Worshipping Thoughts

Kevin Lewis

November 22, 2022

Analytic thinking, religiosity, and defensiveness against secularism: Absence of causality
Randle Aaron Villanueva, Zhuo Job Chen & Yingjie Huang
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming


This study examined the negative associations between religiosity and analytic thinking and defensiveness against secularism as a potential explanation. In 14 experimental studies, with n = 3,232 (n = 2,615 retained in the final analyses) American Protestant, Catholic, and nonreligious participants, we tested six causal hypotheses: analytic thinking decreases religiosity (H1), analytic thinking decreases defensiveness (H2), defensiveness increases religiosity (H3), religiosity decreases analytic thinking (H4), religiosity increases defensiveness (H5), and defensiveness decreases analytic thinking (H6). Results for each study and meta-analytic results supported none of the hypotheses, and equivalence tests suggested 1/6 of the effects were not essentially different from 0. In conclusion, there was no causal evidence that religiosity and analytic thinking conflicted with each other, and the effects were weak at best.

Religion and the Great Divergence of East and West: The Persistent Effects of Networks of Church and State in the History of China and Europe
Hilton Root
George Mason University Working Paper, August 2022


This article explores religion's contribution to the cultural capital of the modern market economy. Networks of Church and State that originated in premodern times played an important role as conduits for the transmission of cultural values that have endured into the present and set the economic history of China apart from that of Europe. The imprints of those networks, which preceded the Great Divergence in living standards and GDP by at least a millennium, have led to important underlying differences between Chinese and Western market structures and persist in informal constraints - customs, norms, and ethics.

Beliefs about Humanity, not Higher Power, Predict Extraordinary Altruism
Paige Amormino et al.
Journal of Research in Personality, forthcoming 


Using a rare sample of altruistic kidney donors (n = 56, each of whom had donated a kidney to a stranger) and demographically similar controls (n = 75), we investigated how beliefs about human nature correspond to extraordinary altruism. Extraordinary altruists were less likely than controls to believe that humans can be truly evil. Results persisted after controlling for trait empathy and religiosity. Belief in pure good was not associated with extraordinary altruism. We found no differences in the religiosity and spirituality of extraordinary altruists compared to controls. Findings suggest that highly altruistic individuals believe that others deserve help regardless of their potential moral shortcomings. Results provide preliminary evidence that lower levels of cynicism motivate costly, non-normative altruistic for strangers.

"The worker deserves his wages"? Religion and support for organized labor in the U.S. Senate
John McTague & Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz
Politics and Religion, forthcoming


This article examines the relationship between senators' personal religious affiliations and their roll-call voting record on organized labor's policy agenda. While an impressive body of literature now demonstrates clear connections between religion and representation in the U.S. Congress, fewer studies have linked religion to issues outside of the realm of cultural and moral policy. Based on a data set spanning 1980 through 2020, our findings show that evangelical Protestants are significantly the most opposed to organized labor's legislative agenda, while Jewish senators are the most supportive. Other religions fall in between, depending on the decade. The findings imply that the reach of religion in Congress may run even deeper than is commonly understood. It extends beyond the culture wars to one of the most salient issue cleavages in the modern history of the American politics.

Are agnostics associated with immorality to the same degree as atheists?
Veronica Bergstrom & Alison Chasteen
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming 


Past research has demonstrated a pervasive stereotype that links atheists with immorality, but what about agnostics? Using a conjunction fallacy paradigm, the present studies assessed how individuals intuitively associated moral and immoral behavior with agnostics, atheists, and Christians. In Study 1, participants read vignettes about a person engaging in immoral behavior with varying degrees of immorality and then judged the group membership of that individual. In Study 2, participants instead assessed moral deeds. Study 1's results indicated that individuals attributed immoral behavior equally to agnostics as atheists and attributed immoral behavior to both groups more than Christians. Study 2's results mirrored Study 1: Individuals attributed moral behavior equally to atheists as agnostics but attributed moral behavior to both groups less than Christians. These findings suggest that perceptions of immorality likely have similar downstream negative consequences for agnostics as atheists.

Specialization and the firm in Renaissance Italian art
Ennio Piano
Journal of Cultural Economics, December 2022, Pages 659-697 


Renaissance Italian painters are among the most innovative and consequential artists in human history. They were also successful managers and business owners, always in search of commissions for their workshops. Indeed, their ability as managers and entrepreneurs was just as important as their talent for painting. This paper develops a framework to understand the organization of the production of paintings-frescoes and altarpieces-during the Italian Renaissance. We argue that Renaissance artists faced a trade-off between costly delegation and the sacrifice of gains from specialization in the performance of those tasks necessary for executing a painting. Applied to the historical record, our framework accounts for several features of the organization of this industry: why Renaissance artists dabbled as entrepreneurs; why they performed several duties that did not require any artistic talent; and why they set up firms to aid them in the execution of some tasks while delegating other tasks to independent contractors.

Religious leaders and rule of law
Sultan Mehmood & Avner Seror
Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming 


In this paper, we provide systematic evidence of how historical religious institutions affect the rule of law. In a difference-in-differences framework, we show that districts in Pakistan where the historical presence of religious institutions is higher, rule of law is worse. This deterioration is economically significant, persistent, and likely explained by religious leaders gaining political office. We explain these findings with a model where religious leaders leverage their high legitimacy to run for office and subvert the Courts. We test for and find no evidence supporting several competing explanations: the rise of secular wealthy landowners, dynastic political leaders and changes in voter attitudes are unable to account for the patterns in the data. Our estimates indicate that religious leaders expropriate rents through the legal system amounting to about 0.06 percent of GDP every year.

Catholic Missionaries and Fertility: Evidence from India
Shampa Bhattacharjee, Roopal Jain & Priyoma Mustafi
University of Pittsburgh Working Paper, October 2022


We analyze the long-term consequences of the presence of Catholic missionaries in the colonial period on current fertility outcomes in India and find a negative effect, particularly in urban areas. The effect is stronger for male children than female children, implying an improvement in sex composition at birth. Catholic missionaries played an instrumental role in developing tertiary education. Thus, to explore the mechanisms, we analyze the effect of Catholic presence on parental educational attainment. In the urban areas, the probability of mothers' higher educational attainment is higher in districts with the historical presence of Catholic missionaries. Consistent with the fact that Catholic missionaries were primarily involved in developing tertiary education, we find weaker effects of Catholic presence on the lower levels of education. The presence of Catholic missionaries also leads to an increase in the age of marriage and increased usage of contraceptives, despite the Catholic mandate against contraceptive use.


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