Field of Science

Showing posts with label Effects of religion - sociological. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Effects of religion - sociological. Show all posts

When it comes to religions, governmental regulation and social norms affect happiness

If you read the last post you'll know that the relationship between religion and happiness is complicated. When you look around the world, religious people tend to be happier than non-religious people.

However, it's not straightforward. The effect is bigger in some countries than in others. But why? Possibly part of the reason is that religion makes people happier in countries that are more religious, but there seems to be more to it than this.

David Hayward (University of Michigan) and Marta Elliot (University of Nevada) are interested in how governmental regulation of religion affects attitudes towards it. Previously they've shown that the more government regulates religion, the less people are satisfied with it. Perhaps this effect is important here.

So they took data from the World Values Survey and created a model  to predict how happy people are in countries with either few or lots of religious people, and either little or lots of governmental regulation of religion. They found there was quite a strong interaction.

Take, for example, the top graphic. This shows that, as religious service attendance goes up (left to right), so does happiness - except in countries with high levels of religious attendance and strong governmental regulation of religion. In these countries, people who attend a lot of services are actually less happy!

The next graphic down shows basically the same thing, but this time looking at the importance of God in people's lives. For people living in countries where most people are not interested in God, stronger belief doesn't lead to more happiness, and actually leads to less happiness in countries where governments control religion.

Here's what Hayward and Elliot conclude:

It is true that in most instances, religion and well-being are positively associated. However, the strength of the association tends to increase as religion becomes more normative, and overall levels of health and happiness are lower when government regulation is high. The magnitude of these effects varies depending on the facet of religion in question and the type of well-being outcome, but in general it appears that high regulation tends to intensify the contrast between the effects of fitting in with or deviating from the religious norms of the nation.

To summarise, religious people do tend to be happier (and healthier), but this is only really true in countries where there is freedom of religion, and many people are religious.

I'm sure you can think of many countries that are highly religious and where government sticks its nose in religious affairs. But you may be wondering which countries are non religious and also regulated? Well, these are the ex-communist countries, where the new governments tend to use religion as a political tool.

Incidentally, as well as looking at how the lines slope, it's also interesting to look at who is happiest in each of these different circumstances. For example, in countries where most people think god is unimportant, the least religious people are, for the most part at least as happy as the most religious.

So, what do these results mean in context?

Well, previous research using the World Values Survey has shown that religious people are happiest in countries where there are lots of religious people (Eichhorn and Diener).  Also that being religious leads to more social recognition, in turn leading to more happiness - an effect is much stronger in the more religious countries (Stavrova).

It also seems that religious diversity is linked to unhappiness (Okulicz-Kozaryn).

When put together with this study, I would say that the overall pattern emerging is that the link between religion and happiness really seems to be about fitting in. The happiest countries are ones where everyone is highly religious, and it's the same religion, and where the government doesn't feel the need to interfere (presumably because the state and religion are aligned).

In other words, religion does lead to happiness, but the greatest effect is seen in conditions where everybody is of the same religion. A bit like things must've been in our tribal past.

But very rare conditions in the modern world!


ResearchBlogging.org
Hayward, R.,& Elliott, M. (2013). Cross-National Analysis of the Influence of Cultural Norms and Government Restrictions on the Relationship Between Religion and Well-Being. Review of Religious Research, 56 (1), 23-43 DOI: 10.1007/s13644-013-0135-0

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Do religious people think they’re nice? It depends on the country

Religion, at least in many people’s minds, is linked to prosocial behaviour. There’s some evidence that that’s true – at least in certain circumstances - but it's a little equivocal

But at least, we can agree that religious people believe they are more moral. When asked, they are more likely to say that they they will do the right thing (regardless of whether or not they actually do). It's straightforward self-affirmation bias.

Or so I thought, until I saw the recent research from Olga Stavrova University of Cologne, Germany) and Pascal Siegers (GESIS Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences, Germany).

They did a total of four studies, digging into different social survey datasets, basically showing that that whether religious people said they were more ethical depends on whether or not they live in a ‘religious’ country.

For example, the more religious people there are in a country, the less likely it is that religious people will say that they go to religious services or are a charity member. When religion is common, religious people are relatively less likely to condemn liberal morals, or to disapprove of lying in one’s own interest.

OK, so what this is basically saying is that, in countries where most people are religious, your average religious person is pretty normal. In countries where it’s easy to opt out of religion, those people who stick with it tend to really be into it.

But actually the results showed some interesting details to ponder. Take a look at the graphs (click on them for a larger version).

They show how people respond to various questions on unethical behaviour – the further you go to the right on each graph, the more religious are the responders.

In general, the trend is that more religious people are less likely to say they do bad things – the graphs slope downwards to the right.

The different lines indicated different kinds of countries. The thick lines are countries with lots of religious people, the thin lines are countries with few religious people.

Two things jump out at you.

First is that, in countries with few religious people (thin lines), even the most religious are more likely to justify lying and admit traffic offences than the least religious people in highly religious countries (top two graphs).

Second is that, in highly religious countries (thick lines), everyone - religious and non-religious – is more likely to say that they would buy stolen goods and commit insurance fraud.

This second observation helps to explain another fact - that religious countries tend to be more corrupt. The data in those graphs have been corrected for socio-economic factors (wealth, education, etc). So they suggest that religious countries tend to have a more corrupt culture – everyone, regardless of how religious they are, is more likely to see corrupt behaviour as acceptable.

In the less religious countries, highly religious people are much less likely to condone corruption. And less religious countries are less corrupt. Is it the guiding light of the highly religious that is reducing corruption? I doubt it. Remember, in these countries there are hardly any highly religious people, so their it’s the behaviour of the non-religious that dominates the average.

More likely, it seems that people are not being entirely honest in their answers. Which brings us to the top two graphs.

What’s interesting about these is that, in the least religious countries, even the highly-religious are more likely to endorse lying and traffic offences than most people in more religious countries.

It seems that the cultural norms in less religious countries allow people to freely confess that they commit traffic offences and occasionally lie. But does that mean that they’re really doing it more?

And does it mean that the religious really tell fewer lies and commit fewer traffic offences? Well, other research has shown that the highly religious tell fewer ‘white’ lies. So maybe they do!


ResearchBlogging.org
Stavrova O, & Siegers P (2014). Religious prosociality and morality across cultures: how social enforcement of religion shapes the effects of personal religiosity on prosocial and moral attitudes and behaviors. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 40 (3), 315-33 PMID: 24218518

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Why do religious people have more friends?

It’s a fairly well-attested fact that religious people tend to be happier, to be more socially engaged, and to have more social support. Well, there are nuances depending on the country you look at, but that’s the general picture.

But is it cause or effect? Is it that religion helps people to be socially engaged (by encouraging them to take part in community events, perhaps, or by making them feel part of a group), or is it that religion attracts a certain kind of person? There’s been a few studies into that in the past, and they’ve come up with mixed results.

James Benjamin Schuurmans-Stekhoven (Charles Sturt University, Australia) has tried a different approach. He’s looked to see whether the personality of religious people might explain their social support.

He recruited 219 Australians (70% women, average 45 years) and asked them about their spirituality (questions like: "I believe in a universal power, a god", "In the last 24 h, I have personally spent 30 min in prayer, meditation or contemplation," and "I have a set of principles that govern my life". It’s a bit more vague than your regular religion questionnaire, but it was chosen in order to pick up religiousness of all types and creeds, as well as to pick up on the importance of a shared world view in making social connections.

He asked them about their perceptions about the social support they got from friends, family and ‘others’, and also about their personality (specifically their agreeableness and conscientiousness).

What he found was that, after correcting for age, gender and education, their spirituality was a significant predictor of social support. However, he also found that conscientiousness and, especially, agreeableness, were also good predictors of social support.

In fact, personality was a better predictor of social support than spirituality. What’s more, when Schuurmans-Stekhoven put both factors into the model, the contribution of spirituality became insignificant.

What that suggests is that it’s personality, not spirituality, that explains why religious people have more social support. That conclusion is reinforced by Schuurmans-Stekhoven’s additional finding that many non-spiritual people were also highly conscientious and agreeable, and reported high levels of social support.

Now, Shuurmans-Stekhoven is quick to point out that this is just an observational analysis. That means the correlation could be spurious, or could be due to some other, unidentified factor. But his point is that most of the other studies done have exactly the same flaws (and worse). He’s tested the claim that spirituality leads to increased social support (based on correlations), and found it wanting.

Even so, what these results suggest is that spirituality, far from being a cause of sociability, actually attracts sociable people (or at least, a subset of them).


ResearchBlogging.org
Schuurmans-Stekhoven, J. (2013). Spirit or Fleeting Apparition? Why Spirituality’s Link with Social Support Might Be Incrementally Invalid Journal of Religion and Health DOI: 10.1007/s10943-013-9801-3

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Religious countries are the most corrupt

Using standard assessments of national corruption, Hamid Yeganeh & Daniel Sauers of Winona State University, USA, have found that countries with the most religious people also have the highest levels of corruption.

Now, in itself this is not a new observation (I pointed out as much back in 2008), given that some of the most religious countries are also the most corrupt. But what is new is that the relationship holds even after controlling for the effects of socioeconomic development. And they showed that religious denomination doesn’t matter – all religions are the same.

Religion, of course, is supposed to promote good behaviour. So what gives? Well, the authors give several potential explanations.

It might be that religion provides a solace to those on the receiving end. But they point out that religious societies are hierarchical, where the elites end up with a lot of power that goes unchallenged. That’s linked to the tight alignment of religious organizations to political and governmental ones in less developed countries.

It also might be the case that religion increases by discriminating between the faithful and unfaithful, thereby encouraging cronyism and nepotism.

They conclude
“Considering the variety of corruption measures, the reliability of data, and the large number of included countries, we have to conclude that religiosity not only does not
impede corruption but tends to promote it… Based on the above-mentioned arguments, we may conclude that while religiosity provides guidance on morality, some of its characteristics practically promote corrupt business behavior.”


ResearchBlogging.org
Hamid Yeganeh, & Daniel Sauers (2013). A Cross-National Investigation into the Effects of Religiosity on the Pervasiveness of Corruption Journal of East-West Business, 19 (3), 155-180 DOI: 10.1080/10669868.2012.760027

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

If your god didn't care about right and wrong, would you still be good?

Studies of religious belief that step outside of the Western bubble are rare, but particularly interesting for that very reason.There's a lot of great work done that leaves you with a nagging doubt, because you can never be sure that it applies to the human race as a whole (although you can usually surmise that it does not!).

One particular gripe I have is with the idea that we invented gods to keep society functioning nicely by getting everyone to believe in a supernatural policeman. Sounds plausible, and yet when you look at many cultures outside the major monotheisms seems that their gods don't really care much about morality. They're interested in you giving them gifts, or looking after their waterhole, or whatever. But they don't really care whether or not you love your neighbour.

Benjamin Purzycki, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, has been out and about among the people of the Tyva Republic in southern Siberia. Their religion is based around a mixed bag of animism, totemism, shamanism, and Buddhism. One ancient part of their religion involves the Cher eezi, the supernatural lords of resources (e.g., lakes, rivers, trees, etc.) and regions (e.g., kinbased territories, regions that are off-limits to human exploitation, and political districts).

Purzycki began by asking them simply to describe what makes a good or bad person, and also what angers or pleases the spirit masters. By way of a benchmark, he also interviewed anthropology undergraduates from the University of Connecticut - all of them believers in an omniscient god.

Overall, he found, the students were pretty clear and consistent - their God knows everything, but He cares only about the moral information (He knows what colour your shirt is, but he doesn't care about such things). By contrast, Tyvans gave much more varied answers - suggesting that there's no consensus about what the spirit masters know or care about.

The idea that the Spirit Masters are watching out for good behaviour just doesn't seem to be part of their culture.

But he also asked both groups some specific questions - on questions of morality  (for example, things like "e.g., Does the cher eezi of this place know if I stole from another person here?" or "...if I lied to someone when I am at home in America?") as well as and also simple factual questions (e.g. "...that my eyes are blue?).

As well as asking the Tyvans if the spirit masters knew about these things, he also asked them if they cared (as you can see, he was interested to know if the Spirit Masters were only concerned with local misdeeds or whether they are omniscient, like the Western god).

The aggregate numbers were convincing. Take a look at the graphic. It shows how concerned are the Western god and the Tyvan Spirit Masters about moral transgressions.

For the Westerners, god is concerned about all moral acts wherever they are committed. The Tyvan's spirit masters  are not only less concerned about moral transgressions, but that concern ebbs away with distance from their sacred place. Unlike the western gods, the Tyvan just aren't omniscient.

So it seems that although Tyvan's don't really seem to think of moral concerns as a defining feature of the spirit masters, they still, when asked, think that they are concerned about moral behaviour.

Which is a little odd, if you think about it.

Maybe, Purzycki speculates, it's just that Tyvan's naturally attribute moral concerns to their Spirit Masters because that's how other supernatural agents they know about think (e.g. "Buddha").

To add to that, it strikes me that perhaps they just think the Spirit Master are a bit like people. Most people would not define themselves as being preoccupied by morality - though isf asked you would take a dim view of shoplifting, say.

Regardless, the implication is that nonmoral gods could provoke us into more moral behaviours - similar to the way people cheat less if they think there is a ghost in the room.

Which is intriguing but I wonder about the practical effects. Most people who lie or cheat usually believe that their behaviour is justified. It's a small step from there to convincing yourself that the Spirit Master is on your side - especially if the terms of moral behaviour are not rigidly defined.

So, as Purzycki concludes:

...the ultimate question of whether or not various explicit conceptions of gods’ minds have particular behavioral and fitness effects requires further investigation. Is there variation in levels of prosociality for populations who explicitly moralize their deities?
Really, the problem depends a lot on the cultural context. And there's going to be interplay between the cultural context and how the local gods come to be seen and defined. Maybe there's more than one way to skin the "complex society" cat.


ResearchBlogging.org
Purzycki BG (2013). The minds of gods: a comparative study of supernatural agency. Cognition, 129 (1), 163-79 PMID: 23891826

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Drumming together

Humans devote so much time to rhythmic group activities (singing, dancing, marching) that it seems intuitive that there must be something to it. Sure enough, a few studies recently have found that singing together and even marching together can encourage people to feel stronger ties to their co-rhythmacists.

Such activities are often folded into religion, and religion also tends to foster group ties. So maybe religion and rhythm act in synergy? That’s what Emma Cohen, at Oxford University, and colleagues Roger Mundry and Sebastian Kirschner from the Max Planck Institute sought to investigate.

To do this, they went to Brazil. Brazil is big on drumming, and in particular the local Afro-Brazilian religions have strong drumming traditions.

Cohen and colleagues recruited 32 atabaque drummers (all men, as only men do the drumming) into a really nicely designed experiment. Basically, they each did some solo drumming and then two sessions in groups of four.

They were trained in some rhythms, and their efforts were recorded electronically – which allowed their rhythmic accuracy to be assessed. While playing, they were shown the rhythms on a computer monitor – and that allowed the experimenters to tweak the temp as well as dictate the rhythm of each drummer.

Before the drumming, half of them listened to a recorded narration about drumming with either a secular or a religious focus. The idea was to see if this affected how the drummers performed in the tests they took after they had finished drumming.

So, after each session, the drummers were given 10 Brazilian real coins, of which they could anonymously contribute some to a communal pot. The lowest amount contributed would be doubled and given to each of the four drummers. So this is a measure of how much they trust the others.

But the researchers found that drumming, whether synchronised or not, had no effect on contributions.

Likewise, the religious priming had no statistically significant effect – although there was a trend that suggested that religious priming did increase contributions. Quite why this was so is hard to interpret as the drummers actually reported feeling more connected with their fellow drummers after the secular prime!

What's more, Afro-Brazilian religion doesn’t have the moral component that’s so strong in the monotheisms. Their deities are often not stalwart do-gooders, so even if the drummers felt they were being watched by the spirits, this would not necessarily encourage good behaviour. Hardly any of them were actively involved in these religions anyway.

So what to make of this? On the face of it, it’s a negative result from a really nicely designed study, which would tend to make you think that claims for the effect of synchronised activity on attitudes towards fellow group members are overblown.

And yet I’m left with a nagging suspicion that the study was simply too small. At no point in the manuscript do they provide a statistical power calculation – which is an essential step in working out whether you have enough people in your study to show an effect (if one exists). There were a lot of groups and conditions, so my gut feeling is that you would probably need a lot of drummers to cut through the statistical noise.

Which is a real shame, as otherwise this was one of the most meticulously designed studies on this topic that I have seen!


ResearchBlogging.org
Emma Cohen, Roger Mundry, & Sebastian Kirschner (2013). Religion, synchrony, and cooperation Religion, Brain & Behavior DOI: 10.1080/2153599X.2012.741075

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Do the right thing and hang the consequences!

Is it ever OK to break the rules? Are some values simply sacred, never to be abandoned? When faced with a moral dilemma, do you always hold fast or do you sometimes bend?

We know from previous research that religious conservatives tend to favour moral absolutes. There are certain rules that must be adhered to, even if a clear justification seems hard to come by.

One theory about why this is so is that the religious don't want to think to hard. It's just easier to say that rules is rules.

But Jared Piazza (University of Pennsylvania) and Paulo Sousa (Queen’s University Belfast, UK) suspected something else is happening. They think that religious people believe that consequences are unimportant - adhering to taboos and conventions isthe objective, not optimising outcomes.

To test this, they ran three online studies putting some hypothetical scenarios to adults - mostly in the US but in the third study they extended their sample to India.

In the first study, they found that religious people were less likely to say that it is acceptable to break a promise if the result is to "produce greater good than bad". OK, but feasibly that could happen if religious people simply don't care much about what happens to other people.

So then they rephrased their questions, asking if it's OK to break a rule if that means that the rule will be broken less in the future. For example, they asked if their subjects agreed that "If breaking the law will prevent even more law breaking, then it is morally permissible to break the law"

Still the religious subjects were less likely to approve of rule breaking. They were not 'consequentialist' thinkers.

But even so, this may all be something to do with not wanting to cause or permit something bad to happen. So in the final study, they asked about moral transgressions with no consequences at all, either good or ill.

They got their subjects to read a couple of scenarios - one depicting incest, and one depicting cannibalism. They asked them whether this was permissible or impermissible. If the subject said it was impermissible, then they went to extra lengths to explain to them that these were acts that don't cause any harm, injustice or negative consequences

They found that the religiosity of their subjects was linked to the view that incest was impermissible, but not really to views about cannibalism. The political conservatism of their subjects, on the other hand, was linked to rejection of cannibalism but not of incest.

They also tested all their subjects for their thinking style. Whether or not they were intuitive thinkers (going by instinctive, gut feeling) and whether or not they were consequentialist thinkers(using the same tests that they used earlier).

They found that religiosity was linked to intuitive thinking and a disregard for consequences. Conservatism was also linked to disregard for consequences, but not to intuitive thinking.

When they put all these data into their model (shown in the figure), what popped out was that the lack of interest in consequences, rather than intuitive thinking, was the best explanation for the rejection of incest by the religious and of canabalism by political conservatives.

Interestingly, it didn't matter whether their subjects were American or Indian - they saw the same pattern.

Piazza had previously shown that religious people are more likely to appeal to rules, rather than outcomes, when justifying their condemnation of wrongdoers. In this study, Piazza and Sousa say:

We have shown that both religious and conservative-minded individuals are reluctant to endorse the permissibility of various rule violations even when doing so optimizes the good (Study 1), prevents further wrongdoing (Study 2), or produces no negative consequences (Study 3). 
That's pretty powerfuls stuff. What's more, it seems to be particularly linked to religion, rather than political conservatism - even though the two overlap to quite a degree.

So, after reading through all this, you're probably thinking that this is one in the eye for religion. After all, it seems pretty simple not to bend the rules in order to get better outcomes. But this is one of those areas where it all depends on which lens you use to view the world - as the study that I'll talk about in my next post will show!


ResearchBlogging.org
Jared Piazza, & Paulo Sousa (2013). Religiosity, Political Orientation, and Consequentialist Moral Thinking Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550613492826

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Does nagging about religious charity make people more co-operative?

There have been a few studies looking at whether religious people are more co-operative in games like the 'prisoners' dilemma'. This is a game where you have to decide whether to co-operate or default; if both players co-operate, you do well, but if you co-operate and the other defaults, you lose out.

Often, these studies find that subliminal religious prompts (priming) can induce people to co-operate, although whether they are more effective than secular prompts about good behaviour is open to debate.

David Rand (Harvard University, USA) and colleagues wanted to know whether explicit priming working the same way. Explicit priming - meaning that their subjects read a religious text and then played the game - is known to work in a different way to subliminal priming. What's more, explicit priming lets you look at texts from different religions, to see if the detail of what they are saying is important.

So in a couple of studies they asked their subjects to read a religious text and then play the prisoner's dilemma game.

The most interesting study recruited 547 people from around the world via the Mechanical Turk online 'micro-work' site. They asked them to read either a Christian passage, or a Hindu passage, or a secular passage promoting charity.

What they found was that the Christian passage significantly increased co-operation among Christians, but the other passages didn't. And none of the passages had any effect on Hindus or Atheists.

But before you read too much into this take a look at the graph. The Christians and the atheists (top and bottom graphs, respectively) seem to have high levels of co-operation across the board, regardless of how they were primed (presumably because they come from the same cultures).

The Christian passage increased co-operations among Christians, but looking at the graph you'd be hard pushed to say that the effect was greater than the secular prime. And the co-operation of the atheists after the Christian prime was the same as the co-operation levels of the Christians after the Christian prime.

The real difference seems to be that Christians co-operate less after a neutral prime, but respond to pretty much any kind of 'pro co-operation' priming. Atheists co-operate the same regardless of priming.

This is the problem with a study that tries to cover so much ground - especially with relatively few subjects. There are just so many different comparisons you can make, that you are bound to find something that hits the magic 'statistical significance' mark. So it can be hard to make firm conclusions.

On the other hand, I really like this study because it is cross-cultural. And, even more importantly, it looks at secular primes as well as religious ones - which is the only way we can find out whether religion has some specific effect, or whether any cultural reference to 'good behaviour' will do.

Oh, and it's good to be back after my rather long break!


ResearchBlogging.org
David G. Randa, Anna Dreberc, Omar S. Haqueb, Rob J. Kaneb, Martin A. Nowaka, & Sarah Coakley (2013). Religious motivations for cooperation: an experimental investigation using explicit primes Religion, Brain & Behavior DOI: 10.1080/2153599X.2013.775664

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Regular churchgoers punish those who share their donuts

Anonymous games of reciprocity and trust are common devices used in the study of religion. Usually the games are set up so that, if you were ruthlessly logical, you shouldn't share anything. The fact that people often do is intriguing.

Andreas Lechner, at the University of Augsberg in Germany, has employed a more complex variant of this game that includes a third person - the punisher. You can download the working paper here. The basic gist of games is shown in the figure.

Everyone starts of with 10 Euros. The investor can send as much as they want to the Trustee, and that amount is tripled. The trustee can send as much as they want back to the Investor. And watching over it all is the Punisher. The punisher can spend some of their own money to take money away from either the Investor or the Punisher.

Except in this game, because they couldn't use real money  (Lechner doesn't say why), it was played with pastries and candies

Now, because this is all done anonymously, and only played once, the logical thing is that the Trustee will keep whatever is given, and the Punisher won't do anything no matter what. So the Investor, knowing this should invest nothing.

That's not what happens in reality, of course. And what Lechner wanted to know is whether having religious punisher made any difference.

So he ranthis experiment using 144 students, using a fairly cunning experimental design to maximise the amount of useable data

And what he found, for the most part, was that it really didn't matter if the punisher was religious or not.

Christians didn't punish those who were not trustworthy (i.e. did not return a reasonable amount of the investment). And there was no difference between Catholics or Protestants.

What's more, knowing that the punisher had no effect on the investor or trustee. They acted in the same way. Apparently they instinctively believed that Christians would not punish any more or less than the non-religious. What's more, Christians weren't any more or less trustworthy.

There was an interaction between religious punishers and the punishment meted out to  those who weren't trustworthy (that is, trustees who did not reciprocate by  the trustee did not reciprocate).But it's not what you would expect.

Frequent attenders at religious services were more likely to punish those who were trusting.

Yes, that's right. Those who investors sent over a large sum were more likely to be punished if the punisher was a Christian. What's more these churchgoers were themselves less trusting.

Lechner says:
it appears as religious service promotes distrust, so that trust is punished increasingly with higher attendance rates ... This finding could be due to a lower trust in strangers by religious individuals
 Although he does go on to point out that scientific support for that idea is a bit mixed, it certainly seems plausible.


Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Extreme rituals promote prosociality

We last met Dimitris Xygalatas (Aarhus University, Denmark) on this blog back in January, with a study of how being in a religious location can affect generosity. What was interesting about that study was that it was done in a non-Western country (Mauritius), with people from a diverse range of religious backgrounds.

In a new study, he (along with colleagues from New Zealand, the Czech Republic, and Denmark) found evidence that extreme religious rituals can stimulate increased generosity - this time focussing on the Hindu community of Mauritius. The authors explain:

We examined two rituals that were part of the annual Hindu festival of Thaipusam, one of the most widely celebrated religious festivals the world over: a low-ordeal ritual involving singing and collective prayer (top picture) and a high-ordeal ritual (Kavadi; bottom picture) involving body piercing with multiple needles and skewers, carrying heavy bamboo structures, and dragging carts attached by hooks to the skin for over 4 hr before climbing a mountain barefooted to reach the temple of Murugan.
Along with the people who actually took part in the two different kinds of rituals, they also studied a group of Kavadi observers (nonperforming participants who walked alongside performers, are often related to them and have themselves previously taken part in he ritual).

After the event, all the participants and observers were given a questionnaire, and also given the opportunity to make an anonymous donation to the temple.

They found that those who had taken part in the extreme ritual, as well as those who had observed it, donated more to the temple (as shown in the chart, which shows the average amount of donation in Mauritian rupees).

 And it seems the painfulness of the ordeal was an important factor - the more pain the worshipper reported, the higher the donations. That went for the observers, as well as the active participants!

Intriguingly, the high-ordeal participants also had a more inclusive social identity. They were more likely to say that they felt themselves to be Mauritian, rather than Hindu.

Now, of course it's hard to tease out cause and effect in a study like this (are more generous, more inclusive people more likely to undertake painful rituals?). But either way, it's a pretty remarkable result.

I would have predicted exactly the opposite. The high-ordeal participants have already made their contribution - and because people tend to total up their good deeds and balance them out with bad ones (which may be why Christians don't tip so much after Church services), I would've expected those who had suffered for their faith to personally donate less.

The authors comment that:

These results suggest that costly displays of group commitment (though apparently wasteful) may be conserved because they intensify prosocial behaviors and attitudes among the wider community (Henrich, 2009; Sosis & Bressler, 2003).

Which is all well and good, but runs up against the basic evolutionary problem we always have when the group benefits but the individual suffers. The problem is that it's always better for you as an individual to duck out (see: Religion as a costly signal: why the idea is bunk).

If, however, by undergoing a painful ritual you persuade others to make sacrifices that somehow (directly or indirectly) benefit you, then it might just work...

One last thing. Why, do you suppose, the extreme ritualists ended up feeling warmer to society as a whole, rather than just to their co-religionists? After all, someone dedicated enough to skewer themselves in the name of their gods must surely have religious identification pretty high on their list of priorities?

Well, perhaps it's to do with the fact that Mauritius, although a pretty mixed society by global standards, is still predominantly Hindu. The authors say:

...identity always functions in a social context (Tajfel, 1984). In the context of a public ritual that recognizes the Hindu majority group, situated in a larger community whose members hold multiple identities, ritual intensity enhanced the superordinate national identity


ResearchBlogging.org
Xygalatas, D., Mitkidis, P., Fischer, R., Reddish, P., Skewes, J., Geertz, A., Roepstorff, A., & Bulbulia, J. (2013). Extreme Rituals Promote Prosociality Psychological Science DOI: 10.1177/0956797612472910

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Countries with a state religion also have fewer political and civil freedoms

It's fairly common for a national government to explicitly favour one particular religion or sect. This support can take many forms - financial, political, or legal - but the common factor is that the dominant religion gets a helping hand from the state.

Now it probably wouldn't be too much of a surprise to learn that states inclined to interfere in religious expression are also more likely to place a controlling hand on political and civic freedoms, However, proving that relationship is not so straightforward.

Just defining "State Religion" is tricky enough. Several teams have created scorecards for country freedoms, but they disagree over the number of countries that have a state religion (somewhere between 48 and 75).

Even so, Steven Kettell at the University of Warwick in the UK, has pored over these statistics and come up with some interesting findings.

First off, he confirmed that countries with a state religion really do have substantially lower than average levels of political rights and civil liberties. This was chiefly down to countries with a Muslim majority, which are disproportionately likely to have fewer freedoms and also a state religion.

They also have higher levels of "social regulation" of religion - meaning that there are informal, unofficial barrier confronting other religions and favouring the state religion. They also have higher levels of religious persecution.

However, the striking thing was that, whereas general social and political freedoms were higher in nations with greater human development (a mix of wealth, health and education), there was no relationship between human development and the presence or absence of a state religion. There was also no connection to religious diversity or religiosity in general.

That lead Kettell to conclude that:

...the lower levels of freedom found in countries with state religions may have less to do with their particular socio-cultural conditions, and more to do with the institutional mechanics of state religions themselves. Given that the entire point and purpose of a state religion is to support the promotion of one particular religious perspective over other world-views, and given that this objective invariably involves the provision of various financial, legal and political privileges, it is not hard to see how these dynamics can lead to the curtailing of political and religious freedoms.

So, state religion and freedom: cause or effect?

The question matters, because religious protectionism is on the rise in the West. If such protectionism actually leads to other infringements of civil liberties, we could be in for a rough time.


ResearchBlogging.org
Kettell, S. (2013). State Religion and Freedom: A Comparative Analysis Politics and Religion, 1-32 DOI: 10.1017/S1755048312000600

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

In Burkino Faso, traditional beliefs encourage trust and fair-play in the small-business community

Village life in sub-Saharan Africa is governed by a moral code enforced by customs, regulations, and taboos. Because communities are close-knit, large discrepancies in wealth are frowned upon, and the accumulation of private wealth is regarded as anti-social.

Locals believe that spirits and ancestors enforce this moral code, and that transgressors will be punished by misfortune, business failure, and severe illnesses or accidents. But does this actually have any effect on behaviour?

Myriam Hadnes and Heiner Schumacher, at the University of Frankfurt, recruited a bunch of 'micro-entrepreneurs' from the villages around Ouagadougou and asked them to play an economic transaction game, to see how generous and trusting they were towards others.

The game has two players - both anonymous, both given 1000 West African Francs (worth just over 2 dollars - about a day's pay at minimum wage levels). Player A could either keep his money (in which case both went home with their 1,000 Fcfa) or give it all to Player B.

If Player A chose to send the money, then it was doubled so that Player B now had 3000 Fcfa. Player B could then send back as much as he or she wanted. After that, they went home.

Before playing the game, the players were interviewed about their businesses. For half the participants, the interviewers asked about jealousy and traditional rules about conduct, and deliberately steered the conversation towards supernatural topics. For the other half, they focussed on practical issues of business - and deliberately avoided anything related to supernatural topics.

They found that, in the group that avoided supernatural topics, 69% of 'Player A' participants handed their 1,000 Fcfa to Player B. In the group that did discuss the traditional beliefs, that figure rose to 87%. That suggests that these players were more trusting that Player B would play fair.

Then they looked at what Player B gave back in return, and found that they were significantly more likely to give higher amounts (see graphic). In fact, while the group that did not discuss the supernatural returned on average 1,261 Fcfa (or 42 percent), those primed with traditional beliefs returned 1,471 Fcfa (or 49 percent).

That suggests that, in both groups, the A players' trust was well placed - but that this was particularly so in the group primed with tradition. That difference was statistically significant, even after adjusting for other differences between the groups.

The authors point out that this is unlikely to be simply due to increased trust (because they found that the A players didn't actually expect more in return, and also that doesn't explain why the B players were more generous). Nor was it because they were less risk-averse (again, that can't explain the B-players response).

Instead, they say that:

... our results suggest another factor as the driving force of both the A- and B-players’ behavior.

In the postexperimental questionnaire, one-third of all participants explicitly cited illness, accidents, or death as direct consequence of dishonest behavior. In the interviews of the treatment group, participants shared their experiences with supernatural forces intervening into worldly life to punish those who did not respect the ancestors’ will. Almost half of the participants stated having witnessed a case of supernatural punishment aftermisbehavior.

Also, we learned that participants trust witch doctors to influence their business success, and fear the neighbors’ and competitors’ envy if they are successful without caring for their kith and kin.

In line with these observations, we argue that A- and B-players’ behavior was driven by the combination of prevailing sharing norms and the belief in supernatural punishment whenever these norms are violated.

Because of the design of this study, we can't tease out whether this was a direct effect of supernatural fears or not. The interviews of the A players covered both social norms and supernatural topics (they couldn't use the more usual priming technique of asking the participants to do a word game, because most were illiterate), so either or both could be affecting the result.

But as the first evidence that reminders of traditional moral beliefs, coupled with supernatural threats, can result in behaviour that's significantly more pro-social!


ResearchBlogging.org
Hadnes, M., & Schumacher, H. (2012). The Gods Are Watching: An Experimental Study of Religion and Traditional Belief in Burkina Faso Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 51 (4), 689-704 DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5906.2012.01676.x

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Religious belief and religious involvement have opposite effects on support for democracy

One of the challenges with doing surveys is that the answers you get can depend on the order in which you ask the questions. For example, if you ask people about their religious beliefs, then their minds will be primed to respond to later questions in a way that fits with their beliefs.

This is a problem for surveys, but it also offers a novel research opportunity, as a recent study by Ben-Nun Bloom and Gizem Arikan, political scientists at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has shown. They're interested in how religious beliefs affect support for democracy - I blogged a study of theirs back in October.

They recruited university students from Israel (all of them Jewish) and Turkey (all Muslims), and asked them about their religious belief, religious social behaviour, and support for democracy (using standard questions pulled from the World Values Survey).

But the cunning thing was that they varied the order in which they asked the questions, ending up with three different groups who had each been asked a different set of questions first.

What they found was that asking questions about religious belief (i.e.belief in God, heaven, life after death, etc) first significantly reduced support for democracy - and this effect held regardless of how religious the individual was.

On the other hand, asking questions about religious social behaviour (i.e. attending services, having friends of the same religion, etc) first increased support for democracy! Again, this was independent of how important religion was to the individual's social life.

The positive effect of religious behaviour on support for democracy was a little stronger in Turkey than Israel, but otherwise the basic trends were the same in both countries.

So this puts an additional twist on their earlier results - which used data from the World Values survey to show that religious beliefs decrease and religious socialisation increase support for democracy.

What they suggest is that continual exposure to religious ideas and messages results in a kind of life-long priming. Religious socialisation encourages group cohesion, which might affect support for democracy. Religious beliefs trigger thoughts of traditionalism, security, conformity - which might act to reduce support for democracy.

Clearly, religion and democracy are both complicated beasts, and so there is not going to be a straightforward relationship between the two!

But this study also just goes to show how malleable is the link between beliefs and behaviours. Back in 2009, I reported on another study which found that what people tell you about their attitudes to risk depend on whether you ask first about their religion and gender.

If you ask these questions first, they will give you an answer about attitude to risk that fits the social stereotype. But if you ask about attitude to risk first, you get answers that are far less stereotypical!

Now, social scientists and psychologists are well aware of these issues, and in the studies I review on this blog they are usually careful to ask about religious beliefs after the experiment, and not before.

But I do often wonder about all those studies that use data from large surveys. Usually the questions on religion are buried within questions on all sorts of other topics. So who knows how reliable they are!


ResearchBlogging.org
Ben-Nun Bloom, P., & Arikan, G. (2012). Priming Religious Belief and Religious Social Behavior Affects Support for Democracy International Journal of Public Opinion Research DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/eds030

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Why are religious people so fertile?

On average, religious people have more children than non-religious people. Now, that's a sweeping generalisation, of course. However, statistically it seems to hold good, to different degrees, for all the societies that I've seen examined.

But why? It's an important question. A common answer is that this is evidence that religion is evolutionarily advantageous. The idea here is that religious belief in some way facilitates having lots of children (perhaps by making you a nicer, trustworthy person), which gives you a head start in the race to pass on your genes to the next generation.

It's a view that I think is plain wrong.

I think the link is not with religious belief and fertility, but rather with conservative family values and fertility. And, crucially, I think that link is a recent innovation.

Here's some new research to back that up.

Markus Jokela, at the University of Helsinki, has analysed the changing relationship between personality traits and fertility in people living in the USA who were born in the decades 1920 to 1960 - a period of huge cultural innovation, especially with regard to women's rights.

He looked at the conventional "5-factor" model of personality, which rates individuals on their extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openess.

He found that three of these traits (extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness) were consistently related (either positively or negatively) to fertility over time.

However, conscientiousness, and in particular openess, were linked to lower and lower fertility rates as the decades rolled by. That was the case for both men and women.

What this means is that the declining fertility rates seen in the younger groups of people was largely driven by dwindling fertility among people who were highly open to new experiences (as Wikipedia says, these people are "inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious").

So cultural conservative were more likely to retain high fertility but - and this is the crucial bit - this is a new phenomenon. Among people born in the early part of the 20th century, fertility was no higher among cultural conservatives than among the inventive/curious.

So, while high fertility among the religious may have implications for the future distribution of 'religion genes' (if such a thing even exists), it does not explain the current genetic distribution.

There's another recent paper that backs this up, albeit in a somewhat more tangential way. Joseph Stanford and Ken Smith, at the University of Utah, have shown that, among Mormons, what we have come to regard as a 'normal' link between higher income and lower fertility is reversed.

In other words, Mormons with high income actually have higher fertility than Mormons with lower income. To me, that's surely a sign that cultural conservatism, which restricts the employment options for women, is a core reason explaining the modern link between religion and fertility.

In the past, of course, everyone was old-fashioned. And so everyone, religious or not, had high fertility rates!

Of course, most children back then died young, but that's a different evolutionary process at work...


ResearchBlogging.org
Jokela M (2012). Birth-cohort effects in the association between personality and fertility. Psychological science, 23 (8), 835-41 PMID: 22722269

Stanford JB, & Smith KR (2012). Marital fertility and income: moderating effects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Utah. Journal of Biosocial Science, 1-10 PMID: 23069479

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

A love-hate relationship between religion and democracy

According to a new analysis by Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom and Gizem Arikan, political scientists at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, religious believers don't think much of democracy.

However, they found that religious behaviour (belonging to a religious group and participating in group activities) was linked to increased support for democracy. The reason for the difference is that both these factors are linked to more fundamental social attitudes, and that these are the real influencers on support for democracy

What they found was that strong religious belief was linked to a rejection of secular/rational values, in favour of traditional values, and also to rejection of self-expression, in favour of 'survival values' (a hotch-potch of insecurity, desire for hierarchical authority, and intolerance). These, in turn, lead to a rejection not just of overt support for democracy, but also a rejection of the values that make democracy work (things like civil rights and support for democratic procedures).

Social religious behaviour, on the other hand, increases both interest in politics and confidence in institutions. Although religious participation doesn't seem to increase support for democratic procedures, nor does it dampen it. Overall, strong religious networks contribute to increased trust in institutions and thereby more support for democracy.

Now, the data they had available didn't allow them to decide which effect was stronger with much certainty. However, they did conclude that, all other things being equal, "the total negative effect of religious belief on support for democracy is stronger than the positive effect of religious social behavior," and that "the effect of religious belief on values is typically the strongest in the models, while the effect of religious social behavior on confidence in institutions and political interest is relatively weaker."

Overall, religion is bad for your democratic health.

What's more, they found a similar effect regardless of the religious tradition. On the face of it, this conflicts with other research showing that Catholics and Muslims want democracy - but for different reasons. However, this discrepancy might be explained if, for example, Muslims have stronger religious beliefs.


ResearchBlogging.org

Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom, & Gizem Arikan (2012). Religion and Support for Democracy: A Cross-National Test of the Mediating Mechanisms British Journal of Political Science : 10.1017/S0007123412000427

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

The rising tide of religious protectionism in the West

In the West these days we're used to a familiar narrative about growing rise of non-belief. Poll after poll has been clear: most countries in Europe, as well as Australasia, are either largely non-religious or becoming markedly less so. Even in the USA, there is now a clear trend towards lower levels of personal belief, especially among the young.

But that's not the full picture, not by a long chalk. There are many different ways to look at whether society is 'secular', and one of the is to consider whether religion plays a role in the public sphere.

To assess this, Jonathan Fox, a Political Scientist at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, has looked at trends in governmental religious policy over recent years (Fox was also the author of the 'clash of civilizations' study that I wrote about back in July).

When he looked at discrimination against minority religions, he found a clear trend. As shown in the graphic, the average level of religious favouritism in the west has been increasing. Fox found that:

The most common restrictions are on building, maintaining or repairing places of worship and registration requirements for minority religious institutions. Also, over a quarter of Western European countries place restrictions on proselytizing by foreigners. For example, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, and the UK require special visas for missionaries and/or religious workers and/or have denied such entry to some missionaries or religious workers.

He also found that this trend is quite widespread. Almost all countries (including the USA) engage in at least some form of religious discrimination, and since 1990 discrimination has increased in 12 out of 27 countries assessed (and gone down in only 2).

The second of Fox's findings was that, on average, governmental support for religion has remained constant over this period - although it increased in seven countries and decreased in eight. He comments:

For instance in 2008 Spain stopped making direct payments to the Catholic Church and Sweden, in the context of removing its official religion in 2000, eliminated some laws. On the other side of the coin, Luxembourg began funding ‘recognized’ religions in 1998 and during George W. Bush’s presidency, the United States began more systematically funding faith-based charities, a trend that had begun more tentatively and with more restrictions under previous administrations.

Although Fox focuses on Western Europe, it seems like this is a worldwide phenomenon. The Pew Centre recently reported that religious discrimination, as assessed by several different measures, has increased around the world in recent years.

I look at these data and what I see is a backlash by the political establishment against the loss of religious faith. Almost all of the increase in religious legislation has been to increase state funding for religious enterprises.

Fox acknowledges this perspective, but demurs:

The simplest interpretation is that this is part of a larger trend where religion is remaining important and perhaps increasing in importance. Another interpretation is that this government sponsored support for dominant religions is a compensation for declining religiosity and religious identity. If this is the case, this would mean that politicians in democratically elected governments in supposedly secularizing societies still think supporting religion benefits their political careers. This implies that there is still a strong political base supporting these policies.

I think that's true - and you should remember that even in countries with a lot of atheists, most people are still religious and even those who are minimally religious still identify with a faith from a cultural perspective. Plus, of course, politicians are of the older generation, which is more religious than the youngsters (and, compounding the problem: young people don't vote).

So there are still plenty of votes in religion.

But what about discrimination of minorities. Well, again to me this looks like the dominant culture protecting their own. In particular, hostility towards Muslim minorities in Europe seems to be driving legislation that is specifically attacking minority faiths.

This discrimination is less about religious fervour and more about hostility to immigrants.

Fox agrees, but with some nuances:

In the case of the increasing religious discrimination, it is possible to argue that this reflects a desire to maintain the dominant culture, security concerns, and, perhaps, protect citizens from potentially dangerous and predatory ‘cults’ or ‘sects’. However, the specific restrictions do not materially add to security and by agitating minority populations they likely increase security risks ... these policies seem more consistent with a desire to protect the religious status quo.
Put differently, if religion was not important in the West, the introduction of new religions with small followings into a country should be met with apathy, not resistance

In other words, however you read these data it's clear that religion is still important in the West. In fact, religion is important enough for governments to take increasing steps to try to protect it!


ResearchBlogging.org
Jonathan Fox (2012). The Last Bastion of Secularism? Government Religion Policy in Western Democracies, 1990 to 2008 Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 20 (2), 161-180 DOI: 10.1080/14782804.2012.685389

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Catholics and Muslims want democracy - but for different reasons

So, what's wrong with Muslim countries, eh? That's something I hear with increasing frequency - usually by people who are implying some kind of cultural superiority over the faithful.

After all, Muslim countries are mostly autocratic, and even after the Arab spring real democracy seems like a distant hope for most.

Among academics, there are two popular theories for why democracy does not take root in Muslim countries. The first says that it's down to a lack of modernization - stronger economies would "produce a more articulate, liberal, and tolerant public".

The second theory asserts that Islamic societies don't embrace the spirit of democracy - that is, they do not score well on essential civic values, such as interpersonal trust, social tolerance, support for political equality, and civic engagement.

To investigate these ideas, ManLi Gu and Eduard Bomhoff (Monash University, Sunway, Malaysia) analysed data from the World Values Survey, hoping to find out whether Muslims support democracy, and why. They looked at a selection of Catholic and Muslim Countries, chosen because there are a number of Catholic countries (in South America) with low levels of economic development.

They used a statistical technique to isolate clusters of opinions. In particular, they were looking at how attitudes to religion cluster with political attitudes.

The first thing they found is that Muslim and Catholic countries had similar levels of desire for democracy, and that all the countries they looked at had a sizable cluster of people who were both highly religious and very much in favour of democracy. What's more, there didn't seem to be any notable clusters of religious, anti-democratic individuals (except in Columbia and Mexico).

Incidentally, France, Spain and Uruguay were the only nations to have a sizable non-religious, pro-democracy group - presumably because the other countries had few non-religious people over all.

So, neither religions seem to form an intrinsic barrier to democracy. However, support for democracy was linked with very different attitudes among Catholics versus Muslims.

Gu and Bomhoff found that in Catholic countries there were sizeable groups of people whose support for democracy was linked to support for other liberal ideas - such as racial diversity, sexual liberation, gender equality, trust and social tolerance (see graphic).

In Muslims countries, these clusters mostly did not exist. But what did exist was the exact opposite - large groups of people who combined support for democracy with rejection of liberal values!

Further analysis showed that support for democracy in Muslim countries was linked not with liberal values but desire for prosperity and wealth redistribution. They conclude:

Support for democracy in the Catholic countries stems from a pro-democratic civic culture that embodies certain distinct attributes such as tolerance of diversity, mutual trust, and an emphasis on gender equality ... Citizens in Islamic countries, on the other hand, endorse the term democracy without necessarily embracing those liberal values that arguably are crucial for a vigorous and open democracy.

So people living in Muslim countries see democracy just as a tool that brings economic benefits. And the problem with that, according to Gu and Bomhoff, is that support for democracy won't endure in the face of economic downturns.

Now, it was not all that long ago that you could find similar attitudes in Catholic countries. After all, Spain and Latin America have had a pretty ambivalent relationship with democracy until relatively recently. However, attitudes in these countries have shifted quite dramatically in recent years. Democratization was accompanied by a surge in support for liberal values, especially among the young.

In Muslim countries, however, the young are just as conservative as their parents and grandparents (at least, according to the World Values Survey). There are no signs of shifting attitudes.

All of this leads Gu and Bomhoff to a gloomy prognosis for Muslim countries:

We concur with the Culturalist theorists that there is a cultural basis for the absence of democracy in the Muslim world — the democratic deficit has something to do with a shortfall in deeper democratic values and a lack of appreciation of freedom and openness at the mass level.

Quite why this is so is another matter. I suspect it is not due to religious differences - at least, not in any direct way. After all, both religions include traditions that could be called upon to support either liberal or conservative attitudes.

So I suspect that the difference has something to do with the cultural history, and in particular the conflict with the Christian West. Throughout most of the history of Islam, the West was culturally and materially inferior to Islam. Maybe this cultural memory has something to do with the resistance to what are seen today as 'Western' values.


ResearchBlogging.org
Man-Li Gu, & Eduard J. Bomhoff (2012). Religion and Support for Democracy: A Comparative Study for Catholic and Muslim Countries Politics and Religion, 5 (2), 280-316 : 10.1017/S1755048312000041

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.