Morality in Context: A Multilevel Analysis of the Relationship Between Religion, Governance and Values in Europe

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 12:00 PM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Distributed Paper
Ingrid STORM , Institute for Social Change, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
The exact relationship between religiosity and moral values is understudied, and it is so far unclear what the process of secularisation means for the morality of Europeans. Attitudes to religiosity and the visibility of religion, must be seen in light of whether religion’s presence in the public sphere strengthen moral communities and identities, or merely highlight moral differences.

From Haidt’s (2012) moral foundations theory and Norris and Inglehart’s (2004) existential insecurity theory, we know that religion is associated with traditional and conservative values as well as low levels of political and economic development. One question is whether religion can act as a substitute for well-functioning secular authorities where these are absent, or if it simply has an additional effect on morality that is independent of the quality of governance. Another question is whether the relationship between religiosity and morality changes as the average citizen becomes less religious, and as religious diversity increases.

Using data from four waves of the European Values Study (EVS) 1981-2008, we analyze attitudes to personal autonomy and self interest in a multilevel model of 48 European countries. Results show that religiosity is most associated with moral values that concern personal and sexual autonomy, that individual religiosity is more associated with morality in countries with high levels of religiosity and that religious context is only negatively associated with self-interest in countries with low quality of governance.