Religion, environmental guilt, and pro-environmental support: The opposing pathways of stewardship belief and belief in a controlling god

Kimin Eom, Tricia Qian Hui Tok, Carmel S. Saad, Heejung S. Kim

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25 Scopus citations

Abstract

Religion exerts significant influence on how individuals respond to social issues. The present research investigates the implications of religious beliefs on emotions and behaviors regarding environmental issues. In three studies conducted with Christians in the U.S. (N = 1970), we test the model in which stewardship belief and belief in a controlling god are oppositely (i.e., positively for stewardship belief and negatively for belief in a controlling god) associated with environmental guilt, which in turn leads to greater pro-environmental support. We do so by employing both correlational (Studies 1 and 2) and experimental data (Study 3) with diverse measures of pro-environmental support, such as behavioral commitment for environmental organizations (Study 1), policy support (Studies 2 and 3), and financial donation (Study 3). Religion is a system including various beliefs that may have different implications on environmental action. Given the vast number of the religious across the world, understanding this complexity is important to address current global environmental challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101717
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Volume78
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a special research grant provided by the Singapore Management University , School of Social Sciences awarded to the first author.

Funding Information:
The results showed that higher stewardship belief was associated with higher environmental guilt, β = .307, b = 0.297, SE = 0.059, z = 5.05, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [0.182, 0.413]. In contrast, stronger belief in a controlling god was associated with lower environmental guilt, β = −0.140, b = −0.104, SE = 0.045, z = −2.30, p = .021, 95% CI of b = [−0.193, −0.015]. Environmental guilt in turn positively predicted support for pro-environmental organizations, β = 0.179, b = 0.744, SE = 0.276, z = 2.70, p = .007, 95% CI of b = [0.203, 1.285].Furthermore, the indirect path between stewardship belief and support for pro-environmental organizations via environmental guilt was significant, β = .055, b = 0.221, SE = 0.093, z = 2.38, p = .017, 95% CI of b = [0.039, 0.403]. The indirect path between belief in a controlling god and support for pro-environmental organizations via environmental guilt was marginally significant, β = −0.025, b = −0.078, SE = 0.044, z = −1.75, p = .080, 95% CI of b = [−0.164, 0.009]. Stewardship belief was also directly associated with support for pro-environmental organizations, β = .234, b = 0.941, SE = 0.265, z = 3.55, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [0.422, 1.461]. In contrast, the direct path between belief in a controlling god and support for pro-environmental organizations was not significant, β = −0.026, b = −0.080, SE = 0.196, z = −0.41, p = .681, 95% CI of b = [−0.464, 0.303].In line with the correlations above, political identification (higher, more strongly Republican) was significantly negatively associated with both environmental guilt, β = −0.313, b = −0.201, SE = 0.038, z = −5.26, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [−0.276, −0.126], and support for pro-environmental organizations, β = −0.129, b = −0.343, SE = 0.173, z = −1.99, p = .047, 95% CI of b = [−0.682, −0.005].The results showed that higher stewardship belief was associated with higher environmental guilt, β = .144, b = 0.151, SE = 0.036, z = 4.23, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [0.081, 0.222]. In contrast, stronger belief in a controlling god was associated with lower environmental guilt, β = −0.090, b = −0.067, SE = 0.026, z = −2.61, p = .009, 95% CI of b = [−0.117, −0.017]. Environmental guilt in turn positively predicted support for pro-environmental policies, β = 0.393, b = 0.215, SE = 0.014, z = 15.27, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [0.188, 0.243].The indirect path between stewardship belief and support for pro-environmental policies via environmental guilt was significant, β = .057, b = 0.033, SE = 0.008, z = 4.08, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [0.017, 0.048], as was the indirect path between belief in a controlling god and support for pro-environmental policies, β = −0.035, b = −0.014, SE = 0.006, z = −2.57, p = .010, 95% CI of b = [−0.025, −0.003]. Stewardship belief was directly associated with support for pro-environmental policies, β = .116, b = 0.067, SE = 0.017, z = 3.99, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [0.034, 0.099]. In contrast, the direct path between belief in a controlling god and support for pro-environmental policies was not significant, β = −0.043, b = −0.017, SE = 0.012, z = −1.46, p = .144, 95% CI of b = [−0.041, 0.006].In line with the correlations above, political identification (higher, more strongly Republican) was significantly negatively associated with both environmental guilt, β = −0.206, b = −0.135, SE = 0.020, z = −6.82, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [−0.174, −0.096], and support for pro-environmental policies, β = −0.332, b = −0.120, SE = 0.009, z = −12.81, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [−0.138, −0.101].In Study 2, we replicated the findings in Study 1 with a larger and demographically more diverse sample. Furthermore, using policy support as the outcome, Study 2 demonstrated that the proposed model was not confined to the specific outcome used in Study 1. We found that stewardship belief was positively associated with environmental guilt, whereas belief in a controlling god was negatively associated with environmental guilt. Environmental guilt in turn positively predicted support for pro-environmental policies. However, the correlational nature of Studies 1 and 2 did not allow for causal interpretations of the relationships found. Thus, we designed Study 3 with an experimental approach.The results from the model with policy support as the outcome variable showed a good model fit: comparative fit index = 1.00, root-mean-square error of approximation (RMSEA) < 0.001, χ2 (5) = 1.30, standardized root-mean-square-residual (SRMR) = 0.009 (see Hooper et al., 2008; Hu & Bentler, 1999; Kline, 2015 for model fit guidelines). Fig. 4 presents the results of the path model.7 The stewardship prime increased participants’ stewardship belief, as compared to the control condition, β = .115, b = 0.291, SE = 0.112, z = 2.60, p = .009, 95% CI of b = [0.071, 0.510]. The increase in stewardship belief was associated with higher environmental guilt, β = .186, b = 0.186, SE = 0.041, z = 4.50, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [0.105, 0.268]. The indirect effect of the stewardship prime on environmental guilt through reported stewardship belief was significant, β = .021, b = 0.054, SE = 0.024, z = 2.25, p = .024, 95% CI of b = [0.007, 0.101].In turn, environmental guilt positively predicted support for pro-environmental policies, β = 0.436, b = 0.243, SE = 0.018, z = 13.49, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [0.207, 0.278]. As noted above, unexpectedly, the controlling god prime also increased stewardship belief, as compared to the control condition, β = .119, b = 0.303, SE = 0.112, z = 2.71, p = .007, 95% CI of b = [0.084, 0.523].Furthermore, stewardship belief and belief in a controlling god predicted support for pro-environmental policies via environmental guilt. The indirect path between stewardship belief and support for pro-environmental policies via environmental guilt was significant, β = .081, b = 0.045, SE = 0.011, z = 4.27, p < .001, 95% CI of b = [0.024, 0.066], as was the indirect path between belief in a controlling god and support for pro-environmental policies via environmental guilt, β = −0.058, b = −0.022, SE = 0.007, z = −3.08, p = .002, 95% CI of b = [−0.036, −0.008]. Both direct paths between stewardship belief and support for pro-environmental policies, β = .094, b = 0.053, SE = 0.019, z = 2.71, p = .007, 95% CI of b = [0.015, 0.091], and between belief in a controlling god and support for pro-environmental policies, β = −0.088, b = −0.033, SE = 0.013, z = −2.52, p = .012, 95% CI of b = [−0.059, −0.007], were significant.This work was supported by a special research grant provided by the Singapore Management University, School of Social Sciences awarded to the first author.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors

Keywords

  • Culture
  • Emotion
  • Environmental guilt
  • Pro-environmental behavior
  • Religion
  • Sustainability

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