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Symposium 2015

Sharing Food and Thoughts: Religious Values and our Economic Behavior

The Challenge

Many global problems such as climate change require global solutions that will often involve the provision of costly public goods. While the benefits outweigh the costs at the global level, this may not be the case in every country or for every social group. Accordingly, individuals—as voters, consumers, investors or politicians—are more likely to support costly global solutions if they care more strongly about the global common good than about themselves or their nation, social or religious group.

Since the world’s population is becoming more religious, the question arises of how religious beliefs and practices affect people’s attitudes towards the global common good. On the one hand, the Golden Rule—“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—is emphasized by all major religions: It could plausibly become the spiritual foundation of a “global ethic” that promotes international cooperation, sustainable development and economic justice. On the other hand, exclusivist fundamentalist movements are prominent in several world religions and sectarian strife along religious lines is increasing in many communities.

To what extent do prevailing religious beliefs and practices foster individuals’ commitment to the global common good? When they do not, can religious leaders and institutions reinterpret sacred scriptures to render beliefs and practices compatible with international and inter-religious cooperation? Are there spiritual insights within the existing religious traditions that can be given more prominence to promote a spirit of cooperation?

This session is organized by Matthias Lücke, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.