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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Surprise: Guns and Religion Don't Go Together

It's taken for granted in many circles that, at least in the United States, guns and religion go together. People of faith, especially those living in the South, are more likely to own and support the use of firearms than others. Two recent studies call this relationship into question. They found that greater personal faith predicts lower attachment to guns and lower levels of gun ownership.

Using data from the 2014 Baylor Religion Survey sociologists F. Carson Mencken and Paul Froese found that the more gun owners rated themselves as being moderately or very religious, the less likely they were to be attached to their weapons as sources of power in such areas as respect, safety and self-confidence. They also found that while people who were moderate church attenders were more likely to feel empowered by owning guns, attachment levels dropped for people who attended services weekly or more. Similarly, the sociologist David Yamane, using data from the General Social Surveys (2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012), found that the more people attended services, prayed and were engaged in spiritual groups in congregations, the less likely they were to be gun owners. He also found there was no significant relation between theological conservatism and gun ownership.

Why? Froese suggested that people who are very religious are less likely to be as attached to (non-religious) physical objects such as firearms, and Yamane speculated that the importance of religion may be related to the higher levels of trust people form within religious communities. That is, people who are more trusting of others may feel less of a need to arm themselves.

For a brief summary of the studies, which were presented at the most meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR), see the article by David Briggs, "Religion and guns: Studies find faith linked to lower devotion to firearms." Briggs also discusses what factors appear to contribute to increased attachment to guns.

1 comment:

  1. That makes sense. I don't hear a lot about fear and guns here in Silicon Valley and I suspect it is partially because we generally need to collaborate a lot and often with people that are different than we are. With some exceptions guns are less popular in urban areas than rural. They will tell you it is because they need to protect themselves from racoons and so on but often that is a fallback when civilization collapses and they have to defend their food supplies.
    I met an old high school classmate of mine that moved to Grass Valley and strongly believe that the Bible is clear that the End Times are upon us and he will need his guns to defend himself until the Rapture These types become salient and obscure the real research like you found.
    An issue is that some prominent politicians, like Ted Cruz, espouse the same type of thinking and get elected. If you look at the comments on his Facebook page you get the impression that the people who elected him are gun toting religious fanatics. I don't know why people vote for him and it could well be that only the gun toting religious fanatics post to his page.
    I think there are a lot of complicated things going on in the South that don't have anything to do with either religion or guns. Like, they are still mad about losing the Civil War (The War of Northern Aggression).
    Thanks for posting some information that helps sort it out.

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