This paper examines the effect of birth weight on adult religiosity. I utilize data on the religiosity of monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) in The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to determine if and how birth weight relates to adult religiosity. Fixed-effects models reveal that higher birth weight has a negative effect on adult religiosity. The negative effect of birth weight on religiosity is heterogeneous across maternal education and sex. The effect is strongest among families with maternal education of high school or less, and null for families with higher maternal education. The effect is also heterogeneous across gender: the effect is strong for males, but null for females and twins in mixed gender pairs. These results support the deprivation theory of religion, in which individuals seek out religion to due to disadvantage. This theory appears to only apply for those who experience double disadvantage: both low birth weight and low class background.
What role does culture (and in particular, morality) play in predicting and understanding individual behavior? Sociologists of culture and religion have argued that morality plays a predictive function in shaping culture, that it is used primarily to understand behavior after the fact, or that these two processes operate simultaneously. Using data on marijuana usage and moral frameworks from the National Study of Youth and Religion, we propose a fourth approach: morality does not have a single causal function, but rather is activated differently due to individual-level environmental and social differences. We demonstrate that the saliency of moral frameworks during adolescent decision- making about deviant behavior is conditional on family income. Our paper not only provides insight into the components of culture that contribute to deviant decision-making, but it also has implications for how the criminal justice system evaluates youth non-violent offenders and reproduction of inequality in incarceration.
Theodicy is an explanatory concept used by scholars, particularly philosophers and theologians, to illustrate the ways individuals try to find meaning in suffering. Suffering, an emotional and evaluative reaction to an event or circumstance, can be mitigated or overcome through understanding why an individual was placed in the straining situation. Defining theodicy as an intellectual project, however, fails to consider the physical ways in which individuals find meaning in their suffering. In this paper, I argue that sociologists need to expand the concept of theodicy to take into account the actions individuals use to understand and overcome suffering: an embodied theodicy. Embodied theodicy builds upon embodiment literature to contend that the mind and body are intimately intertwined. Bodily experiences have real emotional consequences – they have the potential to change how an individual makes sense of her suffering. While in some cases the bodily experience of pain leads to suffering, in others it provides individuals with perspective on their emotional suffering and helps them overcome it. In this article, I focus on modern individuals who use physical pain as a “tool” to uproot their suffering. I use my data from two spiritual journeys, El Camino de Santiago and Vipassana meditation retreats, to introduce three models of embodied theodicy: pain as purifier, community builder, and teacher.
How did Durkheim’s intellectual development in a Jewish environment contribute to and inform his ideas about religion more broadly? Although Durkheim is one of the most famous sociologists, our discipline has neglected to address this question. Sociologists have been quicker to connect Durkheim’s legacy with his intellectual fathers, such as Auguste Comte, than with his biological father, Möise Durkheim. I propose that despite Durkheim leaving religious Judaism, his upbringing provided him with rabbinic thought-model. I reveal the places in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life where Durkheim mirrors rabbinic classifications and discussions. Specifically, I delve into Durkheim’s descriptions of: (1) sacred versus profane, (2) negative and positive cults, and (3) God and society. Beyond studying the larger patterns of similarities, I show where his terminology and choice of examples are reminiscent of rabbinic law. I include sources from Christian Scripture to emphasize that the overlap between Durkheim and rabbinic literature should not be taken for granted – this degree of similarity is not present when comparing Durkheim to other religious doctrines. Even when Durkheim espouses views that completely negate the fundamental pillars of Judaism (such as the idea that God is society), he develops the idea in Talmudic style. Rereading Durkheim in light of Jewish law illuminates patterns in his analysis that may help sociologists gain a new perspective into Durkheim’s work on religion and beyond.
This past year, I joined participants of spiritual retreats in India and Spain. I was surprised to discover that in each location individuals who had undergone some sort of spiritual process (a process through which one discovers a sense of self or "spirit") reported similar emotional and behavior changes from the experience – particularly individuals who walked the Camino de Santiago, a Catholic pilgrimage in Northern Spain, and those who completed intensive, silent meditation retreats in India. My thesis will explore similarities and differences between the Art of Silence meditation retreat and the Camino de Santiago and participants' emotional outcomes. I will use both qualitative and quantitative data to document how practitioners changed during the processes and identify what community dynamics, interactions, and individual behaviors contributed to their developmental process. I hope to answer my research question of how spiritual processes influence emotion and behavior.