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
Introduction
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 Business
Ethics, Journal of World Business, Management International
Review, International Journal of Human
Resource Management, R&D Management and
Journal of Engineering and Technology Management.
Martin Hoegl (Ph.D. University of Karlsruhe, Germany) is
Professor at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management,
where he holds the Chair of Leadership and Human Resource
Management. Before joining WHU, he served on the faculties
of Washington State University and Bocconi University
(Milan, Italy). His research interests include leadership and collaboration in organizations, management of R&D personnel, knowledge creation in innovation processes, and the
management of geographically dispersed collaboration. He has published in leading international journals, including the
Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science,
the Journal of Management, Decision Sciences,
and others.
John B. Cullen is Professor of Management at Washington State University. He has also served on the faculties of the University of Nebraska, the University of Rhode Island, Waseda
and Keio Universities in Japan (as a Fulbright lecturer), and the Catholic University of Lille in France. Professor Cullen is the past president of the Western Academy of Management.
Professor Cullen is the author or co-author of four books and over 60 journal articles. His publications have appeared in
journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly,
Academy of Management Journal, Journal of International
Business Studies, Journal of Management,
Organizational Studies, Management International
Review, Journal of Vocational Behavior, American
Journal of Sociology, Organizational Dynamics, and the
Journal of World Business. He currently serves on the
editorial board of the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies and has served on the editorial boards of the
Academy of Management Journal and Advances in
International Comparative Management Journal.
Journal of Business Ethics (2008)...
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