Journal Article

The Link Between Religion and Helping Others: The Role of Values, Ideas, and Language

Christopher J. Einolf

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 72, issue 4, pages 435-455
Published in print December 2011 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online April 2011 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
The Link Between Religion and Helping Others: The Role of Values, Ideas, and Language

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This study used life narrative interview data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study to examine how religious values, ideas, and language motivate prosocial behaviors. Open coding of 88 in-depth interviews revealed six themes: defining morality in religious terms, considering religion an important aspect of one's identity, feeling that one's life involves carrying out God's mission, making an increased commitment to religion over time, drawing an explicit connection between religion and helping others, and, for Christian respondents, finding inspiration for helping in Jesus's teaching, example, and sacrifice. Using ratings from independent coders, statistically significant relationships were found between most of the themes and prosocial behaviors, particularly for respondents who engaged in multiple helping behaviors. In addition to documenting the relationship between religious ideas and values and helping behaviors, the study demonstrates how language mediates the relationship between the social and personal aspects of religion.

Keywords: beliefs; civil society/public sphere; nonprofit sector; qualitative methods; values; prosocial behavior

Journal Article.  8597 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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