Corruption, Religion and Moral Development

Pre-print chapter submitted for the Handbook of Research on Development and Religion, ed. Matthew Clarke, Cheltenham: Edward


This chapter examines how attitudes towards corruption are formed, in terms of the impact that religion has on attitudes to moral issues and on moral reasoning. A number of studies, few of which deal specifically with corruption, are reviewed in order to establish useful ways forward for corruption researchers. Research on religion and attitudes towards deviant behaviour shows that individuals’ interpretation of messages on moral behaviour is significant in determining their acceptance or rejection of deviancy. However, there is little evidence to suggest that the religious reject behaviour that is ‘anti-social’ any more than the non-religious. Indeed, there is little evidence to suggest that religion, in terms of religious content, impacts upon individuals’ attitudes to public morality. Membership of a religious community that rejects behaviour seen as being ‘corrupt’ seems more likely to have an impact, but a lot depends upon whether members of the community are encouraged to use religious principles to think through moral issues, or to interpret religious teachings literally.