Ethics and Religion

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ABSTRACT. Although it seems that ethics and religion
should be related, past research suggests mixed conclusions
on the relationship. We argue that such mixed
results are mostly due to methodological and conceptual
limitations. We develop hypotheses linking Cornwall
et al.s (1986, Review of Religious Research, 27(3): 266–244) religious components to individuals willingness to justify
ethically suspect behaviors. Using data on 63,087 individuals from 44 countries, we find support for three
hypotheses: the cognitive, one affective, and the behavioral component of religion are negatively related to
ethics. Surprisingly, one aspect of the cognitive component
(i.e., belief in religion) shows no relationship.
Implications for research and practice are discussed.
KEY WORDS: religion, ethics, cross-national study
The link between religion and ethics seems obvious
(Tittle and Wlech, 1983; Weaver and Agle, 2002).
Religions, through the values they embody, often
build the basis for what is considered right and
wrong (Turner, 1997). Religion produces both
formal and informal norms and provides people with
a freedom/constraint duality by prescribing behaviors
within some acceptable boundaries (Fararo and
Skvoretz, 1986). Such norms, values, and beliefs are
often codified into a religious code such as the Bible
or the Koran. In Christian religions, for instance, the
Ten Commandments provide a broad basis of codified
ethical rules that believing Christians must
K. Praveen Parboteeah (Ph.D. Washington State University) is an Associate Professor of International Management in the
Department of Management, University of Wisconsin -
Whitewater. Parboteeahs research interests include international management, ethics, religion and technology and
innovation management. He has published articles in
numerous academic journals including Academy of Management
Journal, Organization Science, Decision Sciences,
Small Group Research, Journal of...
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