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Cultural similarity among coreligionists within and between countries

White, Cindel J.M., Muthukrishna, Michael ORCID: 0000-0002-7079-5166 and Norenzayan, Ara (2021) Cultural similarity among coreligionists within and between countries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118 (37). ISSN 1091-6490

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Identification Number: 10.1073/pnas.2109650118


Cultural evolutionary theories suggest that world religions have consolidated beliefs, values, and practices within a superethnic cultural identity. It follows that affiliation with religious traditions would be reliably associated with global variation in cultural traits. To test this hypothesis, we measured cultural distance between religious groups within and between countries, using the Cultural Fixation Index (CFST) applied to the World Values Survey (88 countries, n = 243,118). Individuals who shared a religious tradition and level of commitment to religion were more culturally similar, both within and across countries, than those with different affiliations and levels of religiosity, even after excluding overtly religious values. Moreover, distances between denominations within a world religion echoed shared historical descent. Nonreligious individuals across countries also shared cultural values, offering evidence for the cultural evolution of secularization. While nation-states were a stronger predictor of cultural traits than religious traditions, the cultural similarity of coreligionists remained robust, controlling for demographic characteristics, geographic and linguistic distances between groups, and government restriction on religion. Together, results reveal the pervasive cultural signature of religion and support the role of world religions in sustaining superordinate identities that transcend geographical boundaries.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 National Academy of Sciences
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2021 13:36
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2022 00:00

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