Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry


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They have argued that positive interpersonal behaviors can be promoted by two different yet equally fundamental aspects of religion: a the belief in a moralizing deity, and b the notion of religion as a community bonded by a shared worldview. They argue that the former should promote benevolence towards all, given that the sovereignty of their God or Gods applies to everyone, while more earthly concerns with their religious community should elicit parochial altruism. They also suggest that some of the conflicting results of religious priming studies e. This distinction between the supernatural and institutional effects of religious cognition on interpersonal behavior has been examined in a recent study.

Preston and Ritter [ 44 ] investigated the effects of supernatural versus religious institutional priming on helping and cooperating with ingroup and outgroup members.

Together, these results support their dual-process model, suggesting that activation of supernatural religious cognitions promotes altruism toward outgroup members, possibly due to concerns regarding supernatural monitoring, while activation of religious institutional cognitions activates concerns for the protection of the ingroup, resulting in parochial altruism. These intriguing findings beg an important question. While investigating effects on observable behavior is of paramount importance, it is also important to understand effects on affect and cognition, the other two components in the triarchic model of attitudes [ 45 ].

As such, it is important to investigate the effects of supernatural and religious institutional primes on stereotypic beliefs regarding ingroup or outgroup members, such as appraisals of their warmth or ability [ 46 ]. The present research sought to extend the research described above by providing the first empirical investigation of the effects of God supernatural and religion institutional priming on attitudes—both positive and negative—towards ingroup and outgroup members. Specifically, we sought to examine how God and religion primes affect intergroup attitudinal judgments.

Following the argument of Preston and Ritter [ 44 ], we anticipated divergent effects for these two types of religious prime. For individuals exposed to religious institutional primes, we anticipated an increase in parochial altruism, manifesting predominantly as outgroup derogation rather than ingroup favoritism.

While Johnson, Rowatt, and LaBouff [ 36 ] reported that religious priming in this case both supernatural and religious institutional primes resulted in increases in both ingroup favoritism and outgroup derogation, their results were obtained using difference scores reflecting disparities in attitudes. Usage of difference scores causes interpretative difficulties [ 47 ], and it is hard to definitively conclude whether ingroup favoritism, outgroup derogation, or a combination of the two phenomena drove these effects. Ramsay, Pang, Shen, and Rowatt [ 28 ] found that mixed supernatural and religious institutional primes yielded more negative attitudes towards an outgroup in both Christians and Buddhists, suggesting that outgroup derogation is an important consequence of exposure to certain kinds of religious primes.

However, the use of a mixture of both supernatural and religious institutional primes together in these two studies obfuscate the results further as it is unclear whether it was supernatural or religious institutional primes that was driving the effects. The present research sought to clarify these previous findings by examining the effects of God and religion primes separately and by avoiding the use of difference scores. For individuals primed with supernatural religious primes, we expected more positive attitudes to all individuals, irrespective of group affiliation. Given the pan-religious applicability of the Golden Rule [ 48 ], it seems theoretically intuitive that God primes should enhance attitudes towards members of all groups, rather than causing individuals to favor members of certain groups over others.

Although Preston and Ritter [ 44 ] found that supernatural primes enhanced bias in favor of outgroups, the same authors [ 43 ] p. H1a: Attitudes toward an outgroup member would be significantly more negative in the religion prime condition than in the neutral or God prime conditions. H1b: In the religion prime condition, attitudes toward an outgroup member would be significantly more negative than attitudes toward an ingroup member.

H2: Attitudes toward both the ingroup and outgroup member would be significantly more positive in the God prime condition than in either the neutral or religion prime conditions. In study 1 we chose to test each of these hypotheses in a laboratory-based study utilizing supraliminal priming methods. Prior to attending the single laboratory session, all participants completed a short online questionnaire that assessed their demographic characteristics and several additional variables that are not the focus of the present analysis. In total, students from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore participated in the study.

The sample was The majority of the sample was ethnically Chinese All ethnic categorizations were made by the participants themselves, and were required only to ensure that different groups were adequately represented.

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The sample was heterogeneous in terms of religious identification. Nearly one third of the sample identified as either Buddhist or Taoist This research was approved by the Nanyang Technological University Institutional Review Board prior to the commencement of data collection. All participants provided informed written consent before completing the pre-laboratory questionnaire, and were fully debriefed after the experiment was complete.

Partial course credit was awarded to all participants as recompense for their time. All participants were randomly assigned to one of the six experimental conditions prior to their arrival at the laboratory. Experimental sessions were conducted with groups of no more than four participants, with participants first being briefed on the experimental procedure as a group, before being directed to individual cubicles where each participant completed the main experimental tasks in isolation.

A photograph of the individual administration setting can be found in Fig 1. This procedure was essential for ensuring the effectiveness of the priming procedure, as will be detailed below. After being seated in their individual cubicles, participants first completed an essay evaluation task that provided a measure of attitudes towards either ingroup or outgroup members, depending on their group allocation.

Participants subsequently completed several additional questionnaires pertaining to such constructs are psychological essentialism, self-accessibility, and impression management the results of which are not examined in the present analysis , as well as a suspicion check and a distractor task. Once the participants had finished all the tasks, they were thanked and told they could leave. In order to guard against communication of the experimental hypothesis among acquainted participants, all participants were debriefed via email en masse once data collection had been completed.

God, Religion, and Neutral Primes : Target constructs were primed using a supraliminal priming procedure adapted from Chan, Tong, and Tan [ 49 ], in which ostensibly unrelated priming materials were placed in clear view of the participants. In each individual administration cubicle, participants were seated at a personal computer that was used to administer the various tasks and measures.

The primes, disguised as piles of study materials, were positioned immediately to the left of the computer monitor at the corner of the desk see Fig 1. At the top of each pile was a folder with a cover that varied according to the participant's group allocation. In each case, a pen that did not obscure the prime word was placed on top of the folder, while several periodicals and textbooks were placed underneath. This was in order to disguise the prime as a pile of discarded study materials accidentally left over from a previous usage of the room.

When leading participants into the room, the experimenters made sure not to draw attention to the priming materials. The experimenters did not mention or look at the primes when giving instructions to the participants, and none of the participants mentioned or asked questions regarding the priming materials. After being seated, participants were left unattended for one minute to ensure that they saw the priming materials, after which they would begin the essay evaluation task.


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The majority Of those participants who believed that the study investigated attitudes and prejudice, none mentioned the religious primes or successfully identified the manipulation in their answers to an open-ended follow-up to the first suspicion check. Measure of Implicit Attitudes : Attitudes towards ingroup and outgroup members were assessed using an essay evaluation task, in which participants were asked to critically evaluate an essay supposedly written by either an ingroup or outgroup member.

Comparative Theology - Preserving the Faith

Evaluations of written material have been used to implicitly assess intergroup attitudes in previous research e. According to the cover story, an undergraduate from a local university wrote the essay as part of an essay competition. Participants were told that the student author was given the essay title and asked to be both as persuasive and as concise as possible when arguing in favor of the allocated position. In reality, the essay was chosen from a large online repository of sample undergraduate essays, with key details modified in order to fit the local Singaporean context.

The affiliation of the fictional student was further emphasized by the presence of a matching university logo in the letterhead at the top of the essay sheet. Reproductions of the essays can be found in the S1 Appendix. After being seated alone in their individual cubicles for one minute, participants were invited to click a button on the screen to begin. They were subsequently provided with instructions for the essay evaluation task, and then invited to turn over a sheet of A4 paper positioned on the desk directly in front of them. The essay and partially obscured identifying information described above were printed on the reverse.

Scores on the eight evaluative indices were found to be highly correlated, with r values ranging from. This was to be the sole dependent variable examined in the subsequent analyses. A two-way between subjects ANOVA was conducted to compare the effects of priming condition and group membership on essay evaluation scores. Priming condition comprised three levels God prime, religion prime, and neutral prime and target group membership comprised two levels ingroup and outgroup. Together, these results did not offer any support for the hypothesized effects of God and religion primes on attitudes towards ingroup and outgroup members.

However, given that significant gender differences in religiosity have frequently been observed [ 55 ], additional analyses were conducted in order to test for possible gender effects that may have been obscured in the previous ANOVA. In order to further examine these two-way interactions, post-hoc simple main effects tests were conducted.


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Descriptive statistics calculated separately for the two sexes can be found in Table 1. None of the simple effects in the analysis of the male participants gave rise to significant results. Analysis of the female data however, revealed several significant differences. As such, hypothesis H1a was only partially supported in the female subsample. These results offer only limited support for hypothesis H2 in the female subsample. It should be noted that the pairwise comparisons described in the preceding paragraph were conducted without correcting for multiple comparisons.

Bonferroni-correction would give a p cut-off value of. Finally, to see if the effect of religious priming was stronger in the religious members of our sample, we conducted the 3-way ANOVA after excluding the data from participants who identified as free thinkers or atheists.

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All other effects were non-significant. In study 1 we investigated the differential effects of supernatural and religious institutional priming on implicit attitudes towards ingroup and outgroup members, as measured using an essay evaluation task. Overall, the results did not provide convincing support for any of our stated hypotheses. Specifically, no significant differences in essay evaluation scores were found among the three priming conditions, nor was there a difference between ingroup and outgroup evaluations.

Critically, there was also no interaction effect between priming condition and group membership on essay evaluation. In absence of a significant interaction, there was no justification for performing the pairwise comparisons corresponding to each of the three hypotheses in the full sample, and so no support was garnered for any of the experimental hypotheses. However, when participant gender was taken into consideration, data for the female subset of the participant pool did partially support several of our hypothesis.

“Rivalry in worldly increase distracts you…”

Even these results come with several important caveats. Firstly, application of Bonferroni correction would have rendered the pairwise comparison associated with H1a non-significant. One explanation for such findings may be that the intergroup distinction adopted in study 1 may have been too subtle and benign, and therefore lacked sufficient saliency needed to evoke processes of intergroup differentiation in participants. It is possible that the university rivalry, while important in certain competitive contexts e.

This possibility is supported by the fact that no significant main effect of target group membership on essay evaluation observed in study 1.

Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry
Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry
Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry
Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry
Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry
Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry
Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry Comparative theology and the problem of religious rivalry

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