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ARDA Dictionary
  • Hell (Christianity):A place for the damned in the afterlife after Judgment Day. Hell originally referred to the dark regions of the underworld, but now it refers to the eternal separation between individuals and God. Whether hell is everlasting or a temporary state of existence is often debated (Smith and Green 1995: 412).
  • Belief in Hell, Measure of:This survey item assesses whether a respondent believes in hell or purgatory. Examples of this measure are found in the 2008 General Social Survey and the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey , both of which are available in the ARDA's Data Archive.
  • Damnation:Condemnation to punishment in the afterlife for sins committed while alive. This is said to occur on judgment day, and the eternal abode for the damned is hell (Smith and Green 1995: 303).
  • Predestination:The belief that every human being, before birth, was predestined by God to either heaven or hell. This is found in Calvinist theology, also known as Reformed theology (Prothero 2008: 207).
  • Heaven (Christianity):The dwelling place of God, angels and redeemed individuals in the afterlife. It functions as the ultimate reward for the redeemed, as opposed to hell, which is the punishment for the damned (Smith and Green 1995: 411). To find information on survey questions related to heaven, click here .
  • Calvinism:Also known as Reformed theology, Calvinism is a Protestant theological tradition based on the works of John Calvin (1509-1564). Calvin believed in the absolute sovereignty of God and the total depravity of humans. Calvinism also includes the doctrine of double predestination: the belief that God fated every human being, before birth, to either heaven or hell (Prothero 2008: 207).
  • Zoroastrianism:The religion founded by Zoroaster (c. 1400 BCE) that reforms ancient Persian polytheism into a monotheistic belief system. Zoroastrian teachings include the Avesta and the Pahlavi literature. It is considered dualistic since it has a good god, Ahura Mazda, and an evil god, Angra Mainyu. The religion has influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam, specifically in the concepts of heaven and hell, resurrection of the dead and final judgment (Hinnells 1984: 362-363).
  • Afterlife:The fate of humans after death (Smith and Green 1995: 31). Descriptions of the afterlife will differ by cultural, historical and geographical context (see Egyptian Book of the Dead and Tibetan Book of the Dead). In Eastern religions, such as Hinduism or Buddhism, reincarnation is an afterlife concept. In the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam discussions of the afterlife also entail whether an individual goes to either heaven or hell based on God's judgment (Hinnells 1984: 25-26).
  • Jehovah's Witnesses:A worldwide Christian society noted for their use of "Jehovah" as the name of God and their assertive proselytizing efforts through door-knocking. Charles Taze Russell founded the movement in the 1880s with hopes of restoring the Church to the beliefs of first-century Christianity. Some of their prominent beliefs include: hell is not a place of eternal torment, the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God, a rejection of the Trinity, living in the "last days" of the world (millenarianism), and converting every person into a Witness (Melton 2009: 592).
  • Russell, Charles Taze (1852-1916):Charles Taze Russell sparked the religious group later known as the Jehovah's Witnesses . He wrote a series of Bible study books called Studies in Scripture , which, although popular, attracted criticism from evangelical Christians for his denial of hell, the immortal soul, the deity of Jesus, and his insistence that God was One, not a Trinity. His ideas and early religious movement would later influence the development of Jehovah's Witnesses. For more information on Charles Taze Russell, click here .
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Teaching Tools
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Citations are taken from the Sociology of Religion Searchable Bibliographic Database, created and updated by Anthony J. Blasi (Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Notre Dame; University of Texas at San Antonio). The ARDA is not responsible for content or typographical errors.
  • Belief in Hell and parenting priorities concerning child independence and obedience: Does economic context matter?
    Jung, Jong Hyun (2020)
    Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 59:4: 629-645.
    Analyzes 2010-14 World Values Survey data. Belief in Hell inversely predicts parental endorsement of child independence more greatly in economically developed nations, more greatly positively predicts endorsement of obedience by children in those nations.
    Associated Search Terms: Family; Belief; Socialization; Obedience
  • To heaven or to hell: Are Muslims' afterlife hope and fear balanced? A cross-cultural study.
    Al-Issa, Riyad Salim, Steven Eric Krauss, Samsilah Roslan, and Haslinda Abdullah (2020)
    Review of Religious Reseach 62:2: 351-368.
    Develops survey measures of Afterlife Hope Expectations and Afterlife Fear Expectations, based on responses of Jordanian and Malaysian university students.
    Associated Search Terms: Afterlife; Methods; Islam; Scale
  • Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames: A Sociological Study of New Christian Movements in Contemporary Goa.
    Abreu, Savio (2020)
    New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
    Reports 2007-08 field work in 2 Catholic charismatic prayer groups & 2 neo-pentecostal churches.
    Associated Search Terms: India, Goa; Participant observation; Pentecostal, Catholic, India; Pentecostal, neo, India
  • Sinners in the hands of an angry God: An exploration of religious forces on support for the death penalty.
    Bones, Paul D.C., and Soheil Sabriseilabi (2018)
    Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 57:4: 707-722.
    Analyzes 2008 USA General Social Survey data. Catholic affiliation decreases support for capital punishment; belief in hell increases it. Conservatism independently supports it.
    Associated Search Terms: Conservative, U.S.A.; Catholic, U.S.A.; Belief; Capital punishment; Religiosity
  • A period of "wild and fierce fanaticism": Populism, theo-political militarism, and the crisis of U.S. hegemony.
    Hell, Julia, and George Steinmetz (2017)
    American Journal of Cultural Sociology. doi: 10.1057/s41290-017-0041-y
    A key characteristic of the new American populism is its orientation toward global military confrontation with “Islam.” New authoritarian movements & regimes combine coherent ideological projects with deliberately chaotic, even incoherent statements & interventions.
    Associated Search Terms: Politics, U.S.A.; Peace/war
  • Hell to pay: Religion and punitive ideology among the American public.
    Baker, Joseph O., and Alexis L. Booth (2016)
    Punishment & Society 18:2: 151-176.
    We examine whether & how different aspects of religiosity shape punitive attitudes, using a national sample of Americans. For both general punitiveness & views of capital punishment, belief in the existence & power of transcendent religious evil (e.g. Satan & hell) is strongly associated with greater punitiveness, while higher levels of religious practice (service attendance, prayer, & reading sacred scriptures) reduces punitiveness.
    Associated Search Terms: Punitiveness; Penology
  • Divergent effects of beliefs in heaven and hell on national crime rates.
    Shariff, Azim F., and Mijke Rhemtulla (2012)
    PLoS ONE. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0039048
    The proportion of people who believe in hell negatively predicts national crime rates whereas belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates. These effects remain after accounting for a host of covariates, & ultimately prove stronger predictors of national crime rates than economic variables such as GDP & income inequality.
    Associated Search Terms: Criminology; Afterlife
  • Trust in a "fallen world": The case of Protestant theological conservatism.
    Hempel, Lynn M., Todd Matthews, and John Bartkowski. (2012)
    Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51:3: 522-541.
    Analyzes 2008 General Social Survey (U.S.A.) dta; conservative beliefs (authoritative Bible, human depravity, born again, hell) predicted generalized trust inversely, canceling out the effects of religious involvement, which positively predicts trust.
    Associated Search Terms: Belief; Conservative, U.S.A.; Trust; United States
  • "Abomination"--life as a Bible Belt gay.
    Barton, Bernadette (2010)
    Journal of Homosexuality 57;4:465-484.
    Of the 46 lesbians & gay men interviewed for this study, most describe living through spirit-crushing experiences of isolation, abuse, & self-loathing. Informants explained that negative social attitudes about homosexuality caused a range of harmful consequences in their lives including the fear of going to hell, depression, low self-esteem, & feelings of worthlessness.
    Associated Search Terms: United States, South; Evangelical, U.S.A.; Homosexuality
  • Religious beliefs, sociopolitical ideology, and attitudes toward corporal punishment.
    Ellison, Christopher G., and Matt Bradshaw (2009)
    Journal of Family Issues 30:3: 320-340.
    Analyzes 1998 General Social Survey (U.S.A.) data; findings underscore the importance of conservative Protestant beliefs, especially hierarchical images of God & belief in Hell, but not denominational affiliation.
    Associated Search Terms: Corporal punishment; God, image of; Belief
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Questions/Variables on Surveys
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