Employees who openly discuss their religious beliefs at work are often happier and have higher job satisfaction than those employees who do not. This is according to a new cross-cultural study* of nearly 600 working adults from a variety of industries — including education and finance — in the U.S. and South Korea.

Brian Grim Religious Freedom
The researchers concluded: "It is important for managers to consider the work environment and cultural context in its openness to a diversity of religious expression, as it can have an effect on work attitudes and outcomes. Managers should try to foster tolerant environments in which their employees feel that they can affirm their religion at work...."

"For many people, religion is the core of their lives," researcher Sooyeol Kim said. "Being able to express important aspects of one's life can influence work-related issues, such as job satisfaction, work performance or engagement. It can be beneficial for organizations to have a climate that is welcoming to every religion and culture."

An important limitation of the study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, however, was that it only looked at Christian employees. Further research needs to be done to study other faiths, and especially whether those unaffiliated with a religion have positive or negative attitudes toward speaking about their beliefs.  

Still, for those with beliefs, "disclosing your religion can be beneficial for employees and individual well-being," Kim said. "When you try to hide your identity, you have to pretend or you have to lie to others, which can be stressful and negatively impact how you build relationships with co-workers."

Kim said there are several ways employees can share their religion in the workplace. Employees might decorate their desk with a religious object, such as a cross or a calendar. They also may share stories or information about their religious beliefs during conversation, such as describing a church-related event.

Kim said the research on religion in the workplace plays a part into work-life balance. Research continues to show that individual characteristics — such as family and religion — can influence work-related issues.

"People can bring nonworking issues into the workplace or they may bring a work issue into their nonworking domain," Kim said. "Now days that boundary is blurred and there are less clear distinctions between work and personal life."

Applying models of employee identity management across cultures: Christianity in the USA and South Korea by co-authors on the study include Brent Lyons, assistant professor of management and organization studies at Simon Fraser University; Jennifer Wessel, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Maryland; Sonia Ghumman, assistant professor of management at the University of Hawaii, Manoa; and Ann Marie Ryan, professor of psychology at Michigan State University, and Sooyeol Kim of Kansas State University.

NEW STUDY: The ongoing growth of Christianity and the growth of China’s economy may be related, according to a new study in the China Economic Review by Qunyong Wang (Institute of Statistics and Econometrics, Nankai University, Tianjin) and Xinyu Lin (Renmin University of China, Beijing).
PictureBrian Grim China
What has fueled China’s remarkable economic growth that has lifted more than 500 million people out of abject poverty and positioned it to become the world’s largest economy?

In part, it’s been fueled by the pipeline of market mechanisms, modern technology and Western management practices that former paramount leader Deng Xioaping untapped in the 1980s.

But according to Yukong Zhao, a China expert at Siemens Corporation, these explanations are insufficient given the potential drags on the economy from government inefficiency and corruption, which President Xi Jinping is struggling to contain.

Zhao argues that Western learning and pro-growth government policies have set loose the real creators of China’s economic success—its people and the largely Confucian culture that makes them, in his words, “ambitious, hardworking, thrifty, caring for their families and relentlessly pursuing good education and success.”

Continue reading the entire article at First Things ...

Brian J. Grim is author of The Weekly Number and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, as well as an affiliated scholar at Georgetown and Boston Universities, and a member of the World Economic Forum’s global agenda council on the role of faith.

The positive contributions of religious freedom to society generated significantly greater interest than the problems of religious freedom, based on analysis of social media engagement in 2014.

Click image to to get the details on this holiday edition co-published with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.

Talk of the U.S. pivot to Asia has been overshadowed by the rise of new perpetrators of terror. Al Qaeda has been eclipsed by a new brand of jihadist groups such as the 'Islamic State’ seeking to build a Caliphate across the Middle East and Boko Haram doing the same in western Africa. New data show the extent of the violence being inflicted by such groups. 
Brian Grim Religious Freedom
While most deaths occur in a hand full of countries, the specter of Lone-wolf attacks, as the one unfolding in Sydney shows, affect countries far outside the region. With recent "Lone Wolf" attacks in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., the terror is brought very close to home. 

New research carried out by the BBC World Service, BBC Monitoring, and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) produced a global snapshot of this rising tide of terror by recording all the reported deaths that were caused by jihadist groups and networks during the month of November 2014. 

The study found that jihadists killed 5,042 people in 664 attacks during the month. The Islamic State conflict in Syria and Iraq accounted for the largest share of deaths, though attacks in 12 other countries claimed thousands as well. This includes nearly 800 deaths in Nigeria and another 800 in Afghanistan, plus hundreds in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan.

In light of the apparent lack of success in combatting the rise of global terror using hard power alone, and the economic consequences of the deteriorating situation of religious freedom worldwide, a new editorial argues that positively encouraging countries to protect international religious freedom ideals will bear more fruit than using the default tool - a hammer. 

Research finds that laws and practices burdening religion are related to higher levels of corruption. 
Brian Grim Religious Freedom
This is borne out by simple comparison between the Pew Research Center’s 2012 Government Restrictions on Religion Index with the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index. Nine of the ten most corrupt countries have high or very high governmental restrictions on religious liberty, including North Korea, which Pew does not have enough data to rate but considers one of the most religiously restrictive countries. 

Religious freedom also implies that business people can draw on religious values and moral teachings in their businesses. The attempt to force businesses to act as entirely secular organizations may be one contributing factor to the corruption, greed and shortsighted decisions that led to the global economic collapse of 2008 and still affects many people and nations today. Allowing religion to inform business ethnics certainly is an aspect of religious freedom.

Religion can contribute to peace according to a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
PictureIEP, p. 21-22
Although there is a tendency to focus on conflicts which can be defined by religious competition, there are many examples where religious leaders have played significant roles in peace. Oft cited examples are Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and the role they played in successful non-violent movements.

Two ways in which religions can facilitate greater peace is through the common benefits of group membership, and the power of inter-faith dialogue for conflict resolution. This is highlighted by the number of groups dedicated to inter-faith dialogue such as Religions for Peace which is a global organisation with hundreds of affiliates.

Additionally, research highlights that the membership of groups is a form of social capital and in general social capital is associated with better performance in peace. Greater religious membership can have a positive impact to a country’s peace providing that it is tolerant and also depending on a complementary mix of attitudes, institutions and structures within a nation. The Pillars of Peace has found that civic engagement and participation is associated with gains in peace. A study of the responses from 46 countries in the World Values Survey finds that higher group membership corresponds with greater levels of peace. 

PictureThis chart is a corrected version from the IEP report
The category with the biggest difference between above and below average membership rates is for the ‘Any Other Organisation’ which includes any group not listed in Figure 9. This includes general social groups as well as general interest groups. Some examples would be gaming groups, appreciation societies, heritage groups, language groups and common interest groups. Given the large diversity of these groups and that it is user defined it is difficult to draw any conclusions from this, except that it confirms the trend whereby above average group membership rates corresponds with greater peace.

The difference between the two groups above average or below average membership rates consistently shows higher membership rates are associated with more peaceful countries, other than for environmental groups. The difference ranges from three per cent to 15 per cent. Figure 9 demonstrates that there is a connection between religious membership and peace, although not large. This study included 47 countries and therefore the sample is not comprehensive. Nevertheless, the study does help to inform our understanding of the relationship between peace and religion. 

Membership could encourage improvements in several of the Pillars of Peace. For example, greater group membership could lead to improvements in the Good Relations with Neighbours Pillar. This Pillar refers to the relations between individuals and communities as well as to crossborder relations. Countries with positive external relations are more peaceful and tend to be more politically stable, have better functioning governments, are regionally integrated and have low levels of organised internal conflict.

Assessing whether religion is a vice or virtue for conflict does not allow for a nuanced understanding of its relationship with peace. Instead, a more holistic view of peace is needed. Whilst the relationship between relgion and peace has some significance, there are many other factors which have greater explanatory power. Government type appears to have a much more significant connection with peace, and religious freedom, than religious characteristics. That is not to say that religious characteristics, like the absence of a dominant group and religious diversity, do not correspond with higher peace. Rather, there are other features which are more significant that are not related to religion.

PictureIEP. p. 22

Another aspect of religion which can have a positive impact on peace is inter-faith dialogue
and peacebuilding dialogues. Organisations such as Religions for Peace are global in reach and consist of hundreds of affiliated organisations. 

Inter-faith dialogue is a growing area of conflict resolution and peacebuilding which has become more significant, especially in the twenty-first century. Inter-faith dialogue has been a successfully employed strategy in ending conflicts. This includes civil and political movements such as the interfaith movement surrounding the U.S. Civil Rights movement and the reconciliation efforts at the end of Apartheid in South Africa, as well as armed conflict including less well known events such as intervention of an imam and pastor in Yelwa Shendam Nigeria and the mediation of the Sant’Egidio Community which helped resolve the civil war in Mozambique in 1992. Religions for Peace for instance played a key role in ending the conflict in Sierra Leone via the Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone.

Douglas Johnston, president of the International Centre on Religion and Diplomacy, has identified that there are certain conditions for faith-based intervention to have an increased likelihood of success. These include that there is a religious element to the conflict, the presence of religious leaders on both sides of a dispute, religious struggles that transcend national borders and if there has been delays in bringing about a resolution to the conflict.22 There is a large body of literature which demonstrates the success of inter-faith dialogue as a catalyst for the cessation of armed conflict. This report does not seek to add to that body, but rather to note some of the positive elements of religion.

Some religious factors are significantly related to peace according to a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.
Brian Grim Peace
The report, Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion, found that some religious factors that are significantly related to peace.

The two religious characteristics associated with peace are LOW government restrictions on religious behavior and LOW social hostilities involving religion. In addition, countries with higher religious diversity are, on average, more peaceful and have less restrictions on or social hostilities involving religion than countries with religious monopolies

The impact of government restrictions on and social hostilities involving religion can be seen by looking at government type, which is a key driver of peace.

Brian Grim PeaceSource: IEP, PEW, EIU

As governments are further away from being a full democracy (see chart), religious hostilities and government restrictions on religious freedom are more severe. The trend holds true across the board, although, because of the repressive nature of authoritarian regimes, such regimes hold down social hostilities more than hybrid and flawed democracies because of the often overwhelming force used to control any social opposition or political dissent. 

Full democracies have the best average performance in peace, and the lowest levels of religious restrictions and religious hostilities. Less regulation of religion reduces the grievances of religions, and also decreases the ability of any single religion to wield undue political power (also see The Price of Freedom Denied).

Full democracies outperform every other government type. Full democracies are on average 58% more peaceful, have 131% less religious restrictions and 49% less religious hostility than authoritarian regimes. Authoritarian regimes have the worst performance in peace and unsurprisingly in religious restrictions. However, authoritarian regimes are the second best performing government type on the Social Hostilities Index, reflecting the ‘enforced peace’ that can occur in some authoritarian contexts.

Every full democracy, except the US, is amongst the 50 most peaceful countries in the world. Full democracies have disproportionately higher levels of non-believers than other forms of government. However, the overall proportions of atheists are generally very low and are therefore incapable of creating a strong influence on the factors that affect peace. Full democracies are peaceful regardless of the levels of religious belief.

Brian Grim Peace

Countries that are more religiously diverse - that is, without a dominant religious group - have, on average, higher levels of peace and less government restrictions towards religion. They also have lower levels of religious hostilities. In this study, a dominant religious group means there is more than 60% of the population identifying as followers of a particular belief system or denomination.

Countries without a dominant religious group are on average 17% more peaceful than countries with a dominant religious group. Similarly, countries without a dominant religious group have on average 25% less religious restrictions and 40% lower religious hostilities.

The presence of mulitple religions in a country appears to have a pacifying effect if they are free of restrictions. Alternatively, if the members of a religious group dominates and “achieves a monopoly”, they are likely to be able to access and use the power of the state. What has been seen in the past is that dominant religious groups with state power are open to persecute other religious groups and competitors.

The bloody conflict of ISIS in northern Iraq is not a Sunni-Shia conflict, but rather the ultra-extremist Sunni Islamic State trying to enforce its intolerant vision on all Muslims and non-Muslims alike, regardless of sectarian identity. And despite the apparent role of Sunni and Shia sectarian violence in parts of the Middle East today, when reviewed globally, countries with high proportions of Sunni and Shia are not necessarily violent or plagued with conflict, according to a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.
The report, Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion, found that the breakdown of Sunni and Shia in a country is not necessarily a key determinant of peace. Qatar is the most peaceful country in the Middle East and North Africa region, ranking 19 in the 2013 GPI, and has the same Sunni/Shia breakdown as the least peaceful country in the 2013 GPI, Afghanistan.

Iran also has a similar proportional breakdown, except it has a Shia instead of Sunni majority. This suggests the religious demographic breakdown is not necessarily a deterministic factor to peace. Similarly, there are differing peace levels for countries where Sunni and Shia have similar proportions of a population. Bahrain is significantly more peaceful than other countries with a similar proportional Sunni/Shia split such as Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. There are many relatively peaceful countries which have a significant proportion of Sunni and Shia.

However, it is important to note that based on a perception survey from Pew Research the Sunni and Shia divide is considered significant by Muslims with 73% of countries with significant numbers of Muslims believing that friction between religious groups is a moderately or very big problem for their country. Undoubtedly, sectarian violence has been a major feature of armed conflict in the Middle East today. This is evidenced by the fact that when countries with majority Muslim populations have engaged in armed conflict it is generally civil or inter-religious conflict. Indeed, the twenty-first century has not been marked by the clash of civilisations but rather intra-group conflict. Of the 15 armed conflicts motivated in part by Islamist groups in 2013, all but 5 occurred in countries where Muslims were in the majority.

Religious restrictions do not correlate very strongly with peace at only 0.24, whereas religious hostilities do at 0.61. This suggests that for the majority of Muslim countries government restrictions towards religion has less of an impact on peace than religious hostilities do. 70% of Muslim-majority countries are authoritarian regimes, with 23% hybrid regimes. There are only three flawed democracies, and no full democracies. As such it is unsurprising that Muslim-majority countries have high levels of government restrictions.

What distinguishes Muslim-majority countries is differing performance in the Pillars of Peace, a framework developed by IEP to assess the positive peace factors that create peaceful societies. Specifically, countries that have lower corruption, well-functioning government and better relations with neighbors are more peaceful regardless of the particular levels of Sunni and Shia. 

The Pillars of Peace provide an insight into what features differentiate the peace performance of countries with high levels of Sunni and Shia. Three of the 8 Pillars of Peace correlate with the GPI for the most Muslim countries.

  • Well-Functioning Government
Based on several factors, from how governments are elected and the political culture they engender, to the quality of the public services they deliver and their political stability. Strong relationships across a number of these indicators and sub-indicators demonstrate the interdependent nature of the various governance indicators. These measures are consistently linked to peace.

  • Good Relations with Neighbors 

Refers to the relations between individuals and communities as well as to cross-border relations. Countries with positive external relations are more peaceful and tend to be more politically stable, have better functioning governments, are regionally integrated and have low levels of organized internal conflict.

  • Low Levels of Corruption

In societies with high corruption resources are inefficiently allocated, making business inefficient and often leading to a lack of funding for essential services. The resulting inequality can lead to civil unrest and in extreme situations can be the catalyst for more violence. Low levels of corruption, by contrast, can enhance business confidence and trust in institutions, which in turn helps to create informal institutions that enhance peace.

There is no clear statistical relationship between either the presence or the absence of religious belief and conflict, according to the latest research report from the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
The report, Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion, provides a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between peace and religion. The report found that even at the extremes, the least peaceful countries are not necessarily the most religious and vice versa. 

The most peaceful countries are a mixture of both religious and less religious countries. For instance, 3 out of the 10 most peaceful countries in the 2013 GPI are more religious than the international average. At the other end of the scale 2 out of the 10 least peaceful countries have some of the lowest rates of religion attendance in the world, notably North Korea.    

Countries with more atheists are not more peaceful. The countries with the first and third highest percentage of atheists, North Korea and Russia, performed in the bottom ten for the 2013 GPI. If a country has greater than five per cent of its population as atheist then it’s likely to be either a communist or former communist state or from Europe. Of the 10 most peaceful countries in the 2013 GPI, only 2 countries have greater than 10% atheists. These countries are New Zealand with around 32% and Belgium at approximately 20%.

Rather than religious similarities, the least peaceful countries have political and regional similarities. The least peaceful countries are on average authoritarian countries and are located in the three least peaceful regions in the world: the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. For example, Malaysia is considerably more peaceful than neighboring country Myanmar. A major difference between these countries is that Malaysia is more democratic, whereas Myanmar is in its early stages of its democratization process. The government type therefore, appears to be a more significant distinguishing characteristic of peace, with full democracies and especially member states of the European Union having the best measures in peace, regardless of the levels of religion beliefs.

PictureSource: IEP, World Religion Project
Over two thirds of countries in the world greater than 95% of the population hold religious beliefs and high levels of religious belief can be found at either end of the GPI. Countries with the highest presence of religious belief also have vast differences in peace.

There is not a significant correlation between levels of religious belief and peace, with an r=0.14. Generally IEP considers a measure of at least r=0.5 to be significant. All correlations in Table 2 are extremely low, to the extent that no relationship was uncovered. Furthermore, the results are in divergent directions meaning that a linear connection between the presence of religion and peace is highly unlikely.

While 15 of the 20 most peaceful countries in the world have less religion than the international average, it does not follow that all peaceful countries have low religious levels. Iceland, for example, is the most peaceful country in the 2013 GPI but has relatively high levels of religious belief. In fact, 11 of the top 20 countries on the GPI have more than 90% of their population identifying with religious beliefs.

The overwhelming majority of people in most countries, including the most peaceful, have religious attendance rates of over 80%. Atheists are a small minority globally, and only a majority in five of the 162 countries analyzed, thereby limiting any explanatory effect on a society as a whole. 

Religion is not the main cause of conflict today, according to the latest research report from the Institute for Economics and Peace carried out in conjunction with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.  
The report, Five Key Questions Answered on the Link between Peace and Religion, provides a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between peace and religion.The study found that the answer to the first question is "No": Is religion the main cause of conflict in the world today?

While religion has evidently been a cause of many conflicts throughout history, it is by no means the only reason for conflict. Surveying the state of 35 armed conflicts from 2013, religious elements did not play a role in 14, or 40%.

It is notable that religion did not stand as a single cause in any conflict; however 14% of conflicts did have religion and/or the establishment of an Islamic state as driving causes. Religion was only one of three or more reasons for 67% of the conflicts where religion featured as a factor to the conflict.

Nevertheless, global peace as measured by the Global Peace Index (GPI) has been steadily deteriorating over the last seven years; with 111 countries deteriorating and 51 improving. One of the main reasons for the global decline in peace has been increased terrorist activity, which has been driven by high profile Islamic terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State (IS), Boko Haram and Al-Qaida. Both the scale and the intensity of terrorism has substantially increased. In 2011, 13 countries recorded more than 50 deaths from terrorist activity; by 2013 the number had jumped to 24 countries.

The graph represents the causes of conflict for the 35 armed conflicts in 2013. Of the 35 conflicts in 2013, 86% had more than one cause. Nearly two-thirds of conflicts in 2013 had among their main cause opposition to a particular government, or opposition to the economic, ideological, political or social system of a state. 

Identity was a feature in most conflicts in 2013, with 21 conflicts involving clashes of identity as a main cause of conflict. When analyzing the motivation for these conflicts the desire for identity and self-government was a part of 60 per cent of the conflicts. While religious elements may have a significant impact, there are many other motivators of armed conflict.

There are many difficulties in simplistically determining what the causes of a conflict are. Conflicts with religious elements are not necessarily primarily driven by religious objectives or identification. In many instances armed groups focused more on overthrowing the government or eroding government power and use religion as a rallying cry in religious societies. It has been argued that religion is rarely a foundational cause for conflict. It “does not ordinarily lead to violence”, but it is generally only “when religion becomes fused with violent expressions of social tensions, personal pride, and movements for political change.”

When parties to a conflict are divided on religious adherence, the conflict often becomes framed as religious even though the parties have originally fought over other issues. As the majority of people in the world adhere to some religious beliefs it is unsurprising that many conflicts are interpreted as having a religious element. It thus does not always follow that religion is the cause for conflict.