Caleb J. D. Maskell Notes on Robert Putnam s Tanner Lecture #2 10.28.

10 // Princeton University Religious Americans are nicer and happier, though less tolerant. Why? The puzzle is does religion contribute to democratic vitality in America? Bad news, from the point of view of democratic values: the case is that, on average, religious Americans are somewhat less tolerant of dissent than non-religious Americans. However, tolerance of dissent/difference among younger religious people is rising, just as it is among secular people. Good news, from the point of view of democratic values: Religious people are better neighbors, better citizens, etc. y High religiosity predicts high levels of volunteerism, for both religious and secular causes (from church groups to helping the poor to neighborhood groups to healthcare to arts & cultural organizations). In short, religious people are 2x-3x more likely to volunteer than non-religious people. Religious people are also more likely to give money to religious and secular causes than secular people. Religious people are more likely to be civic leaders, in both religious and political organizations, as well as participants in those organizations. Religious people are more active in reformist movements (local political problems) than secularists in other words, high religious activism is not primarily about stereotypical conservative religious causes like picketing abortion clinics, etc. And on and on and on religious people are better citizens. This is not true just among conservatives, but among conservatives and liberals. [The hardest-working citizens are religious liberals, but there aren t many of them any more. The book by Arthur Brooks that argues that conservatives are more generous and hardworking than liberals should be called into question in a big way.]

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So far, so what?: Religious people are less tolerant than secular people, but they are a lot more likely than secular people to do all of the other things that good neighbors and good citizens are thought to do. Why? It is: y Not religious tradition / denomination o How much religion that is, how much one attends services matters far more than which religion Not political ideology o Liberals are more generous Not theology o It is not about belief in God, heaven, hell, psychological importance of religion to identity, scripture reading, prayer, worry about sin.

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Caleb J. D. Maskell Notes on Robert Putnam s Tanner Lecture #2 10.28.10 // Princeton University This increase in good citizenship correlates to church attendance not to belief. In fact, solitary believers are no better citizens than secular people. [Perhaps what we are seeing here is that individualism militates against citizenship, and the best antidote to individualism is the attendance of religious services.] The bottom line here is a very, very strong correlation between the number of church friends and the citizenship.Community is the issue, not belief. The more church friends you have, the better citizen you will be. It is not about devotion but only about participation. This is demonstrated because they did the same study in the UK, where the average level of religiosity is much lower, and showed that the link between church attendance and citizenship/neighborliness is almost identical. The core message of this talk is Church friends are supercharged friends. They are incredibly effective in enhancing your civic virtue. This experiment is controlled for having friends outside of church. This is not about being friendly or into association. This is about the effect of church friends. The same exact linkage works for life satisfaction. What is the active ingredient here? Putnam is not sure. He is clear that this does not prove causality, but it strongly suggests it. But even if these things did prove causality what is the thing that makes them go? What is it about church friends? y y y Is it that you see them more frequently? (probably not, b/c work friends don t have this effect) Is it that church friends are in a competition for great citizenship? Is it that people in a shared moral community have more traction? o Shared commitment o Shared emotional experience

One sentence summary of the whole lecture: Bowling leagues are better than bowling alone...but church bowling leagues are really where its at.


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