Religion Declines With Prosperity


The world’s poorest nations are also some of its most religious – but does that mean religion can’t flourish in a prosperous society?

Gregory Paul, who conducted an evolutionary psychology study in 2009 called The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions does not think that religion and socio-economic prosperity can flourish simultaneously.

After constructing a Successful Societies Scale that compared 25 socio-economic indicators against statistics on religious belief and practice in 17 developed nations, Paul concluded in his study that “religion is most able to thrive in seriously dysfunctional societies.”

Data was compiled on everything from homicide rates and income inequality to infant mortality and teenage pregnancies and found that the societies that scored the best on socio-economic indicators were also the most secular.

“There’s no situation where you have a really highly religious nation that’s highly successful socially.” according to Paul.

“The safest, happiest, healthiest, most peaceful, most equal, most developed, most emancipated, most educated, most socially and economically prosperous countries in the world are secular sovereign nations.” – Willem Etsenmaker

Paul’s intention in creating the scale was to challenge the idea that religion is universal and innate to the human condition, and to show that societies that don’t believe in god are not doomed, as some religious conservatives would have people believe.

“Religion is highly variable, and therefore we need to ask why is it sometimes popular and why it isn’t,” Paul said. “One thing we do know is that it’s only popular in societies that […] have enough rate of dysfunction that people are anxious about their daily lives, so they’re looking to the gods for help in their daily lives.”

According to Paul (and many other scientists and scholars at that), it is not fear of death that drives people to be religious, and there is no evidence at all for a so-called god gene or a god module in the brain or some sort of connection with the gods; it is basically a psychological coping mechanism.

“Prosperity is one strong causal factor in helping to explain why religion corrodes.” — Phil Zuckerman

2 thoughts on “Religion Declines With Prosperity

  1. “”it is not fear of death that drives people to be religious, and there is no evidence at all for a so-called god gene or a god module in the brain or some sort of connection with the gods; it is basically a psychological coping mechanism.””

    That is a most intriguing point, one that I made elsewhere a short time ago. Belief in a god stops us from having to contemplate what we have no information for and allows us to keep our brains in the survival mode most necessary for, well, survival. The magic of gods means we don’t have to deal with all that unproductive thinking ever since the believer knows already that god did it.

  2. Pingback: Kirche heute, 4. Februar 2014 | Christliche Leidkultur

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