God help us

Kevin Lewis

August 22, 2017

Religion, Repulsion, and Reaction Formation: Transforming Repellent Attractions and Repulsions
Dov Cohen, Emily Kim & Nathan Hudson
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Protestants were more likely than non-Protestants to demonstrate phenomena consistent with the use of reaction formation. Lab experiments showed that when manipulations were designed to produce taboo attractions (to unconventional sexual practices), Protestants instead showed greater repulsion. When implicitly conditioned to produce taboo repulsions (to African Americans), Protestants instead showed greater attraction. Supportive evidence from other studies came from clinicians’ judgments, defense mechanism inventories, and a survey of respondent attitudes. Other work showed that Protestants who diminished and displaced threatening affect were more likely to sublimate this affect into creative activities; the present work showed that Protestants who do not or cannot diminish or displace such threatening affect instead reverse it. Traditional individual difference variables showed little ability to predict reaction formation, suggesting that the observed processes go beyond what we normally study when we talk about self-control.

Religion and Judging on the Federal Courts of Appeals
Sepehr Shahshahani & Lawrence Liu
Princeton Working Paper, May 2017

We construct a database of federal appellate cases involving religious liberties decided between 2006 and 2015, expanding and improving an existing database covering up to 2005, and use it to investigate the role of religion in judicial decisionmaking. We find that Jewish judges are significantly more likely than their non-Jewish colleagues to favor claimants in religious liberties cases, but we find no significant effects for other minority religions. Our findings confirm previous findings in the literature, but we go a number of steps further than existing studies in uncovering the sources of Jewish judges' influence. We conclude that the effect of Jewish judges comes through their increased concern for the separation of church and state -- not through their heightened solicitude for the interests of religious minorities in practicing their religion or through preferential treatment of Jewish claimants. Further, our analysis of cases not involving religion shows that the pro-claimant effect of Jewish judges is attributable not to a general liberal attitude but to a particular secular concern for the separation of church and state. Finally, we are the first researchers to go beyond individual effects and investigate the panel effects of judges' religious affiliation. Our findings in this regard have suggestive implications for identifying mechanisms through which panel effects operate.

Not Practicing What You Preach: Religion and Incongruence Between Pornography Beliefs and Usage
Samuel Perry
Journal of Sex Research, forthcoming

Religious Americans, and conservative Protestants in particular, have historically been the most ardent opponents of pornography’s production, dissemination, and use. Yet while religiously committed and theologically conservative Americans are generally less likely to view pornography than others, the difference is often not as great or consistent as one might suppose given their strong moral stance. Drawing on insights from religious incongruence theory, this study considered whether religious commitment and theological conservatism predicted a greater incongruence between what Americans say they believe about pornography morally and whether they actually watch it. Data are taken from the nationally representative 2006 Portraits of American Life Study (N = 2,279). Analyses show that greater religious service attendance and prayer frequency are predictive of American men (not women) affirming that viewing pornography is “always morally wrong” while still viewing it in the previous year. Evangelicalism and other sectarian Protestantism are also the religious traditions most likely to believe pornography is always morally wrong while also viewing it. Findings ultimately suggest that religious commitment and affiliation with theological conservatism may influence Americans (primarily men) to oppose pornography more strongly in principle than reflected in actual practice. Data limitations and implications for future research are discussed.

We the (Christian) People: Christianity and American Identity from 1996 to 2014
Andrew Whitehead & Christopher Scheitle
Social Currents, forthcoming

Religious identity, and specifically Christian identity, has long been a dominant symbolic boundary marker for inclusion into American society. But how has the salience of this boundary marker changed in recent years and in comparison to other boundary markers? Using multiple waves of the General Social Survey, we investigate temporal variation in the use of religion and other markers in constructing symbolic boundaries around American identity. First, we find that the Christian symbolic boundary both increased from 1996 to 2004 and declined from 2004 to 2014. Second, this pattern was not unique; in addition to the Christian symbolic boundary, Americans used a variety of both civic and ascriptive boundary markers to define American identity. However, our analysis also demonstrates that in 2004, the Christian symbolic boundary was significantly linked to national identity in a unique way while the other boundary markers were not. These results suggest that period effects and cultural events can influence the salience of religion in creating national symbolic boundaries. We discuss each of these findings, their relationship to the study of symbolic boundaries and American identity, and their societal implications.

I Will Put My Law in Their Minds: Social Control and Cheating Behavior Among Catholics and Protestants
Alain Quiamzade et al.
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming

Catholics and Protestants differ in terms of social autonomy versus heteronomy. We propose that the regulation of behavior in accordance with social norms depends on the social control exercised by an authority for Catholics more than it does for Protestants. Two experiments measured cheating behavior (the transgression of a social norm) as a function of the religious group (Protestant vs. Catholic) and social control (with vs. without). Catholics were found to be more responsive to social control, that is, to cheat less when social control was salient, whereas Protestants' behavior did not depend on this dimension. In Study 2, intrinsic-extrinsic religiousness was found to mediate this difference. Results are discussed in the context of the effects of public policies based on social control.

Gender equality, value violations, and prejudice toward Muslims
Aaron Moss et al.
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Why are people prejudiced toward Muslims? In this research, we used a value violation framework to predict that when people believe Muslims value gender equality less than reference groups, it creates a value violation that leads to prejudice. In Study 1, people believed that Muslims value gender equality less than Christians, and the more people believed that Muslims do not value gender equality, the more they reported prejudice toward Muslims. In Study 2, we manipulated perceptions of how much Muslims value gender equality by giving people evidence that Muslims either do or do not support women’s rights. Afterward, we measured people’s prejudice toward Muslims and desire for social distance. Telling people that Muslims value gender equality reduced both prejudice and the desire for social distance. These effects occurred by increasing people’s beliefs that they share values with Muslims, highlighting the importance of values as a source of prejudice.

Information Shocks and Internet Silos: Evidence from Creationist Friendly Curriculum
Ananya Sen & Catherine Tucker
MIT Working Paper, July 2017

How the Internet affects the ability of its users to seek out information which either supports or contradicts their existing beliefs remains an open question. On the one hand, the Internet should be able to supply information which might correct falsifiable beliefs. On the other hand, as users control the manner of their search, they may find sources which support their beliefs, even if those beliefs go against the mainstream consensus. To examine this, we analyze the effect of the Louisiana Science Education Act (2008), which allowed the teaching of creationism as an alternative ‘theory’ to evolution in Louisiana schools, on students’ science test scores in nationally administered tests. Using detailed data on Louisiana schools, we employ a difference-in-differences strategy to document that science test scores declined after the law relative to schools in neighboring Texas. After the change in policy, Louisiana students were more likely to seek out information on the Internet using search terms which led them to web pages that reinforced a creationist message. The effect of the law was primarily driven by regions with high Internet penetration and low parental education levels.

Reallocation and Secularization: The Economic Consequences of the Protestant Reformation
Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar & Noam Yuchtman
University of California Working Paper, April 2017

The Protestant Reformation, beginning in 1517, was both a shock to the market for religion and a first-order economic shock. We study its impact on the allocation of resources between the religious and secular sectors in Germany, collecting data on the allocation of human and physical capital. While Protestant reformers aimed to elevate the role of religion, we find that the Reformation produced rapid economic secularization. The interaction between religious competition and political economy explains the shift in investments in human and fixed capital away from the religious sector. Large numbers of monasteries were expropriated during the Reformation, particularly in Protestant regions. This transfer of resources shifted the demand for labor between religious and secular sectors: graduates from Protestant universities increasingly entered secular occupations. Consistent with forward-looking behavior, students at Protestant universities shifted from the study of theology toward secular degrees. The appropriation of resources by secular rulers is also reflected in construction: during the Reformation, religious construction declined, particularly in Protestant regions, while secular construction increased, especially for administrative purposes. Reallocation was not driven by pre-existing economic or cultural differences.

The Protestant Fiscal Ethic: Religious Confession and Euro Skepticism in Germany
Adrian Chadi & Matthias Krapf
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

During the European sovereign debt crisis, most countries that ran into fiscal trouble had Catholic majorities, whereas countries with Protestant majorities were able to avoid fiscal problems. We find that Christian-conservative members of the German parliament from constituencies with higher shares of Protestants were more likely to vote against a third bailout for Greece. Survey data show that views on the euro differ between German Protestants and non-Protestants at the individual level, too. Among Protestants, concerns about the euro have, compared to non-Protestants, increased during the crisis. We show that this increase in concern is linked to a reduction of Protestants' subjective well-being. We use the timing of survey interviews and news events in 2011 to account for the endogeneity of euro concerns. Emphasis on moral hazard concerns in Protestant theology may, thus, still shape economic preferences.

An empirical note on the long-run relationship between education and religiosity in Christian countries
Dierk Herzer
B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, forthcoming

The economics of religion is a relatively new field of research in economics. This note examines whether and how permanent changes in religiosity, measured by church attendance, in the long run are affected by permanent changes in education, measured by three categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary education. Applying panel cointegration techniques to data from 20 Christian countries over the period 1925–1990, it is found that (i) only secondary education has a long-run relationship with religiosity, while there is no long-run relationship between religiosity and primary and tertiary education; (ii) secondary education has a strong negative long-run influence on religiosity; and (iii) long-run causality is unidirectional from secondary education to religiosity.

In God we trust? Neural measures reveal lower social conformity among non-religious individuals
Ravi Thiruchselvam et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, June 2016, Pages 956-964

Even in predominantly religious societies, there are substantial individual differences in religious commitment. Why is this? One possibility is that differences in social conformity (i.e. the tendency to think and behave as others do) underlie inclination towards religiosity. However, the link between religiosity and conformity has not yet been directly examined. In this study, we tested the notion that non-religious individuals show dampened social conformity, using both self-reported and neural (EEG-based ERPs) measures of sensitivity to others’ influence. Non-religious vs religious undergraduate subjects completed an experimental task that assessed levels of conformity in a domain unrelated to religion (i.e. in judgments of facial attractiveness). Findings showed that, although both groups yielded to conformity pressures at the self-report level, non-religious individuals did not yield to such pressures in their neural responses. These findings highlight a novel link between religiosity and social conformity, and hold implications for prominent theories about the psychological functions of religion.

Sectarianism and Social Conformity: Evidence from Egypt
Steven Brooke
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Why might citizens adopt exaggerated public antagonism toward outgroups? When this is so, how much do public and private attitudes diverge? I argue that expanding exclusionary rhetoric against outgroups can create social pressures that incentivize ordinary citizens to adopt bigoted attitudes to avoid ostracism from their own majority community. Based on an investigation of Egypt during the Arab Spring, I identify the emergence and diffusion of a norm of discrimination against the country’s tiny Shi’a population. Under these conditions, a substantial portion of Sunni citizens adopted and countenanced anti-Shi’a bigotry not because they truly believed it, but rather because they feared the consequences of expressing public support for coexistence. A variety of qualitative evidence traces the growth of anti-Shi’a sentiment during this period, while original survey data show that over 80 percent of Sunni respondents openly expressed anti-Shi’a attitudes. Yet when asked about their attitudes via an item count technique, a method that grants a reprieve from social pressures, the percentage of respondents expressing discriminatory views toward the Shi’a dropped to just over 40 percent. One implication is that sectarian attitudes in the region are as much the product of malleable social and political pressures as deeply rooted preferences.

The Religious Observance of Ramadan and Prosocial Behavior
Ernan Haruvy, Christos Ioannou & Farnoush Golshirazi
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

We investigate experimentally the impact on prosocial behavior of the religious observance of Ramadan. Our sample consists of male factory workers in a manufacturing facility in a Muslim country. In our between-subjects' design, each worker is asked to allocate an amount of money between himself and a stranger. Specifically, we examine behavior of observants and nonobservants before and after the daily break of the Ramadan fast. We also examine behavior outside of Ramadan, where we treat alimentary abstention as akin to a long fasting period. We hypothesize and confirm that outside Ramadan, decision makers who abstain from any alimentary intake transfer less money to recipients relative to decision makers who do not abstain. Strikingly, this effect is reversed during the month of Ramadan. Specifically, observant workers who are in the midst of their Ramadan fast are far more generous to recipients than workers who have had their evening meal. Interestingly, observant and nonobservant workers after the daily break of the Ramadan fast and workers outside Ramadan that consumed aliments make statistically similar transfers. Our findings suggest that it is the interaction between alimentary abstention and religious observance that amplifies prosocial behavior during Ramadan, where fasting is part of the ritual.

Secular Tolerance? Anti-Muslim Sentiment in Western Europe
Egbert Ribberink, Peter Achterberg & Dick Houtman
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming

The literature about secularization proposes two distinct explanations of anti-Muslim sentiment in secularized societies. The first theory understands it in terms of religious competition between Muslims and the remaining minority of orthodox Protestants; the second understands it as resulting from value conflicts between Muslims and the nonreligious majority. The two theories are tested by means of a multilevel analysis of the European Values Study 2008. Our findings indicate that, although more secularized countries are on average more tolerant towards Muslims and Islam, strongest anti-Muslim attitudes are nonetheless found among the nonreligious in these countries.

Elite Influence? Religion and the Electoral Success of the Nazis
Jörg Spenkuch & Philipp Tillmann
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

In Weimar Germany, the Catholic Church vehemently warned ordinary parishioners about the dangers of extremist parties. We establish that constituencies' religious composition is a key empirical predictor of Nazi vote shares — dwarfing the explanatory power of any other demographic or socioeconomic variable. Even after carefully accounting for observational differences, Catholics were far less likely to vote for the NSDAP than their Protestant counterparts. The evidence suggests that this disparity was, in large part, due to the sway of the Catholic Church and its dignitaries. At the same time, we show that attempts to immunize Catholics against the radical left failed to achieve the desired result. To explain the puzzling asymmetry in the Church's influence at the ballot box, we develop a simple theoretical framework of elite influence in electoral politics.

The Future of Secularism: A Biologically Informed Theory Supplemented with Cross-Cultural Evidence
Lee Ellis et al.
Evolutionary Psychological Science, September 2017, Pages 224–242

For over a century, social scientists have predicted declines in religious beliefs and their replacement with more scientific/naturalistic outlooks, a prediction known as the secularization hypothesis. However, skepticism surrounding this hypothesis has been expressed by some researchers in recent decades. After reviewing the pertinent evidence and arguments, we examined some aspects of the secularization hypothesis from what is termed a biologically informed perspective. Based on large samples of college students in Malaysia and the USA, religiosity, religious affiliation, and parental fertility were measured using self-reports. Three religiosity indicators were factor analyzed, resulting in an index for religiosity. Results reveal that average parental fertility varied considerably according to religious groups, with Muslims being the most religious and the most fertile and Jews and Buddhists being the least. Within most religious groupings, religiosity was positively associated with parental fertility. While cross-sectional in nature, when our results are combined with evidence that both religiosity and fertility are substantially heritable traits, findings are consistent with view that earlier trends toward secularization (due to science education surrounding advancements in science) are currently being counter-balanced by genetic and reproductive forces. We also propose that the inverse association between intelligence and religiosity, and the inverse correlation between intelligence and fertility lead to predictions of a decline in secularism in the foreseeable future. A contra-secularization hypothesis is proposed and defended in the discussion. It states that secularism is likely to undergo a decline throughout the remainder of the twenty-first century, including Europe and other industrial societies.

Muslims’ tolerance towards outgroups: Longitudinal evidence for the role of respect
Bernd Simon & Christoph Daniel Schaefer
British Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

We employed a longitudinal design to test two hypotheses concerning Muslims’ respect for and tolerance towards disapproved outgroups. In support of the outgroup respect–tolerance hypothesis derived from the disapproval–respect model of social tolerance, our results strongly suggest that respect for disapproved outgroups is not just a correlate of tolerance towards those groups, but a causal antecedent. In support of the intergroup respect–reciprocity hypothesis, we identified respect from disapproved outgroups as an effective source of respect for disapproved outgroups and therefore also as a (distal) source of tolerance towards those groups. Normative and political implications are discussed.

Global evidence of extreme intuitive moral prejudice against atheists
Will Gervais et al.
Nature Human Behaviour, August 2017

Mounting evidence supports long-standing claims that religions can extend cooperative networks. However, religious prosociality may have a strongly parochial component. Moreover, aspects of religion may promote or exacerbate conflict with those outside a given religious group, promoting regional violence, intergroup conflict and tacit prejudice against non-believers. Anti-atheist prejudice — a growing concern in increasingly secular societies — affects employment, elections, family life and broader social inclusion. Preliminary work in the United States suggests that anti-atheist prejudice stems, in part, from deeply rooted intuitions about religion’s putatively necessary role in morality. However, the cross-cultural prevalence and magnitude — as well as intracultural demographic stability — of such intuitions, as manifested in intuitive associations of immorality with atheists, remain unclear. Here, we quantify moral distrust of atheists by applying well-tested measures in a large global sample (N = 3,256; 13 diverse countries). Consistent with cultural evolutionary theories of religion and morality, people in most — but not all — of these countries viewed extreme moral violations as representative of atheists. Notably, anti-atheist prejudice was even evident among atheist participants around the world. The results contrast with recent polls that do not find self-reported moral prejudice against atheists in highly secular countries, and imply that the recent rise in secularism in Western countries has not overwritten intuitive anti-atheist prejudice. Entrenched moral suspicion of atheists suggests that religion’s powerful influence on moral judgements persists, even among non-believers in secular societies.

Conservative Protestantism and Horizontal Stratification in Education: The Case of College Selectivity
Jeremy Uecker & Lisa Pearce
Social Forces, forthcoming

College selectivity is associated with numerous positive life outcomes, but research on the antecedents of college selectivity, including religion, is limited — despite a long tradition of religion and stratification research. Using survey data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 2,093) and semi-structured interviews from the National Study of Youth and Religion (N = 46), we test for and explain differences in the college selectivity of students from conservative Protestant (CP) religious backgrounds compared to others. We hypothesize that CPs attend less selective colleges than other young adults, and that this may especially be the case among women. Our quantitative findings suggest CPs do attend less selective colleges, and the difference is greater among those with better high school GPAs. However, these differences are nonexistent for men once background factors are controlled. CP women attend less selective colleges than other women — a difference that is even larger among women with higher academic ability. Our qualitative findings suggest that these differences stem from young women’s different understandings of the purposes of college (general self-betterment versus human capital investment), which relate to unique strategies for balancing work and family, enacting altruism, and achieving self-satisfaction. These findings show the continued link between religion and stratification and, more broadly, culture and stratification.

Where, O death, is thy sting? The meaning-providing function of beliefs in literal immortality
Daryl Van Tongeren et al.
Mental Health, Religion & Culture, forthcoming

Terror management theory suggests that humans invest in cultural worldviews that allay mortality-related anxiety by promising death transcendence. Many religious individuals adhere to belief in literal immortality – believing that one will live on after death. Across two studies (n = 1137), we explored the terror management function of such beliefs by exploring whether these beliefs are associated with lower death anxiety and greater meaning among individuals of varying religiousness. In both Study 1 (n = 236) and Study 2 (n = 901), belief in literal immortality was related to lower death anxiety only among intrinsically religious participants. Moreover, meaning in life mediated the relationship between belief in literal immortality and death anxiety. Study 2 clarified that this mediational relationship was only present for intrinsically religious individuals. We discuss the importance of particular religious beliefs in the provision of meaning in order to manage existential concerns.


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