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The Cognitive Structure of a Moral Crusade: Conservative Protestantism and Opposition to Pornography

Darren E. Sherkat and Christopher G. Ellison
Social Forces
Vol. 75, No. 3 (Mar., 1997), pp. 957-980
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2580526
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2580526
Page Count: 24
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The Cognitive Structure of a Moral Crusade: Conservative Protestantism and Opposition to Pornography
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Abstract

Research on social movements has once again come to focus on the cultural foundations of collective action. However, previous works have failed to identify the cognitive structures that compose cultural worldviews believed to motivate collective action. We integrate Snow et al.'s (1986) notions of cognitive frameworks with Sewell's (1992) conception of the duality of structure to piece together a flexible approach for the identification of cognitive structures. Drawing on information from insider documents from Conservative Protestant communities, we employ this approach to elaborate the structure of Conservative Protestant antagonism to pornography. Using data from the 1988 General Social Survey, we demonstrate how Conservative Protestants' distinctive religious commitments direct their dispositions toward sexually explicit materials. In brief, we show that Conservative Protestant opposition to pornography is rooted in commitments to Biblical inerrancy and solidified by high rates of religious participation. Inerrancy serves as a cognitive resource informing two separate paths to pornography opposition: moral absolutism and beliefs in the threat of social contamination.

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