The Catholic Church, Kin Networks and Institutional Development
Harvard Working Paper, November 2018
Political institutions vary widely around the world, yet the origin of this variation is not well understood. This study tests the hypothesis that the Catholic Church’s medieval marriage policies dissolved extended kin networks and thereby fostered inclusive institutions. In a difference-in-difference setting, I demonstrate that exposure to the Church predicts the formation of inclusive, self-governed commune cities before the year 1500CE. Moreover, within medieval Christian Europe, stricter regional and temporal cousin marriage prohibitions are likewise positively associated with communes. Strengthening this finding, I show that longer Church exposure predicts lower cousin marriage rates; in turn, lower cousin marriage rates predict higher civicness and more inclusive institutions today. These associations hold at the regional, ethnicity and country level. Twentieth-century cousin marriage rates explain more than 50 percent of variation in democracy across countries today.
Minorities and the Clandestine Collective Action Dilemma: The Secret Protection of Jews during the Holocaust
American Journal of Sociology, September 2018, Pages 263-308
This article argues that local minority groups are better able to initiate and sustain underground movements because members form isolated hubs of commitment that are able to overcome the clandestine collective action dilemma, that is, the dual challenge of secrecy and mobilization. The author substantiates this claim with a case study of resistance against the Holocaust. He combines a unique and underutilized collection of postwar testimonies gathered in light of an honorary pension program with postwar trials of pro-Nazi collaborators and literature on nonrescuers, to trace both successful and failed rescue attempts. In line with the theory, the analysis reveals that Catholic rescue groups were more successful in Protestant regions and vice versa because their minority position facilitated mobilization while reducing exposure. Statistical analyses of postwar testimonies and arrest records confirm this picture, demonstrating that it is the distinctive local position of groups that enables the production of underground movements.
A longitudinal study of attitudes toward evolution among undergraduates who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
William Bradshaw et al.
PLoS ONE, November 2018
Polling data reveal a decades-long residual rejection of evolution in the United States, based on perceived religious conflict. Similarly, a strong creationist movement has been documented internationally, including in the Muslim world. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormon), a generally conservative denomination, have historically harbored strong anti-evolution sentiments. We report here a significant shift toward acceptance, compared to attitudes 30 years earlier, by students at Brigham Young University, which is owned and operated by the LDS church. This change appears to have multiple explanations. Students currently entering the university have been exposed to a much-improved introduction to evolution during high school. More importantly, there has been a significant decrease in negative messaging from Church authorities and in its religious education system. There is also evidence that current students have been positively influenced toward evolution by their parents, a large percentage of whom were BYU students, who earlier were given a strong science education deemed compatible with the maintenance of religious belief. A pre-post comparison demonstrates that a majority of current students become knowledgeable and accepting following a course experience focused on evolutionary principles delivered in a faith-friendly atmosphere. Elements of that classroom pedagogy, intended to promote reconciliation, are presented. Our experience may serve as a case-study for prompting changes in acceptance of evolution in other conservative religious groups.
Religious beliefs and domestic violence myths
Peter Jankowski et al.
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, November 2018, Pages 386-397
Religiousness has a long-standing presence in the research literature on intolerance. However, religiousness is minimally represented in the interpersonal violence myth (IPVM) literature. IPVMs comprise an aspect of the broader construct of intolerance. We heeded the call to address research on tradition-specific religious beliefs and IPVMs. As such, we examined select Christian beliefs about Divine–human relating, hierarchical relational expectations, complementarian gender ideology, and existential defensiveness as predictors of Domestic violence myth acceptance (DVMA) using a sample of 238 students from a Protestant evangelical seminary (Mage = 34.06, SD = 9.33; range 22 – 62 years; 41.6% female; 80.7% White). We observed positive associations among Calvinist tradition-specific religious beliefs and the 3 indicators of the latent construct of hierarchical relationality (i.e., hierarchical relational expectations, gender complementarianism, and existential defensiveness). We also observed (a) a positive indirect association between Calvinist beliefs and DVMA through the latent construct of hierarchical relationality, and (b) a negative indirect association between Calvinist beliefs and social justice advocacy through hierarchical relationality. Last, we observed evidence of suppression as the significant positive bivariate association between Calvinist beliefs and DVMA became significant and negative. Findings supported the conceptualization of domestic violence myths as comprised by nonacceptance of out-group members, hierarchical relationships, and gender inequality, and that an aspect of Calvinist ideology is similarly defined. Implications included designing training programs for religious leaders and constructing prevention and intervention strategies that foster self-reflection on religious beliefs associated with DVMA.
Generalized Discrimination Perceptions and American Jewish Perception of Antisemitism
Contemporary Jewry, October 2018, Pages 405–433
Why do American Jews, who are highly successful in several regards, perceive so much antisemitism and discrimination? Previous research has focused on individual characteristics, Jewish identity, and environmental factors. This paper adds another factor, perceptions of discrimination against non-Jews, arguing that when Jews perceive high levels of discrimination against non-Jews, they fear that discrimination against non-Jews will spread to Jews. The paper used data from the 2013 Pew Survey of American Jews to test this hypothesis, and the analysis finds support for it. The conclusion puts the findings into context and offers suggestions for future research.
Moral objectivism and a punishing God
Hagop Sarkissian & Mark Phelan
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, January 2019, Pages 1-7
Many moral philosophers have assumed that ordinary folk embrace moral objectivism. But, if so, why do folk embrace objectivism? One possibility is the pervasive connection between religion and morality in ordinary life. Some theorists contend that God is viewed as a divine guarantor of right and wrong, rendering morality universal and absolute. But is belief in God per se sufficient for moral objectivism? In this paper, we present original research exploring the connections between metaethics and particular conceptions of God among religious participants. Study 1 shows that, when controlling for religiosity, age, and belief in God's loving characteristics, it is belief in God's punishing characteristics (specifically, the existence of Hell) that uniquely predicts rejection of moral relativism. Study 2 shows that followers of Abrahamic faiths are more likely to endorse moral objectivism when thinking of the Divine, regardless of loving or punishing characteristics. And Study 3 shows that priming for moral objectivism makes theists more likely to endorse God's punishing characteristics. A general picture is suggested by these data. For Abrahamic theists, God's particular characteristics are not germane to the question of whether his moral commandments are real and objective. And while theists strongly endorse God's loving characteristics, focusing on the objective nature of morality can highlight God's punishing nature, reminding theists that objective morality requires a divine guarantor of justice to enforce it.
Monitoring Moral Virtue: When the Moral Transgressions of In-Group Members Are Judged More Severely
Karim Bettache et al.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming
Literature indicates that people tend to judge the moral transgressions committed by out-group members more severely than those of in-group members. However, these transgressions often conflate a moral transgression with some form of intergroup harm. There is little research examining in-group versus out-group transgressions of harmless offenses, which violate moral standards that bind people together (binding foundations). As these moral standards center around group cohesiveness, a transgression committed by an in-group member may be judged more severely. The current research presented Dutch Muslims (Study 1), American Christians (Study 2), and Indian Hindus (Study 3) with a set of fictitious stories depicting harmless and harmful moral transgressions. Consistent with our expectations, participants who strongly identified with their religious community judged harmless moral offenses committed by in-group members, relative to out-group members, more severely. In contrast, this effect was absent when participants judged harmful moral transgressions. We discuss the implications of these results.
Religiosity: Identifying the Effect of Pluralism
Metin Coşgel et al.
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming
Economists and sociologists have long disagreed over the effect of pluralism on religiosity, the question of whether the number religions in a society lessens or heightens people's beliefs and participation. The controversy stems from the omission of religion's role in legitimizing government, which has significantly biased previous estimates. We use a novel identification strategy that exploits the variation among countries in their proximity (cost of travel) to centers of universal religions of the world (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam). Whereas the results of OLS analysis tentatively suggest a negative association between pluralism and religiosity, estimates from the method of instrumental variables reveal that the direct effect of pluralism is positive. Our results support the argument that enhanced competition in the religion market would increase religiosity by offering believers a greater variety and quality of choices.
Thoughts and Prayers - Do They Crowd out Donations?
University of Wyoming Working Paper, September 2018
Do thoughts and prayers crowd out monetary donations? Our theory implies thoughts should increase donations while the answer is ambiguous for prayers. Specifically, our theory suggests thoughts increase salience of donation recipients’ well-being, which unambiguously increases donations. Prayers generate two countervailing impacts — they decrease donations if the donor uses them as substitutes because he or she truly perceives that prayers directly improve the recipient’s well-being, but they increase donations if they make the recipient’s well-being more salient to the donor. Crowding out occurs if the perceived substitution effect dominates the salience effect. We explore which effect dominates empirically using donation experiments. In our main experiment, we provide potential donors the opportunity to donate money to hurricane Harvey victims. Our results suggest that praying does crowd out donations, but thoughts do not. This suggests the salience effect of thoughts is small in our context, and that prayers generate a larger substitution than salience effect. We conduct two follow-up experiments to examine the robustness of our main finding — that prayers crowd out donations. The results from those experiments imply the results in our main experiment are robust, but may be context dependent.
Local Religious Institutions and the Impact of Interethnic Inequality on Conflict
Xun Cao et al.
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming
This article studies how local religious institutions mediate the effect of interethnic inequality on local violence. Focusing on the case of Xinjiang, China, we argue that local religious institutions decrease violence caused by local grievances. They do so in two ways: first, they provide local public goods; second, they provide an “information bridge” between the local population and the government, allowing for nonviolent management of potential discontent. We evaluate our claims with a county-level database of incidents of ethnic violence in Xinjiang, China. We measure local interethnic inequalities using education indicators from census data and the strength of religious institutions using local mosque density. We find a conflict-dampening effect of religious institutions: a higher level of interethnic inequality is associated with increased ethnic violence only in areas with low and medium levels of mosque density. This article contributes to the literature of civil conflict, ethnic violence, and political and social unrest by revealing how local institutions mediate the effect of grievances on violence.