Does faith limit immorality? The politics of religion and corruption

Udi Sommer*, Pazit Ben Nun Bloompazit, Gizem Arikan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Critically considering scholarship relating religiosity to ethical behaviour, we contend that religion is systematically related to levels of corruption, and that the nature of this relationship is contingent on the presence of democratic institutions. In democracies, where political institutions are designed to inhibit corrupt conduct, the morality provided by religion is related to attenuated corruption. Conversely, in systems lacking democratic institutions, moral behaviour is not tantamount to staying away from corrupt ways. Accordingly, in non-democratic contexts, religion would not be associated with decreased corruption. Time-series cross-sectional analyses of aggregate data for 129 countries for 12 years, as well as individual level analyses of data from the World Values Surveys, strongly corroborate the predictions of our theory. The correlation of religion with reduced corruption is conditional on the extent to which political institutions are democratic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-309
Number of pages23
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013


FundersFunder number
American National Science Foundation
Fulbright Doctoral Fellowship


    • corruption
    • democracy
    • democratic institutions
    • religious freedom


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