The Functions of Religion for Human Society

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2023) | Viewed by 17023

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College, City University of New York, New York, NY 10010, USA
Interests: sociology of religion; functional use of religion; religion, spirituality and coping behavior

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Social scientists have long been interested in the psychological and sociological functions of religion and spirituality for the individual and for any number of social collectivities (e.g., small groups, organizations, institutions, distressed communities, countries, and social movements). While psychologists have led the way with hundreds of empirical studies showing the association between religion and various individual-level outcomes (e.g., reduced depression, improved mental and physical health, and reduced mortality, to name a few), far fewer sociological studies have examined the impact of religion on social collectivities.

This Special Issue of Religions attempts to fill this gap by exploring the contemporary functions of religion in human society. Key research questions include, but are not limited to: What are the functions of religion for distressed or marginalized communities or communities that view themselves as under siege? How do prison inmates use religious resources to cope with the vicissitudes of confinement? How do young adults use religion to navigate the negative influences around them? How do racial, ethnic, and gender groups employ religion to cope with discrimination and/or promote and inform social movements of liberation? How do organizations and institutions use religion to promote their mission, solidify followership, and ensure compliance? How do countries use religion to form and promote a social, political, and national identity?  

This volume seeks original papers that explore the contemporary functions of religion at various levels of sociological analysis. Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods studies are welcomed. We are open to studies that use Christian and non-Christian religious traditions as a lens through which to examine the functional utility of religion and spirituality in contemporary societies around the world.  

Interested authors should submit a proposed title and an abstract of 100 words summarizing their intended contribution before submitting the full paper. Abstracts should indicate the (1) purpose, (2) proposed methods of analysis, and (3) relation to prior literature. Please send the abstract to the Religions Editorial Office (religions@mdpi.com) or to the Guest Editor (Ryan.Smith@Baruch.cuny.edu). Abstracts will be reviewed by the Guest Editor for the purposes of ensuring proper fit within the scope of the Special Issue. Full manuscripts will undergo double-blind peer review.

Prof. Dr. Ryan A. Smith
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • functions of religion
  • religious coping
  • prosocial behavior
  • religion and social movements
  • religion and civil rights
  • religion and social class

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

17 pages, 597 KiB  
Article
Religious Ideology and Clientelist Linkage in the Middle East and North Africa
by Shulei Hu, Jingyi Wang and Xiaojin Zhang
Religions 2024, 15(3), 326; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030326 - 08 Mar 2024
Viewed by 590
Abstract
The literature on clientelism, the informal exchange of benefits for political support, has proliferated over the last three decades. However, the existing literature largely ignores the role of religion in shaping clientelism in contemporary politics. In particular, few attempts have been made to [...] Read more.
The literature on clientelism, the informal exchange of benefits for political support, has proliferated over the last three decades. However, the existing literature largely ignores the role of religion in shaping clientelism in contemporary politics. In particular, few attempts have been made to explore the relationship between religious ideology and clientelism at the party level: How does political parties’ religious ideology impact their clientelist linkages with citizens? This study uses cross-national data of parties in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) from the V-Party database (1970–2019) to answer this question. Our findings reveal that religious parties are more clientelist than secular parties in the MENA. Particularly, parties’ ties with social organizations mediate the relationship between religious ideology and clientelism. This study extends the literature on the impact of religion on informal political institutions by focusing on the ideology and linkage strategy of political parties in the MENA. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Functions of Religion for Human Society)
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15 pages, 319 KiB  
Article
Religion, Social Resources, and International Migrants’ Volunteer Participation: Evidence from Yiwu City, China
by Tao Xu and Kai Zheng
Religions 2023, 14(10), 1262; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14101262 - 05 Oct 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 799
Abstract
A large body of research has explored various factors influencing volunteer participation, particularly revealing the association between religious beliefs and volunteer engagement. However, there was relatively limited research on volunteer participation among international immigrants in China, a newly emerging immigrant country. Further investigation [...] Read more.
A large body of research has explored various factors influencing volunteer participation, particularly revealing the association between religious beliefs and volunteer engagement. However, there was relatively limited research on volunteer participation among international immigrants in China, a newly emerging immigrant country. Further investigation was needed to identify the factors influencing the volunteer engagement of international immigrants in China and the underlying mechanisms. This study analyzed data from international immigrants in Yiwu, China and found that their volunteer behavior was significantly influenced by their religious beliefs. Additionally, social resources were closely related to their volunteer participation. Furthermore, although perceived discrimination among international immigrants in China was not directly associated with volunteer participation, it promoted their religious participation and frequency, consequently encouraging their volunteer engagement. Further analysis also revealed two mechanisms through which religion impacted volunteer participation. On the one hand, religious beliefs influenced volunteer participation through the mechanism of religious indoctrination. On the other hand, though perceived discrimination among international immigrants did not directly influence volunteer participation, it did encourage them to engage in religious meetings to establish social networks for support, thereby enriching their social resources and subsequently promoting volunteer engagement. We discussed the implications of our findings for encouraging volunteer participation and for promoting the social integration of international immigrants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Functions of Religion for Human Society)
20 pages, 391 KiB  
Article
“Maybe I Need Christ or Maybe I Just Need Me”: Functions of Religion among Young Black Members of the LGBTQIA Community in the United States
by Sandra Lynn Barnes
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1112; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091112 - 28 Aug 2023
Viewed by 859
Abstract
This qualitative study examines the functions of religion for a group of 76 young Black members of the LGBTQIA community ages 18–30 years old based on the question: What are some of the functions of religion that make continued congregational involvement viable for [...] Read more.
This qualitative study examines the functions of religion for a group of 76 young Black members of the LGBTQIA community ages 18–30 years old based on the question: What are some of the functions of religion that make continued congregational involvement viable for members of this community? Emerging adulthood theory suggests that late adolescence is a period of self-discovery and societal critique. To my knowledge, this theory has not been used to study the religious experiences of young Black sexual minorities. Content analysis shows the functions of religion as a controlling mechanism during childhood, a conflict mechanism during teen years, and religion/spirituality as a cathartic mechanism during late adolescence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Functions of Religion for Human Society)
17 pages, 280 KiB  
Article
To Be Safe and Seen: BIPOC Gen Z Engagement in Evangelical Campus Ministries
by Rebecca Y. Kim and Rachael Murdock
Religions 2023, 14(8), 963; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14080963 - 25 Jul 2023
Viewed by 1084
Abstract
This paper investigates the Gen Z counter-demographic of the religious nones on college and university campuses by focusing on BIPOC students and the stories that they tell about why they actively engage in evangelical campus ministries during their college years. This is carried [...] Read more.
This paper investigates the Gen Z counter-demographic of the religious nones on college and university campuses by focusing on BIPOC students and the stories that they tell about why they actively engage in evangelical campus ministries during their college years. This is carried out by being attentive to the racially segregated campus ministry context and the preponderance of “white spaces” in colleges and universities, including in campus ministries. Data for this study come from the Landscape Study of Chaplaincy and Campus Ministry (LSCCM 2019–2022) in the United States. Like other students in campus ministries, we find that BIPOC students who are “churched” with a Christian upbringing seek out campus ministries that function as a “home away from home”, where they can find authentic belonging—genuine connections and acceptance among like-minded Christians. For BIPOC students, however, this search for authentic belonging included a search for a campus ministry where they could be “safe and seen” for both their ethnoracial and Christian selves. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Functions of Religion for Human Society)
19 pages, 299 KiB  
Article
The Effect of Folk Belief on Social Trust: The Mediating Role of Social Support and the Sense of Identity
by Bin Hou, Shiying Rao, Yuqi Huang and Yuxin Wu
Religions 2023, 14(6), 726; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060726 - 31 May 2023
Viewed by 1231
Abstract
Although the influential factors of social trust have aroused heated discussion, the research on the influence of religious belief, especially Chinese folk belief, on social trust and the mechanism between the two is relatively insufficient. This study aims to explore the influence of [...] Read more.
Although the influential factors of social trust have aroused heated discussion, the research on the influence of religious belief, especially Chinese folk belief, on social trust and the mechanism between the two is relatively insufficient. This study aims to explore the influence of folk beliefs on Chinese residents’ social trust and the mediating role of social support and the sense of identity. The empirical analysis of 23,823 Chinese residents shows that there is a significant positive correlation between folk belief and social trust. Social support and a sense of identity play a mediating role between folk beliefs and residents’ social trust. People with folk beliefs can significantly promote their social trust by improving their degree of social support and their sense of identity. In addition, the influence of folk belief on the social trust of residents in eastern, northern China and rural areas is more significant, showing regional and registered residence heterogeneity. Therefore, we should correctly interpret and popularize the core spirit and social and cultural significance of folk belief to form a bond of social trust. At the same time, folk beliefs can be returned to the people, which will help people find a sense of belonging and sense of identity and enhance their social trust. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Functions of Religion for Human Society)
21 pages, 338 KiB  
Article
Is the Black Church Dead?: Religious Resilience and the Contemporary Functions of Black Christianity
by Shaonta’ E. Allen
Religions 2023, 14(4), 460; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040460 - 29 Mar 2023
Viewed by 3749
Abstract
Recent sociological literature draws attention to the changes in religious affiliation and expression among younger generations. More specifically, extant research suggests that the increase in religious “nones” (those who no longer identify with a religion) and “dones” (those who no longer affiliate with [...] Read more.
Recent sociological literature draws attention to the changes in religious affiliation and expression among younger generations. More specifically, extant research suggests that the increase in religious “nones” (those who no longer identify with a religion) and “dones” (those who no longer affiliate with a religious congregation) substantiates the secularization thesis which contends that religion is becoming increasingly insignificant in modern society. However, when these trends are disaggregated across racial lines, religious affiliation remains high among Black Millennials. The present study explores this anomaly further, drawing on data from in-depth interviews with 65 Black Christian Millennials to assess how, if at all, the historic functions of the Black Church are still prevalent among Black Christians today. Findings suggest that while some functions have remained constant across generations (i.e., social–cultural), others have evolved (i.e., socio-political and socio-educational) or become defunct (i.e., socio-economic) and new functions have emerged (i.e., socio-emotional). As such, I introduce the concept religious resilience as a framework for understanding how and why a religion’s “afterlife” is sustained despite macro-level processes that might undermine its prominence. Altogether, this study has implications for how we conceptualize racialized religion and how we measure, operationalize, and understand religious expression across social locations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Functions of Religion for Human Society)
24 pages, 2239 KiB  
Article
Religiosity and Misanthropy across the Racial and Ethnic Divide
by Rubia R. Valente and Ryan A. Smith
Religions 2023, 14(3), 393; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030393 - 15 Mar 2023
Viewed by 2074
Abstract
The systematic study of misanthropy, the lack of trust in humanity, has proliferated over the last 30 years. One prominent line of research details racial and ethnic disparities in levels of misanthropy, but pays little attention to the role of religiosity, while another [...] Read more.
The systematic study of misanthropy, the lack of trust in humanity, has proliferated over the last 30 years. One prominent line of research details racial and ethnic disparities in levels of misanthropy, but pays little attention to the role of religiosity, while another focuses attention on religiosity and its impact on levels of misanthropy, with only scant attention to the role of race and ethnicity. Little attempt has been made to synthesize these two strands of literature to address an important unanswered question: Does the association between religiosity and misanthropy vary by racial and ethnic group? To answer this question, we pooled data from the General Social Survey (GSS, 2000–2018). Among other things, we find stark racial differences between Blacks and Whites in terms of the effect of religiosity on misanthropy. Blacks and Latinos who attend religious services weekly (social religiosity) have significantly higher levels of misanthropy than others, while Whites who attend weekly services are less likely to be misanthropic. An important takeaway is that service attendance (a type of social capital) is associated with feelings of misanthropy for all groups (albeit in opposite directions for Blacks and Latinos versus Whites), rather than personal acts of prayer (individual religiosity). When it comes to misanthropy, we conclude that religion works differently for minorities compared with Whites. We discuss the implications of our findings for future research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Functions of Religion for Human Society)
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12 pages, 285 KiB  
Article
Religious Participation: Does It Shape Food Consumption?
by Yugang He and Wanting Tian
Religions 2023, 14(3), 350; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030350 - 06 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1735
Abstract
As an informal system, religion has a profound effect on all facets of our society. In reality, previous studies have investigated the consequences of religion on education, health, and others. Consequently, the purpose of this article is to examine the impact of religious [...] Read more.
As an informal system, religion has a profound effect on all facets of our society. In reality, previous studies have investigated the consequences of religion on education, health, and others. Consequently, the purpose of this article is to examine the impact of religious participation on food consumption in China. Using data from the 2018 Chinese General Social Survey for an empirical study, the findings suggest that religious participation reduces food consumption. In the meantime, replacement food consumption (food2) is used for the robustness test. The findings confirm the argument that religious participation reduces food consumption. Moreover, this article investigates the geographically heterogeneous impact of religious participation on food consumption. The findings suggest the geographically heterogeneous effect’s existence. Specifically, religious participation has the greatest negative impact on food consumption in the western region. In contrast, religious participation has the least negative impact on food consumption in the eastern region. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Functions of Religion for Human Society)
15 pages, 321 KiB  
Article
Does a Religious Atmosphere Impact Corporate Social Responsibility? A Comparative Study between Taoist and Buddhist Dominated Atmospheres
by Jing Shao, Tianzi Zhang, Young-Chan Lee and Yingbo Xu
Religions 2023, 14(1), 113; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14010113 - 13 Jan 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2630
Abstract
The impact of religion on business has attracted cross-academic attention in recent years. Does the religious atmosphere impact corporate social responsibility (CSR)? This study addressed this question using a sample of Chinese-listed companies from 2010 to 2018. Our findings reveal that firms in [...] Read more.
The impact of religion on business has attracted cross-academic attention in recent years. Does the religious atmosphere impact corporate social responsibility (CSR)? This study addressed this question using a sample of Chinese-listed companies from 2010 to 2018. Our findings reveal that firms in regions with a Taoist-dominated religious atmosphere are more charitable and less environmentally invested. In contrast, firms with a Buddhist-dominated religious atmosphere are more ecologically engaged and less charitable. This study extends the literature on the impact of the informal institutional environment on corporate social responsibility by distinguishing the heterogeneity of the impact of Buddhist- and Taoist-dominated religious atmospheres on CSR. It also provides a new perspective for enterprises to formulate corporate social responsibility strategies based on the regional cultural environment. And it also enriches the application of informal institutional theory to the fields of management and religion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Functions of Religion for Human Society)
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