Journal Article

Theological Modernism, Cultural Libertarianism and Laissez-Faire Economics in Contemporary European Societies

Nancy J. Davis and Robert V. Robinson

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 62, issue 1, pages 23-50
Published in print January 2001 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2001 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3712229
Theological Modernism, Cultural Libertarianism and Laissez-Faire Economics in Contemporary European Societies

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Through analyses of national surveys of 12 European countries and Israel, we test hypotheses relating moral cosmology to cultural and economic attitudes. Modernists are theologically more individualistic than the religiously orthodox in that they see individuals, not a deity, as responsible for their fates and as the ultimate moral arbiters. We hypothesize that modernists, as theological individualists, are culturally individualistic or libertarian in supporting freedom of choice on cultural issues of abortion, sexuality, religious education, and gender roles. We hypothesize as well that modernists are economically individualistic in believing that individuals are responsible for their own success or failure and that the solution to poverty and unemployment is greater effort by the poor and jobless themselves, not government aid or private charity. In our analyses we find support for both hypotheses. In conventional political terms, modernists are to the left of the religiously orthodox on cultural concerns but to the right of the orthodox on economic issues. What explains this paradox is the individualism that underlies both cultural Libertarianism and laissez-faire economics.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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