Kevin Lewis

May 11, 2021

Paradoxes of Pluralism, Privilege, and Persecution: Explaining Christian Growth and Decline Worldwide
Nilay Saiya & Stuti Manchanda
Sociology of Religion, forthcoming


This article examines the effect of church-state relations on rates of Christian population growth or decline worldwide. It makes the paradoxical argument that contexts of both pluralism and persecution do not impede Christian growth rates. In these environments, Christians do not have the luxury of becoming complacent. On one hand, pluralism means that Christianity must actively compete with other faith traditions in order to gain and maintain adherents. On the other hand, persecution can, paradoxically, sometimes strengthen Christianity by deepening attachments to faith and reinforcing solidarity among Christians. Rather, it is a third type of relationship -- privilege, or state support for Christianity -- that corresponds to the greatest threat to growth in Christianity. Countries where Christianity is privileged by the state encourage apathy and the politicization of religion, resulting in a less dynamic faith and the overall decline of Christian populations. We test these propositions using a cross-national, time-series analysis of a global sample of countries from 2010 to 2020. Our findings provide support for our theory that Christianity suffers in contexts of privilege but not in environments of pluralism or persecution. The finding is robust to a number of model specifications and statistical approaches.

Linking Evangelical Subculture and Phallically Insecure Masculinity Using Google Searches for Male Enhancement
Samuel Perry & Andrew Whitehead
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming


Numerous studies document the connection between American evangelicalism and male insecurity stemming from essentialist, phallocentric conceptions of masculinity. Yet data have often been confined to individuals’ responses in surveys or qualitative interviews. This limits our understanding because individuals may lie about the most personal sources of insecurity (even to themselves) and such data are difficult to aggregate to broader subcultural influences. Building on a moral communities’ framework, in this research note we analyze Google Trends data and focus on the prevalence of explicit searches for “male enhancement” terms and phrases, simultaneously indicating (1) the internalization of a subculture that prioritizes essentialist, phallocentric standards of masculinity and (2) a privately felt failure to meet those standards. Even after accounting for a host of state‐level confounds, the preponderance of evangelicals in a state consistently predicts more Google searches for terms and phrases like “male enhancement,” “ExtenZe,” “penis pump,” “penis enlargement,” and others. We theorize that the largely patriarchal -- and increasingly embattled and radicalized -- evangelical subculture explicitly or implicitly promotes equating masculinity with physical strength and size, leaving men influenced by that subculture (whether evangelical or not) to seek solutions for their privately felt failure to measure up. 

Inquiry, Not Science, as the Source of Secularization in Higher Education
John Evans
Sociology of Religion, forthcoming


The traditional claim in the literature on religion and science is that exposure to science leads to secularity because the claims about the natural world in the two systems are incompatible. More recently, research has narrowed this claim and shown that conflict over knowledge in the USA is primarily limited to one religion-conservative Protestantism-and only to a few fact claims. In this paper, I test this claim using longitudinal data from matched surveys taken in students’ first and fourth year of university. I find no evidence that the science is more secularizing than nonscience. I then turn to a distinction in university majors long used by sociologists of education -- between majors focused on inquiry versus those focused on applying knowledge -- and find that majors focused on inquiry are more likely to secularize than those focused on application. I interpret this to mean that learning to inquire secularizes. 

Shifting Religious Influences on Attitudes Towards Same‐Sex Behavior and Civil Liberties: A Multilevel Across‐Time Analysis
Laura Moore et al.
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming


Americans' acceptance of same‐sex sexual relations and their willingness to restrict the civil liberties of sexual minorities vary substantially across both time and place even as overall trends have been towards more liberalizing stances. Yet few quantitative studies have explored both the individual and contextual religious factors shaping Americans' views and none have applied such an analysis to examining attitudes over time. Using hierarchical ordered logistic modeling and time‐year interactions with 1973-2016 General Social Survey data, we examine whether the religious characteristics of residents and the contexts in which they reside moderated Americans' liberalizing attitudes over time. We find that more religiously engaged people, those who belonged to evangelical and Black protestant faiths, as well as those living in areas with higher overall levels of religious attendance changed their moral perspective about same‐sex relations at a lesser rate over time. However, we do not find similar moderating influences of religious factors for explaining Americans' willingness to restrict the civil liberties of individuals identifying as homosexual. We frame these findings relative to the morality and equality discourses permeating the culture and the concerted efforts of the Christian Right to influence public opinion and policy since the 1970s. 

Recycling, relatedness, and reincarnation: Religious beliefs about nature and the afterlife as predictors of sustainability practices
Kathryn Johnson, Elizabeth Minton & Madeline Parde McClernon
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming


We used a mixed-methods approach to examine the influence of interconnectedness with nature and afterlife beliefs as predictors of sustainability practices, across religious traditions, in two countries. Study 1 features analyses of interviews of individuals from Abrahamic and Eastern religious traditions living in the United States. Eastern religious adherents were especially focused on interconnectedness with the earth and support for sustainability. Follow-up surveys of U.S. theists in Study 2 revealed sustainability is positively associated with returning and negatively associated with leaving the earth after death, over and above environmental concerns and general religiosity. Study 3 builds on these findings and investigates sustainability practices of Hindus and Christians living in the United States and India. U.S. Christians reported the lowest level of sustainability practices. Reincarnation beliefs mediated the religion × country interaction on sustainability practices. The findings have implications for religious belief and value-based theories of sustainability as well as messages aimed at advocating environmental stewardship.

When Religion Hurts: Structural Sexism and Health in Religious Congregations
Patricia Homan & Amy Burdette
American Sociological Review, April 2021, Pages 234-255


An emerging line of research has begun to document the relationship between structural sexism and health. This work shows that structural sexism - defined as systematic gender inequality in power and resources - within U.S. state-level institutions and within marriages can shape individuals’ physical health. In the present study, we use a novel dataset created by linking two nationally representative surveys (the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study) to explore the health consequences of structural sexism within another setting: religious institutions. Although religious participation is generally associated with positive health outcomes, many religious institutions create and reinforce a high degree of structural sexism, which is harmful for health. Prior research has not reconciled these seemingly conflicting patterns. We find that among religious participants, women who attend sexist religious institutions report significantly worse self-rated health than do those who attend more inclusive congregations. Furthermore, only women who attend inclusive religious institutions exhibit a health advantage relative to non-participants. We observe marginal to no statistically significant effects among men. Our results suggest the health benefits of religious participation do not extend to groups that are systematically excluded from power and status within their religious institutions. 

Creating Secular Spaces: Religious Threat and the Presence of Secular Student Alliances at US Colleges and Universities
Jonathan Coley
Sociological Forum, forthcoming


Why are some US colleges and universities home to secular student organizations whereas others are not? Recent literature suggests that threat can inspire mobilization when groups perceive challenges to their rights or their social standing. Developing the concept of religious threat, I consider whether Secular Student Alliances (the country's largest association of student groups comprised of atheists, agnostics, and other religious skeptics) tend to be located at schools where secular students feel threatened by evangelical Christians. Through a logistic regression analysis of Secular Student Alliance presence across the 1953 4‐year, not‐for‐profit US colleges and universities, I first show that colleges and universities located in states and counties with a high percentage of evangelical Christians, and colleges and universities where activist‐oriented evangelical Christian organizations are located, are more likely to be home to Secular Student Alliances. Through qualitative content analyses of 47 Secular Student Alliance newsletters from 2014‐2017, I then show that student leaders indeed frame their groups as a way to counter threats posed by evangelical Christians. The article contributes to social movement theory on the mobilizing effects of threat and represents the most comprehensive study to date of secular student mobilization. 

Does Religiosity Improve Analyst Forecast Accuracy?
Zuobao Wei & Yicheng Zhu
University of Texas Working Paper, April 2021


This paper studies the impact of local religiosity on analyst forecast accuracy. Using the level of religious adherence as a proxy for religiosity in firm headquarter states, we find that analyst forecasts are more accurate for firms located in areas with stronger religious social norms. Our finding is robust to the inclusion of analyst and regional characteristics, firm, industry, and state fixed effects, controlling for earnings quality and audit quality, 2SLS-instrumental variable estimation, propensity score matching analysis, and a difference-in-difference test using firm headquarter relocations as a quasi-natural experiment. We further document a novel finding that religiosity has an “accentuating effect” on analyst forecast accuracy: religion can make a good thing better. Specifically, we find that local religiosity has a more pronounced positive effect on firms issuing management guidance or having fewer agency problems. Finally, we find that analyst forecast revisions for firms in more religious areas have higher information content. Overall, our study shows that religiosity enhances the accuracy and information content of analyst forecasts. 

Banning Because of Science or In Spite of it? Scientific Authority, Religious Conservatism, and Support for Outlawing Pornography, 1984-2018
Samuel Perry
Social Forces, forthcoming


For decades anti-pornography sentiment and campaigns were driven largely by religious conservatives citing pornography’s “contaminating” moral effects. More recently, however, anti-porn campaigns have sought to support their arguments by appealing to social and cognitive science. This raises the question of whether anti-pornography sentiment is undergoing an “internal secularization,” reflected in a growing connection to scientific authority and weakening connection to religious authority, or conversely, whether the use of “science” reflects a more symbolic and tactical framing used by religious conservatives who already oppose pornography. Using the General Social Surveys (1984-2018), I examine how trust in scientific authority and traditional measures of religious conservatism are associated with anti-pornography sentiment and how these associations have changed since the mid-1980s. The positive association between religious conservatism and support for anti-pornography legislation has either remained the same or, in the case of biblical literalism, grown stronger. In contrast, Americans with greater confidence in science or scientists are less likely to support outlawing pornography, and this pattern has not reversed. Indeed, in recent decades, Americans across all levels of confidence in science have declined in their support for banning porn and now differ only minimally. Together these patterns suggest anti-porn sentiment is actually desecularizing, growing more connected to religious conservatism than views about scientific authority. Findings suggest current anti-pornography sentiment does not stem from scientific authority gaining ground among Americans who oppose pornography. Rather, citing scientific research likely reflects efforts to leverage its cultural authority among those already morally inclined to restrict porn’s availability.


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