for meaning was a significant predictor of magical ideation and beliefs, particularly among atheists.
Sins of the flesh: Subliminal disapproval by God or people decreases endorsement of hedonistic sex
Christopher Burris, John Rempel & Tabitha Viscontas
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming
Two experiments used subliminal priming to assess the impact of implied divine or human audiences on endorsement of motives for engaging in sexual behavior. In Study 1, neither “God is watching” nor “People are watching” shifted endorsement of sexual motives compared to neutral or “No one’s watching” primes. In Study 2, subliminal disapproval (whether “God is frowning” or “People are frowning”) decreased endorsement of having sex for personal gratification purposes and, among the religiously affiliated, increased endorsement of having sex for reproductive purposes. Thus, the results offer some evidence that the threat of supernatural punishment suppresses selfishness, but no evidence of the hypothesized impact of supernatural rewards or simple supernatural monitoring. The comparable impact of subliminal disapproval by God and people suggests that these effects may be driven by rudimentary social exclusion concerns.