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Fighting for Not-So-Religious Souls: The Role of Religious Competition in Secular Conflicts

Hector Galindo-Silva and Guy Tchuente ()

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Abstract: Many countries embroiled in non-religious civil conflicts have experienced a dramatic increase in religious competition in recent years. This study examines whether increasing competition between religions affects violence in non-religious or secular conflicts. The study focuses on Colombia, a deeply Catholic country that has suffered one of the world's longest-running internal conflicts and, in the last few decades, has witnessed an intense increase in religious competition between the Catholic Church and new non-Catholic churches. The estimation of a dynamic treatment effect model shows that establishing the first non-Catholic church in a municipality substantially increases the probability of conflict-related violence. The effect is larger for violence by guerrilla groups, and is concentrated on municipalities where the establishment of the first non-Catholic church leads to more intense religious competition. Further analysis suggests that the increase in guerrilla violence is associated with an expectation among guerrilla groups that their membership will decline as a consequence of more intense competition with religious groups for followers.

Date: 2019-10, Revised 2021-07
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Published in J. Econ. Behav. Organ. 2021; 191: 127-152

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