Increasing Religious Tolerance

(With Kunaal Sharma)

Can exposure to ethical principles that prohibit violence increase support for peace? Does the effectiveness of such a message increase when espoused by a religious as opposed to a secular source? To study these questions, we implement a survey experiment in a Kenyan neighborhood plagued by religious violence. We find that priming individuals with pro-peace principles reduces support for violence. But, the endorser of the message—religious or secular—is irrelevant. We conduct a second experiment to probe whether it is the principle, and not a rivaling mechanism, that gives rise to the finding. Specifically, we expose respondents to two vignettes depicting similar situations of violence, but exogenously vary whether an ethical principle applies or not. We confirm that support for violence is only reduced with regard to the type of violence expressly prohibited by a principle. Our results thus point to doctrine as a salient cause of violent attitudes

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