Richard Traunmüller
Moral Communities? Religion as a Source of Social Trust in a Multilevel Analysis of 97 German Regions

European Sociological Review, 2011: 27, issue 3, pp. 346-363
ISSN: 0266-7215

This contribution examines the role of religion as source of social trust. Going beyond the scope of the existing literature, we jointly evaluate the effect of individual religiosity and regional religious context by means of multilevel analysis of 97 small-scale German regions. The results based on the German Socio-Economic Panel suggest that there is a double positive effect of Protestantism: Not only do Protestants tend to be more trusting, but a Protestant context also increases one’s trust—regardless of individual religious beliefs. Conversely, social trust is less developed in Catholic-dominated regions. In addition, although Catholic individuals are more trusting than the non-religious individuals, they do not differ from members of smaller Christian groups or Muslims. At same time, the notion that certain religious groups and especially religious minorities are distrustful of the wider society is not substantiated by empirical evidence. Furthermore, while church attendance is a powerful predictor for social trust, a context effect for regional levels of devoutness could not be detected. Finally, religious diversity decreases social trust for Muslims only, but not to a degree as to pose a threat to social integration.