Finweek English Edition - - COVER STORY -

From a busi­ness per­spec­tive, or­gan­ised re­li­gion of­fers at­trac­tive re­wards and has few bar­ri­ers to en­try. But is di­vine de­vo­tion ben­e­fi­cial to a na­tion’s devel­op­ment?

No, says Gre­gory S Paul, a US palaeon­tol­o­gist, il­lus­tra­tor and au­thor. He has done sci­en­tific re­search to back up his hy­poth­e­sis that re­li­gion is in fact bad for an econ­omy. Be­sides be­ing cred­ited for his work as an ex­pert con­sul­tant on di­nosaurs for Steven Spiel­berg’s movie Juras­sic Park, Paul’s more re­cent work on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween re­li­gion and so­ci­ety has earned him high praise. He doesn’t be­lieve that re­li­gion can pros­per in wealthy and suc­cess­ful so­ci­eties, and cre­ated what he calls the Suc­cess­ful So­ci­eties Scale to prove this. He uses this to an­a­lyse 25 so­cioe­co­nomic in­di­ca­tors against data on re­li­gious prac­tices in 17 devel­oped na­tions. “Only the least godly democ­ra­cies en­joy the best over­all so­cioe­co­nomic con­di­tions,” Paul states on his web­site, and adds: “In his­tory, the much more Chris­tian United States is the most dys­func­tional First-World na­tion ac­cord­ing to the ma­jor in­di­ca­tors.”

Paul looked at a wide range of in­for­ma­tion to ar­rive at his re­sults. This in­cludes so­ci­etal data such as the preva­lence of teenage preg­nancy, in­fant mor­tal­ity and homi­cide. The most sec­u­lar so­ci­eties, he found, were those that had the high­est so­cioe­co­nomic scores.

“No so­cioe­co­nom­i­cally suc­cess­ful and highly re­li­gious na­tion has ever ex­isted, and the an­tag­o­nis­tic re­la­tion­ship be­tween be­nign con­di­tions and the pop­u­lar­ity of re­li­gion prob­a­bly make it im­pos­si­ble for one to come into be­ing,” Paul says. ta­bles on page 11.)

Nigeria comes in at 41 with a GDP of $235 923m on this list; Ghana at num­ber 84 with $39 200m and Ar­me­nia is at num­ber 125 with a GDP of $39 200m. Con­versely, China, Ja­pan and Ger­many top the athe­ist rank­ings, and score amongst the high­est in terms of GDP rank­ings, show­ing a strong nexus be­tween eco­nomic pros­per­ity and a lack of re­li­gion.

The WIN-Gallup sur­vey shows that the poor are more re­li­gious, and peo­ple in bot­tom-in­come groups were 17% more re­li­gious than those in top in­come groups. “It is in­ter­est­ing that re­li­gios­ity de­clines as worldly pros­per­ity of in­di­vid­u­als rises,” the sur­vey states. “While the re­sults for na­tions as a whole are mixed, in­di­vid­ual re­spon­dents within a coun­try show a re­veal­ing pat­tern. If ci­ti­zens of each of the 57 coun­tries are grouped into five groups, from the rel­a­tively poor to rel­a­tively rich in their own coun­tries, the richer you get, the less re­li­gious you de­fine your­self,” said the WIN-Gallup au­thors.

“Re­li­gion be­comes less cen­tral as peo­ple’s lives be­come less vul­ner­a­ble to the con­stant threat of death, disease and mis­for­tune,” Pippa Nor­ris and Ron­ald In­gle­hart wrote in their book Sa­cred and Sec­u­lar: Re­li­gion and Pol­i­tics World­wide.

If you are in the busi­ness of re­li­gion, how­ever, there’s still a for­tune to be made from the faith­ful masses.

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