From THE TIMES, 19 July 2018:

It is a debate that has raged between scholars for more than a century: does a country become less religious after it grows richer or does secularism help capitalism to flourish?

Now a study has provided an answer: rejecting God can significantly boost a nation’s wealth. Academics at the universities of Bristol and Tennessee set out to test the theory that nations become more secular after becoming more prosperous and found that the process takes place in reverse.

They noted: “A century ago, Émile Durkheim, [the French sociologist] proposed that technological and socioeconomic advances come to displace the functions of religion, whereas Max Weber [the German philosopher] contended the opposite, that monotheistic religion, the so-called Protestant ethic, made the development of capitalism possible.”

The study found that the loss of religion, rather than the embracing of Protestant values, correlated with future increases in prosperity. Researchers examined GDP figures for 109 countries and the importance of religious faith in those states. They found that a decrease in religious belief was linked to an increase in tolerance for individual rights, including of women and gay people and those who seek divorce or abortions. This may allow more people to play a full part in society.

An increase in secularisation by one unit corresponded to an average £800 increase in GDP per capita within a decade, a £2,000 increase within 20 years and a £4,000 increase within 30.

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