Saving grace

Kevin Lewis

March 10, 2016

Filling Pews and Voting Booths: The Role of Politicization in Congregational Growth

Andre Audette & Christopher Weaver

Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Declines in religious affiliation and church attendance in the United States have been well-documented, which political scientists often attribute to the prominence of the Religious Right in American politics. These scholars posit that the politicization of religion deters religious participation, especially among those on the political and theological left. However, the existing research looks only at aggregate trends in the involvement of religious organizations in politics and levels of religious participation. Using data from the National Congregations Study, a representative sample of American congregations, we examine the impact of politicization on church membership rates at the congregational level. Employing ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and cross-lagged structural equation models, we show that more politically active congregations were more likely to see growth in membership over time. Using data from the General Social Survey, we also offer evidence that partisans on both ends of the political spectrum are more likely to engage in religious switching than independents, suggesting that those joining new congregations may be politically motivated. Thus, while political activity may cost religions adherents at the aggregate level, politicization benefits individual churches by attracting members from a politically motivated niche market, signifying that political outreach can be an effective strategy for congregations.


Moralistic gods, supernatural punishment and the expansion of human sociality

Benjamin Grant Purzycki et al.

Nature, 18 February 2016, Pages 327–330

Since the origins of agriculture, the scale of human cooperation and societal complexity has dramatically expanded. This fact challenges standard evolutionary explanations of prosociality because well-studied mechanisms of cooperation based on genetic relatedness, reciprocity and partner choice falter as people increasingly engage in fleeting transactions with genetically unrelated strangers in large anonymous groups. To explain this rapid expansion of prosociality, researchers have proposed several mechanisms. Here we focus on one key hypothesis: cognitive representations of gods as increasingly knowledgeable and punitive, and who sanction violators of interpersonal social norms, foster and sustain the expansion of cooperation, trust and fairness towards co-religionist strangers. We tested this hypothesis using extensive ethnographic interviews and two behavioural games designed to measure impartial rule-following among people (n = 591, observations = 35,400) from eight diverse communities from around the world: (1) inland Tanna, Vanuatu; (2) coastal Tanna, Vanuatu; (3) Yasawa, Fiji; (4) Lovu, Fiji; (5) Pesqueiro, Brazil; (6) Pointe aux Piments, Mauritius; (7) the Tyva Republic (Siberia), Russia; and (8) Hadzaland, Tanzania. Participants reported adherence to a wide array of world religious traditions including Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as notably diverse local traditions, including animism and ancestor worship. Holding a range of relevant variables constant, the higher participants rated their moralistic gods as punitive and knowledgeable about human thoughts and actions, the more coins they allocated to geographically distant co-religionist strangers relative to both themselves and local co-religionists. Our results support the hypothesis that beliefs in moralistic, punitive and knowing gods increase impartial behaviour towards distant co-religionists, and therefore can contribute to the expansion of prosociality.


Islamic Culture, Oil, and Women's Rights Revisited

Lasse Lykke Rørbæk

Politics and Religion, March 2016, Pages 61-83

According to recent research, oil abundance is the principal explanation for women's poor human rights record in many Muslim societies. However, this study argues that resistance to gender equality in the Muslim world originates in its specific historical trajectory and that the critical juncture precedes the extraction of oil by a thousand years. The study assesses data on women's economic, social, and political rights in 166 countries from 1999–2008 and shows that whereas the negative effect of oil is driven by the 11 members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, Muslim countries consistently underperform even when oil and gas rents and other relevant factors such as income and democracy are accounted for. The study concludes that persisting orthodox tendencies in Islamic culture provide the best explanation for Muslim women's limited empowerment.


Max Weber and the First World War: Protestant and Catholic living standards in Germany, 1915–1919

Matthias Blum & Matthias Strebel

Journal of Institutional Economics, forthcoming

We assess informal institutions of Protestants and Catholics by investigating their economic resilience in a natural experiment. The First World War constitutes an exogenous shock to living standards since the duration and intensity of the war exceeded all expectations. We assess the ability of Protestant and Catholic communities to cope with increasing food prices and wartime black markets. Literature based on Weber (1904, 1905) suggests that Protestants must be more resilient than their Catholic peers. Using individual height data on some 2,800 Germans to assess levels of malnutrition during the war, we find that living standards for both Protestants and Catholics declined; however, the decrease of Catholics’ height was disproportionately large. Our empirical analysis finds a large statistically significant difference between Protestants and Catholics for the 1915–19 birth cohort, and we argue that this height gap cannot be attributed to socioeconomic background and fertility alone.


Religion and Depression in Adolescence

Jane Cooley Fruehwirth, Sriya Iyer & Anwen Zhang

University of Cambridge Working Paper, January 2016

The probability of being depressed increases dramatically during adolescence and is linked to a range of adverse outcomes. Many studies show a correlation between religiosity and mental health, yet the question remains whether the link is causal. The key issue is selection into religiosity. We exploit plausibly random variation in adolescents' peers to shift religiosity independently of other individual-level unobservables that might affect depression. Using a nationally representative sample of adolescents in the US, we find robust effects of religiosity on depression, that are particularly strong for the most depressed. These effects are not a result of social context. Instead, we find that religiosity buffers against stressors, possibly through improved social and psychological resources. This has implications especially for effective mental health policy.


Is the United States a Counterexample to the Secularization Thesis?

David Voas & Mark Chaves

American Journal of Sociology, March 2016, Pages 1517-1556

Virtually every discussion of secularization asserts that high levels of religiosity in the United States make it a decisive counterexample to the claim that modern societies are prone to secularization. Focusing on trends rather than levels, the authors maintain that, for two straightforward empirical reasons, the United States should no longer be considered a counterexample. First, it has recently become clear that American religiosity has been declining for decades. Second, this decline has been produced by the generational patterns underlying religious decline elsewhere in the West: each successive cohort is less religious than the preceding one. America is not an exception. These findings change the theoretical import of the United States for debates about secularization.


National Religious Affiliation and Integrated Model of Homicide and Suicide

Don Soo Chon

Homicide Studies, forthcoming

The current study assessed the relationship between national religious affiliation and lethal violence by simultaneously examining homicide and suicide rates. The information on homicide and suicide rates for 124 countries came from the World Health Organization (WHO). Regression results suggested no significant difference in lethal violence between predominantly Catholic and Protestant countries, although Islamic countries revealed significantly lower homicide, suicide, and overall lethal violence rates than non-Islamic countries. Countries with a high level of religious heterogeneity are subject to an increased suicide rate. The implications of these findings were discussed.


Does local religiosity matter for bank risk-taking?

Binay Kumar Adhikari & Anup Agrawal

Journal of Corporate Finance, forthcoming

We investigate whether local religiosity matters for risk-taking by banks. Banks headquartered in more religious areas exhibit lower stock return volatility, lower tail risk, and lower idiosyncratic risk. They also tend to be farther away from default as measured by their z-scores. But these banks command lower market valuations during normal times. These results stand up to several robustness checks, tests for mitigating endogeneity concerns, and are supported by an analysis of bank CEOs' religiosity. Moreover, banks in more religious areas remain less vulnerable to crises. To reduce risk, these banks grow their assets more slowly, hold safer assets, rely less on non-traditional banking, and provide less incentives to their executives to increase risks. Local religiosity has a more pronounced influence on risk-taking by banks for which local investors and managers are more important. Overall, this paper contributes to the literature by uncovering an important and previously unidentified determinant of risk-taking by banks, namely religion-induced risk-aversion.


The causal effect of religious piety on shareholder wealth: Evidence from acquirer returns and historical religious identification

Pandej Chintrakarn et al.

Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

Prior research shows that religion promotes honesty. Honesty in turn motivates managers to view an expropriation from shareholders as self-serving, opportunistic and unethical, thereby alleviating the agency conflict. Religious piety is thus expected to discourage agency-driven acquisitions that reduce shareholder wealth. We exploit the variation in religious piety across US counties (and states) and show that firms located in a more religious environment are indeed less likely to make poor acquisitions, measured by the stock market reactions to the acquisition announcement. To draw a causal inference, we use historical religious piety as far back as 1952 as our instrument. The two-stage least squares (2SLS) analysis confirms that religious piety induces firms to make better acquisitions. Our analysis based on propensity score matching also corroborates the conclusion.


“Where else did they copy their styles but from church groups?”: Rock ‘n’ Roll and Pentecostalism in the 1950s South

Randall Stephens

Church History, March 2016, Pages 97-131

Church leaders and laypeople in the US went on the defensive shortly after rock and roll became a national youth craze in 1955 and 1956. Few of those religious critics would have been aware or capable of understanding that rock ‘n’ roll, in fact, had deep religious roots. Early rockers, all southerners — such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and James Brown — grew up in or regularly attended pentecostal churches. Pentecostalism, a vibrant religious movement that traced its origins to the early 20th century, broke with many of the formalities of traditional protestantism. Believers held mixed-race services during the height of Jim Crow segregation. The faithful spoke in tongues, practiced healing, and cultivated loud, revved-up, beat-driven music. These were not the sedate congregants of mainline churches. Some pentecostal churches incorporated drums, brass instruments, pianos, and even newly invented electric guitars. Rock ‘n’ roll performers looked back to the vibrant churches of their youth, their charismatic pastors, and to flashy singing itinerants for inspiration. In a region that novelist Flannery O'Connor called “Christ-haunted,” the line between secular and sacred, holy and profane was repeatedly crossed by rock musicians. This article traces the black and white pentecostal influence on rock ‘n’ roll in the American South, from performance style and music to dress and religious views. It also analyzes the vital ways that religion took center stage in arguments and debates about the new genre.


Not a Lonely Crowd? Social Connectedness, Religious Service Attendance, and the Spiritual But Not Religious

Orestes Hastings

Social Science Research, forthcoming

Using the 2006-2014 General Social Survey and 2006-2012 Portraits of American Life Study, I find for three dimensions of social connectedness: social interaction frequency, core discussion network size, and number of close ties, that religious service attenders are more connected than religious non-attenders and those who are neither spiritual nor religious, but there are few differences between attenders and the spiritual but not religious. Difference-in-differences and fixed-effects models show little evidence that switches between categories are associated with changes in connectedness, and additional models show that prior social connectedness explains only a small amount of future switches. This paper challenges assumptions that the non-religious are a homogenous group lacking the benefits provided though the social networks of religious congregations and has implications for research on what it means to be spiritual, measuring religion and spirituality, and understanding the role of formal organizations in social life.


How Good Is the Samaritan, and Why? An Experimental Investigation of the Extent and Nature of Religious Prosociality Using Economic Games

Jim Everett, Omar Sultan Haque & David Rand

Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

What is the extent and nature of religious prosociality? If religious prosociality exists, is it parochial and extended selectively to coreligionists or is it generalized regardless of the recipient? Further, is it driven by preferences to help others or by expectations of reciprocity? We examined how much of a US$0.30 bonus Mechanical Turk workers would share with the other player whose religion was prominently displayed during two online resource allocation games. In one game (but not the other), the recipient could choose to reciprocate. Results from both games showed that the more central religion was in participants’ lives, the more of the bonus they shared, regardless of whether they were giving to atheists or Christians. Furthermore, this effect was most clearly related to self-reported frequency of “thinking about religious ideas” rather than belief in God or religious practice/experience. Our findings provide evidence of generalized religious prosociality and illuminate its basis.


Collective Religiosity and the Gender Gap in Attitudes towards Economic Redistribution in 86 Countries, 1990-2008

Antonio Jaime-Castillo et al.

Social Science Research, forthcoming

What is the relationship between gender and the demand for redistribution? Because, on average, women face more economic deprivation than men, in many countries women favor redistribution more than men. However, this is not the case in a number of other countries, where women do not support redistribution more than men. To explain this cross-national paradox, we stress the role of collective religiosity. In many religions, theological principles both militate against public policies designed to redistribute income, and also promote traditionally gendered patterns of work and family involvement. Hence, we hypothesize that, in those countries where religion remains influential either through closer church-state ties or an intensely religious population, men and women should differ less in their attitudes towards redistribution. Drawing upon the World Values Survey, we estimate three-level regression models that test our religiosity-based approach and two alternative explanations in 86 countries and 175 country-years. The results are consistent with our hypothesis. Moreover, in further support of our theoretical approach, societal religiosity undermines pro-redistribution preferences more among women than men. Our findings suggest that collective religiosity matters more to the gender gap in redistributive attitudes than traditional political and labor force factors.


“Once the Jews have been Expelled”: Intent and Interpretation in Late Medieval Canon Law

Rowan Dorin

Law and History Review, forthcoming

Sometime in early 1434, two northern Italian counts, Francesco Pico della Mirandola and his brother Giovanni, sent a letter to Pope Eugene IV (r. 1431–47). Out of concern for their subjects, who had long suffered from a shortage of credit, Francesco and Giovanni had allowed some Jews to settle in their lands and lend at interest. In addition, the brothers had rented a house to these Jews for the purpose of moneylending. At the time, the noblemen stressed, they had not believed their actions to be unlawful. They had since come to fear, however, that they had inadvertently brought automatic excommunication upon themselves by violating the provisions of Usurarum voraginem, a decree first issued at the Second Council of Lyon in 1274 that called on secular and religious authorities to refuse lodging to foreign usurers and, in addition, to expel such usurers from their lands. The brothers' uncertainty, the petition noted, reflected the varied opinions of contemporary jurists (presumably those at Bologna, a mere 60 kilometers away), who disagreed on whether the decree was to be understood in reference to Jewish as well as Christian moneylenders. Deciding to err on the side of caution, the brothers petitioned the Holy Father to grant them absolution, if they had indeed incurred ecclesiastical censure through their actions. In addition, they asked to be granted a dispensation allowing the Jews to remain in their lands, so as to spare their subjects from even greater economic misfortune.


When every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell: The relationship between religious fundamentalism and creativity

Mona Medhat Gad El-Haq, Hadia Hamdy Abdelaziz & Ahmed Amin Mohamed

Personality and Individual Differences, May 2016, Pages 163–167

In spite of its importance, religious individual level differences have not received sufficient attention in the creativity literature. This study investigates the relationship between religious fundamentalism and individual creativity. It also examines the mediating role of need for cognition in this relationship. A sample of 272 Egyptian undergraduate students completed a questionnaire measuring their religious fundamentalism and need for cognition levels. To measure creativity, participants were asked to name creative methods for using a brick and a paperclip. Hierarchical multiple regression, Sobel test, and structural equation modeling confirmed that religious fundamentalism is negatively related to creativity, and that need for cognition partially mediates this relationship.


God in the Barrio?: The Determinants of Religiosity and Civic Engagement among Latinos in the United States

Sarah Allen Gershon, Adrian Pantoja & Benjamin Taylor

Politics and Religion, March 2016, Pages 84-110

It is often assumed that Latinos in the United States are deeply religious, and that this religious identity plays an important role in shaping their political beliefs and behaviors. A more controversial though unexplored proposition is that Latinos may not be as religious as is commonly believed and that forces beyond their religiosity play more prominent roles in shaping their political engagement. Relying on data from the 2006 Latino National Survey, we examine secularism — measured by church attendance — and civic engagement among Latinos. Our efforts are to analyze the social forces that shape levels of religiosity and find that generational status plays a significant role. Additionally, we further find that while church attendance declines among later generations, second and third generation Latinos have higher levels of civic engagement than their first generation peers, indicating that a decline in church participation does not depress political participation among later generations of Latinos.


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