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Gifts of Money and Gifts of Time: Folk Religion and Civic Involvement in a Chinese Society

Abstract

Drawing on representative survey data collected in Taiwan, this study examines the effects on volunteering of Chinese folk religion. We find (1) practicing ancestor worship lowers people’s likelihood of donating to secular groups while local deity worshippers are more likely to donate money to religious organizations. (2) Sectarian group membership can significantly promote members’ odds of volunteering in religious groups. (3) Individual folk religion is positively associated with the odds of religious giving and volunteering. (4) Individual folk religion adherents mainly donate to Buddhism, Taoism, and Folk Religion, but on an occasional basis.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The authors would like to thank Dr. Fenggang Yang, the editor and anonymous reviewers for a number of constructive suggestions.

  2. 2.

    What should be mentioned here is that religious public space does not always bridge people from different social origins. Instead, some religious groups may strengthen the cleavage between ethnicities, classes, or regions (e.g., Emerson 2006; Emerson and Smith 2000; Wuthnow 2002, 2003a, b). We thank an anonymous reviewer for directing us to this point of view.

  3. 3.

    It is worth mentioning that some scholars argue that civic activities through religious organizations may “crowd out” the time or money spent in secular groups (Campbell and Yonish 2003; Wuthnow 2004) while other scholars argue in the opposite by contending that religion-based civic involvement can “spill over” and encourage secular civic activities (Putnam and Campbell 2010; Ruiter and De Graaf 2006).

  4. 4.

    Yiguandao has the largest number of followers among sectarian folk religion organizations in Taiwan based on our supplementary analysis of the Taiwan Social Change Survey data.

  5. 5.

    Making a vow means to make a wish before a deity and promise to come again to worship and offer sacrifice if the wish comes true. Fulfilling a vow is to worship and sacrifice to a deity as an expression of gratitude after the wish comes true.

  6. 6.

    Moral books are brochures which encourage benevolent acts through fantastic tales. In Taiwan, moral books are usually written based on the “spiritual writings” in sectarian organizations and they are publicly accessible at railway stations, temples, hospitals, etc.

  7. 7.

    For instance, an ancestor worship ritual is usually held on the date when a specific relative passed away (jiri) or on the Tomb-sweeping Day (qingming festival). Most local festivals are celebrated on the birthday of a specific local deity.

  8. 8.

    The data and questionnaires in the Taiwan Social Change Survey (the TSCS) are publicly accessible at the website http://www.ios.sinica.edu.tw/sc/cht/scDownload2.php#fourth. The official data source specification is shown below: Data analyzed in this paper were collected in the fifth phase of the 2009 survey of the research project, “Taiwan Social Change Survey.” The project was conducted by the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica (surveys before the first year of the third cycle were conducted by the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica), and sponsored by the National Science Council, Republic of China.

  9. 9.

    Religious Experience Survey in Taiwan (the REST) data was granted by National Chengchi University from the project, “A Comparative Study of Religious Experience in Taiwan,” project No. NSC97-2410-H-004-178-MY3. We are grateful to Dr. Yen-zen Tsai, Director of the REST and to his research team.

  10. 10.

    Although we acknowledge that the effects of folk religion on volunteering may be underestimated considering the fact that a proportion of folk religion adherents are simultaneously institutional religion followers.

  11. 11.

    We exclude Christians and adherents of new Buddhist groups in our analysis as an endeavor to control for potential confounding effects. However, this does not mean folk religion followers never donate or volunteer in other religious organizations.

  12. 12.

    For an introduction to these sectarian groups, see Yang and Hu (2012) and Qu (2002).

  13. 13.

    We investigate the nonlinear relationship between volunteering and age by introducing the variable of age square. However, this term is not significant. Moreover, introducing age square into the logistic model causes serious multicollinearity. So we decide to discard age square in our model.

  14. 14.

    We thank a reviewer for pointing out this drawback. However, due to data limitation, these control variables are not available in the survey data used in this article.

  15. 15.

    One reviewer points out this concern and we appreciate it very much.

  16. 16.

    Full Tables for each type of folk religion are available upon request.

  17. 17.

    In our supplementary analysis, the basic pattern for local deity worship is largely the same.

  18. 18.

    The Stata output for robust check is available upon request.

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Hu, A. Gifts of Money and Gifts of Time: Folk Religion and Civic Involvement in a Chinese Society. Rev Relig Res 56, 313–335 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13644-013-0132-3

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Keywords

  • Folk religion
  • Volunteering
  • Giving
  • China