This paper looks at the evidence in the current literature for a causal relationship between religion and corruption and questions the relevance of the methodologies being used in order to build up this evidence base.
There are growing calls for religion to be used in t he fight against corruption based on the assumption that religious people are more concerned with ethics than the non-religious, despite the fact that many of the most corrupt countries in t he world also rank highly in terms of religiosity. This paper looks at the evidence in the current literature for a causal relationship between religion and corruption and questions the relevance of the methodologies being used in order to build up this eviden ce base. This section shows that the new ‘myth’ about the relationship between religion and corruption is based on assumptions not borne out through the evidence. The paper presents findings from field research in India and Nigeria that explores how individual attitudes towards corruption may (or may not) be shaped by religion. The research shows that religion ma y have some impact on atti tudes towards corruption, but it has very little l ikely impact on actual corrupt behaviour. This is because – despite universal condemnation of corruption – it is seen by respondents as being so systemic t hat being uncorrupt often makes little sense. By using a process that Bandura (2002) calls ‘selective moral disengagement’, respondents were able to justify their own attitudes and behaviour vis-a-vis corruption, pointing towards corruption being a classic collective action problem, rather than a problem of personal values or ethics.