Meaning of Life

Kevin Lewis

May 19, 2022

Heaven can wait: Future tense and religiosity
Astghik Mavisakalyan, Yashar Tarverdi & Clas Weber
Journal of Population Economics, July 2022, Pages 833-860

This paper identifies a new source of differences in religiosity: the type of future tense marking in language. We argue that the rewards and punishments that incentivise religious behaviour are more effective for speakers of languages without inflectional future tense. Consistent with this prediction, we show that speakers of languages without inflectional future tense are more likely to be religious and to take up the short-term costs associated with religiosity. What is likely to drive this behaviour, according to our results, is the relatively greater appeal of the religious rewards to these individuals. Our analysis is based on within-country regressions comparing individuals with identical observable characteristics who speak a different language. 

Religious Freedom in the City Pool: Gender Segregation, Partisanship, and the Construction of Symbolic Boundaries
Lisa Argyle, Rochelle Terman & Matti Nelimarkka
Politics and Religion, forthcoming

Low political support for religious minority groups in the United States is often explained as a matter of social distance or unfamiliarity between religious traditions. Observable differences between beliefs and behaviors of religious minority groups and the cultural mainstream are thought to demarcate group boundaries. However, little scholarship has examined why some practices become symbolic boundaries that reduce support for religious accommodation in public policy, while nearly identical practices are tolerated. We hypothesize that politics is an important component of the process by which some religious practices are transformed into demarcations between "us" and "them." We conduct an original survey experiment in which people are exposed to an identical policy demand - women-only swim times at a local public pool - attributed to three different religious denominations (Muslim, Jewish, and Pentecostal). We find that people are less supportive of women-only swim times when the requesting religion is not a part of their partisan coalition. 

Evidence for Hope?: Mississippi Christians' Views Toward Gay and Lesbian Equality Post Obergefell v. Hodges
Baker Rogers
Sexuality Research and Social Policy, June 2022, Pages 483-495

Through semi-structured, qualitative interviews, I provide an exploratory look at the shifting views toward gay and lesbian equality by highlighting the stories of six Mississippi Christians' over a 6-year period.

Overall, the six Mississippi Christians who agreed to participate in a follow-up interview in 2019 all became more accepting of gay and lesbian people and more open to gay and lesbian equality in the USA to various degrees.

The Influence of State Favoritism on Established Religions and Their Competitors
Dan Koev
Politics and Religion, forthcoming

What are the consequences of state support for, and official recognition of, one religion or religious institution over all others in the state? Previous studies have focused on the impact of a state's religion policies on overall religiosity in that state. In contrast, I argue that state support will have markedly different consequences for (1) the favored religious firm and (2) all other religious institutions. Similar to religious market theory, I expect that dependence on state support creates disincentives for the favored religious organization to attract adherents. However, I theorize that the weaknesses that state-backed favoritism engenders in the favored religion should create opportunities for other religious firms to compete and thrive. I conduct a multivariate quantitative analysis of changes in religious affiliation in 174 states between 1990 and 2010, controlling for factors like existential security, regime type, net migration, post-Communist background, and major religious traditions. My findings suggest that, consistent with my expectations, religious institutions that receive favorable treatment from the state lose ground relative to those that do not. 

The economics of missionary expansion: Evidence from Africa and implications for development
Remi Jedwab, Felix Meier zu Selhausen & Alexander Moradi
Journal of Economic Growth, June 2022, Pages 149-192

How did Christianity expand in Africa to become the continent's dominant religion? Using annual panel census data on Christian missions from 1751 to 1932 in Ghana, and pre-1924 data on missions for 43 sub-Saharan African countries, we estimate causal effects of malaria, railroads and cash crops on mission location. We find that missions were established in healthier, more accessible, and richer places before expanding to economically less developed places. We argue that the endogeneity of missionary expansion may have been underestimated, thus questioning the link between missions and economic development for Africa. We find the endogeneity problem exacerbated when mission data is sourced from Christian missionary atlases that disproportionately report a selection of prominent missions that were also established early. 

Reducing Islamophobia: An assessment of psychological mechanisms that underlie anti-Islamophobia media interventions
Samantha Moore-Berg et al.
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Western countries have witnessed increased hostility towards Muslims among individuals, and structurally in the ways that the media covers stories related to Islam/Muslims and in policies that infringe on the rights of Muslim communities. In response, practitioners have created media interventions that aim to reduce Islamophobia. However, it is unclear what causal effects these interventions have on reducing Islamophobia. Here, we test the effects of 11 media interventions developed by practitioners with an intervention tournament among U.S. samples. In Study 1, we identified three videos that most effectively reduced Islamophobia both immediately after watching and 1 month later. In Studies 2-4, we examined the psychological mechanisms of these successful videos and found an indirect effect of the interventions on reduced support for anti-Muslim policies through recognition of media bias against Muslims. This research highlights that drawing attention to structural biases, including biased media coverage of Muslims, is one potential strategy for ameliorating Islamophobia. 

The Friday Effect: How Communal Religious Practice Heightens Exclusionary Attitudes
Steven Brooke, Youssef Chouhoud & Mike Hoffman
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Does attending communal religious services heighten the tendency to express exclusionary attitudes? Drawing on responses from thousands of Muslims, we identify how the ritual Friday Prayer systematically influences congregants' political and social attitudes. To isolate the independent role of this religious behavior we exploit day-of-the-week variation in survey enumeration, which we assume to be plausibly uncorrelated with likely confounders including self-reported religiosity. In our primary analysis, six variables charting various modes of intolerance each indicate that frequent attenders interviewed on Fridays (i.e., proximate to the weekly communal prayer) were significantly more likely to express sectarian and anti-secular attitudes than their counterparts. To test the potential mechanism behind this tendency, we rely on a controlled comparison between Egyptian and Algerian subgroups, as well as an original survey experiment in Lebanon. Evidence from both analyses is consistent with arguments that elite political messaging embedded in religious rituals spurs much of the observed variation. 

Porosity Is the Heart of Religion
Tanya Marie Luhrmann & Kara Weisman
Current Directions in Psychological Science, forthcoming

When scholars and scientists set out to understand religious commitment, the sensation that gods and spirits are real may be at least as important a target of inquiry as the belief that they are real. The sensory and quasisensory events that people take to be the presence of spirit-the voice of an invisible being, a feeling that a person who is dead is nonetheless in the room-are found both in the foundational stories of faith and surprisingly often in the lives of the faithful. These events become evidence that gods and spirits are there. We argue that at the heart of such spiritual experiences is the concept of a porous boundary between mind and world, and that people in all human societies have conflicting intuitions about this boundary. We have found that spiritual experiences are facilitated when people engage their more porous modes of understanding and that such experiences are easier for individuals who cultivate an immersive orientation toward experience (absorption) and engage in practices that enhance inner experience (e.g., prayer, meditation). To understand religion, one needs to explore not just how people come to believe in gods and spirits, but how they come to understand and relate to the mind. 

Religiosity and Young Unmarried Women's Sexual and Contraceptive Behavior: New Evidence From a Longitudinal Panel of Young Adult Women
Isabel McLoughlin Brooks & Abigail Weitzman
Demography, forthcoming

Drawing on weekly panel data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life study, we investigate the relationship between religiosity and young Christian women's premarital intercourse, hormonal contraceptive use, and condom use for a period of up to 2.5 years. Mediation analyses reveal what explains the relationship between baseline religiosity and young women's subsequent reproductive behaviors, with consideration for their normative environments, moral order and learned competencies, attitudes, and anticipated guilt after sex. Results indicate that the more religious a young woman is, the less likely she is to have intercourse and to use hormonal contraception in a given week. However, when having intercourse and not using a hormonal method, the more religious a young woman is, the more likely she is to use condoms. Religiosity's relationship to these behaviors operates largely through women's reproductive attitudes, anticipated feelings of guilt after sex, and past sexual or contraceptive behaviors. Together, these findings highlight the complex relationship between religiosity and premarital sex and contraceptive use, elucidate key pathways through which religiosity operates, and draw attention to the often overlooked role of sexual emotions.


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