The Determinants of Religious Conflict: A Cross-national Examination of Conflict Manifestation

Open Access
Harris, Jaime Dean
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
November 22, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Roger Kent Finke, Dissertation Advisor
  • Roger Kent Finke, Committee Chair
  • John David Mccarthy, Committee Member
  • Errol Anthony Henderson, Committee Member
  • David P Baker, Committee Member
  • religion
  • religious conflict
  • religious freedom
Religion is an important determinant of collective action and can operate on multiple levels to influence social contention. Social scientists are paying increasing attention to the power of religious institutions to shape patterns of social life by fomenting both societal harmony and discord. This research focuses upon the latter. I explore the extent to which established theories of social conflict can be applied to explain patterns of conflict that are affiliated with religious identity. Chapter 1 introduces the research project and offers an outline of the dissertation. Chapter 2 assesses existing data and provides a detailed description the procedures used to collect the information employed in this research. This research utilizes primary and secondary data to examine religious conflict. Information on the sociopolitical environment is drawn from the 2008 International Religious Freedom Report dataset. Information regarding religious conflict events is collected and quantified in the Religious Conflict Events data. Additional country-level data is drawn from various reliable sources as well. Chapter 3 examines the structural determinants of religious repression using data coded from the 2008 International Religious Freedom Reports. Regression analysis suggests that the presence and scope of religious repression is associated with levels of general and religion specific measures of restriction and regulation. In Chapter 4, I analyze the macro-social influences on religious intergroup conflict (RIC). The chapter explores conflict events between non-state actors and tests for the impact of religious diversity, competition, and inequality on the extent of RIC events. The analysis demonstrates that religious conflict between groups is primarily driven by inequality and discrimination based on religious identity. Past research often explores the factors that cause and escalate religious conflicts of one type or another—rebellion, interstate war, civil war—however, few, if any, attempt to determine which type of conflict is likely to emerge based on the sociopolitical contexts in which the actors exist. Chapter 5 is an exploration of the influences predicting the likelihood of particular forms of religious conflict. Multinomial logistic regression demonstrates that the commonality of religious conflict manifestations is more or less likely in specific sociopolitical contexts. Finally, I synthesize the findings presented in previous chapters, discuss the research limitations, and propose potential directions for future research in Chapter 6.