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.
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.
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.