Findings

Revelations

Kevin Lewis

August 06, 2020

Poker-faced and godless: Expressive suppression and atheism
Christopher Burris
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

Abstract:

To make sense of an apparent discrepancy between atheists’ muted self-reports of positive and negative emotions versus stereotyped perceptions of them as cold, angry, hostile, and unhappy, three Canadian studies explored a hypothesized link between atheism and expressive suppression (ES: modulating emotion by restricting its display). In Study 1 (N = 1,059), atheists self-reported more ES compared to religious and agnostic/nonreligious groups, whereas cognitive reappraisal (CR: managing emotions by thinking differently about situations) scores did not differ. Study 2 (N = 247) tested whether ES facilitates openness to an atheistic worldview by dampening the intensity of positive emotions, a known facilitator of religious/spiritual receptivity: chronic preference for ES (vs. CR) predicted increased endorsement of atheism-congruent postmortem beliefs when participants were instructed to suppress (but not when instructed to express) their emotions. Blind to religious identity, Study 3 participants (N = 100) who watched silent video interviews perceived atheists to express less positive (but more negative) emotion compared to the religiously affiliated. Atheists were also judged to be less trustworthy and likable. By contributing to an observable grain of truth in stereotypic depictions of atheists’ emotional demeanor, ES may exacerbate antiatheist prejudice even as it intensifies atheists’ own convictions.


Dangers, Toils, and Snares: U.S. Senators' Rhetoric of Public Insecurity and Religiosity
Sarah Dreier et al.
Politics and Religion, forthcoming

Abstract:

How, and in what contexts, do U.S. senators publicly invoke religious rhetoric when engaging with their constituents? Do periods of heightened public anxiety make senators more likely to use religious rhetoric? We use the Internet Archive's 90-terabyte collection of material from the U.S. government's Internet domain (.gov) to evaluate the relationships between insecurity, anxiety, and religious rhetoric on senators' official websites. We estimate the association between a senator's use of anxiety-related terms on her official website in a given year (as a proportion of overall yearly words) and that senator's use of religious rhetoric (public-facing religiosity). We find a strong, positive association between senators' public display of anxious sentiments and public-facing religiosity in a given year. This research advances scholarly understanding of how U.S. legislators invoke religion in public spaces. It also models the use of “big data” sources and scalable, time-variant text-data approaches for measuring and analyzing religion and elite political behavior.


Bootleggers, Baptists and ballots: Coalitions in Arkansas’ alcohol-legalization elections
Jeremy Horpedahl
Public Choice, forthcoming

Abstract:

Yandle (Regulation 7(3):12–16, 1983) proposed a “bootleggers and Baptists” framework to explain political coalition formation. Using mandatory disclosure reports, I document actual examples of such coalitions in Arkansas county-level elections to legalize alcohol. The coalitions often are composed of liquor stores in bordering counties where alcohol already is legal, along with churches and other religious organizations. Funding comes primarily from existing liquor stores, although religious organizations provide funding in some cases. Religious organizations contribute to the coalition in several non-monetary forms, which I also document in this article by reference to news reports and other sources. The results confirm Yandle’s theory of tacit coalitions.


The Diffusion of Urban Medieval Representation: The Dominican Order as an Engine of Regime Change
Jonathan Doucette
Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:

How do representative institutions diffuse from one polity to another? I investigate the effect of the Dominican order on the transition from autocratic to representative city government in medieval Europe. I argue that the order’s practices of representation diffused to local lay politics because of the persistent interaction between Dominican monks and urban elites. Using a difference-in-difference design, I offer evidence that the presence of Dominican houses fostered the development of representative city government. My findings highlight the important role that religious institutions can play in the diffusion of political institutions and principles.


#No2Sectarianism: Experimental Approaches to Reducing Sectarian Hate Speech Online
Alexandra Siegel & Vivienne Badaan
American Political Science Review, August 2020, Pages 837-855

Abstract:

We use an experiment across the Arab Twittersphere and a nationally representative survey experiment in Lebanon to evaluate what types of counter-speech interventions are most effective in reducing sectarian hate speech online. We explore whether and to what extent messages priming common national identity or common religious identity, with and without elite endorsements, decrease the use of hostile anti-outgroup language. We find that elite-endorsed messages that prime common religious identity are the most consistently effective in reducing the spread of sectarian hate speech. Our results provide suggestive evidence that religious elites may play an important role as social referents — alerting individuals to social norms of acceptable behavior. By randomly assigning counter-speech treatments to actual producers of online hate speech and experimentally evaluating the effectiveness of these messages on a representative sample of citizens that might be incidentally exposed to such language, this work offers insights for researchers and policymakers on avenues for combating harmful rhetoric on and offline.


Backfiring Frames: Abortion Politics, Religion, and Attitude Resistance
Scott Liebertz & Jaclyn Bunch
Politics and Religion, forthcoming

Abstract:

Following recent insight into how citizens respond to attempts to correct political and salient misperceptions (Nyhan and Riefler, 2010, Political Behavior 32 (2): 303–330), we also expect that certain characteristics will predispose citizens to react strongly to messaging on highly contentious issues. Specifically, we expect that respondents will express an opinion that is even stronger in line with their predispositions when exposed to frames that challenge their position. Using an experiment on abortion opinion embedded in the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), we find little indication that Pro-Abortion Access and Anti-Abortion Access frames move opinion on abortion in the aggregate, but there is evidence that specific characteristics correlate with a “backfire” effect identified by Nyhan and Riefler (2010, Political Behavior 32 (2): 303–330). In particular, gender, religiosity, and “Born-Again” Christian affiliation are all predictive of responding to either the Anti-Abortion Access or Pro-Abortion Access frame by moving the opposite direction as intended on the feeling thermometer.


Rewarding the good and punishing the bad: The role of karma and afterlife beliefs in shaping moral norms
Aiyana Willard et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:

Moralizing religions encourage people to anticipate supernatural punishments for violating moral norms, even in anonymous interactions. This is thought to be one way large-scale societies have solved cooperative dilemmas. Previous research has overwhelmingly focused on the effects of moralizing gods, and has yet to thoroughly examine other religious moralizing systems, such as karma, to which more than a billion people subscribe worldwide. In two pre-registered studies conducted with Chinese Singaporeans, we compared the moralizing effects of karma and afterlife beliefs of Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, and the non-religious. In Study 1 (N = 582), we found that Buddhists and Taoists (karmic religions) judge individual actions as having greater consequences in this life and the next, compared to Christians. Pointing to the specific role of karma beliefs in these judgements, these effects were replicated in comparisons of participants from the non-karmic religions/groups (Christian and non-religious) who did or did not endorse karma belief. Study 2 (N = 830) exploited religious syncretism in this population by reminding participants about either moral afterlife beliefs (reincarnation or heaven/hell), ancestor veneration beliefs, or neither, before assessing norms of generosity in a series of hypothetical dictator games. When reminded of their ancestor veneration beliefs, Buddhists and Taoists (but not Christians) endorsed parochial prosocial norms, expressing willingness to give more to their family and religious group than did those in the control condition. Moral afterlife beliefs increased generosity to strangers for all groups. Taken together, these results provide evidence that different religious beliefs can foster and maintain different prosocial and cooperative norms.


Does the Association Between Illness-Related and Religious Searches on the Internet Depend on the Level of Religiosity?
Sinan Alper
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

Recent research suggested that illness-related search predicts religious search on Google. In the current research, I aimed to replicate this finding and investigate whether such association depends on the existing level of religiosity. In Study 1, I reanalyze an existing data set on search behavior for 630 consecutive weeks and show that although illness-related search predicts religious search in 16 different countries, this association does not depend on the religiosity level of the countries. The same finding was replicated in within-nation comparisons of the U.S. states (Study 2) and Turkish provinces (Study 3). In all studies, during a period of 235 consecutive weeks, illness-related search predicted religious search, but the differences in religiosity among regions did not influence this association, which arguably might not be consistent with the terror management theory. I argue that such a finding shows the necessity of considering all alternative theories when interpreting the effects of mortality salience.


Political Speech in Religious Sermons
Constantine Boussalis, Travis Coan & Mirya Holman
Politics and Religion, forthcoming

Abstract:

Religious leaders and congregants alike report high levels of political discussions in their churches. Yet, direct observations of political topics in a wide set of religious settings are rare. We examine the nature of political speech by clergy with a novel dataset of over 110,000 sermons. Using a computational text analysis approach and multiple forms of validation, we find political content in more than a third of religious sermons and that seven of 10 pastors discuss political topics at some point. Common topics include the economy, war, homosexuality, welfare, and abortion. We then use a geographic data to link the sermons to demographic and political information around the church and to information about the church and pastor to evaluate the variation of political content in sermons. We find that most pastors — across location and denomination — engage around political topics, confirming the intertwined nature of religion and politics in the United States.


Institutions, the social capital structure, and multilevel marketing companies
Jordan Lofthouse & Virgil Henry Storr
Journal of Institutional Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:

In multilevel marketing companies (MLMs), member-distributors earn income from selling products and recruiting new members. Successful MLMs require a social capital structure where members can access and mobilize both strong and weak social ties. Utah has a disproportionate share of MLM companies located in the state and a disproportionate number of MLM participants. We argue that Utah's dominant religious institutions have led to the emergence of a social capital structure, making MLMs particularly viable. Utah is the most religiously homogeneous state; roughly half its population identifies as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The LDS Church's institutions foster a social capital structure where (almost all) members have access to and can leverage social capital in all its forms. LDS institutions encourage members to make meaningful social connections characterized by trust and reciprocity with other church members in local neighborhoods and across the world.


God insures those who pay? Formal insurance and religious offerings in Ghana
Emmanuelle Auriol et al.
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:

This paper provides experimental support for the hypothesis that insurance can be a motive for religious donations. We randomize enrollment of members of a Pentecostal church in Ghana into a commercial funeral insurance policy. Then church members allocate money between themselves and a set of religious goods in a series of dictator games with significant stakes. Members enrolled in insurance give significantly less money to their own church compared to members that only receive information about the insurance. Enrollment also reduces giving towards other spiritual goods. We set up a model exploring different channels of religiously based insurance. The implications of the model and the results from the dictator games suggest that adherents perceive the church as a source of insurance and that this insurance is derived from beliefs in an interventionist God. Survey results suggest that material insurance from the church community is also important and we hypothesize that these two insurance channels exist in parallel.


Small gods, rituals, and cooperation: The Mentawai water spirit Sikameinan
Manvir Singh, Ted Kaptchuk & Joseph Henrich
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:

Cognitive and evolutionary research has overwhelmingly focused on the powerful deities of large-scale societies, yet little work has examined the smaller gods of animist traditions. Here, in a study of the Mentawai water spirit Sikameinan (Siberut Island, Indonesia), we address three questions: (1) Are smaller gods believed to enforce cooperation, especially compared to bigger gods in larger-scale societies? (2) Do beliefs in these deities encourage people to engage in behavior that would otherwise be perceived as costly? and (3) Does ritual reinforce beliefs in these deities? Drawing on interview responses, data from healing ceremonies, and ethnographic observation, we show that Sikameinan is believed to punish people who violate meat-sharing norms and that people ‘attacked’ by Sikameinan pay shamans to conduct healing rituals. The public nature of rituals, involving prestigious individuals apologizing to Sikameinan for the patient's stinginess, reinforce onlookers' beliefs about Sikameinan. The most widely shared beliefs about Sikameinan are represented in rituals while beliefs not represented vary considerably, indicating that ritual may be potent for cultural transmission. These results suggest that moralizing supernatural punishers may be more common than suspected and that the trend in the cultural evolution of religion has been an expansion of deities' scope, powers, and monitoring abilities.


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