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A cucumber for a cow: A theoretical exploration of the causes and consequences of religious hypocrisy


  • Jason Wollschleger

    (University of Washington, USA,

  • Lindsey Beach

    (Seattle Pacific University, USA)


This paper offers a first step in a theory of religious hypocrisy. Religious hypocrisy is shown to be a rational strategy at the individual level through which the individual maximizes his/her religious gain by accessing religious rewards and minimizing the costs through selective non-compliance to the religion’s objective commitments. The pervasiveness of religious hypocrisy is argued to be a result of group level characteristics, namely the extensiveness of the religious group’s objective commitments. The level of objective hypocrisy can be moderated through variation in the members’ dependence on the group and the group’s capacity to control its members. Religious hypocrisy is a maximizing behavior; however, it is not costless and it can lead to the experience of moral dissonance. This dissonance can have group level outcomes including decline due to exit and secularization.

Suggested Citation

  • Jason Wollschleger & Lindsey Beach, 2011. "A cucumber for a cow: A theoretical exploration of the causes and consequences of religious hypocrisy," Rationality and Society, , vol. 23(2), pages 155-174, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ratsoc:v:23:y:2011:i:2:p:155-174

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