Religious Differences and Civil War
Civil wars of today have deep roots in political and religious history. We examine how a society’s geographic distance to religious centers and the consequent historical differences between political rulers and religious segments of the population contributed to current levels of civil war. The theory is based on a political economy model that is centered on legitimizing function that religion plays for rulers vis-à-vis citizens. We test the resulting hypotheses using a new dataset that includes annual information on the religious and political histories of today’s nations since the year 1000. The results show that civil wars in the post-1960 period have been more likely in societies that experienced higher incidents of historical differences between rulers and a significant religious group before 1960. The results hold when we control for the geographic, historical, and institutional characteristics of countries. We address endogeneity concerns between religious differences and civil wars by exploiting variation across countries in their geographic distance to religious “capitals” of the world. Instrumental variable analysis indicates that the presence of historical religious differences that could be exploited by rulers accounts for a substantial portion of civil wars between 1960 and 2014. The results reflect the deep root effects of religious differences on current conflict.
|Date of creation:||Mar 2016|
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