VARIATION IN THE ASCRIPTION OF VIOLENCE TO VIOLENT AND NONVIOLENT RELIGIOUS WORDS BY BELIEVERS

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Abstract

Evolutionary psychologists have argued that religion enhances fitness through the formation of strong in-groups that allow for greater cooperation. Strong in-groups, however, also tend to be associated with aggression and violence as well. The purpose of the present study is to examine the hypothesis that religion may promote a greater tolerance of violence done in the name of the believer's religion. Participants were asked to assess the Christian and violent qualities of twenty words. Each of the words had religious meanings, some specifically Christian, with half having violent connotations as well. Results suggested that religious words were assessed differently based on the belief system of the individual. Self-identified Christians assessed violent words as less violent and nonviolent words as more Christian than self-identified non-Christians. Examination of Christians, divided into high and low dogmatic groups, showed a similar pattern for the Christian rating of nonviolent words but not for the violence rating of violent words. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that violence done in the name of religion is tolerated more by believers than nonbelievers.

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