Putting Politics First: The Impact of Politics on American Religious and Secular Orientations
David Campbell et al.
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming
Nearly all research on the political impact of Americans’ religious and secular orientations assumes that such orientations are exogenous to politics. Using multiwave panel and experimental data, we find that religious and secular orientations are endogenous to political orientations. In other words, religion and secularism are a consequence as well as a cause of politics. In showing this, we make three major contributions. First, we conceptualize and measure secular orientations in a new way - not just as the absence of religion, but also as an affirmative secular identity and positive commitment to secular principles. Second, our panel and experimental data allow for the most definitive test to date of whether political orientations exert a causal effect on religious and secular orientations. Third, we isolate the conditions under which politics affects religious-secular perspectives, thus identifying the mechanism that underlies political orientations.
Enforcing Christian Nationalism: Examining the Link Between Group Identity and Punitive Attitudes in the United States
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming
This article examines whether the convergence of an individual's religious and national identities promotes authoritarian attitudes towards crime and deviance. Drawing on theories of social control and group conformity, as well as Christian nationalism's influence on intolerance toward out‐groups, I argue that the inability to distinguish between religious and national identities increases desire for group homogeneity and therefore increases willingness to utilize formalized measures of social control. Analysis of 2007 Baylor Religion Survey data demonstrates that adherence to Christian nationalism predicts three indicators of authoritarian views toward controlling crime and deviance: support for capital punishment, stricter punishment for federal crime, and for society to “crackdown on troublemakers.” These effects are robust to the inclusion of a comprehensive battery of 20 socioeconomic, political, and religious controls, and are consistent with previous research on Christian nationalism showing it is not religious commitment or traditionalism per se that leads to intolerant attitudes, but rather the conflation of one's religious identity with other social identities, in this case national. These findings indicate that, beyond sociopolitical and religious influences, the belief that the United States is, and should be, a “Christian nation” increases desires for group conformity and strict control for both criminals and “troublemakers.”
More religious, less dogmatic: Toward a general framework for gender differences in religion
Social Science Research, forthcoming
Gender gaps in religiosity are among the most consistent findings in the social sciences. The literature, however, has typically under-emphasized gender theory, paid insufficient attention to variation across different contexts, and failed to consider styles of religious expression. This study draws on gender theory, brings religion and political attitudes research into dialogue, and explores potential gender differences in religious dogmatism (e.g., religious absolutism, exclusivity, and intolerance). Using U.S. data from the Baylor Religion Survey and cross-national data from the International Social Survey Programme, I demonstrate that women are generally more religious, but less dogmatic. As expected based on gender theory, however, the patterns I uncover are not universal and vary by societal context (i.e., Christian vs. non-Christian nations). I argue that religion appears to be a gendered sphere like any other in which we express our gendered selves, and that gender gaps in religion are the result not of essential differences, but of context-specific gender regimes, religion regimes, and the simultaneous “doing” of both gender and religion.
God, Party, and the Poor: How Politics and Religion Interact to Affect Economic Justice Attitudes
Robert Thomson & Paul Froese
Sociological Forum, April 2018, Pages 334-353
Moral attitudes justifying economic inequality are often embedded within conservative religion and politics in the United States, even as traditional Christian values assert the need for compassion toward the poor. Using the Baylor Religion Survey, we assessed the role of religion in influencing partisan attitudes about poverty, finding that Republicans not only oppose federal policy aimed toward redistribution of wealth but also articulate less of a personal moral obligation to help the poor. However, Republicans who believe in a highly engaged God are strikingly similar to Democrats on these economic justice issues, suggesting that some types of religion do make conservatives more “compassionate.”
The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics
Joshua Conrad Jackson, Neil Hester & Kurt Gray
PLoS ONE, June 2018
Literature and art have long depicted God as a stern and elderly white man, but do people actually see Him this way? We use reverse correlation to understand how a representative sample of American Christians visualize the face of God, which we argue is indicative of how believers think about God’s mind. In contrast to historical depictions, Americans generally see God as young, Caucasian, and loving, but perceptions vary by believers’ political ideology and physical appearance. Liberals see God as relatively more feminine, more African American, and more loving than conservatives, who see God as older, more intelligent, and more powerful. All participants see God as similar to themselves on attractiveness, age, and, to a lesser extent, race. These differences are consistent with past research showing that people’s views of God are shaped by their group-based motivations and cognitive biases. Our results also speak to the broad scope of religious differences: even people of the same nationality and the same faith appear to think differently about God’s appearance.
God, sex, and money among the ultra-Orthodox in Israel: An integrated sociocultural and evolutionary perspective
Nechumi Malovicki Yaffe & Melissa McDonald
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming
The origin of the tendency for men to value wealth more than women can be explained by both social role theory and evolutionary theory. We integrate these two perspectives to provide insight into a unique cultural context, the Jewish ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, where social roles are reversed, such that women are the primary breadwinners in the family. Studies 1a and 1b provide support for social role theory's claim that men and women will internalize attitudes toward wealth that are consistent with their gender role in society. These findings are then integrated with an evolutionary perspective suggesting that men strive to elevate their personal status as a means of attracting mates. In most modern societies this equates to the accumulation of wealth, but in the ultra-Orthodox community it is religious devotion and piety that determine the status of men. An examination of mating preferences in the ultra-Orthodox community confirms many predictions from an evolutionary perspective and departs only in that women do not show a preference for mates with good financial prospects, but rather, owing to the unique sociocultural definition of status, women display a preference for men of strong religious devotion (Study 2). This contrasts with the secular Jewish community where women show the typical preference for wealthy men (Study 3). These findings are consistent with the idea that men may have evolved preferences for achieving status given the mating advantages it confers with women, but how status is achieved may be culturally specific.
Who suppresses female sexuality? An examination of support for Islamic veiling in a secular Muslim democracy as a function of sex and offspring sex
Khandis Blake, Maleke Fourati & Robert Brooks
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming
Whether it is men or women who suppress female sexuality has important implications for understanding gendered relations, ultimately providing insight into one widespread cause of female disadvantage. The question of which sex suppresses female sexuality more avidly, however, neglects that our interests are never ambiguously masculine or feminine; each of us has a combination of male and female kin which alters how much of our future fitness derive from each sex. Here we exploit a nationally representative sample of 600 Tunisians to test whether support for Islamic veiling - a proxy for female sexual suppression - is more common amongst one sex than the other, and is affected by the relative sex of one's offspring (i.e., the number of sons relative to daughters). We find that men are more supportive of Islamic veiling than women, but women with more sons are more supportive of veiling and more likely to wear veils than women with fewer sons. All effects were robust to the inclusion of religiosity, which was weaker amongst men and unrelated to the number of sons a woman had. The number of daughters affected neither religiosity nor support for veiling, but did increase women's likelihood of wearing contemporary, fashionable Tunisian veils compared with no head covering. We further found that men were more religious if they had more sons. Overall, these findings highlight that far from being the fixed strategy of one sex or the other, female sexual suppression manifests facultatively to promote one's reproductive interests directly or indirectly by creating conditions beneficial to one's descendent kin. These results show that both men and women can suppress female sexuality, although the function in either case appears more closely aligned with male rather than female interests.
The Changing Complexion of American Congregations
Kevin Dougherty & Michael Emerson
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, March 2018, Pages 24-38
The only constant in life is change, or so goes the familiar refrain. But when it comes to research on multiracial congregations, studying change has largely been overlooked. Questions loom about the changing prevalence, leadership, and composition of racially diverse congregations. Using three waves of data from the National Congregations Study (1998, 2006, and 2012), we offer an overarching examination of racial composition in U.S. congregations across approximately 15 years. Both the percentage of multiracial congregations and the amount of racial/ethnic diversity in congregations have increased. The increase has been most dramatic in Protestant churches. In addition, blacks are more common in the pulpit and the pews of America's multiracial congregations than they were in the past. Blacks now surpass Latinos as the group most likely to worship with whites in multiracial congregations. Location and religious tradition continue to be influential factors in a congregation's racial diversity, but the significance of several congregational characteristics have changed over time. We discuss the implications of these findings.
Dissolving the Fermi Paradox
Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler & Toby Ord
Oxford University Working Paper, June 2018
The Fermi paradox is the conflict between an expectation of a high ex ante probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and the apparently lifeless universe we in fact observe. The expectation that the universe should be teeming with intelligent life is linked to models like the Drake equation, which suggest that even if the probability of intelligent life developing at a given site is small, the sheer multitude of possible sites should nonetheless yield a large number of potentially observable civilizations. We show that this conflict arises from the use of Drake-like equations, which implicitly assume certainty regarding highly uncertain parameters. We examine these parameters, incorporating models of chemical and genetic transitions on paths to the origin of life, and show that extant scientific knowledge corresponds to uncertainties that span multiple orders of magnitude. This makes a stark difference. When the model is recast to represent realistic distributions of uncertainty, we find a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe, and thus that there should be little surprise when we fail to detect any signs of it. This result dissolves the Fermi paradox, and in doing so removes any need to invoke speculative mechanisms by which civilizations would inevitably fail to have observable effects upon the universe.
The Powerful Other: How Divine Control Shapes the Relationship Between Personal Control and Psychological Distress
Scott Schieman, Alex Bierman & Laura Upenieks
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, March 2018, Pages 123-138
In the sociological study of mental health, the sense of personal control represents a core psychological resource, but some studies document a curvilinear association between personal control and depressive symptoms. This body of research is largely secular in orientation, even though research also demonstrates that some individuals believe in an involved and engaged Powerful Other (e.g., God). We evaluate if such beliefs moderate the relationship between personal control and depression. Using data from the 2005 Work, Stress, and Health Study in the United States (N = 1,791), we first demonstrate that the sense of personal control has an overall curvilinear association with depression, in line with previous research. Then, we document that divine control beliefs modify this association such that the curvilinear association is found primarily among individuals with low levels of divine control. By contrast, among those who more strongly endorse divine control, we observe no relationship between personal control and depression. We situate our findings in the differing and complicated perspectives on the implications of religious beliefs for psychological resources and well‐being.
Violence, Insecurity, and Religiosity: A Multilevel Analysis of 71 Countries
Miguel Carreras & Ajay Verghese
Terrorism and Political Violence, forthcoming
A large social science literature demonstrates a link between personal insecurity and religiosity. When individuals are healthy, literate, and gainfully employed, they tend to be less religious. One of the most fundamental threats to an individual is the risk of violence, but this important marker of insecurity has been unexplored in recent studies of the determinants of religiosity. We use a unique dataset that measures state-sponsored terror, an ideal measure for studying insecurity, and explore the relationship between violence and religious beliefs and practices in 71 countries during the period 1981-2011. We find a robust positive association between violence and religiosity, and offer several reasons to believe that this is a causal relationship. Drawing on psychological studies, we argue that the specific mechanism at work deals with religious coping, a uniquely efficacious way of combating the stress and anxiety produced by the threat of recurrent violence.
Moral and religious convictions: Are they the same or different things?
Linda Skitka et al.
PLoS ONE, June 2018
People often assume that moral and religious convictions are functionally the same thing. But are they? We report on 19 studies (N = 12,284) that tested whether people’s perceptions that their attitudes are reflections of their moral and religious convictions across 30 different issues were functionally the same (the equivalence hypothesis) or different constructs (the distinct constructs hypothesis), and whether the relationship between these constructs was conditional on political orientation (the political asymmetry hypothesis). Seven of these studies (N = 5,561, and 22 issues) also had data that allowed us to test whether moral and religious conviction are only closely related for those who are more rather than less religious (the secularization hypothesis), and a narrower form of the political asymmetry and secularization hypotheses, that is, that people’s moral and religious convictions may be tightly connected constructs only for religious conservatives. Meta-analytic tests of each of these hypotheses yielded weak support for the secularization hypothesis, no support for the equivalence or political asymmetry hypotheses, and the strongest support for the distinct constructs hypothesis.
Humanizing Agents of Modern Capitalism? The Daily Work of Port Chaplains
Wendy Cadge & Michael Skaggs
Sociology of Religion, forthcoming
While chaplains are required in the military, federal prisons, and the Veteran’s Administration, they are also present in a range of other settings across the United States. In ports, religiously motivated individuals and institutions have long histories of evangelizing and providing social services. We focus on chaplains in 15 of the largest American ports today to ask how they negotiate access to seafarers and how they work with them daily. Chaplains negotiate security protocols, the hierarchy of ships, and their own self-presentations to get on board vessels. In their daily work, they shift among economic, moral, religious, and advocacy roles. Chaplains access seafarers by providing economic support and then use that access to develop the relationships they see as central to their work. By being present in these relationships, connecting seafarers to broader communities, and serving as an invisible global safety net, port chaplains see themselves acting as humanizing agents of modern capitalism. The case of port chaplaincy suggests additional strategies chaplains use to gain access not yet present in the sociological literature, further illustrates how the work of chaplains is shaped by the institutions within which it takes place, and expands sociological approaches to religion “on the edge” by showing multiple ways religion appears at the water’s edge not yet theorized in that literature.
Countries Mimicking Neighbors: The Spatial Diffusion of Governmental Restrictions on Religion
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming
Conceptualized as efforts to deny religious freedoms, previous research explains the presence of governmental restrictions on religion by isolating national governments, asserting that the primary determinant is a country's internal structural characteristics. These approaches overlook why the levels of governmental restriction on religion are spatially clustered and increasing in distinct patterns. Utilizing spatial analysis and data from the Religion and State Project, this article demonstrates that governmental restrictions on religion are spatially clustered, not independent from neighboring countries, and that increases in a country's level of restrictions reflect similar changes in bordering countries. Spatial clustering emerges through the diffusion of policies, where national governments mimic their neighbor's policies and practices even when accounting for internal structural characteristics. The article concludes that while a country's internal structure is clearly a predictor of policies, national governments are not isolated from neighbors where the level of restrictions are susceptible to external influence.