There are growing calls for religion to be used in the 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 the world also rank highly in terms of religiosity. This paper explores how the new ‘myth’ about the relationship between religion and corruption is based on assumptions not borne out through the evidence. The paper then examines whether a discursive relationship exists instead, and what the significance of such a relationship might be. Based on a review of several studies of the statistical relationships between religion and corruption, the paper concludes that the evidence for a causal relationship between religion (or type of religion) and either higher or lower levels of corruption is in no way convincing.
Working Paper No. 41, Religions and Development Research Programme, University of Birmingham, UK, 33 pp. ISBN: 0 7044 2780 X