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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Religiosity and Trust in Religious Institutions: Tales from the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia)


Abstract: The paper examines the determinants of trust in religious institutions in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia—three countries with low levels of religiosity as measured by attendance, prayer and fasting, yet high levels of trust in religious institutions. The analysis employs individual-level survey data from the Caucasus Research Resource Centers’ (CRRC) 2007 Data Initiative and uses OLS regression to show that while religious practices do not determine trust in religious institutions, the importance of religion in one’s daily life is a strong indicator of trust in religious institutions in each country. However, the results show some differences between the three countries with regard to two types of control variables—trust in secular institutions and socioeconomic factors. Georgia is the only country in which interpersonal trust is a significant indicator of trust in religious institutions. Residence in the capital is only significant in Azerbaijan. Armenia is the only country in which both education and age are significant. In addition, two theories of trust in institutions are tested: a cultural theory of interpersonal trust and secularization theory relating to declining religious authority. The results show that secularization theory has inadequately operationalized the concept of religiosity overwhelmingly as practice and as declining religious authority. The paper maintains that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are considered secular under earlier secularization theories that viewed declining religious practices as a form of secularization. However, these countries are non-secular with respect to more recent adaptations of the theory that regard declining religious authority—measured by trust in religious institutions—as a form of secularization. Thus, the presence of both low religious practice and high trust in religious institutions challenges more recent reformulated secularization theories. Additionally, cultural theories of interpersonal trust

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