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Communal Religious Practice and Support for Armed Parties: Evidence from Lebanon

Hoffman, M. T. and E. R. Nugent (2015). “Communal Religious Practice and Support for Armed Parties: Evidence from Lebanon.” Journal of Conflict Resolution.
Does religion inevitably promote support for militant politics? Using a new and unique data set compiled from a nationally representative survey in Lebanon, we examine the conditions under which communal religious practice may serve to promote support for or opposition to armed parties. We argue that this relationship, far from being unidirectional and consistent, depends on the interests of the individual sectarian group. For groups engaged in conflict, communal prayer may increase support for arming political parties. For noncombatant groups, however, religion tends to promote opposition to such militarization. Using both observational and experimental evidence, we demonstrate that communal religion increases the salience of group interests through both identity and informational mechanisms. For regular worship attenders, communal religious practice increases the salience of sectarian identity. For nonattenders, informational primes about sectarian interests have the same effect. Among noncombatant groups, this increased salience leads to opposition to armed parties whose presence would threaten the livelihoods and security of those on the sidelines.


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