Correlation Between Religiosity and Standards of Living

In Religion on February 17, 2009 at 1:23 pm

5 Most Religious Countries in the World

Posted February 10, 2009
  1. Egypt — 100 percent of residents said religion is an important part of their daily life
  2. Bangladesh — 99 percent
  3. Sri Lanka — 99 percent
  4. Indonesia — 98 percent
  5. Congo ( Kinshasa ) — 98 percent

5 Least Religious Countries in the World

Posted February 11, 2009
  1. Estonia 14 percent of residents said religion is an important part of their daily life
  2. Sweden 17 percent
  3. Denmark 18 percent
  4. Norway 20 percent
  5. Czech Republic 21 percent

“Five Things” is a feature of U.S. & News Report.

Source: Gallup (Click for more details about this report.)

Perhaps when people have faith in God, they rely too much on their religion and not enough on their own efforts. They somehow believe that God will magically take care of all their problems. Then when that doesn’t happen, they say that it is God’s will and it is their job to submit to His will.

But the U.S. is an anachronism: we have a relatively high percentage of people who say that their religion is important to them and yet historically have had higher standards of living than most other countries. That could partly be explained by the Puritan work ethic and the emphasis on individual effort in this country. We believe that it is God’s will that we be prosperous and that God helps those who help themselves.

It could also be that we have shaped our religions to serve us and not the other way around. Sometimes we get things backwards and put our own efforts first and God’s action in our lives second. But the bottom line is, we are less likely than many other cultures to submit to anyone, even God.

We also associate other elements that are not really religious into our “brand” of religion. Many Americans think that capitalism and democracy go hand in hand with America’s religion (which is of course Christianity). You could call that our “holy trinity.” God forbid that Christianity could ever be compatible with other types of government or economic systems. You just can’t be a socialist or communist and a Christian, can you? And if you are a Christian, you’re automatically going to swear by capitalism and democracy.

This brings us to the question:  how can a society not be religious and still have a high standard of living? It could be that types of markets and governments are humanistic concepts, not religious ones. If you live in a society that values taking care of others–no matter how you do so (socialism, communism, democracy, etc.), there will be a higher standard of living. The impulse to create a highly functioning society can and often does come from humanistic, not religious, values. The religious person doesn’t want to believe that, but all he has to do is look around the world, at polls and studies like Gallup’s, and he will see that there are many ways of being human, and they don’t all involve having faith in God.

I write this as a religious person. I do have faith in God. But I also believe that religions often fail to bring about the kind of caring and sense of justice that humanistic philosophies do. That’s a reflection on the person, not on God. God has made it clear, in almost all of the world religions, that we are to care for others as we care for ourselves, that a society is not pleasing in God’s eyes that does not take care of its own.

If we do that which God requires, we automatically have a higher functioning society. Whenever you try to bring up the standard of living for the unfortunate in your society, you bring up the standard of living for all. If you only concentrate on your own success, your society–and culture–will fail. It doesn’t take a faith in God to make us caring people. But if we do have faith, we should care for everyone. It’s in the contract.


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