Prominent versions of social capital theory presume a positive link between voluntary memberships—including religious memberships—and generalized trust in society. Yet this relationship has not been tested in sub-Saharan Africa, a region with low average levels of generalized trust and high levels of religious membership and participation, where the rise of Charismatic Evangelical churches has recently transformed the religious landscape. Contrary hypotheses based in a theory of oppositional subcultures would suggest that memberships in such churches could dampen generalized trust due to their oppositional discourse vis a vis the wider society. In this paper, I use 2008 Afrobarometer survey data from seven countries in the region to test these contrasting hypotheses, analyzing both the pooled data and the separate country datasets. I find mixed evidence for the link between religious membership and generalized trust, and more consistent evidence that affiliating with a Charismatic Evangelical group is negatively associated with generalized trust. The study supports the conclusion that the link between religious membership and generalized trust is dependent on both the context and the content of the discourse circulating in religious settings.
Social Indicators Research – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 16, 2016
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