On the Origin of Religious Values

46 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2017

See all articles by Lewis Davis

Lewis Davis

Union College - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 22, 2017


This paper provides evidence on the origin of religious values related to individualism and collectivism. I advance and test the indigenous religious values hypothesis. Motivated by Durkheim’s religious functionalism, this hypothesis holds that religions espouse the values indigenous to the countries in which they develop. To identify the indigenous values of a religion’s homeland, I rely on the negative relationship between individualism and rainfall variation noted by Davis (2016). Drawing on this relationship, I construct a measure of the international transfer of religious values that is based on rainfall variation in the homelands of the religions to which a country’s population adheres. Using this measure, I find strong support for the indigenous religious values hypothesis. Indeed, taken alone, this variable explains over a quarter of the international variation in individualism. Consistent with the indigenous religious values hypothesis, I find that religious rainfall variation plays a greater role in explaining the values of countries with greater religious freedom. In addition, the significance of the religious rainfall variable is robust to the inclusion of controls for the transfer of technical and institutional knowledge among coreligionists, to the impact of migration and colonization on national values, and to the endogeneity of religious adherence shares.

Keywords: Religion, Religious Functionalism, Individualism, Climate, Rainfall, Culture, Values

JEL Classification: Z12, F54, Q54

Suggested Citation

Davis, Lewis S., On the Origin of Religious Values (June 22, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2991191 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2991191

Lewis S. Davis (Contact Author)

Union College - Department of Economics ( email )

Schenectady, NY 12308-3107
United States

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