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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death: Insecurity and Miraculous Experiences

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Abstract

Experiencing a miracle is often assumed to be predicated on a lack of rational, scientific explanations of phenomena as measured with education or class. Existential threat theories would predict religious experiences are not directly related to these measures of modernization, but rather the economic and political stability that accompanies modernization. Those who experience threats to their existence are more likely to experience miracles. I investigate the prevalence of miracles in Latin American using a 2013 Pew survey of religious beliefs and experiences. Looking at 15,400 respondents from 16 separate countries, I analyze the extent to which experiencing miracles is correlated with education, SES, financial insecurity, cultural traditionalism, and several religious variables. I find education and SES have little correlation with the number of miracles experienced, financial insecurity is positively correlated with experiencing miracles, and Protestants have more divine encounters than Catholics. This suggests that both religious socialization and existential threat explain why individuals experience miracles.

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A meta-analysis was conducted on empirical trials investigating the mortality salience (MS) hypothesis of terror management theory (TMT). TMT postulates that investment in cultural worldviews and self-esteem serves to buffer the potential for death anxiety; the MS hypothesis states that, as a consequence, accessibility of death-related thought (MS) should instigate increased worldview and self-esteem defense and striving. Overall, 164 articles with 277 experiments were included. MS yielded moderate effects (r = .35) on a range of worldview- and self-esteem-related dependent variables (DVs), with effects increased for experiments using (a) American participants, (b) college students, (c) a longer delay between MS and the DV, and (d) people-related attitudes as the DV. Gender and self-esteem may moderate MS effects differently than previously thought. Results are compared to other reviews and examined with regard to alternative explanations of TMT. Finally, suggestions for future research are offered.
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The Varieties of Religious Experience : a Study in Human Nature / William James Note: The University of Adelaide Library eBooks @ Adelaide.
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The present research highlights affiliation defenses in the psychological confrontation with death. In 3 experiments, it was found that mortality salience led to increased affiliation strivings, as indicated by a greater preference for sitting within a group as opposed to sitting alone. Mortality salience actually led to increased affiliation with a worldview-threatening group (Experiments 1-2), even when affiliation with the group forced participants to attack their own worldviews (Experiment 3). Taken together, the findings support a distinct role of affiliation defenses against existential concerns. Moreover, affiliation defenses seem powerful enough to override worldview validation defenses, even when the worldviews in question are personally relevant and highly accessible.
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This paper derives a theory of religious behavior and organization from the assumption that people seek to limit the risk associated with their religious activities. Alternative risk reduction strategies lead to different styles of religion: one centering on collective production, exclusivity, and high levels of commitment; another centering on private production, diversified consumption, and fee-for-service transactions. Western religions, particularly their more sectarian forms, exemplify the collective style, whereas Asian and New Age religions approximate the private. Copyright 1995 by Oxford University Press.
Family, kinship structure, and modernization in Latin America
  • M L Carlos
  • L Sellers
  • ML Carlos
Carlos, M.L., and L. Sellers. 1972. Family, kinship structure, and modernization in Latin America. Latin American Research Review 7 (2): 95-124.