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

24 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 languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)287-309
Number of pages23
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Udi Sommer is assistant professor at the political science department at Tel Aviv University. He specializes in the analysis of political institutions. Sommer’s scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Comparative Political Studies, Rationality and Society, Judicature and Justice System Journal. Sommer is a recipient of the Marie Curie Grant, the Fulbright Doctoral Fellowship and a grant from the American National Science Foundation.


  • corruption
  • democracy
  • democratic institutions
  • religious freedom


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