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The Two Swords: Religion-State Connection and Interstate Disputes

47 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2010 Last revised: 6 Aug 2014

Peter S. Henne

Pew Research Center

Date Written: 2010


Beginning with the 1979 Iranian Revolution, religion has come to be accepted as a relevant element of international relations. Yet, for every example of religion driving a state’s behavior, numerous counterexamples exist. What explains this variation in the effects of religion on state behavior? Existing studies of religion and international relations, while useful, focus too exclusively on demonstrating its relevance or analyzing religion as an identity; more attention is needed to the political and institutional conditions under which it comes to influence state behavior, especially in interstate crises. This paper approaches religion as a type of domestic politics, whose influence over crisis behavior depends on two factors: the extent of institutional connections between religion and state, and the level of these connections in the other parties to the dispute. It tests this theory through a quantitative analysis of interstate disputes since 1990. This paper contributes to the study of religion by moving beyond a focus only on religious identity; it also contributes to the broader study of interstate crises, by demonstrating the relevance of both material and ideational factors.

Keywords: interstate crises, religion and politics, domestic politics and foreign policy, quantitative methodology

Suggested Citation

Henne, Peter S., The Two Swords: Religion-State Connection and Interstate Disputes (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Peter Henne (Contact Author)

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