Intersecting identities as a source of religious incongruence


Chaves (2010) argues that much of the work in the sociology of religion is susceptible to the religious congruence fallacy—the tendency to assume consistency between religious beliefs and one’s attitudes and behaviors across situations when they are in fact highly variable. We build on and extend this argument by focusing on intersecting group identities as a mechanism for identifying such incongruence, not only within religious contexts, but also at the intersection of categories such as gender and race. To illustrate this argument, the analysis draws on data from the 2006 Panel Study of American Religion and Ethnicity (PS-ARE) to assess how race, gender, and religion interact to produce different levels of attitude and behavior incongruencies on key issues of the day, specifically conservative social values and voting behaviors. The results find marked differences and inconsistent relationships between attitudes and behaviors across racial-gender groups. We use the analysis to highlight the conditions that result in incongruence at the intersections of identity categories and pinpoint where social scientists are most vulnerable to committing the congruence fallacy.

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion