A Look at GDP Per Capita and Religion By Nation
One of my grandmothers, whom I love very much, insisted that the United States has only financially prospered because we are a Christian nation. She insists that our adherence to Judeo-Christian ethics is the reason we have a higher standard of living than everyone else.
Although I, myself, am religious and, personally, a Christian, the coldly rational economist in me immediately objected: Her statement could not be true because we are not the richest on a standard of living basis, nor have we ever been at any point in our history. (We do, however, have the highest aggregate standard of living for any nation that has ever existed, reaching more average people than any But, again, the financial education system in this country is so pathetic that most people don’t realize either of those things or the distinction. What her statement reveals is the peculiar American pathology equating wealth with God’s blessing and divine right. It’s so woven into the fabric of the nation due to our roots as a land for upstarts fresh off the boat that it permeates nearly everything we do, even today.
To explain to her that religion has absolutely no influence on the economic standard of living of a country, I created the following chart for her that compares the top 10 richest countries based upon 2011 estimates for per capita gross domestic product (GDP per capita) and the effective predominate religion of the nation.
Even in nations such as the Netherlands, which people think of as “Christian” due to a strong Roman Catholic presence, only 34% people believe there is a God. That means that 66% of people believe there is no God. Qatar, which is entirely made up of Muslims, utterly crushed the United States.
That means that for the top 10 richest nations on a per citizen basis:
- 4 are effectively Islamic
- 4 are effectively Atheist
- 2 are effectively Christian
- 1 is effectively Buddhist
This means you can draw absolutely no correlation between religion and GDP per capita. If you were going to insist upon drawing a correlation, you would have to say God rewards Muslims and Atheists more than Christians and Buddhists, although the Buddhists at least came in a close third, which is, of course, an absurd position.
Hence, God does not reward one particular type of religion over another when it comes to standards of living. If you believe America is rich because it adhered to the Christian Bible, you must believe that God favors the Quran on a 2-1 basis since he is giving a higher standard of living to a handful of Islamic nations. Anyone with any sense knows the Quran has nothing to do with it – it is the enormous gushing quantities of black gold sitting beneath the Arabian sands in the form of crude oil.
I find it truly amazing that I even need to present a case for this. But people are keen on making absolute statements without any factual evidence whatsoever so I thought it was important to simply present the data and let you draw your own conclusions. Throughout history, God gets blamed for, and credit for, things that come down to individual human choice. When Christians were slaughtering Jews during the crusades, they did it because they thought God wanted it. When Muslim extremists are blowing up innocent civilians in pizza parlors and bus stations, they are doing it because they think God wants it. I get the feeling that what God wants is for people to stop being so stupid and start using the brain he gave them.