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Prior research has established a positive relationship between religiosity and civic engagement but focused on public religiosity rather than private religiosity without explaining the relationship. We examined private religiosity as well as public religiosity in relation to community engagement, explaining the religiosity-community engagement relationship with two understudied mechanisms: ‘‘transcendent accountability’’ (seeing oneself as accountable to God or a higher power for one’s influence on other people or the environment) and pro-community attitudes. For this examination, we applied structural equation modeling to analyze data from a nationally representative survey. We found that survey respondents who believed in a higher power, privately practiced devotional prayer and study of religious texts, and attended religious group activities (other than worship services), were more likely to report transcendent accountability to a higher power for their influence on other people and the environment. We also found that transcendent accountability was related positively to pro-community attitudes, which in turn was positively associated with community engagement. The indirect relationships between religiosity and community engagement were mostly significant. In conclusion, both private and public religious behaviors are consequential in the religiosity-civic engagement relationship, and the religiosity-linked virtue of transcendent accountability and its associated pro-community attitudes contribute to civic engagement.


Originally published in Review of Religious Research, Volume 65, Issue 1. 2023.

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