A Polluting Creed: Religion and Environmental Inequality in the United States

Jul 31, 2019
Kevin T. Smiley



Research on religion and the environment primarily focuses how religion shapes environmental attitudes, but this leaves aside how this connection links to observable levels of pollution. This article outlines three elements by which religion and environmental inequality are related: the cumulative effect of religious worldviews, free market outlooks held by some religious adherents, and the bridging or bonding character of social ties of religious adherents. These three elements are analyzed by examining the relationship between industrial air pollution and the proportion of population in metropolitan areas that are conservative Protestant, Mainline Protestant, Catholic, and a composite measure. Results show that the composite measure is associated with more industrial pollution. But important distinctions between religious groups show that a greater proportion of conservative Protestant Evangelical adherents are associated with greater pollution, but that Catholic and Mainline Protestant adherents are not. These findings suggest the importance of renewing research between religion and environmental degradation.

Read the article in Sociological Perspectives.

DOI for citing: 
Share: Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Linked Icon