God help us all

Kevin Lewis

September 27, 2016

Education, Social Mobility, and Religious Movements: The Islamic Revival in Egypt

Christine Binzel & Jean-Paul Carvalho

Economic Journal, forthcoming

Muslim societies have been reshaped in recent decades by an Islamic revival. We document a contemporaneous decline in social mobility among educated youth in Egypt, the epicentre of the movement in the Arab world. We then develop a model to show how an unexpected decline in social mobility combined with inequality can produce a religious revival led by the educated middle class. The principal idea is that religion helps individuals to cope with unfulfilled aspirations by adjusting their expectations-based reference point. By raising aspirations, economic development may make societies more prone to religious revivals.


Does Religiosity Affect Support for Political Compromise?

Danny Cohen-Zada, Yotam Margalit & Oren Rigbi

International Economic Review, August 2016, Pages 1085–1106

Does religiosity affect adherents' attitude toward political compromise? To address this question and overcome the potential simultaneity of religious activity and political attitudes, we exploit exogenous variation in the start date of the Selichot (“Forgiveness”), a period in which many Jews, including nonadherents, take part in an intense prayer schedule. Using a two-wave survey, we find that an increase in the salience of religiosity leads to the adoption of more hard-line positions against a land-for-peace compromise. Examining several potential mechanisms for this attitudinal shift, our evidence points to the impact of the intensified prayer period on adherents' tolerance for risk.


Rationality and Belief in Human Evolution

Dan Kahan & Keith Stanovich

Yale Working Paper, September 2016

This paper examines two opposing theories of disbelief in evolution. One, the “bounded rationality” account, attributes disbelief to the inability of individuals to suppress the strongly held intuition that all functional systems, including living beings, originate in intentional agency. The other, the “expressive rationality” account, holds that positions on evolution arise from individuals’ tendency to form beliefs that signal their membership in and loyalty to identity-defining cultural groups. To assess the relative plausibility of these theories, the paper analyzes data on the relationship between study subjects’ beliefs in evolution, their religiosity, and their scores on the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT), a measure of critical-reasoning proficiencies including the disposition to interrogate intuitions in light of available evidence. Far from uniformly inclining individuals to believe in evolution, higher CRT scores magnified the division between relatively religious and relatively nonreligious study subjects. This result was inconsistent with the bounded rationality theory, which predicts that belief in evolution should increase in tandem with CRT scores for all individuals, regardless of cultural identity. It was more consistent with the expressive rationality theory, under which individuals of opposing cultural identities can be expected to use all the cognitive resources at their disposal to form identity-congruent beliefs. The paper discusses the implications for both the study of public controversy over evolution and the study of rationality and conflicts over scientific knowledge generally.


“I Was a Muslim, But Now I Am a Christian”: Preaching, Legitimation, and Identity Management in a Southern Evangelical Church

Gerardo Marti

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, June 2016, Pages 250–270

Established in 2005, “Life” is a suburban, nondenominational, evangelical church in Charlotte, North Carolina, with an almost entirely white membership, yet the lead pastor is an immigrant from the Middle East. As an ex-Muslim ethnic Pakistani who was born and raised in Kuwait, Pastor Sameer Khalid does not “fit” into southern culture, and he did not convert to Christianity until he was enrolled in college in the United States. Ethnographic data from 14 months of fieldwork reveal how Pastor Sameer uses weekly sermons to negotiate racialized stigmas, emphasize his common religious identity with the congregation, and make his immigrant background a distinctive religious resource for the church. More specifically, while all pastors require legitimation of their charismatic authority, this research focuses on the dynamics of performance through preaching within the Sunday morning services of this congregation, a performance that negotiates this lead pastor's ethnic and religious identities and accentuates his strategic use of institutionalized evangelical narratives to subvert Islamophobic threats and buttress legitimation of his pastoral identity.


Economic Freedom and Religion: An Empirical Investigation

Arye Hillman & Niklas Potrafke

Public Finance Review, forthcoming

There has been much study of the consequences of economic freedom but, outside of the role of political institutions, there has been little study of the determinants of economic freedom. We investigate whether religion affects economic freedom. Our cross-sectional data set includes 137 countries averaged over the period 2001–2010. Simple correlations show that Protestantism is associated with economic freedom, Islam is not, with Catholicism in between. The Protestant ethic requires economic freedom. Our empirical estimates, which include religiosity, political institutions, and other explanatory variables, confirm that Protestantism is most conducive to economic freedom.


An existential function of evil: The effects of religiosity and compromised meaning on belief in magical evil forces

Clay Routledge, Andrew Abeyta & Christina Roylance

Motivation and Emotion, October 2016, Pages 681–688

In three studies, we tested the assertion that the need for meaning motivates belief in magical evil forces. Believing that there are magical evil forces at work in the world, though unpleasant, may contribute to perceptions of meaning in life as the existence of such forces supports a broader meaning-providing religious worldview. We assessed religiosity, measured (Study 1) or manipulated (Study 2) perceptions of meaning, and assessed the extent to which participants attributed a murderer’s actions to magical evil causes (e.g., having a dark soul). Low levels of perceived meaning or experimentally threatened meaning were associated with a greater tendency to make magical evil attributions, but only among individuals reporting high levels of religiosity. In Study 3, we assessed religiosity, experimentally threatened perceptions of meaning, and measured general belief in magical evil forces. Meaning threat increased belief in magical evil, but only among those reporting high levels of religiosity.


The Perception of Atheists as Narcissistic

Julianna Dubendorff & Andrew Luchner

Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

Research into prejudice toward atheists has generally focused on broad characteristics. Some of these characteristics (i.e., self-centeredness, elitism, individualism, and immorality) indicate a possible prejudice of narcissism. To investigate this specific prejudice, the present study used the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin & Terry, 1988), the Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale (Hendin & Cheek, 1997), and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1983), which were adjusted so that the items of each measure were changed from first-person statements to third-person statements to measure participants’ perceptions. Participants (N = 359) were given a description of a fictitious individual named Alex, portrayed to them as either male or female and atheist or religious, or male or female with no additional information (creating 6 experimental groups), and then asked to complete the measures as they thought the individual would. Participants consistently rated atheists higher on narcissism measures and lower on empathy measures, indicating a perception of greater narcissism and a lack of empathy compared with religious individuals and controls. Participants’ perceptions of Alex were affected by his or her gender in conjunction with his or her religion, and the 2 variables of gender and religion interacted to create different patterns of perception. In general, interactions indicated differences in the way religion and gender impacted the perception of individuals as narcissistic, affecting perceptions of males more than females. The results are consistent with research findings that perceptions of atheists tend to be negative and prejudicial. This study highlights the need to compare perceptions with actual personality differences between atheists and religious individuals.


The Republicanization of evangelical Protestants in the United States: An examination of the sources of political realignment

Philip Schwadel

Social Science Research, forthcoming

Although the association between evangelical Protestant and Republican affiliations is now a fundamental aspect of American politics, this was not the case as recently as the early 1980s. Following work on secular political realignment and the issue evolution model of partisan change, I use four decades of repeated cross-sectional survey data to examine the dynamic correlates of evangelical Protestant and Republican affiliations, and how these factors promote changes in partisanship. Results show that evangelical Protestants have become relatively more likely to attend religious services and to oppose homosexuality, abortion, and welfare spending. Period-specific mediation models show that opposition to abortion, homosexuality, and welfare spending have become more robust predictors of Republican affiliation. By the twenty-first century, differences in Republican affiliation between evangelical Protestants and other religious affiliates are fully mediated by views of homosexuality, abortion, and welfare spending; and differences in Republican affiliation between evangelicals and the religiously unaffiliated are substantially mediated by views of homosexuality, abortion, welfare spending, and military spending. These results further understanding of rapid changes in politico-religious alignments and the increasing importance of moral and cultural issues in American politics, which supports a culture wars depiction of the contemporary political landscape.


Religion, Politics, and Americans’ Confidence in Science

Darren Sherkat

Politics and Religion, forthcoming

Americans’ perceptions of science are structured by overlapping cultural fields of politics and religion, and those cultural fields vary over time in how they influence opinion about science. This paper provides a historical narrative for understanding how religious and political factors influence public perceptions of science over the last four decades. Using data from the 1974–2012 General Social Survey, the impact of religious and political factors are examined and compared across decades using heterogeneous ordinal logistic regression models and ordinal structural equation models. Estimates show that the impact of sectarian Protestant identification and fundamentalist beliefs in the Bible are increasingly linked to lower levels of confidence in science, and that these religious factors also influence the impact of political conservatism and Republican Party identification. Political conservatism has become more oppositional towards science, and Republicans have become less enthusiastic compared to periods when science was primarily linked to militaristic endeavors.


Work Ethic, Social Ethic, no Ethic: Measuring the Economic Values of Modern Christians

Christopher Colvin & Matthew McCracken

Journal of Applied Econometrics, forthcoming

Benito Arruñada finds evidence of a distinct Protestant social ethic in the ISSP's 1998 Religion II Survey (Economic Journal 2010; 120: 890–918). We replicate Arruñada's results using his broad definition of Protestantism and our new narrow definition, which includes only those ascetic denominations that Max Weber singled out for possessing a strong capitalist work ethic. We then extend this analysis to the ISSP's 2008 Religion III Survey, the most recent comparable international questionnaire on religious attitudes and religious change. We find no evidence of a Calvinist work ethic, and suggest that Arruñada's Protestant social ethic continues into the 21st century.


Primed Analytic Thought and Religiosity: The Importance of Individual Characteristics

Julie Yonker et al.

Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

Analytic thought has been implicated in reduction of religious belief on the premise that intuitive cognitive systems facilitate religious belief and conscious inhibition encourages rejection of religious beliefs. Inherent in these studies are priming techniques to induce analytic thinking, resulting in reductions of religiosity and/or religious beliefs. The present study empirically reexamined the impact of priming analytic thought on intrinsic religiosity. In 2 randomized controlled experiments, we found little difference in intrinsic religiosity in control compared to analytic thinking prime conditions. When analytic thinking was primed, results were either unrelated to intrinsic religiosity or in opposite directions from those in previous research. Analytic thought primes led to higher intrinsic religiosity. All analyses statistically controlled for demographic characteristics. Our results suggest the relationship between analytic reasoning and intrinsic religiosity is more complex than previously suggested and establishes the importance of individual demographic characteristics for religiosity. Future research should engage measures that capture the nuances associated with religiosity.


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