Sacred ties: why religion inspires confidence, community, and sacrifice
Explaining group solidarity is one of the most fundamental problems of sociology. Understanding solidarity within religious groups is particularly challenging because much of what religion offers cannot be verified in an empirical context and must be believed to have value. The main purpose of this study is to posit and test a theory of religious group solidarity that merges key principles from cultural theories of religion and the rational choice paradigm. Specific doctrinal content is identified as being solidarity-producing and it is argued that the amount of confidence group members have in such doctrines will impact their willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the group. The role of families and religious groups in sustaining confidence in religious explanations was also considered. Evidence was found for hypotheses asserting that religious confidence is promoted in teenagers as the expressions of confidence of others are observed, emotional experiences are connected to supernatural sources, and the efficacy of religious doctrine is experienced. Additionally, affiliation, donation and service to the group were found to be positively influenced by higher levels of confidence in the existence of heaven, stronger belief in the exclusive right of a religion to offer salvation, more certainty that God is directly involved in one's personal life, as well as the promotion of easily detectable outward practices, socially encapsulating rules, and inimitable religious capital. These findings suggest that the impact of religious cultural content and belief should be more seriously considered in studies of religion and group solidarity. It is also proposed that the principles outlined can be applied to more secular groups and behaviors. Methodologically, the framework presented calls for more frequent and effective measures of religious confidence.
- Sociology