Journal Article

Religion and Declining Support for Traditional Beliefs about Gender Roles and Homosexual Rights

Larry R. Petersen and Gregory V. Donnenwerth

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 59, issue 4, pages 353-371
Published in print January 1998 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 1998 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3712122
Religion and Declining Support for Traditional Beliefs about Gender Roles and Homosexual Rights

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Berger's (1967, 1992) views on plausibility structures suggest that a belief must receive a high level of support from group members if the belief is to be maintained over time. An alternative view holds that beliefs that are empirically unfalsifiable and that receive validation from sources external to the group (e.g., from the mass media) can be maintained without high levels of intra-group support. Using Itmgitudinal data, we found that between the early 1970s and the early 1990s support for two unfalsifiable beliefs (traditional beliefs about gender roles and hornosexual rights) declined among all Christian groups, including active conservative Protestants. In the early 1970s, support for these beliefs was relatively low among active conservatives as well as among other Christians. Throughout the time period studied, however, the active conservatives, compared to other Christians, had greater exposure to extra-group sources of validation for both beliefs. Thus, our findings do not support the view that unfalsifiable beliefs that have extra-group support structures are sustainable without high levels of intra-group support.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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