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Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
Unformatted Document Text:  Religion, Communication, and Social Capital --24-- Our findings reveal that the cognitive dimension of religion undermines social capital, but only indirectly. Respondents holding to more extreme biblical beliefs are less likely to engage in political discussion with a diversity of others, less likely to read the newspaper, and are less knowledgeable of politics. These direct relationships result in indirect negative effects on political efficacy, social trust, and political trust. At the same time, however, people with more extreme biblical views are more likely to attend church, and as a result are more likely to engage in church-based political discussions, which leads to some diversity in political interactions. However, any positive effects of church attendance and church-based discussions networks on indicators of social capital are extremely limited. In fact, these church-based political discussions are negatively related to discussion of politics outside of church contexts. These secular discussion networks promote newspaper reading, and expose respondents to diverse political interactions. This diversity in discussion leads to enhanced political knowledge, and is indirectly linked to political efficacy. Based on these results, it appears that the primary role that previous research has attributed to religion as a catalyst for civic renewal needs to be qualified. Our data suggest that it is the political interactions that occur in secular settings that promote civic engagement and democratic ideals. Of particular note are our findings relative to the differences in effects linked to white evangelicals and white mainline Protestants. According to the data, evangelicals are more likely to hold to extreme doctrinal views, are less knowledgeable about politics, feel less politically efficacious, and are less trusting of others. In contrast, mainline Protestants are more politically efficacious, are more trusting of others, and are more trusting of government. This study, therefore, provides some confirmation to the prevailing concern that the growing evangelical church movement may be doing damage to American social capital.

Authors: Nisbet, Matthew., Moy, Patricia. and Scheufele, Dietram.
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Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
--24--
Our findings reveal that the cognitive dimension of religion undermines social capital,
but only indirectly. Respondents holding to more extreme biblical beliefs are less likely to
engage in political discussion with a diversity of others, less likely to read the newspaper, and are
less knowledgeable of politics. These direct relationships result in indirect negative effects on
political efficacy, social trust, and political trust. At the same time, however, people with more
extreme biblical views are more likely to attend church, and as a result are more likely to engage
in church-based political discussions, which leads to some diversity in political interactions.
However, any positive effects of church attendance and church-based discussions networks on
indicators of social capital are extremely limited.
In fact, these church-based political discussions are negatively related to discussion of
politics outside of church contexts. These secular discussion networks promote newspaper
reading, and expose respondents to diverse political interactions. This diversity in discussion
leads to enhanced political knowledge, and is indirectly linked to political efficacy. Based on
these results, it appears that the primary role that previous research has attributed to religion as a
catalyst for civic renewal needs to be qualified. Our data suggest that it is the political
interactions that occur in secular settings that promote civic engagement and democratic ideals.
Of particular note are our findings relative to the differences in effects linked to white
evangelicals and white mainline Protestants. According to the data, evangelicals are more likely
to hold to extreme doctrinal views, are less knowledgeable about politics, feel less politically
efficacious, and are less trusting of others. In contrast, mainline Protestants are more politically
efficacious, are more trusting of others, and are more trusting of government. This study,
therefore, provides some confirmation to the prevailing concern that the growing evangelical
church movement may be doing damage to American social capital.


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