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Are High Levels of Existential Security Conducive to Secularization? A Response to Our Critics

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The Changing World Religion Map

Abstract

Is there a link between feelings of existential insecurity and the strength of religious values? Previous work suggests such a relationship, but proxy measures of insecurity have been limited to noisy aggregate-level indicators, such as each society’s level of per capita GDP. This chapter addresses these issues. We summarize the theory of existential security and review what we know and also the data sources and methods we use. We draw upon new evidence concerning from the 2005–2007 World Values Survey conducted in 55 nations as well as from the 2007 Gallup World Poll conducted in 132 nations. The results reveal the impact of experiential security on religiosity, utilizing the Gallup Lived Poverty index. Building upon this foundation, we pay particular attention to perceptual or subjective measures of security and risk from the 5th wave WVS. We conclude that the dynamics of secularization are much more complex than the simple decline of religion proposed by some early theories or a universal revival of religion worldwide, as suggested by many contemporary commentators. We demonstrate that rising existential security brings declining emphasis on religion in many post-industrial societies worldwide. In short, there is a growing religiosity gap worldwide.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Full methodological details about the World Values Surveys, including the questionnaires, sampling procedures, fieldwork procedures, principle investigators, and organization can be found at: www.worldvaluessurvey.com

  2. 2.

    To test whether this is item suitable for use in non-monotheistic societies, we examined its national-level correlations with responses to the question, “How important is religion in your society?” which does not refer to God. The two tap essentially the same dimension, correlating at .92. Because the question about the importance of God has a longer time series, we use it here.

  3. 3.

    More details about the methodology, fieldwork and sampling practices, and questionnaire can be found at https://www.gallup.com

  4. 4.

    UNDP. Human Development Reports. http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/indices/hdi/

  5. 5.

    The Gallup Lived Poverty index is constructed from the following items: “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money… To buy food that you or your family needed? To provide adequate shelter or housing for you and your family?” “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your standard of living?” “Home has no running water, no electricity and no landline telephone.”

  6. 6.

    The Gini coefficient is based on equivalised household disposable income, after taxes and transfers. The Gini coefficient is defined as the area between the Lorenz curve (which plots cumulative shares of the population, from the poorest to the richest, against the cumulative share of income that they receive) and the 45° line, taken as a ratio of the whole triangle. The values of the Gini coefficient range between 0, in the case of “perfect equality” (i.e. each share of the population gets the same share of income), and 1, in the case of “perfect inequality” (i.e. all income goes to the individual with the highest income).

  7. 7.

    OECD Stats Extracts. http://stats.oecd.org/. Accessed November 2010.

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Correspondence to Pippa Norris .

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Norris, P., Inglehart, R. (2015). Are High Levels of Existential Security Conducive to Secularization? A Response to Our Critics. In: Brunn, S. (eds) The Changing World Religion Map. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9376-6_177

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