Poster Paper: Are There No Atheists in Foxholes? the Effect of War Deployments on Religion

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Resul Cesur, University of Connecticut, Travis Freidman, University of New Hampshire and Joseph Sabia, San Diego State University

Coping with man’s mortality is widely believed to be an important determinant of religion. However, very little is known about the impact of life-and-death trauma on religiosity. This study exploits a natural experiment in war deployments to estimate the effect of combat-induced trauma on religiosity. We find that servicemen deployed to combat zones are more likely to subsequently attend religious services and engage in private prayer than their counterparts assigned to non-combat duties. Increases in religiosity are largest for enlisted servicemen, those under age 25, and servicemen wounded in combat. Descriptive analyses suggest that the physical and psychological burdens of war, as well as the presence of military chaplains in war zones, are among the mechanisms at work.