God, Man, and the Academy

Kevin Lewis

August 31, 2009

Does religion matter in corporate decision making in America?

Gilles Hilary & Kai Wai Hui
Journal of Financial Economics, September 2009, Pages 455-473

We examine how corporate culture influences firm behavior. Prior research suggests a link between individual religiosity and risk aversion. We find that this relationship also influences organizational behavior. Firms located in counties with higher levels of religiosity display lower degrees of risk exposure, as measured by variances in equity returns or returns on assets. They exhibit a lower investment rate and less growth, but generate a more positive market reaction when they announce new investments. Finally, chief executive officers are more likely to join a firm with a similar religious environment as in their previous firm when they switch employers.


Aging, religion, and health

Angus Deaton
NBER Working Paper, August 2009

Durkheim's famous study of suicide is a precursor of a large contemporary literature that investigates the links between religion and health. The topic is particularly germane for the health of women and of the elderly, who are much more likely to be religious. In this paper, I use data from the Gallup World Poll to study the within and between country relationships between religiosity, age, and gender, as well as the effects of religiosity on a range of health measures and health-related behaviors. The main contribution of the current study comes from the coverage and richness of the data, which allow me to use nationally representative samples to study the correlates of religion within and between more than 140 countries using more than 300,000 observations. It is almost universally true that the elderly and women are more religious, and I find evidence in favor of a genuine aging effect, not simply a cohort effect associated with secularization. As in previous studies, it is not clear why women are so much more religious than men. In most countries, religious people report better health; they say they have more energy, that their health is better, and that they experience less pain. Their social lives and personal behaviors are also healthier; they are more likely to be married, to have supportive friends, they are more likely to report being treated with respect, they have greater confidence in the healthcare and medical system and they are less likely to smoke. But these effects do not all hold in all countries, and they tend to be stronger for men than for women.


A Model of Religion and Death

Derek Pyne
Journal of Socio-Economics, forthcoming

"Several empirical papers have found a curvilinear relationship between religiosity and the fear of death. This paper has shown that such a relationship is consistent with rational choice theory. It did so by assuming that individuals place different subjective probabilities on the existence of an afterlife. Fear of death is defined as an expected drop in utility at death. Those who believe that the probability of death being the end of existence is less than 1 can invest in religious capital to increase the subjective probability of going to heaven rather than hell. Heaven is assumed to give positive utility, hell negative utility and nonexistence, zero utility. Atheists have no incentive to invest in religious capital and fear death to the extent that life gives them positive utility. Those who place a small probability on the existence of an afterlife, rationally invest little in religious capital. This results in a large subjective probability of going to hell rather than heaven. Consequently, they fear death more than pure atheists who only have to worry about the zero utility of nonexistence. Individuals who place a higher probability on the existence of an afterlife will rationally invest more in religious capital. This increases the subjective probability of going to heaven rather than hell. This may result in a lower fear of death than less religious individuals and perhaps even lower than atheists. However, depending on the functional forms involved, this framework is also consistent with research that finds a positive relationship between the fear of death and religiosity. This paper also examined other implications of the model. For example, it shows that a positive relationship between education and religious behaviour is not inconsistent with a negative relationship between education and religious beliefs. The model also predicts a negative relationship between the fear of death and age. Moreover, it examines the effects of different discount factors. It also finds that in certain circumstances, religious competition may reduce, rather than increase, religious participation...An interesting extension of this research would be to examine the implications for suicide bombers and others considering martyrdom. Their revealed preferences indicate that they feel an early death increases their expected utility."


"Family Values" and the Formation of a Christian Right Agenda

Seth Dowland
Church History, September 2009, Pages 606-631

"...the rise of 'family values' as the rallying cry of the Christian right was neither inevitable nor predictable. The triumvirate of political positions that came to constitute the core of 'family values' — opposition to abortion, feminism, and gay rights — did not command much attention from evangelicals before 1975. In fact, most evangelicals who spoke publicly about these issues in the early 1970s supported the Equal Rights Amendment and equivocated on abortion. Gay rights, to be sure, never found favor among conservative Christians, yet it seemed a marginal issue until the end of the decade. In short, on these three issues, evangelicals in the early 1970s seemed ambivalent. Over the course of the 1970s, however, a small cadre of evangelical ministers developed a political philosophy that connected defense of the 'traditional family' with opposition to abortion, feminism, and gay rights. Christian right leaders defined traditional families as those with two heterosexual parents, with the husband as the head and, preferably, the primary breadwinner. Though some scholars have argued that this type of nuclear family was never typical among Americans, the image of a working father, a stay-at-home mother, and well-scrubbed children carried significant appeal among conservatives in the wake of the 1960s...Critics of the Christian right called its agenda narrow-minded and divisive, but the genius of the movement was to frame opposition to abortion, feminism, and gay rights as 'defense of the family.' After all, who was going to argue against families? By the end of the 1970s, the Christian right had devised rhetoric that made liberal reformers enemies of the family and positioned 'family values' as mainstream fare...Many of these social conservatives hailed from evangelical churches, and they identified the Roe decision as the critical issue that awakened them from long political slumber...Yet evangelicals' initial response to Roe v. Wade hardly matched their recollections of immediate indignation. Falwell issued no statements on the decision until 1975, a silence he attributed to preoccupation with a government investigation of his organization's finances in 1973. Polls of Southern Baptists in the half-decade before Roe showed an overwhelming majority in favor of 'therapeutic abortion,' albeit not abortion on demand. Though some conservatives in the SBC agitated for a stronger stand against abortion after Roe, moderates blocked the discussion of an anti-abortion resolution at the 1974 convention...Why did evangelicals remain a minority faction in the pro-life coalition through most of the 1970s? In 1973 two factors mitigated against conservative Christians' opposition of Roe. First, the language the Court used to legitimate abortion drew on conservative rhetoric. The Fourteenth Amendment, said the Court, 'protects against state action the right to privacy.' In other words, the Supreme Court employed an individual rights rationale that favored women's prerogative in reproductive choices against the state's interference...Evangelicals, who had developed sensitivity to governmental intrusion on their beliefs in the decades after the 1925 Scopes trial, increasingly guarded against any attempts to infringe on their religious liberty. By framing abortion as an individual right, the Court predisposed some political conservatives to support Roe. (In fact, throughout the 1970s, it was unclear that Republicans would champion the pro-life cause. Catholics, who constituted a majority of the pro-life coalition for most of the 1970s, tended to vote Democratic, and some prominent Democrats opposed Roe. The pro-life coalition remained almost equally split between Senate Republicans and Democrats until 1979, and a majority of pro-life supporters voted for Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan in 1980.) Second, and more important, Catholics spearheaded the earliest campaigns against abortion. In the early 1970s, about 70 percent of the members of the National Right to Life Commission claimed membership in the Catholic Church. Catholics' leadership of the pro-life movement made it less likely that conservative Protestants would join it...Catholics' overwhelming majority in the nascent anti-abortion coalition persisted at least through 1978...As the evangelical theologian Harold O.J. Brown put it, 'At that point, a lot of Protestants reacted almost automatically — 'If the Catholics are for it, we should be against it.'' Right-to-life groups did receive a surge in Protestant membership after the Roe decision — especially from younger women with small children — but on the whole, evangelicals seemed hesitant to enter the pro-life coalition until the mid-1970s. Evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer sought to change that...Schaeffer contended that 'secular humanists' had embedded an anti-Christian philosophy in American laws and government. Now, Schaeffer argued, Christians had to fight back...By the end of the 1970s, Schaeffer had emerged as the foremost evangelical opponent of abortion, which he portrayed as the primary issue demanding Christian response...Perhaps more important, Schaeffer disseminated a view of political involvement that encouraged — even demanded — that evangelicals cooperate with non-evangelicals in order to achieve political success. Schaeffer advanced the notion of a culture war, and he suggested that political quiescence was untenable in the face of practices like abortion. He argued that evangelicals needed to adopt 'co-belligerence,' or cooperation with nonevangelicals, as a political tactic...Evangelicals responded. A comment by Jimmy Draper, president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1982-1984, typified Christian right leaders' view of Schaeffer's influence. Draper said, 'Francis Schaeffer was the first one to say, hey, listen, there's a war going on with our culture, and our worldview's in danger, and we need to stand for the things that God has revealed to us.' Evangelicals' embrace of Schaeffer's culture war ideal represented the critical first step in mobilizing conservative Christians...Falwell subsequently popularized many of Schaeffer's views through his books, periodicals, and public appearances...In May 1979, Falwell inaugurated the political action group Moral Majority. That month, a handful of conservative Republicans, including a Catholic (Paul Weyrich) and a Jew (Howard Phillips), met with Falwell at the Holiday Inn in Lynchburg to discuss forming a political action committee...In an early promotional brochure, the Moral Majority described its philosophy as 'pro-life, pro-family, pro-moral, and pro-America.'...In his 1987 autobiography, Falwell celebrated Catholics' early opposition to Roe and lamented that 'the voices of my Protestant Christian brothers and sisters, especially the voices of evangelical and fundamentalist leaders, remained silent' in the first few years after the decision...Cooperating with Catholics was not a trivial step for Falwell to take. In fact, this new alliance triggered the breakup of some older ones. Fundamentalist stalwart Bob Jones, Jr., issued a denunciation of Falwell and the Moral Majority. In a letter to alumni of Bob Jones University dated June 10, 1980, Jones censured Falwell's alliance with anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly ('a devout Roman Catholic') and called Falwell 'the most dangerous man in America as far as Biblical Christianity is concerned.' Jones viewed cooperation with Catholics as an unpardonable breach of fundamentalist 'separation.'...The correlation of 'traditional' understandings of gender roles and opposition to abortion reflected the efforts of Schaeffer, Falwell, and other Christian right leaders to connect Roe with a widespread assault on 'family values.' It also helps explain why the Christian right demonized the women's movement in the years after Roe, just as feminism appeared poised to win wide acceptance among evangelicals...Evangelicals initially appeared excited about the advances of feminism. A 1974 editorial in Christianity Today endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment, and a survey in the same issue reported that Christians favored it by a 3-to-1 margin...Christianity Today editor Harold Lindsell, whose 1976 book The Battle for the Bible condemned evangelicals who did not subscribe to biblical inerrancy, admitted that 'women, evangelical or not, have legitimate grievances.' He believed that women 'should have the same rights as men; equal pay for the same jobs; [and] the right and freedom to pursue any career.' Likewise, former Christianity Today editor Carl F.H. Henry declared that 'this is a moment in history...when able evangelical women are needed in all the professions and vocations now opening to both sexes — medicine, law, the mass media, politics, and much else.'...Yet conservative Christian activists led by Phyllis Schlafly blunted and eventually halted the ERA's momentum...They agreed with Schlafly that the amendment was 'anti-family, anti-children, and pro-abortion.'...The ERA, she wrote, would eliminate 'the traditional family concept of husband as breadwinner and wife as homemaker,' restrict motherhood to 'the very few months in which a woman is pregnant and nursing her baby,' and embed 'the first anti-family amendment in the Constitution.'...Convinced that the ERA would make it impossible for women to assume the roles of wife and homemaker — the privileges most STOP ERA members desired to protect — activists mounted a massive campaign aimed at state legislators. A typical anti-ERA letter sent to Ohio legislators read, 'Those women lawyers, women legislators, and women executives promoting ERA have plenty of education and talent to get whatever they want in the business, political, and academic world. We, the wives and working women, need you, dear Senators and Representatives [sic] to protect us.' And then, tellingly: 'We think this is the man's responsibility.' STOP ERA materials reflected a gender essentialism that placed men in the role of providers and protectors while women appeared as domestically inclined nurturers. Some STOP ERA campaigns featured well-coiffed conservative women bringing freshly baked sweets to legislators' offices. The contrast between conservative women's femininity and feminists' aggressiveness was not lost on lawmakers...In conservatives' minds, feminists' rejection of gender essentialism challenged the created order. God had ordained certain roles for men and women, and the ERA threatened them. For instance, conservatives worried that the ERA would mandate government-funded daycare and paternity leave, measures they believed would denigrate women's primary responsibility for rearing children...At the 1977 National Women's Conference in Houston, feminists ratified an alliance with homosexual rights groups...Conservatives hoping to rally evangelicals against feminism could hardly have scripted a better scenario...Conservative Christians opposed assigning homosexuals any positions of authority over children because many of them believed that homosexuality fostered child abuse...The portrayal of homosexuals as pedophiles allowed the Christian right to link gay rights with abortion and feminism as yet another example of the government's attack on the family...these three issues posed existential threats to the gendered order evangelicals championed. The 'gendered order' I refer to here indicates a worldview — often unspoken — that regarded differences between men and women as the fundamental markers of human identity. In 1988 several leading Christian right organizations, including the Moral Majority, the Eagle Forum, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and the American Family Association, issued the 'Family Manifesto,'  which spelled out this belief. 'We deny that sexual difference is solely a matter of reproductive biology,' declared the manifesto's authors. 'Sexual differentiation extends to psychological traits which set natural constraints on gender roles.'"


Reverend Buck's Theological Dictionary and the Struggle to Define American Evangelicalism, 1802-1851

Matthew Bowman & Samuel Brown
Journal of the Early Republic, Fall 2009, Pages 441-473

Despite a stated reliance on the plain meaning of the Bible and the dictates of common sense, antebellum evangelicals required methods to create international consensus in a trans-denominational movement. Buck's Theological Dictionary, first published in London in 1802, sought to provide a textual basis for evangelical community. By combining brief essays on orthodox belief and practice with historical entries on various denominations, Buck provided an interpretive lens that allowed antebellum Protestants to see Christianity's almost two millennia as their own history. American evangelicals rapidly seized on Buck's dictionary, ceding to it an almost canonical status as the textual interpreter of what it meant to be evangelical. Unfortunately Buck's, as well as evangelicalism, echoed aspects of Enlightenment ideas about objectivity and history. Such notions validated the very concept of an evangelical dictionary and the tenets of reasonable Christianity. Ultimately, though, the Dictionary contained its own downfall. Heterodox groups like the Universalists used Buck's to launch a theological assault on evangelicalism. By codifying former heresies and modern sects, Buck's provided a potential voice to those sects, while by reifying evangelical consensus it made the consensus itself fragile.


Empirics on the Origins of Preferences: The Case of College Major and Religiosity

Miles Kimball, Colter Mitchell, Arland Thornton & Linda Young-Demarco
NBER Working Paper, July 2009

Early life experiences are likely to be important for the formation of preferences. Religiosity is a key dimension of preferences, affecting many economic outcomes. This paper examines the effect of college major on religiosity, and the converse effect of religiosity on college major, using panel data from the Monitoring the Future survey as a way of gauging the extent to which various streams of thought, as taught in college, affect religiosity. Two key questions, based on the differences in college experience across majors, are whether either (a) the Scientific worldview or (b) Postmodernism has negative effects on religiosity as these streams of thought are actually transmitted at the college level. The results show a decline in religiosity of students majoring in the social sciences and humanities, but a rise in religiosity for those in education and business. After initial choices, those respondents with high levels of religiosity are more likely to enter college. Of those who are in college, people with high levels of religiosity tend to go into the humanities and education over other majors.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.