October 23, 2014

Does God Reward Nations Economically Based Upon Their Religious Beliefs?

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.

GDP Per Capital Religion Rankings -  Quatar: Per Capita GDP is $103,276. Muslim. Luxembourg (per capita GDP of $83,438).  Mostly Atheist (only 44% of the people in this nation believe there is a God.)  The most popular religion is Roman Catholicism Singapore (per Capita GDP of $59,124).  Buddhist. Norway (per Capita GDP of $53,738). Mostly atheist (only 33% of the people in this nation believe there is a God). The Church of Norway is the most popular religious organization but only 4.7% to 5.3% of citizens attend services on a regular basis. Brunei Darussalam (per Capita GDP of $49,719).  Muslim United Arab Emirates (per Capita GDP of $49,500).  Muslim United States (per capita GDP of $48,666).  Christian.  Only 16.1% of Americans are atheists.  A bit more than 51% of religious individuals are protestant with 20%+ Roman Catholic. Hong Kong (per capita GDP of $48,347).  Atheist.  Between 64% and 80% of residence claim no religion. Switzerland (per capita GDP of $42,858).  Christian.  Split evenly between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Netherlands (per capita GDP of $41,691).  Atheist.  Only 34% of people believe there is a God.  For those who are religious, Roman Catholicism is the most popular belief system.
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.

  • bph

    Of course Islam is closely related to Judeo-Christianity, but I don’t think that’s what your grandmother had in mind. Plus, the close similarities are largely ignored in the western world.

    • Joshua Kennon

      From an anthropological standpoint, absolutely.  The three so-called “desert religions” – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – are all nearly identical up until the whole Ishmael / Isaac split in Genesis and, later, the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth as either the Messiah (Christians) or a prophet (Jews).

      • Lastman9

        My goodness! How can you such a thing as neither Christianity or Islam existed in Isaac’s day? And bph’s comment that Islam is closely related to Judeo-Christianity is sheer nonsense.

  • bph

    I forgot to add I don’t actually agree with your grandmother. Just commenting that Islam should be considered together with Judeo-Christian.

    • Suhaib alam

      you are right, the war is actually, god vs devil

      btw. usa can not be considered a christian country, as most of those Christians have strayed away from Christianity and are actually atheists, 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamison23 Jamison Morrow

    Indeed. There are many false assumptions about Christianity drilled into the generations of our parents and grandparent. There’s certainly nothing biblical that links good behavior and financial prosperity. That’s actually the entire point of Jesus. We can’t “earn” God’s favor with good deeds. 

    On a side note, I’m truly enjoying your articles. I’m in the process of putting together a holding company, and your posts have provided quite a bit of insight. 

    • Joshua Kennon

      Thanks =)  you’re correct (the point that we can’t “earn” God’s favor) but people have been trying from the time they slaughtered goats and offered the entrails as a sacrifice for a plentiful harvest.  

      My theory is it is a mental adaptation that serves as a defense mechanism against a feeling of helplessness for those who are in financial or physical danger.  Some people, though, are rational so they react to perceived helplessness by trying to solve the situation (e.g., creating fertilizers, irrigation systems, and genetically engineering hardier seeds).  It is, in other words, a struggle between the Thomas Edisons who spend their lives using the intellect God gave them to create light bulbs and the masses, who mindlessly offer sacrifices, hoping for a little more daylight. Enlightenment vs. Ignorance.

  • Sopwith

    His grandmother is correct. What Joshua doesn’t take in to effect is that the US is the police of the world. Most likely, without all the expenditures on the US military over the last 100 years, the US per capita GDP could easily exceed that of Qatar. And, more than likely, without the US being the police of the world and protecting those countries in the top 10, their economies could be trash  as continuous wars would have ravaged those small countries.  This country was founded on Judeo-Christian values – as we stray away from those – our country sinks further and further from what Joshua’s grandmother correctly stated.     

    • Joshua Kennon

      Your analysis is faulty and incorrect because every penny of United States military expenditures are already included in GDP figures, from the paychecks to soldiers to the money spent manufacturing bombs and airplanes to the food served in the mess halls. You are essentially arguing we should double count that same revenue when it is already included.

      I’m sure you mean well but to prove how absurd and foolish your analysis is on a mathematical basis, let’s look at the numbers. Last year, the United States spent $663.7 billion on defense. That same year, GDP was $14.5082 trillion. Thus, defense as a percentage of GDP was 4.57%.

      To close the GDP per capita gap with, say, the second richest country, Luxembourg, you’d have to increase GDP by 71.45% over current levels to $24.8743 trillion assuming current population levels. That would get the United States to $83,438 GDP per capita from our current $48,666.

      You are arguing that if we weren’t spending $663.7 billion on defense, the United States would almost double GDP. Specifically, you are arguing that GDP would increase by $13.3661 trillion. That would require a velocity of money of twenty! That is the economic equivalent of fairy tales and pixie dust. The math simply does not work.

      Defense needs to be cut because it is partially responsible for our budget deficits and thus an increase in the national debt. To argue that a 4.57% cut in current GDP spending levels would increase GDP by nearly double is insane. It fails the 4th grade math test even though it makes a good talking point for people who don’t know how to define GDP or how the velocity of money works.

      Going back further in history, there is no – zero – correlation between a nation’s economic wealth and prosperity and their religion. Take the ancient world. Some of the most blessed nations financially were horrible cultures that enslaved people, sacrificed their children to false gods, and butchered innocent nations, yet their treasuries were filled with gold, their harvests abundant, and their infrastructure magnificent enough that we still go and visit it thousands of years later as tourists! There is no connection between a nation’s religious beliefs and its economic level of per capita prosperity for the average citizen. It sounds good in practice but God doesn’t doll out money like treats to children for every good deed or bad deed. If he did, it would show up in the numbers.

      • Sopwith

        According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005,[3]
        44% of Luxembourgish citizens responded that “they believe there is a God”.28% answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force”.22% answered that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force”.

        According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005,[4]
        32% of Norwegian citizens responded that “they believe there is a God”47% answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force”.17% answered that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force”.4% answered that they “do not know”.

        Similar stats for the Netherlands.

        What is your definition of Atheist?

        • Joshua Kennon

          To answer your question: This article tests the hypothesis that God rewards nations based upon the majority religious beliefs in that nation based upon one of the 4 ruling religions on Earth:

          1. Those who believe in Jesus Christ as the manifestation of the Word made flesh and one in the same with the Father (Christian)

          2. Those who believe in Jehovah, who has not yet sent his messiah (Judaism)

          3. Those who believe in Allah, who sent prophets including Mohammad and Jesus Christ (Muslim / Islam)

          4. Those who believe in Buddha, which falls more into a general philosophy than a specific deity in the sense of the other three.

          In that framework, a Christian is, by definition, an atheist in the Muslim religion. Likewise, someone who doesn’t believe in any of these deities but believes in “some sort of spirit, God, or life force” is nothing but a modern day manifestation of the pagan Gaia religions that were predominate at the height of Ancient Greece, Rome, and early Europe.

          Within that framework, a majority of the nation of Luxembourg does not consider itself Christian. It does not consider itself Jewish. It does not consider itself Muslim. It does not consider itself Buddhist. (That does not meant there isn’t a remnant of each in the population, just that a majority of that population does not fall into any of the 4 religions.)

          That means a plurality believes in either no god or spirit or falls into a general “yeah, there’s a life force” pagan beliefs.

          In any case, that just proves the data even further. If you’re more comfortable, you could modify the chart to have Luxembourg be “Plurality Atheist / Pagans”. It would certainly fit with the cultural roots there.

          But if that’s the case, the statistical relationship would still not be established. In all cultures, across all of history, there has been no – ZERO – economic advantage to being a predominately Christian nation. The distribution of worldly power and wealth has fallen among religions and deities as one would expect statistically.

          In my personal case (and this is irrelevant to the analysis), I am a Christian. I fall into the first belief system. (Those who believe in Jesus Christ as the manifestation of the Word made flesh and one in the same with the Father). But God is also the one that gave me an intellect to examine numbers. And there is no statistical relationship between the “faithfulness” of a nation to a Christian philosophy and its prosperity.

          There were misguided fools that sacrificed innocent children to Molek, god of fire, and they were rich and prosperous. They were not blessed by their “god”. They simply ran their economy well.

          In simpler terms:

          * People are not skinny or fat because of their god. They are skinny or fat because of the choices they make.

          * People are not educated or non-educated because of their god. They are educated or non-educated because they make the choice to attend school, do the work, and get a degree.

          * People have clean homes or dirty homes not because of their god. They have clean homes or dirty homes because of how they live.

          * Likewise, people are not rich or poor because of their god. They are rich or poor because the either spend less than they earn and run surpluses or they spend more than they earn and run deficits.

          I don’t write this stuff idly or without considerable research and thought. To borrow from Graham, “You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd agrees or disagrees with you. You are right or wrong because your data and reasoning are right or wrong.”

          Present counter evidence based upon GDP per capita figures for nations throughout time and persuade me. But I spent considerable time studying the historical record before posting this essay. There is no – absolutely zero – economic benefit for a nation being a Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Buddhist. Some of the most devote Christian nations in the world are some of the poorest Latin American countries. Just because you say something is true doesn’t make it true – we have the figures for every country in the world so open Microsoft Excel and run the numbers yourself if you’re still not convinced.

  • Sanningen vinner

    Remove the countries that “pumps” money out of the ground (oil), and toy will see that Islamic countries are at the bottom.

    • Joshua Kennon

      By that same logic, we should remove all of the timber, coal, natural gas, petroleum, gold, and silver produced from the United States since these, likewise, were natural resources.  That is asinine thinking.  

      To take it one step further, even though it isn’t on this chart, by that same logic, we should strip Canada of much of its economic activity since the United States actually imports more oil from Canada than it does from Saudi Arabia, but most people are too ignorant to know that.  

      In fact, the United States imports nearly 2x the oil from Canada than we do from Saudi Arabia.  And we get almost 5x as much oil from Mexico as we do from Kuwait.  But, again, people are too ignorant to realize that.  You can read the energy source figures for yourself here: http://205.254.135.24/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/company_level_imports/current/import.html

      As for Brunei, only half of its economy is related to the petroleum industry.  The other half comes from international investments.  For example, when I stayed at The Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue during a recent business trip to New York, I got curious and started looking into the owners-of-the-owners-of-the-owners.  It was owned by the Brunei government.  So the room, food, laundry service, etc., I paid for went directly to the hands of the Brunei treasury since they owned the hotel.

      The same is true of the United Arab Emirates.  Although they make most of their money running trade surpluses for the petroleum industry, the nation takes that money and then reinvests it in other countries.  The UAE owns more than $1 trillion of wealth in places outside of their country.  It’s entirely possible when you eat at an American restaurant or go see an American concert, you are somehow putting money in their pocket.  

      But saying, “We should ignore oil for these countries” is like saying, “We should ignore banking for Switzerland” or “We should ignore manufacturing in the United States”.  It’s like saying, “Oh, yeah, she’d be thin if it weren’t for the 100 pounds of weight she needs to lose.”  You don’t get to ignore relevant data simply because it suits whatever end conclusion you are trying to reach.  Otherwise, mankind would still be living by candlelight and washing clothes by hand.

      • d00d

        yeah except oil rewards 0.00001% of the islamic countries while manufacturing is half of the US. way to try to trivialize someone’s argument with a total fallacy

        • Joshua Kennon

          Please don’t comment if you don’t know what you’re talking about. It makes you look foolish and wastes everyone else’s time, myself included.

          You cite two economic facts, both of which are wrong.

          Manufacturing represents only $4,832.5 trillion of the United States’ gross output of $25811.4 trillion, which is 18.72%, not 50%. Here is a PDF source from the Bureau of Economic Analysis: Gross Output By Industry, Release Date December 13, 2011.

          Even worse for your position? The manufacturing category is broken down by raw natural resource, including wood products, primary metals, fabricated metals, etc., which would strengthen, rather than weaken, the point that to keep the consistency of the argument, our natural resources would need to be stripped out for an apples-to-apples comparison under the misguided thinking of the original poster.

          Likewise, oil doesn’t reward 0.00001% of the Islamic countries. The United States imports more oil from the combined nations of Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Russia, and Brazil, than we do from Muslim nations, which you would know if you bothered to read the Independent Statistics & Analysis: U.S. Energy Information Administration: Petroleum & Other Liquids report.

          But I understand … making up figures is far more fun. Being accurate requires research, effort, and thought.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bambi-Black-Sandquist/1364695694 Bambi Black-Sandquist

    “Religion has absolutely no influence on the economic standard of living of a country.” Tell that to the republican leaders that are following the dictates of the religious right, who maintain  that following their Christian God is required for this Nation to succeed economically. Then what does that do to the credibility of this study on the top 10 richest countries in the world, and their religion? 4 of the riches countries are effectively Islamic4 are effectively Atheist2 are effectively Christian1 is effectively Buddhist

    It’s a pathological mindset to equate wealth with God’s blessing and divine right.

    • Joshua Kennon

      From an evolutionary standpoint, equating divine blessing with wealth made sense because the brain is wired to recognize patterns and in the absence of working models for how much capital is flowing through an economy, which was only possible with the rise of advance civilization, people felt the urge to do something (action bias, in mental model terms) to ensure the rain kept falling and the soil kept nourishing. I imagine the reason children were sacrificed to false gods on metal alters is because they did it once, or a kid fell down and hit his head, and suddenly a drought ended, resulting in a false match on the cause / effect brain wiring.  Then you get social proof and other feedback looks and suddenly anyone who questions the prophet is stoned.

      The same mistake is not made in areas where direct causality can be established.  Nobody says, “God, please make me wake up tomorrow 50 pounds thinner” or “God, please make me wake up tomorrow a different race” because people instinctively understand how the mechanics behind those areas function.  But most people do not understand economics.  The same person who says it would be stupid to ask God to make you wake up 20 years old and thinner will turn around and say, “if I am a good person, I will make more money”.  This turns money into a moral voting system when it is not.  Some of the worst people in the world are rich and some of the best poor.

  • Static

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare countries that are almost as small as city states with countries as large as the united states. Apples to oranges. A city is very likely to have a much higher per capita GDP. A small geographical area is more likely to have higher or lower than average per capita GDP. Average the numbers out with larger geographical areas, perhaps.

    • Joshua Kennon

      That is a rational objection.  You could set some sort of population adjustment but the statistical relationship still holds true (no correlation between religion and gross domestic product per capita over time).

  • plch

    You need to not consider revenues generated directly from production of Oil or Gas from the study. Your results would likely be much different.

    • Joshua Kennon

      By that logic, we should strip out the logging industry from the United States’ figures because timber is, after all, a natural resource just like oil.  The same goes for our natural gas, coal, gold, silver, corn, wheat, rice, soy beans, copper, pork bellies, sugar, milk, coffee, lead, zin, tin, aluminium, nickel, cobalt, gypsum, and livestock.  It is an irrational adjustment that makes no economic sense.  It reminds me of a little league coach trying to cheat on the score.  There is no need for it.

  • DiracWinsAgain

    I tried posting this earlier but it didn’t go through, so I apologize in advance for a double post.

    First, the people who are claiming that you should discount the oil produced by oil nations don’t make any sense to me.  Maybe we should *only* count natural resources.  After all, we’re trying to figure out which nations God favors, and if He saw fit to bury a bunch of money under the Muslims, then doesn’t it make sense that He is rewarding them?  Why, if they have access to a money spigot that He put there, would we want to claim that it shouldn’t be counted as evidence of His favor?

    Of course I think if you actually did an analysis of natural resource distribution you’d find it to be uncorrelated with religious belief.  (Unless of course that religion consisted of worshiping said natural resource). 

    Second, regarding luxembourg, they have a significant number of cross-border commuters working for them.  I suspect that these fellows are counted in the numerator but not the denominator.  If you assume that this suspicion is correct and adjust their GDP per capita to account for them you get about 60,000 rather than 80,000. 

    Third, most of your atheist nations I think could just as reasonably be considered to be part of the Judeo-Christian ethic.  If that was your grandmother’s argument.  That the ethic itself was rewarding, rather than being a “christian”, I’d say that they evidence will probably bear her out. 

    The way I would try to check is to compare, rather than a snapshot of the year 2010, some sort of average standard of living compared to the rest of the world over the past two centuries.  If you time average in this fashion you’ll find that the wealthy nations are almost universally cultural descendants of  the Judeo-Christian ethic.  Of course, this could as well be more of an indication of where the industrial revolution happened first, rather than religious belief. 

    Also, a belief in God isn’t necessarily binary.  If 33% of people believe in God, it might very well mean that 50% aren’t sure. In any case, I further suspect that if you asked the same people if they believed in Judeo-Christian ethics, you’d get an entirely different answer. 

    • Joshua Kennon

      Well said.

  • Dan

    Luxembourg and norway are christian countries.
     So, if should be
    4 are effectively Islamic4 are effectively Christian2 are effectively Atheist 1 is effectively Buddhist

    • Joshua Kennon

      This has already been accounted for in the data, though I should have explained the methodology.

      Countries were only counted toward one religion if at least 50 out of 100 citizens believed in a specific God.

      In a nation like Luxembourg, according to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll, only 44 out of every 100 citizens believe in the existence of God. Using the parameters, it counts as an atheist nation. Another 22 on top of that believe not in a deity, but a generic pagan “life force”. That leaves only 34 out of 100 who believe in a traditional God.

      The fact that a majority of the minority (in this case, the 34 out of 100) happen to be Christian is inconsequential. The same rules were applied to all nations when creating the chart.

      The term “effectively” as used in the chart only applies to a country in which at least 1 out of 2 people believe in a specific supernatural entity, either Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, or Buddhist.

      There was no rounding up. No one religion was given special consideration over any other. The data was examined, and applied to each country, impartially.

  • wesmouch

    The Islamic countries are rich because they sit on oil reserves. A chimpanzee sitting on oil reserves would be rich.

    • Joshua Kennon

      Scroll up and read the extensive conversation that has already addressed this point.

  • Angela

    Luxembourg is primarily a Roman Catholic nation and 72 percent of the people believe in God or a Spirit. So Luxembourg is a mostly Christian nation. Check “Luxembourg” in Wikipedia for references.

  • Angela

    In the Netherlands, more than 70 percent of its people publicly profess a belief in God and/or Spirit. The government funds both Catholic and Protestant schools, so one could hardly say it was “run by atheists”! If you want to see a 100 percent atheist nation, look at North Korea and its atheist religion called “Juche”. Now that is scary and North Korea is an extemely impoverished nation too!

    • Joshua Kennon

      That has already been addressed in the other comments in the thread.

  • Joshua Kennon

    That has already been addressed in the other comments in this thread.

  • d00d

    religion stifles education. to say that religion does NOT impact earning potential makes you seem like a religious person yourself, taking facts and mangling them to fit whatever you want them to. take out oil and you’ll realize the US is an anomaly, being the only successful predominantly religious country.

    • Joshua Kennon

      It is clear you haven’t bothered to read the site. At all.

  • OneWonders

    Would be interesting to see how it would look if the stats are washed clean of “easy to capitalize” resources such as gold or oil. I would guess that “atheist” luxemburg (which to my knowledge doesn’t have large quantities of any natural resource) would top other nations by a huge margin.

    Now I don’t mean to say that your current chart doesn’t have value because you say that god rewards nations based on their religious views in which case any resource given in large quantities would be a reward but I still think it would be interesting to see the correlation between believe in a god and a country’s GDP when we see a natural resource purely as coincidental. After all, those resources probably ended up there long before the notion of a god was invented by people.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      “because you say that god rewards nations based on their religious views”

      The thesis of the post is that there is zero correlation between national wealth and religious affiliation.

  • jamie

    what do the results look like if you group all countries of a single religion together and take the gdp per capita? your study seems to have just found the smallest countries in the world. if you average qatar @ 103k and 1.8 mil people with say indonesia @ 5k and 242 mil people… the gdp per capita drops to 5.7k… making qatar an insignificant drop in the bucket. there are some towns in florida averaging >200k, but not sure if this provides any meaningful information, just a study on finding the smallest town with one rich guy.

    • jamie

      i’d guess the order would go:

      1. atheist states ?
      2. jewish states (32k)… israel
      3. christian states ?
      4. buddhist states ?
      5. muslim states ?
      6. hindu states (3.7k)… india+nepal

      atheism will be hard to account for in this study. for example, even from the same source, wikipedia, norway is listed as anywhere from 68% atheist to 83% christian depending if you go to the atheism article or the norway article.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      Now this would be a fun project if I ever find the time to do it! Great suggestion!

  • Bill

    Luxembourg is a secular state but 87% of the populace are Catholic according to Wikipedia (so who knows if that’s accurate lol)

    • Ivan F Chavez

      I believe someone already proved this and won a nobel Prize for it. I think it was Douglass C. North.
      Also, what about the inequality index? There are other life quality variables to consider such as “freedom”!! Education, health, technology and so on…
      I agree with the grandmother

      • Ivan F Chavez

        To add. Please note that the US was founded on Christian principles. I think Abraham Lincoln said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. This sounds to me like someone being guided by God. This phrase looks similar to what Jesus said in Mark 3:24. Lincoln’s desition changed the world forever.

        • Ivan F Chavez

          Also, to add. Ismael and his desendence was blessed by God. I believe this is the reason why they have that much oil, but they live in constant conflict.

  • Lastman9

    So who helped the Muslims develop those ‘enormous quantities of black gold’? l’Christians slaughtered Jews’ – those that fought with the Muslims. He neglected to say that Jewish communities in ‘Christian lands’ fared much better than those in Muslim lands.

  • Lastman9

    The article, of course, looks at the present. It sheds no light on development of wealth, the Industrial Revolution for example, or the source of any positive innovations for mankind.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      You are correct. That would be another article for another day. Though, that would introduce all sorts of complications due to the geometric rise in standard of livings; the base measurement would need to be calibrated – how do you compare air conditioning to the discovery of bronze working, for example? The former is more complicated but the latter arguably had a bigger influence on human happiness and development.

      In any event, that list would be a very interesting one. You’d have Babylon, Rome, Solomon’s empire, and of course, the empire of King Mansa Musa who was the richest person to ever live, making even Solomon look like a pauper.

      The greatest increase in human wealth and standards of living, actually, came from secular sources: The European Enlightenment. I think a powerful argument can be made that those ideals, which were considered radically humanistic at the time, paid enormous dividends that are still being cashed by all of us.

      I’m a bit off topic, now, but I have a couple of minutes before I have to reintroduce the meat to a French red wine beef dish I’m making for dinner and happened to grab the notebook. My mind is a bit elsewhere …

      • Lastman9

        You could not be more wrong. Just compare the world in which Jesus and His Apostles lived to the one we live in. It was the Christian view of the world that gave each man ‘worth’, that fosterd the freedom of ‘inductive reasoning’ that propelled the search/inquiry underlying all innovations in the physical world. The renowned Greeks of old held up deductive reasoning and despised physical inquiry as being beneath them. They lived in a world of slaves – remember? You cannot escape the fact that modern society stems from the work of ‘pioneering inductive reasoners’ of the16th and 17th centuries, and they were Christians. Examples are da Vinci, Mendel, Kepler, for Newton, Faraday, Copernicus, Galileo, Leibniz, Pascal, Volta, Ohm, Ampere, Kelvin, Boyle, Lavoisier, Dalton, Preistly,Pare. Christians all.

        Your ‘enlightenment’ was the dark side of the Renaissance. Enjoying the fruits of the hard working ‘inquirers’ they reverted to deductive speculation. Instead of being Thankful to their creator, they spread the gospel of coveting. They used that creed to justify the genocide of the French Revolution, to butcher and enslave billions under Nazism and Communism.

  • Ali Mehmood

    Hi Kennon: I enjoyed going through the discussion esp. the bits where people went off the track to show their hate for some wealthy oil rich countries; as there was a religious backdrop to your article I would endeavor to make couple of points, First, God, be it defined through any divine text, did not create this world as a ‘reward’ rather it was made as a testing ground for his creations; so why there should have been any correlation between belief and worldly wealth; even if there were any, it would have been superfluous! Second, if God’s intentions of putting one natural resource in the gulf and the other somewhere else say under Caspian sea were to be known to someone with perfect clarity then that someone would become equal to God at an intellectual level which would have been against the fundamental rule separating divine from creation based on superior and prior knowledge!! Best wishes for the new year…

  • labnet

    Haven’t crosschecked, but.

    The combined annual GDP of 57 Muslim countries remains under $2 trillion. America, just by herself, produces goods and services worth $10.4 trillion; China $5.7 trillion, Japan $3.5
    trillion and Germany $2.1 trillion. Even India’s GDP is estimated at over $3 trillion (purchasing power parity basis).

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      GDP is meaningless in isolation because it has to be adjusted for the given population base. What counts is how people live on a household basis.

      To illustrate in rough numbers: China’s GDP is $8.23 trillion. The United States generates $17.1 trillion. However, those two figures create a very inaccurate view as the United States has only 314 million people and China has 1.351 billion, meaning economic productivity in the United States is much, much higher than China. Each one of their citizens is producing an average economic output of $6,090 or so, while each American is producing an average of $54,500 or so.

      While not a perfect indicator for various economic and political reasons, the population adjusted figures are more indicative of a given society. An American is enjoying a standard of living much greater than the mere 2x of so one would expect from the national-level GDP figures by themselves. In fact, the disparity is so large that even if there comes a point in time where China has a GDP several times higher than the USA, the USA would still be considerably richer on a household level, with much more luxurious standards of living.

      It’s why you can’t compare nations such as Kuwait and India. India may have an economy 10x the size of Kuwait but Kuwait is spreading all of its economic activity across a much smaller population so the living standards are about 15x-20x better.

  • Fedja Pavlovic

    Dear Mr. Kennon,

    The methodology of your research, on which you have based your argument, is utterly inadequate and not even remotely approaching the sort of credibility that your sweeping claims about religion and wealth demand. You selected 10 countries, out of a total of 196 – and your only criteria was wealth? You didn’t cluster – say – by region (no South American or continental African countries)? You didn’t take into account the relative predominance of religions, but extrapolated the dominant one (e.g. “Islam”!) without any further breakdown of numbers? You didn’t differentiate the variables of “religiosity” (% believing in God) and “religious denomination” (% believing in God X, out of 100% that believe in God)? You didn’t even consider the fact that in some cases – such as Orthodox Christianity – theistic and cultural affiliations are so intertwined that religious culture becomes much more relevant as a variable than religious belief per se?

    I invite you to look into some more comprehensive studies that deal with the implication of the (undisputed existent) correlation between religion and wealth. They might provide backed-up theories and answers if that is a topic which interests you.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      Your analysis leaves much to be desired. I’ll try to take them one by one to make sure I don’t miss anything.

      1. “your only criteria was wealth?”

      My grandmother’s claim was based solely on wealth, therefore it is the only hypothesis tested. If you wanted to introduce other potential variables (e.g., life expectancy), you’d find the same end results; for example, Japan is one of, if not the, most atheistic countries in the world yet has the best genetics in terms of longevity. I make no claim as to other “rewards” so to criticize the argument based on a position I have not taken is intellectually dishonest.

      2. “You selected 10 countries, out of a total of 196″

      I selected the ten wealthiest countries as defined. Expand the number to 30, or 50, or 100, it doesn’t matter, the results were no different so why would I waste my time replicating them? In fact, they strengthened my conclusion as the more devout countries are among the poorest. By all means, expand the list to include Pakistan, Uganda, Kenya, Yemen, etc.. You’ll find it has the exact opposite effect as you hope, which two or three minutes of math would have shown you. (This makes me believe you are more interested in supporting an existing confirmation bias than testing the data for yourself.)

      3. “You didn’t take into account the relative predominance of religions, but extrapolated the dominant one (e.g. “Islam”!) without any further breakdown of numbers?”

      You’re correct because in a vast majority of cases, this had no effect on the end result as most countries in the top have an exponentially large gap between the first and second most popular religion; a sort of “winner take all” outcome that is seen often in economics, business, religion, philosophy, and political systems. For example, in the U.S., the gap between the #1 and #2 religions is 46.11x making it statistically meaningless. That is, to put it bluntly, it had no effect on the conclusions. Again, you could have easily tested this for yourself but you chose not to, telling me that you aren’t interested in finding out whether your position is wrong, you just want to support what you believe to be true.

      4. “You didn’t even consider the fact that in some cases – such as Orthodox Christianity – theistic and cultural affiliations are so intertwined that religious culture becomes much more relevant as a variable than religious belief per se?”

      This is the first intelligent objection and it is an excellent one. I applaud you for it. You are correct I didn’t address it in this post, but I have touched on it in my other writings over the years.

      When examining the rise of the United States, Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out in his seminal Democracy in America that a considerable reason for the success of the country was the by-product of religious beliefs that made certain laws and regulations unnecessary as they were woven within the citizenry itself. Yet, on the other hand, Christianity was directly responsible as one of the driving variables behind the fall of the Roman empire as famously and meticulously documented in the 7-volume classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. So, in some situations, the very same religion with mostly the same beliefs could either add to, or subtract from, the economic output of a nation depending on the culture with which it was mixing.

      On the net balance, this cultural influence has proven detrimental to wealth creation – for example, look at the economic output of the medical and technological sectors is every major Islamic country. Per capita, they fall significantly behind secular, Jewish, and Christian countries because of the beliefs having to do with women and sexual minorities. In the United States, a large percentage of the pharmaceutical discoveries coming out of Boston are found by females, while a huge percentage of Silicon Valley is made up of gay men. Were the U.S. a devout Mormon country “obeying God”, we’d be 100+ years behind where we are at the moment.

  • Eliyah John

    Does God Reward Nations Economically Based Upon Their Religious Beliefs?

    Nope, I agree with you even though I don’t agree with your logic and reasoning. As Bible says, Mathew 5:45

    “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”.

    I would be more concerned with Christian charity organisations and their work.

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