Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

Emotional attraction that encourages affiliation with a group, idea, or cause. Affective commitment is an important component in the recruitment and retention process in religious movements. It involves detachment, or renunciation, of former bonds with other groups and a severing of ties with those who might oppose the convert's association with the group. It also entails intense interaction within the new group that leads to the development and consolidation of strong relationships with organization members.

For example, converts to the Hare Krishna movement are expected to give up the company of anyone who is not a devotee. They cite "warmth and friendship among the devotees" as a major feature attracting them to the movement. The affective commitment process occurs not only within new religious movements but also among more conservative churches. Studies of the spread of Mormonism and of the charismatic movement among American Roman Catholics have found that interpersonal bonds play a significant role in recruitment. Affective commitment may be more important, in many cases, than reduction of deprivation through ideological beliefs. With increases in the size of a denomination, a group may become less able to induce a sense of belonging among its members, and then affective commitment must be supplemented with instrumental and moral commitments for the organization to prosper. Affective commitment is governed by factors similar to those that influence interpersonal attraction.

James McClenon


S. L. Franzio, Social Psychology (Madison, Wis.: Brown and Benchmark, 1995)

J. S. Judah, Hare Krishna and the Counterculture (New York: Wiley, 1974)

K. A. Roberts, Religion in Sociological Perspective (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1995)

R. Stark and W. S. Bainbridge, "Networks of Faith," American Journal of Sociology 85(1980):1376-1395.

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