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In God We Trust, part 2

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Emilie Souyri

on 30 August 2016

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Transcript of In God We Trust, part 2

Religion and Political polarization
In God We Trust, part 2
Religion and political polarization
1. Explaining the rise of evangelicals

a. Evangelicals or fundamentalists?
b. Game theory ad the market explanation for the rise of conservative sects
Throughout the world, fast growing religions tend to be strict, sectarian, and theologically conservative. In the United States, such groups continue to gain members, even as theologically liberal Protestant denominations (including Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ) struggle with relative and absolute losses.
- understand the importance of evangelicals in the US now.
- distinguish between evangelicals and fundamentalists
- explain the rise of conservative sects and the decline of mainline religions
- familiarize yourself with the use of game theory in sociology

There is “no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of
than America”

(Tocqueville wrote De la démocratie en Amérique, 1835-1840)

In the first half of the 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville after visiting the U.S. declared:
How do you explain his comment based on what you learned in the lecture?
A road in St Louis at dusk
2. Culture wars
a. Gay marriage and the downfall of evangelicals?
b. Abortion rights
c. Fighting for the poor?
L. Iannacone, 1998
There are two principal reasons why high-cost religions (religions that require seemingly irrational sacrifices and stigmatizing behavior) are successful. First, high-cost sacrifices screen out free-riders — i.e., people who want the benefit of the group without having to contribute much to the provision of it. Larry Iannacone notes that religious congregations have certain features that categorize them as “club goods,” wherein the quality of the good or service provided is dependent upon how many individuals contribute whole-heartedly to the provision of the good. We talk about churches where all members sing with passion tend to be more enjoyable than churches where people merely mumble their way through the hymns. A high-cost sacrifice, or a stigmatizing behavior that might ostracize an individual in the broader culture, gets the “mumblers” (free-riders) to reconsider whether they want to join or not. Those who do join have self-selected into a pool of individuals who will be fervent in their participation. The second reason for the success of strict religions is that the members who do enter (or remain in) the congregation do participate fervently to the congregation and the overall benefits obtained are much higher than the costs of the sacrifice or stigma. In other words, people who do pay the high costs of strict sects find out that they got a good bargain .
1. Who are evangelicals, what do they believe in?
What is the estimated percentage of evangelicals in both houses of parliament and in the general population?
2. What can help explain why films like Deep Impact have been popular in the U.S.?
3. Who are the “nones”? And what percentage do they represent among young Americans (1960, 1990, 2010)?
4. Based on what you learnt in this chapter, do you think Americans are headed towards secularization?
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