Christianity and Democracy: The Pioneering Protestants

Issue Date April 2004
Volume 15
Issue 2
Page Numbers 47-61
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According to cross-national research, Protestantism has significantly contributed to global democratization. While Protestantism does not inevitably cause democratization, it often generates social dynamics that favor it. Some of the most important of these are: 1) the rise of religious pluralism; 2) the development of democratic theory and practice; 3) the development of civil society; 4) the spread of mass education; 5) printing and the origins of a public sphere; 6) the reduction of corruption; and 7) economic development. The article explores how Protestant groups, including Protestant missionaries, have promoted these dynamics in the past. It also argues that contemporary Protestant movements—particularly Pentecostalism—are continuing to do so in the present, though with less dramatic results.

About the Authors

Robert D. Woodberry

Robert D. Woodberry is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas–Austin. Much of the research supporting this essay is available from him through

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Timothy S. Shah

Timothy S. Shah, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, is coeditor of an Oxford University Press series on evangelical Protestantism and democracy in the global South.

View all work by Timothy S. Shah