The power of religion

Journal of Economic Growth Vol/Iss. Online only Springer Published In Pages: 1-34
By Bentzen, Jeanet Sinding , Gokmen, Gunes


This paper seeks to understand the extent to which religion has been used to legitimize political power in the past, and the extent to which that carries into contemporary institutions. The authors seek to demonstrate that there is a strong link between the stratification of societies in the past and the presence of autocracies in many of those same areas today. They make their case by putting forward, and testing, three linked theories -- first, that stratified societies are more likely to develop religions based on moralizing high gods as a means of divine legitimization, second, that the societies that used religion for legitimacy in their past are more likely to have religion embedded in their institutions today, and third, that societies that used religion for legitimacy in the past are more likely to be autocracies today.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
Standard Cross Cultural Sample (SCCS)Other researchersUsed to explore additional variables relating to religion
Ethnographic Atlas (EA)CombinationUsed to establish society stratification and presence of moralizing high gods. Scaled down by authors.
World Values Survey (WVS)Other researchersUsed to establish degree of religiosity
European Values SurveyOther researchersUsed to establish degree of religiosity
Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA)Other researchersUsed to establish presence of modern religious laws
Global Agro-Ecological Zones (GAEZ)Other researchersUsed to establish irrigation potentials

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:matthew.g.roth jacob.kalodner