Does Church Attendance or Spiritual Belief Explain the Negative Relationship Between Religiosity and Aggression?

Ms Rosemary Lyn Aird
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Even though religion is fundamental to the social theories proposed by both Durkheim and Weber, it seems that contemporary religiosity fails to attract much research attention from sociologists. This would seem surprising given that contemporary social theorists Putnam (2000) and Coleman (1990) both argue that there is a link between membership to religious organisations and pro-social behaviour.

Although research findings to date, show a consistent negative association between religion and antisocial behaviour, it remains unclear whether it is membership to religious organisations or religious beliefs themselves that encourage pro-social behaviour, particularly within a contemporary context. This study aims to address this issue by examining differences in aggressive behaviour among young Australian adults (N=3633) taking both church attendance and spiritual beliefs into account.

Multivariate analyses indicate that while those attending church on a weekly basis are less likely to be aggressive than non-attendees, this difference is not significant after adjustment for spiritual beliefs. However, those who believe in God are less likely to be aggressive than non-believers (OR=0.76; 0.64, 0.91), even after adjustment for church attendance, gender and education (OR=0.82; 0.68, 0.99). By contrast, non-traditional spiritual beliefs (belief in a spiritual or higher power other than God) are associated with higher levels of aggression (AdjOR=1.38; 1.15,1.64).

Findings from this study suggest that belief in God might better explain differing levels of aggressive behaviour than does church attendance, and that new forms of spiritual belief warrant further research attention for their connection to social behaviour.

Keywords: Religion, Religiosity, Church Attendance, Traditional Spiritual Belief, Non-traditional Spiritual Belief, Aggressive Behaviour, Young Adulthood
Stream: Sociology and Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Ms Rosemary Lyn Aird

Project Officer and PhD Candidate, Mater-University Study of Pregnancy
School of Population Health, The University of Queensland

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Ref: I06P0166