The findings of a new study have found that the secularisation of society is clearly linked to economic growth. From all indication the lower the people of a country placed value in religion, the better the country’s economy did.
At a glance, it appears that rich countries often tend to be secular whereas poorer countries tend to have a strong religious belief. This observation has formed one of the classic questions of sociology – does secularisation cause economic growth, does economic growth cause secularisation or is an elusive third factor really the most important thing?
For the father of modern sociology, Emile Durkheim, religion becomes less essential to a society and inevitably fades away once the material needs of the vast majority of the population have been sufficiently satisfied. Max Weber, on the other hand, in his groundbreaking study ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ suggested that it was quite the other way around. For Weber, it was the ethics of Calvinism with its emphasis on frugality, individual achievement and hard work that spurred on the generation of the capitalist ideal in the Netherlands, Germany and eventually throughout the rest of Europe.
In the twenty-first century, this question is still as hotly debated among sociologists as it was when social science was in its infancy. Now researchers from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and the University of Tennessee in the United States believe that they have cracked the question for good.
The researchers examined a vast array of data in the course of their studies to get a comprehensive look at the importance religion (or lack thereof) plays in the economic growth of societies amongst multiple cultures. Their data spanned 109 countries from the entire 20th century (1900-2000).
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