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Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
Unformatted Document Text:  Religion, Communication, and Social Capital --4-- the cognitive component of religion, as we outline in this paper, may have very different effects. All of these influences of religion on social capital, of course, work both directly and indirectly, mediated through a number variables. Religion and Social Capital Although American confidence in public institutions has steadily declined since the 1950s, the public has remained highly supportive of religion, consistently expressing greater trust in religious institutions and clergy than in the Supreme Court, Congress, banks, public schools, television, organized labor, and big business (NORC, 2000). Religious institutions are the most popular of American volunteer organizations, and represent the dominant form of American group activity (Fowler, Hertzke, & Olson, 1999; Wuthenow, 1999). To international observers, American religiosity and support for religion as an institution remain unique national characteristics. In surveys, across every dimension of religion—including belief in God, church attendance, daily prayer, the importance of God in life, literal interpretations of scripture, and born again experiences—Americans express greater religiosity than comparable Western democracies including Canada, Great Britain, Germany, and France (Fowler et al., 1999). Religion’s dominance in American social life underscores the pressing need to examine the overlooked relationship between religion social capital. Specifically, we examine the linkages between the two as they are influenced by three related dimensions: influence through church-based associations, specifically church-based networks; cognitions related to the strength of religious beliefs; and denominational affiliation. Associational Effects of Religion. Despite Constitutional boundaries separating church and state activities, American religion has always been regarded as an important influence on

Authors: Nisbet, Matthew., Moy, Patricia. and Scheufele, Dietram.
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Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
--4--
the cognitive component of religion, as we outline in this paper, may have very different effects.
All of these influences of religion on social capital, of course, work both directly and indirectly,
mediated through a number variables.
Religion and Social Capital
Although American confidence in public institutions has steadily declined since the
1950s, the public has remained highly supportive of religion, consistently expressing greater trust
in religious institutions and clergy than in the Supreme Court, Congress, banks, public schools,
television, organized labor, and big business (NORC, 2000). Religious institutions are the most
popular of American volunteer organizations, and represent the dominant form of American
group activity (Fowler, Hertzke, & Olson, 1999; Wuthenow, 1999). To international observers,
American religiosity and support for religion as an institution remain unique national
characteristics. In surveys, across every dimension of religion—including belief in God, church
attendance, daily prayer, the importance of God in life, literal interpretations of scripture, and
born again experiences—Americans express greater religiosity than comparable Western
democracies including Canada, Great Britain, Germany, and France (Fowler et al., 1999).
Religion’s dominance in American social life underscores the pressing need to examine
the overlooked relationship between religion social capital. Specifically, we examine the
linkages between the two as they are influenced by three related dimensions: influence through
church-based associations, specifically church-based networks; cognitions related to the strength
of religious beliefs; and denominational affiliation.
Associational Effects of Religion. Despite Constitutional boundaries separating church
and state activities, American religion has always been regarded as an important influence on


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