Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 106, Issue 4, pp 437–452 | Cite as

The Effects of Religiosity on Ethical Judgments

  • Alan G. Walker
  • James W. Smither
  • Jason DeBode


The relationship between religiosity and ethical behavior at work has remained elusive. In fact, inconsistent results in observed magnitudes and direction led Hood et al. (The psychology of religion: An empirical approach, 1996) to describe the relationship between religiosity and ethics as “something of a roller coaster ride.” Weaver and Agle (Acad Manage Rev 27(1):77–97, 2002) utilizing social structural versions of symbolic interactionism theory reasoned that we should not expect religion to affect ethical outcomes for all religious individuals; rather, such a relationship likely depends on specific religious attitudes including religious motivation orientation (intrinsic RMO vs. extrinsic RMO), perceived sacred qualities of work (job sanctification), and views of God (VOG, loving vs. punishing). We examined the effects of these three religious attitudes on participants’ judgments of 29 ethically questionable vignettes. Consistent with symbolic interactionism theory, intrinsic RMO and having a loving view of God were both negatively related to endorsing ethically questionable vignettes, whereas extrinsic RMO was positively related to endorsing the vignettes. Unexpectedly, job sanctification was positively related to endorsing the vignettes. However, both intrinsic and extrinsic RMO moderated this relationship such that sanctifying one’s job was related to ethical judgments only for those who were: (a) low in intrinsic RMO or (b) high in extrinsic RMO. We reasoned based on symbolic interactionism theory that intrinsically motivated participants, in contrast to extrinsically motivated participants, may have utilized their religious beliefs as a guiding framework in making ethical judgments.


Effects of religion on ethics Religion Religiosity Religion and ethics Spirituality and ethics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan G. Walker
    • 1
  • James W. Smither
    • 2
  • Jason DeBode
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Management, Center for Ethical Organizational CulturesAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  2. 2.Department of ManagementLa Salle UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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