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Title: The evolution of doctrinal religions : using semantic network analysis and computational models to examine the evolutionary dynamics of large religions
Author: Lane, Justin E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 3439
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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How do large scale religions achieve social cohesion among their members? The divergent modes of religiosity (DMR) theory suggests that imagistic religions rely on rare and emotionally intense rituals to foster fusion by means of reflection (e.g. tribal initiations in small tribal religions), while doctrinal religions achieve cohesion, in the form of social identification, through the performance of frequent low arousal rituals (e.g. daily or weekly rituals in Judeo-Christian religions). Even though the DMR theory proposes that in doctrinal religions, high-frequency emotionally intense rituals should die out or transform, such rituals have become increasingly common in Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian communities. In order to explain the rise and spread of emotionally intense but frequent rituals in doctrinal traditions, this thesis makes the case for an Information Identity System (IIS), through which emotionally intense experiences in doctrinal religions generate a socially regulated process of reflection, that in turn creates conceptual ties, which are links between central aspects of one's personal identity and essential beliefs in their group's social schema. The IIS proposes conceptual ties are the basis for extended fusion. This research uses surveys and semi-structured interviews to test 3 key hypotheses: H1) There is a positive relationship between frequency of in-group ritual attendance and social identification, when controlling for fusion; H2a-b) The relationship between the intensity of emotional arousal associated with an experience and fusion to both a group (H2a) and the concept God (H2b) are mediated positively by a) the perceived frequency of reflection on the experience and b) how central one views that experience to their sense of self; H3) The relationship between frequency of in-group ritual attendance and social consensus is mediated a) positively by social identification and b) negatively by fusion. The results suggest support for hypothesis H1 but also found an interaction between fusion and frequency of in-group ritual attendance and that fusion has a greater effect than expected. Results also found support for H2a and H2b. However, the sample size used to test hypothesis 3 resulted in an underpowered study. In addition, two alternative hypotheses from cultural epidemiology were tested but the study was also underpowered. The findings suggest that the IIS' proposal of conceptual ties may be a plausible explanation for extended fusion. In future research, larger sample sizes should be used in future studies testing H3. Additionally. future research may wish to investigate how conceptual ties may underpin religious extremism and its relation to sacred values theory. The dissertation ends by discussing how the methods devised here can be used in future studies.
Supervisor: Whitehouse, Harvey Sponsor: John Templeton Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Evolution ; Religion ; Cognitive science ; Computation ; Social Cohesion ; Network Theory