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  • Author or Editor: Carolin Hillenbrand x
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Abstract

Social scientists and development practitioners are increasingly recognizing the significance of social cohesion as a prerequisite for and part of sustainable development. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic poses severe challenges to the cohesion of societies. However, the specific role of people’s religiosity in their attitudes and behaviors relevant for social cohesion has rarely been empirically-quantitatively investigated.

Using primary data from an online survey in Germany, this article addresses three research questions: 1) How can the construct “social cohesion” be empirically and quantitatively measured? 2) What dynamics of social cohesion were evident in Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic (in 2020/2021)? 3) What specific role did people’s religiosity play in social cohesion in that context?

These questions are answered within a theory-led empirical analysis. Social cohesion is conceptualized as a multidimensional construct that manifests itself in horizontal (citizen–citizen) and vertical (citizen–state) relationships. It is measured by eight subdimensions: social/institutional trust, social inclusive/national identification, social/institutional responsibility, and social/political engagement. Religiosity is specified with three dimensions: belonging (religious affiliation), believing (faith intensity/content), and behaving (prayer/service attendance).

The empirical results for Germany show that the people surveyed in the period from July 2020 to January 2021 tended to hold together more. Several cohesion dimensions, particularly institutional trust and national identification, strengthened. In contrast, social trust weakened. The role of religiosity is ambivalent. It is not the intensity but the content and practices of faith that make the difference. Exclusivist religious beliefs, a punitive image of God, and private prayer practice are negatively related, while a loving image of God and service attendance are positively related to social cohesion.

Open Access
In: Religion and Development