chapter  7
28 Pages

Religion as culture

In the previous chapters culture was represented by values in general. Many hold religion as an important, if not the most important, source of values. According to some (Inglehart 1997: 217, Williamson 2000: 596) the value system of most pre-industrial societies takes the form of religion. The religions’ Holy Scripts and the explanations of these scripts are regarded as an important source of these values. Max Weber is well known as the social scientist who has pointed at the importance of religious values for economic growth. Since the mid 1990s there is an increasing awareness within development organizations for the role of culture and religion (as part of culture) for economic development. This awareness is noticeable in various reports by the World Bank and the activities of the World Faiths Development Dialogue. At the same time, in social sciences and in particular economics, the model of the rationally acting individual came under attack (see Chapter 3). As a consequence, other ways of explaining economic phenomena obtained increasing attention, such as evolutionary economics, behavioural economics, and economics and culture. In this literature culture is defined as the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group (country or society) from another.1 Religion, defined as a ‘shared set of beliefs, activities and institutions premised upon faith in supernatural forces’ (Iannaccone 1998: 1466), is then considered as part of culture. Since 11 September 2001 religion is on the agenda of many. Religion, and Islam in particular, forms an important issue in the political debate in countries all over the world. It has also drawn the attention of policy advisors. This increasing attention for the role of religion has inspired us to devote one entire chapter to religion as culture.