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The Differences in Ethics and Values of Religion in

India, China, and America

Jessie Golata and Logan Matamoros
University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas, USA

Purpose This article seeks to examine the primary differences in each countrys dominant religion and
how it affects ethics and values of business and culture. It explains how important commitment to religion
is seen for each country and interprets Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian values and practices. In addition,
this article justifies how each religion parallels to behaviors of their disciples.
Design/methodology/approach- India, China and Americas main religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and
Christianity, along with the mix of smaller religions in each country, were researched to great extent to
discover differences and similarities in ethics and values among the previous list of religions. In the
research many statistics, data and charts, as well as surveys, support the comparisons of each religions
relation to ethics and values in each country. With the compilation of research conducted we can clearly
realize how the differences and similarities between religion in India, China and American cultures
distinguish and compare from one another. Without knowledge of different major and minor religions in
international business interactions it is obvious that this lack of knowledge can affect business in major
Findings- Among each religions there is major similarities as well as major differences. The most
noteworthy similarity were among all three major religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity in their
belief of an individualism and collectivism. The belief if an collectivism was found to influence life choices
due to the change in ethics in decision making within everyday life as well as business. Though each
religion has extreme differences, such poly or monotheism or condemnation and justice for evil, research
has proved that ethics and values work together in each religion to shape business and cultural norms
that with understanding can enable business among Indian, Chinese and American Cultures.
Originality/value It provides further knowledge of different cultural religions and their development on
morals and conduct of the people following them. This research wishes to establish the importance of
understanding differences in denomination, so that a greater tolerance and acceptance can be learned.
These valid findings may improve perceptive in any diverse workforce.
Keywords India, China, United States, Culture, Ethics, Values, Religion, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christian
Paper type Research paper

Religious teachings offer principled guidelines relevant to ethical business decision

making. Many scholars have sought to acquire a variable connection between a persons
spiritual virtues and the fairness of judgement in management. People of faith follow doctrines
and a set up structure of morals, which in turn, has a potential effect on the integrity of business.
However, ideology and application dont always go hand in hand. When traditions and
beliefs are not valued by a follower of the faith, attitudes and behaviors toward ethics hold lower
significance. By this assertion, the role of religion in business must be put into question.
Therefore not only the importance of religion, but the concepts, as well as influence are all
mandatory components to consider when analyzing major countries of high spiritual
Globally, the worlds religions can be confined into a few major groups; with Christianity,
Buddhism and Hinduism being among the top religions practiced. To investigate this association
further, countries with a high concentration of these religious affiliations are considered; the
United States, China and India.
Since America has been founded, Christianity has remained the largest religious group
in the United States (Straughn & Feld, 2010).Their ethics are based strictly off of Biblical
scriptures, which follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Through his life, he
presented many miracles to thousands of people and preached the word of God from his lips.
Even though he was perfect in every way, at 33 years old he was nailed to a cross so that he

could be the atonement for the sins of the world. Though he died, he rose again in 3 days, so
that any who would believe in him could have eternal life in Heaven.
The teachings of the old and new testament created a moral platform of right versus
wrong. Christians seek to uphold the laws in Ten Commandments, while also offering mercy,
love, and service just like Jesus Christ did during his descension (Kim, Fisher, & Mccalman,
2009). Christians put these values into practice by keeping the sabbath holy by attending church
on Sunday, as a part of the old testament law, praying, worshipping with song, baptism, reading
of the scripture, and serving the community. These practices are performed not as a means to
earn any reward or buy a ticket to heaven, but to please God who sacrificed his son for us.
After understanding the beliefs and practices of the Christian faith, the way they view
ethics can be concluded. The Bible is used as their instruction manual, and they seek if for
guidance in all things. Yet, it does not cover every single situation, therefore Christians must
decipher meaning and reason from the pages of the scripture. This is where the ethics are
derived from.
According to the dictionary, ethics is moral principles that one lives by or acts upon. Thus
Christian ethics, are principles derived from the their faith. So even though the Bible does
encompass all choices, the Bible still sets standard guidelines on how to act. By using the
scriptures, Christians can determine the right ethical course.
The scriptures teach many different attractive principles such as love, hope, grace as
well as judgment, self control, and obedience, to only name a few. Many values are hidden in
the extensive context of the Word, and their perplexities would be diminished without the
background they were originated from. But what these values emanate from is the will of God.
With this, most decisions devout followers will make decisions based off the teachings of Jesus,
the history of the Old Testament, and the lessons of parables. They take the instruction from

the pages, and apply it to many circumstances in the way of Gods will.
Alexis de Tocqueville, a French politician and well known historian during the 1800s,
after his experience in America penned In the United States, the sovereign authority is
religious...there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence
over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its
conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened
and free nation of the earth (Graebner, 1976). At the time in America, Christianity was obvious
and effectual. But it seems as with modernism, religion has become more of a non essential
asset with developing ideas.
The Christian faith still holds 78.4% of the adult population, with the next highest
percentage of the population being Unaffiliated, which has increased in number with every year
(Summary of Findings, 2015). The idea is that people have decided to act without faith. They
study the outcome and its effect instead of entrusting in the word of God. Thou shall not steal
was breathed into the Ten Commandments and was a law of the land since Moses. But instead
of looking toward the Old Testament, people perceive stealing as wrong, not due to the breaking
of religious values, but rather that it would negatively affect business; its outcome would not be
good, so it should not be done. Thus, reason is slowly replacing Gods establishment of
morality(Kim, Fisher, & Mccalman, 2009).
In 2004, a random questionnaire was sent out to 10,000 business leaders in the United
States and were asked to respond to a series of ethical questions, indicate their person religious
affiliation, and distinguish levels of important values. From this research it has been concluded
that two relationships exist, a persons self described importance of religious values and distinct
values of theology both affect ethical decision making positively (Longenecker, McKinney, &
Moore, 2004).
The population of America is starting to stray from its original ideals that helped to shape
the foundations of right and wrong, from its governing laws to its integrity in business. Since the
relationship between being religiously dedicated and making virtuous decisions is positive, it can

be presumed that the relationship between non religious and less honest decisions is also
positive. So the increasing rate of unaffiliated will in turn impact business slightly negatively. The
reason for the variation not being extreme because unaffiliated still have standard values, and a
clear foundation of right and wrong, but do not credit those ideals back to any given religion. But
since they have no accountability to a higher power, their decisions become more egocentric.
This essentially can affect business is several different ways. Business has started to
focus on ethical decision making process more on the theory of sociology and psychology,
where sociology examines human society, while psychology seeks to explain human behavior
and process. Though these theories are justified, they will only be able to examine reasons for
behavior, but never enhance valuable behavior. Without God, the purpose of work or vocation
changed to personal achievement, material possessions and status. This system promotes what
Christianity had traditionally renounced as immoral; self interest instead of concern for the common good,
personal ambition instead of altruism, and drive for personal gain and self-advancement instead of self
sacrifice (Kim, Fisher, and Mccalman, 2009).

Christianity, like all religions, has much to say about behavior of humans and these
values and ethics are consistent with most people perceive to be important assets to decision
making. Although, Christianity is on a downward shift, it might be of great interest to the
workforce to create an environment more religiously tolerant, rather than modernly adequate. By
encouraging religion, instead of focusing on restraining it, the viewpoint might be able to offer
greater ethical insights and increase mortality.
Another one of the worlds dominant religions is Hinduism, which is known for being the
oldest religion of the world. There are several distinct differences between Christianity and
Hinduism. Hinduism has an expansive range of laws for daily morality which are based on the
concepts of karma, dharma, as well as society norms. With no distinct founder, and no artificial
belief system, Hinduism captures a variety of philosophical perceptions and intellectual deals,
rather than having a definite script for rules and beliefs. Since Hinduism can not be easily
defined, most view it more as a way of life, or a family of religions.
But similarly to Christianity, Hinduism holds much of the same values and practices.
Faithful Hindus clothe themselves in honestly, mercy, self-control, as well as many others. They
hold these values to great importance, and practice them in the form of worship, or puja, reciting
of the classified texts of Shruti and Smriti, and celebrate annual festivals. These rituals are not
mandatory and can be performed through an individual's preference.
One of the greatest obstacles for interrupting Hinduism is that it is so diverse in its
degrees of authority as well as its traditions and genres (Dhand, 2002).Therefore, much of the
texts and practices arent as straightforward as other religions tend to be. Although the
philosophies differ, they all generally point to one consensus about the idea of good, stemming
from Dharma and religious texts. In Hinduism, Dharma is what makes life possible. It is the
duties, the rules, laws, conducts, essentially the way of life for individuals. This concept of
Dharma makes the values of Hindus objective. They stress riding ones self of jealousy,
narcissism, and cruelty, in order to make the society better as a whole. If this behavior is not
upheld, society as a whole suffers, and if society suffers so does all personnel, making it of
everyones best interest to promote good ethical values.
Hinduism is a practice based religion more than a faith base (Spinner-Halev, 2005). So
the practices which are often social, are held to higher value than belief. Religion is the way of
life and is an integral part of India that is carried through every aspect of day to day life from
education, work, to home lifestyle (Bandyopadhyay, Morais, & Chick, 2008). It is their very

In business this is a positive thing. Since Hinduism promotes favorable character, thus
better ethical decision making would consequently be improved. People who practice Hinduism
seek to be selfless, and noble, looking towards the greater good for the whole, rather than self
In India, most of the population is not focused on the idea of God, faith or belief, but
rather are striving to a goal to be, essentially, their very best version of themselves. This
ideology should be captured by all individuals in the workforce; to look inwardly as to how they
can improve the outwardly situations. By granting this type of thinking in businesses, India has
become a powerful nation, due to its own self reflection.
There is no doubt that the business world is where capitalism easily flourishes, the getrich-quick attitude given veneration status, and the business malpractices have alerted certain
quarters of society (Suen, H., Cheung, S., & Mondejar, R. (2007). Capitalism is known for
malpractices of morals and ethics such as Enron and WorldCom who attracted large amounts of
attention to the accounting and finance world.
While these are arguably the easiest cases to reference there is several major ethical
and moral scandals outside of the United States such as the Maxwell case in the United
Kingdom. These along with many other incidents have forced the issue of ethics to be further
inspected across the world.
The teaching of Buddhism, among other religions, have been advocated and practiced in
all walks of life in Chinese society for over 2500 years. According to Buddhism the major
characteristic of human life is suffering or inadequateness. This ideology originates from the
northern region of India and was founded by Gautama Siddhartha. After liberating himself from
suffering through unique spiritual practice he had become supremely enlightened and thus
began to teach doctrines (KovCs, G. 2014).
The basic beliefs of Buddhism is that your suffering can be ended through the practices
of eliminating greed, ignorance and hatred. Additionally, they believe in a cause and effect cycle
of all choices called Karma, this largely plays a role in business decisions in the sense that the
Buddhist areas of business will theoretically not intentionally do harm to any other business,
including all of said businesses competitors.
Siddhartha Gautama stressed and emphasised the values of harmony, loyalty and to
follow ethics as well as virtue opposed to rules and laws. While this practice may hinder large
scandals this forces other issues to arise when the Chinese Buddhists indulge in international
business. This is most prevalent in construction organizations, that are under pressures to abide
by international ethics and standards (Suen, H., Cheung, S., & Mondejar, R. 2007). The
observed difference on an issue as simple as construction easily highlights the importance of
Buddhism values and beliefs in a business situation even in todays wide practice of global and
international business.
When more widely looking at how ethics and values affect business today, Zygon:
Journal of Religion & Science believes that there should be much more focus on practice, rather
than focus on theories or ideas when deciphering the effects on business and religion. The
journal further states that the emphasis on concepts alone give the impression that it exists
mainly in the realm of ideas, while in actuality it is embodied in practice. To further emphasise
that the Buddhist beliefs basically parallel their practice, we refer to (Kian Aun, L., Khin Wah, S.,
& Mohammad, F. N. 2014) who stated that the most frequently mentioned knowledge and
understanding of buddhism is peace of mind, forgive and forget, and selflessness. The journal
further concluded Buddhism has contributed to higher level of evaluated understanding for the
respondent in their leadership while managing and transforming their organizations in terms of

people management, organization design and structure, managing and leading change as well
as organizational renewal and success.
These contrasting religions are mainly practiced in each of these countries due to the
culture. While the United States, China, and India are all relatively equal in masculinity and
uncertainty avoidance, they differ drastically in power distance, individualism, long term
orientation, and indulgence. Consider that the Power Distance Index is correlated with a
country's dominant religious choice. By their very nature of worshiping a supreme being or
acknowledging a higher power, religions are hierarchical; however some may be more
hierarchical than others (Milner, Fodness, & Speece, 1963).The Power distance dimension
deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal, and it expresses the attitude of
the culture toward these power inequalities amongst us (THE HOFSTEDE CENTRE, 2015).
Buddhism and Hinduism are perfect examples of this reflection, because they emphasize
respect to authority, a chain of hierarchy where everyone has a specific role and place, and
strict laws on doing your duty, as opposed to Christianity. Religion is just one dimension that
defies these difference in culture.

No matter what religion, culture, and country, it can be concluded that values and ethics
improve when an individual is dedicated to practicing a religion. Consistent with all religion, the
focus is on inward reflection to help reshape outward situations. Studies have been conducted
to prove this distinction in how the pattern of values differ from religious to nonreligious. Values
were assessed by the Rokeach Value Survey which requires that the respondent rank 18
terminal values and 18 instrumental values for importance. The findings confirmed that the
religious, the less religious, and the nonreligious possess value systems that are discriminable
different from one another. Religiously oriented consistently ranked the terminal values salvation
higher and pleasure lower than those less religious and nonreligious. Moreover, the religious

typically ranked the moral values forgiving and obedient higher and the competence values
independent, intellectual, and logical lower than the less religious and nonreligious (Rokeach,
1969). From a business standpoint, religious affiliated individuals placed a high value on after
life for their terminal values, and ranked pleasure below average. This indicates that religious
people are not self-seeking or looking to make themselves happier or better. They are viewing
the grander idea. They also value forgiveness and obedience, rather than independence, which
may make for better business decision making. According to Rokeachs Value Survey, it inferred
that religious and nonreligious people come from different value backgrounds and rank terminal
and competence values very differently. It would be favorable for a business to look at these
value patterns and better understand the differing point of view religion devots can bring. The
better the values the better the ethics.
It is apparent that more research is needed to more clearly find how religion across
Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism affect business decisions as well as management
practices. While researching these major religions one can deduct that most of the population
from each religion does not follow each aspect of their beliefs to the exact teachings. In the
future it would be helpful to have a large survey of each religious group on how their religion
affects their management practices if at all.
When looking at Hofstede's model and the GLOBE project we can easily find that the
regions of more Buddhist and Hindus cultures are focused on long term goals and collectivism.
This somewhat parallels the teachings of the religions themselves and should be studied further
to find a better correlation. To further stress the need for this to be compared we can deduct that
Christianity equally stresses the importance of collectivism and peace, however when looking at
Hofstede and GLOBE models the United States is much lower in these aspects. We also
suggest that the Chinese value of collectivism needs to be further evaluated, specifically by the
United States due to their low value of collectivism, because it can easily cause conflict
especially between Buddhist and Christian businesses. This can also be observed in the
research conducted by Choi, who observed that companies in the United States were more
likely to be loyal to personal beliefs compared to other regions.
As stated earlier the United States can be known for conducting selfish business and
unethical practices. It is obvious that China, India and the United States vary on the value of
individualism and we are suggesting that this be further studied. To generate results would have
to be large scale and consistently defined and applicable to each culture, this will prove to be
tedious however we expect the results to be quite similar across each individual country and
also be helpful to managers who desire to practice business with each other.
To conclude we have stressed the different values and ethics of Christianity, Buddhism
and Hinduism and how each of their religious beliefs shape their business decisions internally,
as well as globally. While Christianity is losing influence in the United States business world, the
values and ethics of Christians is prevalent in their business decisions. Contrasting the trends of
Christianity, Hinduism is a way of life for Hindus and greatly affects business decision making on
a daily basis in a positive ethical way. Lastly we examined the values of Buddhism and find that
Buddhists are much more collective compared to Christians and conduct business in a more
traditional way. Overall we think that the study of individualism across each religion to increase
understanding of differences and similarities of values and ethics would heavily outweigh costs
associated with conducting said research.


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