Are Virtues Shaped by National Cultures or Religions?

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The present paper examines the relative influence of religion and nation on conceptions of virtues. In a first study, conducted in the Netherlands, 926 respondents of different profession, age, sex, and religious background rank ordered a list of 15 virtues. A comparison of Dutch Muslims and non-Muslims showed a remarkably high resemblance in their ratings of virtues. Only faith was rated as being much more important by Muslims than by non-Muslims. In the second study, the influence of national cultures was examined. Adults (N = 795) from two culturally relatively similar countries, Germany and the Netherlands, and from Spain rated the same list of virtues. Crossnational differences between the two Northern European countries and Spain by far exceeded the influence of religion on the importance ratings of virtues. The implications of the findings for the often-mentioned clash of religions are discussed. Currently, the influence of religion on the values of immigrants may be overemphasized and other important characteristics may be underestimated.

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