Salt of the earth

Kevin Lewis

July 30, 2015

Secularization and Long-Run Economic Growth

Holger Strulik
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

This paper integrates a simple theory of identity choice into a framework of endogenous economic growth to explain how secularization can be both cause and consequence of economic development. A secular identity allows an individual to derive more pleasure from consumption than religious individuals, leading secular individuals to work harder and to save more in order to experience this pleasure from consumption. These activities are conducive to economic growth. Higher income makes consumption more affordable and increases the appeal of a secular identity for the next generation. An extension of the basic model investigates the Protestant Reformation as an intermediate stage during the take-off to growth. Another extension introduces intergenerationally dependent religious preferences and demonstrates how a social multiplier amplifies the speed of secularization.


The Natural Environment as a Spiritual Resource: A Theory of Regional Variation in Religious Adherence

Todd Ferguson & Jeffrey Tamburello
Sociology of Religion, forthcoming

A region's natural environment has profound social effects for an area. Previous work has connected the environment to tourism, migration rates, community attachment, and economic outcomes. In this article, we explore how nature may impact the religious structuring of a region. Specifically, we investigate if beautiful landscapes and good weather — what scholars call “natural amenities” — could be spiritual resources used by the population to connect with the sacred. We hypothesize that the environment, as a spiritual resource, would compete with more traditional religious organizations. Thus, we expect that regions with higher levels of natural amenities would experience lower rates of religious adherence. To test our hypothesis, we use spatial econometric modeling techniques to analyze data from the Religious Congregations and Membership Study, United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. County Business Patterns, and the Census. Results show that counties with higher levels of natural amenities have lower rates of adherence to traditional religious organizations.


On the Norms of Charitable Giving in Islam: Two Field Experiments in Morocco

Fatima Lambarraa & Gerhard Riener
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Charitable giving is one of the major obligations in Islam and a strong Muslim norm endorses giving to the needy, but discourages public displays of giving. We report the results two field experiments with 534 and 200 participants at Moroccan educational institutions to assess the effects of this moral prescription on actual giving levels in anonymous and public settings. Subjects who participated in a paid study were given the option to donate from their payment to a local orphanage, under treatments that varied the publicity of the donation and the salience of Islamic values using either Arabic or French instructions. In the salient Islamic treatment, anonymity of donations significantly increased donation incidence from 59% to 77% percent as well as average donations for religious subjects from 8.90 to 13.00 Dh out of possibly 30 Dh. These findings stand in stark contrast to most previous findings in the charitable giving literature and suggest to reconsider potential fundraising strategies in Muslim populations.


Modern Marital Practices and the Growth of World Christianity During the Mid-Twentieth Century

Anneke Stasson
Church History, June 2015, Pages 394-420

Studies concerned with modernity, mission Christianity, and sexuality generally address how western, Christian gender ideologies have affected women or how they have affected modernization. This article approaches the nexus of modernity, Christianity, and sexuality from a different angle. One of the notable consequences of modernization was that young people in industrializing nations began demanding the right to choose their own spouse and marry for love. Several scholars have noted the connection between modernization and spouse self-selection, but none have explored the relationship between Christianity's endorsement of spouse self-selection and its global appeal during the mid-twentieth century. This article examines a collection of letters written by young Africans to missionary Walter Trobisch after reading his popular 1962 book, I Loved a Girl. These letters suggest that Christianity's endorsement of spouse self-selection and marrying for love gave it a kind of modern appeal for young people who were eagerly adopting the modern values of individualism and self-fulfillment. The practice of prayer provided relief to young people who were struggling to navigate the unfamiliar realm of dating in the modern world.


Are You There God? It’s Me, a College Student: Religious Beliefs and Higher Education

Wesley Routon & Jay Walker
B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, forthcoming

Drawing data from a longitudinal survey of college students from 514 institutions of higher education, we add to the discussion on the education–religion puzzle by providing information on specifically which college students experience the most religiosity change, investigating multiple change measures (conviction strength, service attendance, and religious identity), and estimating which programs of study and collegiate experiences cause the most change. We also provide an analysis of students who seek or initially sought an occupation within the clergy. Among our findings, 56% of students report changes in the strength of their religious convictions during college, while 45% report changes in religious service attendance frequency. Of those who matriculate as religious, about 9% lose their religion by graduation. Of those who matriculate with no religious identity, an impressive 33% graduate with one. Choice of institution, major of study, academic success, and many other collegiate experiences are shown to be determinants of these changes.


Religion, Age, and Crime: Do Religious Traditions Differentially Impact Juvenile Versus Adult Violence?

Casey Harris et al.
Sociological Spectrum, July/August 2015, Pages 372-391

A growing body of empirical research demonstrates that the relative presence of religious adherents at the community-level has important relationships with rates of crime and violence. Less understood is how adherence to specific religious traditions (e.g., evangelical Protestant, Catholic, mainline Protestant) is associated with rates of crime, especially across particular age groups toward which religious traditions devote varying degrees of structural and cultural resources. Using data from the Religious Congregations and Membership Survey and age-specific arrest data from the Uniform Crime Reporting program in 2010, the current study finds that the impact of religious adherence on crime varies by religious tradition and across juvenile versus adult crime. Specifically, evangelical Protestant adherence is negatively associated with juvenile but not adult violence, while Catholic adherence is associated with reduced adult but not juvenile violence, net of controls. Implications for research on religious contexts and crime, as well as policy, are discussed.


The Persistent Effects of in Utero Nutrition Shocks Over the Life Cycle: Evidence From Ramadan Fasting

Muhammad Farhan Majid
Journal of Development Economics, November 2015, Pages 48–57

More than a billion Muslims living today were potentially exposed to their mother’s fasting in utero. This paper uses the Indonesian Family Life Survey to study the persistent effects of in utero exposure to Ramadan over the life cycle. The exposed children perform more child labor, score 7.4 percent lower on cognitive tests and 8.4 percent lower on math test scores. As adults, the exposed children work 4.7 percent fewer hours per week and are more likely to be self-employed. Estimates are robust to the inclusion of family fixed effects, particularly for hours worked and test scores. Moreover, results are strongest for religious Muslim families, while insignificant for non-Muslims. Back of the envelope calculations reveal an implied fasting rate of 68%-82% among pregnant Muslim women.


Religion, Self-Rated Health, and Mortality: Whether Religiosity Delays Death Depends on the Cultural Context

Olga Stavrova
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Existing research, mostly based on the data from the United States, suggests that religiosity contributes to better health and longevity. This article explores the association between religiosity and self-rated health across 59 countries and shows that the positive association between religiosity and self-rated health is an exception found in a relatively small number of countries. Consistent with the person–culture fit literature, Study 1 shows that in countries in which religiosity represents a social norm (i.e., it is common and socially desirable), religious individuals report better subjective health than nonreligious individuals. Study 2 demonstrates that even within the United States, the association of religiosity with self-rated health as well as with reduced mortality largely depends on the regional level of religiosity, suggesting that the health and longevity benefits of religiosity are restricted to highly religious regions.


Public perceptions of future threats to humanity and different societal responses: A cross-national study

Melanie Randle & Richard Eckersley
Futures, forthcoming

There is growing scientific evidence that humanity faces a number of threats that jeopardize its future. Public perceptions of these threats, both their risks and reactions to them, are important in determining how humanity confronts and addresses the threats. This study investigated the perceived probability of threats to humanity and different responses to them (nihilism, fundamentalism and activism), in four Western nations: the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Overall, a majority (54%) rated the risk of our way of life ending within the next 100 years at 50% or greater, and a quarter (24%) rated the risk of humans being wiped out at 50% or greater. The responses were relatively uniform across countries, age groups, gender and education level, although statistically significant differences exist. Almost 80% agreed “we need to transform our worldview and way of life if we are to create a better future for the world” (activism). About a half agreed that “the world's future looks grim so we have to focus on looking after ourselves and those we love” (nihilism), and over a third that “we are facing a final conflict between good and evil in the world” (fundamentalism). The findings offer insight into the willingness of humanity to respond to the challenges identified by scientists and warrant increased consideration in scientific and political debate.


Kissing the Mezuzah and Cognitive Performance: Is There an Observable Benefit?

Erez Siniver & Gideon Yaniv
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, September 2015, Pages 40–46

A mezuzah is a small case affixed to the doorframe of each room in Jewish homes and workplaces which contains a tiny scroll of parchment inscribed with a prayer. It is customary for religious Jews to touch the mezuzah every time they pass through a door and kiss the fingers that touched it. However, kissing the mezuzah has also become customary for many secular Jews who think of the mezuzah as a good luck charm. In view of a recent revelation that kissing the mezuzah entails a health hazard, the present paper inquires whether it also has some observable benefit. In an experiment conducted among non-religious mezuzah-kissing economics and business students confronted with a logic-problem exam, some were allowed to kiss the mezuzah before taking the exam, whereas the others were asked not to do so or could not do so because it had been removed from the room doorframe. The experiment revealed that participants who did not kiss the mezuzah performed worse than those who kissed it, and that the stronger is one's belief in the mezuzah's luck-enhancing properties, the better he performs when he kisses it but the worse he performs when he does not.


The Effects of Religious Priming and Persuasion Style on Decision-Making in a Resource Allocation Task

Brandt Smith & Michael Zárate
Journal of Peace Psychology, forthcoming

The present research examined the effects of religious priming and charismatic leadership on decision-making in a resource allocation task. Religious priming took the form of having participants write 1 to 2 paragraphs about the importance of religion in the formation of social values. Confederates were trained to behave in either a charismatic or noncharismatic manner. After being primed with religion, participants were more compliant with a confederate leader and allocated more funds to hydro-fracture mining instead of a solar energy research project. Further, participants were more likely to comply with the confederate when they were first primed with religion. Implications of this study and future directions are discussed.


Should Science Class Be Fair? Frames and Values in the Evolution Debate

Thomas Nelson, Dana Wittmer & Dustin Carnahan
Political Communication, forthcoming

Communicators try to shape public opinion to their advantage by invoking social values. We examine a vivid example of this value framing in the debate over teaching evolution in the public schools. Supporters of intelligent design (ID) theory have pressed for greater acceptance in public schools by framing the issue as a question of fairness. A survey experiment revealed overwhelming agreement that including ID in science class is fairer than excluding it. This belief had a greater impact on tolerance for ID when the issue was framed with respect to fairness. A second study showed similar effects from a pro-ID documentary film. A final study showed that training in scientific reasoning counteracts the impact of the fairness value, thereby decreasing tolerance for ID. Combined, these studies show how political debate can be understood as a contest over which values deserve greatest consideration or emphasis.


Override the controversy: Analytic thinking predicts endorsement of evolution

Will Gervais
Cognition, September 2015, Pages 312–321

Despite overwhelming scientific consensus, popular opinions regarding evolution are starkly divided. In the USA, for example, nearly one in three adults espouse a literal and recent divine creation account of human origins. Plausibly, resistance to scientific conclusions regarding the origins of species — like much resistance to other scientific conclusions (Bloom & Weisberg, 2007) — gains support from reliably developing intuitions. Intuitions about essentialism, teleology, agency, and order may combine to make creationism potentially more cognitively attractive than evolutionary concepts. However, dual process approaches to cognition recognize that people can often analytically override their intuitions. Two large studies (total N = 1324) found consistent evidence that a tendency to engage analytic thinking predicted endorsement of evolution, even controlling for relevant demographic, attitudinal, and religious variables. Meanwhile, exposure to religion predicted reduced endorsement of evolution. Cognitive style is one factor among many affecting opinions on the origin of species.


Costly Signaling Increases Trust, Even Across Religious Affiliations

Deborah Hall et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Trust is a critical aspect of social interaction. One might predict that individuals trust religious out-groups less than religious in-groups, and that costly signals performed by members of religious in-groups increase trust while costly signals performed by members of religious out-groups decrease trust. We examined how Christian participants perceived the trustworthiness of Muslim and Christian individuals who did or did not engage in religious costly signaling. Religious costly signaling, operationalized as giving to religious charities (Experiments 1 and 2) or adhering to religious dietary restrictions (Experiment 3), increased self-reported trust, regardless of target religious affiliation. Furthermore, when estimating the likelihood that trustworthy versus untrustworthy targets engaged in costly signaling, participants made systematic judgments that showed that costly signaling is associated with trust for both Muslim and Christian targets (Experiment 4). These results are novel in their suggestion that costly signals of religious commitment can increase trust both within and, crucially, across religious-group lines.


Christian Nationalism, Racial Separatism, and Family Formation: Attitudes Toward Transracial Adoption as a Test Case

Samuel Perry & Andrew Whitehead
Race and Social Problems, June 2015, Pages 123-134

Christian nationalism seeks the preservation or restoration of a supposed religio-national purity. We argue that, within the racialized social system of the United States, this idealized religio-national purity is inextricably linked with notions of ethno-racial purity. Focusing on interracial families as a violation of ethno-racial purity, we theorize that adherents to Christian nationalism will be less supportive of family formations in which ethno-racial purity is formally transgressed. We demonstrate this by examining the impact of Christian nationalism on Americans’ views toward transracial adoption (TRA). Americans’ attitudes toward TRA provide an interesting test case in that, unlike attitudes toward racial exogamy, TRA implies no biological or cultural race-mixing between social peers, but only a socio-legal guardianship across races. Opposition to TRA thus taps Americans’ attitudes about the “ideal” ethno-racial composition of families socially and legally, rather than their beliefs about the biological or cultural incompatibility of ethno-racial groups. Analyzing national survey data, we find that adherence to Christian nationalism is strongly and negatively associated with support for TRA, net of relevant controls. We demonstrate that the influence of Christian nationalism is robust and independent of respondents’ trust of other races and their religious commitment, both that are strongly and positively associated with support for TRA. Findings affirm that Christian nationalism implies ethno-racial separation and purity, and thus, we propose that a resurgence of Christian nationalist ideology in the public sphere may serve to reinforce racial boundaries and exclusion in other realms of American social life.


Attributes of God: Conceptual Foundations of a Foundational Belief

Andrew Shtulman & Marjaana Lindeman
Cognitive Science, forthcoming

Anthropomorphism, or the attribution of human properties to nonhuman entities, is often posited as an explanation for the origin and nature of God concepts, but it remains unclear which human properties we tend to attribute to God and under what conditions. In three studies, participants decided whether two types of human properties — psychological (mind-dependent) properties and physiological (body-dependent) properties — could or could not be attributed to God. In Study 1 (n = 1,525), participants made significantly more psychological attributions than physiological attributions, and the frequency of those attributions was correlated both with participants’ religiosity and with their attribution of abstract, theological properties. In Study 2 (n = 99) and Study 3 (n = 138), participants not only showed the same preference for psychological properties but were also significantly faster, more consistent, and more confident when attributing psychological properties to God than when attributing physiological properties. And when denying properties to God, they showed the reverse pattern — that is, they were slower, less consistent, and less confident when denying psychological properties than when denying physiological properties. These patterns were observed both in a predominantly Christian population (Study 2) and a predominantly Hindu population (Study 3). Overall, we argue that God is conceptualized not as a person in general but as an agent in particular, attributed a mind by default but attributed a body only upon further consideration.


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