Beyond Stewardship and Dominion? Towards a Social Psychological Explanation of the Relationship Between Religious Attitudes and Environmental Concern

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Religion, environmental threats, interest in environment, United States

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Research about the religion and environmental attitudes relationship in the United States has yielded mixed results. Some studies find that religion relates to heightened concern about environmental threats and greater environmental interest whereas others find religion relates to diminished concern and interest. A new perspective that applies ideas from psychology and sociology may help resolve these discrepant findings. It is hypothesized that religious meaning reduces concern with environmental threats since meaning helps people cope with distressing stimuli. This reduction is specific to threats and does not extend to environmental interest. Using the 2016 General Social Survey to test this hypothesis, after controlling for sociodemographic and political variables, structural equation modeling shows Americans who are more religious experience diminished sense of danger from environmental threats, yet exhibit heightened general environmental interest. These findings align with the proposed theory and suggest new ways to promote environmentalism and policy change.

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Environmental Politics, v. 30, issue 4, p. 622-643