3 years ago

Religious dominance and empathy

Robert Braun
Why do some religious authorities empathize with outsiders while others espouse xenophobia? This paper argues that church leaders are less likely to display empathy when their religious identity is dominant within the nation. While the overlap of church and nation reinforces antipathy towards outsiders, lower levels of dominance imbue religious networks with empathy. The author develops this argument through a comparison of Catholic discourse on Jews in the Low Countries at the onset of the Holocaust. The analysis reveals that Catholic leaders in the religiously mixed Netherlands were empathetic to Jews while their counterparts in homogeneously Catholic Belgium espoused antisemitism. Moreover, Belgian Catholics displayed less empathy towards Jews than Belgian seculars, while the opposite was true in the Netherlands. Subnational statistical analyses provide suggestive evidence that these different discourses had important consequences. While antisemitic mobilization in the Netherlands was much weaker in Catholic strongholds, this relationship was reversed in Belgium. Analyses of ethnic conflict and religious mediation across the globe confirm the importance of religious dominance outside of the Low Countries. This suggest that it is the interplay of nation and denomination -not something inherent to either of the two- that produces religious empathy and that we need to situate groups in their broader multi-cleavage contexts to further our understanding of intergroup relationships.

Publisher URL: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11186-020-09378-1

DOI: 10.1007/s11186-020-09378-1

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