The Ring Makes All the Difference, by Glenn Stanton

Here’s an interview in Christianity Today with Glenn Stanton on his book ‘The Ring Makes All the Difference.’  In it he “explores the many downsides” of living together.  I think this book will make a solid contribution to the discussion of living together for Christians.

Christian love and deservingness

As I understand the Bible, we’re supposed to love others unconditionally.  I understand this to mean not only regardless of what others might have done to us, but also regardless of who they are.  I’ve heard countless sermons on this, and, frankly, I probably need to hear–and enact–many more.

Social psychologists have studied altruism–helping other people in need–and it turns out that there is systematic variation in who we are willing to help.  One of the factors has been termed “deservingness.”  That is, are people worth our assistance.  Already, from the language of the concept of deservingness alone, we can tell that it’s at odds with the Christian definition of love.

The impact of deservingness on helping others has been documented in various studies, and a classic study was conducted by my Ph.D. mentor, the late Irving Piliavin, and his wife Jane, in 1969.  In a very clever design,  four researchers would ride the subway in New York, and one of them would stagger and fall down while the other three would [Read more...]

Religion incongruence as the norm

Mark Chaves, of Duke sociology, has written this very interesting paper about what he calls religious congruence (or, more appropriately, religious incongruence).

He uses “‘religious congruence’ in three related senses: (1) individuals’ religious ideas constitute a tight, logically connected, integrated network of internally consistent beliefs and values; (2) religious and other practices and actions follow directly from those beliefs and values; and (3) the religious beliefs and values that individuals express in certain, mainly religious, contexts are consistently held and chronically accessible across contexts, situations, and life domains. In short, it can mean that religious ideas hang together, that religious beliefs and actions hang together, or that religious beliefs and values indicate stable and chronically accessible dispositions in people.”

He then makes the case that “people’s religious ideas and practices generally are fragmented, compartmentalized, loosely connected, unexamined, and context dependent. This is not a controversial claim; it’s established knowledge. But this established knowledge does not inform our research and thinking as centrally and deeply as it should.”

I like this article because it moves us away from holding up an ideal of religion as some tight, consistent scientific proposition, and it allows for a messier, richer understanding of it. In that sense, religion is much more like everything else in life than it is a scientific equation.

Thanks Jay!

More God, Less Crime… the website

In support of his new book, More God Less Crime, Byron Johnson, of Baylor, has put up a wonderful website about the relationship of religion and crime.

Years ago, an undergraduate student and I published a meta-analysis of this literature, and we found an overall negative correlation between religion on crime. (I.e., religious involvement and affiliation corresponded with less criminal behavior).  Our abstract:

Do religious beliefs and behaviors deter criminal behavior? The existing evidence surrounding the effect of religion on crime is varied, contested, and inconclusive, and currently no persuasive answer exists as to the empirical relationship between religion and crime. In this article, the authors address this controversial issue with a meta-analysis of 60 previous studies based on two questions: (1) What is the direction and magnitude of the effect of religion on crime? (2) Why have previous studies varied in their estimation of this effect? The results of the meta-analysis show that religious beliefs and behaviors exert a moderate deterrent effect on individuals’ criminal behavior. Furthermore, previous studies have systematically varied in their estimation of the religion-on-crime effect due to differences in both their conceptual and methodological approaches.

I haven’t done much in the area since, and clearly this book is the definitive statement on research on this area. (Also, it’s a great book-support site).

Check it out.


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