Impact of Religion on Business & Economics

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  • 0:04 The Four Major Religions
  • 0:39 Buddhism
  • 1:33 Islam
  • 2:23 Christianity
  • 3:28 Hinduism
  • 5:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Since the dawn of civilization, religious beliefs have been some of the most powerful influences on human behavior. This lesson defines religion and explores its impact on international business.

The Four Major Religions

Historically, religion, which is a systematic set of beliefs that influences human behavior, has been a dominant force in human behavior. For most individuals, religion is about how to live. People adopt its system's beliefs as a way of life. Religion's influence reaches every corner of the globe, and it significantly influences the buying behaviors of customers.

As we look at the four biggest religions in the world, it's important to keep in mind that religious practices vary widely, even within the same religion. This lesson's observations are generally made about the more conservative, or observant, members of the religion.


Buddhism is a paradigm that encourages all things in moderation. It teaches that the desire for worldly things leads to evil. Unlike many other religions, Buddhism is centered on individual enlightenment rather than a central deity, though iconography exists all over Buddhist dominant cultures, like China.

Buddhism teaches that the pursuit of worldly things is of no value, and to do so will hinder someone's progress toward enlightenment. Consequently, retailing in areas where buying is influenced by observant Buddhists will be especially challenging if the products are associated with fulfilling worldly desires or are considered frivolous. However, there are not that many strictly practicing Buddhists, aside from monks, so this shouldn't be too much of a concern. A company just has to make sure to do specific research about the habits of people living in these areas before they pass up on a potentially lucrative market.


Although Muslims are all around the world, Islam is the driving religious force in the Middle East, Africa, and the Indonesian islands. Islam differs from Buddhism in that it identifies a central deity, Allah, whose instructions guide behavior. Some Muslim countries require a religious dress code (particularly for women) to cover nearly the entire body in order to show modesty. In less conservative regions, men wear Western clothing and women may wear only a headscarf.

International business taking place in conservative Muslim regions will be impacted by a number of Islamic practices, including the religious dress code. In areas where women don't wear Western clothing and the Islamic dress code is passionately enforced, for example clothing retailers will need to adjust their inventory to include things like burqua, niqabs, hijabs, and chadors.


Like Islam, Christianity is monotheistic (a belief in a single, all-powerful deity), and it also provides its followers with guidelines for personal conduct. Also like Islam, Christianity is practiced with a wide variance of behavioral standards. Conservative Christians have theological beliefs that discourage the use of alcohol, allow only modest attire, and sometimes prohibit activities like dancing or listening to certain types of music. More liberal Christian groups don't take a definitive stand on these issues, but they may continue to discourage them with less intensity.

In regions where Christianity is dominant, commerce is largely tied to the intensity of the observance. The state of Utah's liquor regulations are a great example of the impact of conservative Christianity. In this region, the state government maintains tight control over the liquor industry and places strict limits on its sale and consumption. Businesses in regions where conservative Christianity prevails should ensure that their plans and projections are not based on retail sales of goods or services that are treated as sinful or evil.


Hinduism is a unique religion that bears some resemblance to Buddhism, but contains a god (and even gods), but it also has characteristics of monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Like Buddhism, Hinduism is not really a single unified theological group. It also teaches concepts like truth, doing good in the universe, and becoming self-aware. However, unlike Buddhism, most Hindus are monotheistic and believe in a central deity called Brahman, though some Hindus observe the old pantheon of gods. It really depends on the individual worshipper.

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