have had what they believe to be supernatural experiences are more likely to be
"religious givers", with their behaviour based on cost-benefit
principles that work in other transactions – whether that be through
Amazon.com or an auto repair shop, according to a Baylor University (a top
Christian university located in Texas, US) study.
more likely to make "social exchanges" because of such factors as
trust, repeated exchanges, reputation, information about others' experiences,
and institutions involved in exchanges, said Katie Corcoran, PhD., a
postdoctoral fellow in Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. The study
shows that the less religious doubt people have, the more they are willing to
factors affecting people's certainty about God's existence and Heaven are
affiliation with a "high-tension" congregation – one with beliefs,
practices and behaviour very distinct from other groups – and close ties to
others within a congregation, Corcoran said.
'high-tension' congregations are usually more exclusive, as opposed to those
who say there is truth in all religions," she said.
giving to religious organisations consistently makes up the largest share of
America's philanthropy, little research has been done on why that is until now,
Corcoran said. Her study included 906 respondents in the General Social Survey
and 712 in the Baylor Religion Survey, who answered questions about how much
they gave to religious organisations and their religious experiences.
'Social exchange' theory
research, she applied "social exchange" theory. That theory assumes
that when people make decisions, they choose the option that they think will
benefit them most – and that that the more confident they are in their
exchange partner and the quality of the good, the more likely they are to have
further dealings. Positive online reviews rating goods and services or
word-of-mouth recommendations increase certainty and make future social
exchanges more likely.
confidence in eBay obviously is different from trust in God, "there are
parallels with religion" when it comes to building trust, Corcoran said.
who gave to religious organisations were more likely to report having had a
supernatural experience such as being healed, witnessing the healing of
another, hearing God's voice, speaking in tongues, being protected by a
guardian angel or having a "born-again" experience.
Empirical signs of God
can't empirically verify the existence of God, but mystical experiences are
believed to be empirical signs of God, of having some sort of interaction with
the divine," she said. "For some people, that can be a conscious
exchange, for others an unconscious one. If you think God exists, you're more
likely to give."
that previous research shows that evangelicals give more of their income than
mainline Protestants and Catholics. Her study indicates that evangelicals have
a higher level of confidence in God, which increases their giving.
you don't believe in Heaven – or don't believe you're going there – why would
you do things the church says you should, like giving?" On the other hand,
"if you believe, giving is a natural by-product," she said.