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Even Highly Religious Are Unethical When They Are Narcissists

Update Date: Mar 13, 2012 09:33 PM EDT

Although Devout and nominal Christians show better ethical judgment than the skeptics overall, when they have high narcissistic tendency, their ethical judgement is impaired making them hypocritical according to their own internalized value system.

A recent Baylor University study published online in the Journal of Business Ethics identified three groups - skpetics, nominal Christians and devout Christians, and exmained their ethical judgment.

The nominal and devout show better ethical judgement than the skeptics. However, they show degrees of poor ethical judgment equal to that of the skeptics when accompanied by higher degrees of narcissism. On the contrary, increased narcissism among skeptics does not result in significantly worse ethical judgement.

For the study, 385 undergraduate marketing students completed an online survey in which they indicated to what degree they believe behavior was acceptable or not for such statements as:

  • An underpaid executive padded his expense account by about $3,000 a year.
  • A company paid a $350,000 ''consulting'' fee to an official of a foreign country. In return, the official promised assistance in obtaining a contract that will produce $10 million profit for the contracting company.

Students were also asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with such statements as:

  • I go to church mostly to spend time with my friends.
  • My whole approach to life is based on my religion.
  • Although I believe in my religion, many other things are more important in life.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association (2000), defines narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) as someone whose behavior is fittingly described by five of nine characteristics.

These include:

(1) an exaggerated sense of self-importance;

(2) fantasies of extraordinary success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love;

(3) belief that one is ''special'' and should only associate with and can only be understood by other high-status people;

(4) demand for excessive admiration from others;

(5) a sense of entitlement;

(6) objectification of others to achieve personal ends and gratification;

(7) lack of empathy;

(8) envy of others or belief that others are envious of oneself;

(9) haughty, arrogant, patronizing, or contemptuous behavior or attitudes toward others.

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