Surprisingly, belief that God is in control increases support for government welfare programmes

There's an enduring puzzle about religion and government, and it's about what effect religions have on government welfare policies. That's down to an intriguing observation: that more religious countries tend to have a weaker welfare state.Quite why this is so is a matter of dispute. After all, given religion's association with altruism, you might expect that religion to encourage people to be in favour of having the state give a helping hand.One possibility is that if people feel like … [Read more...]

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Churchgoing has been on the decline for decades in Western nations: here’s why

It’s a fact that, in the West at least, fewer people are going to religious services than they used to a few decades ago. Countries do follow different trajectories - secularization happened first in the Protestant countries of Northern Europe and Australia, and more recently the Catholic countries of Europe. The Americas have fought the trend, but in both North and South America change is underway.Erik van Ingen, of Tilburg University and Nienke Moor of the HAN University of Applied S … [Read more...]

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Religious authority increases the number of donations but decreases the value

In a run-down market place in Kabul, Afghanistan, groups of men hang around hoping that someone will offer them a job for the day. But today is different. Today they get an unusual offer.Somebody is willing to pay them a whole days wage (about $9) just to fill out a survey. Of course, many agree, and are taken by bus to the survey station. Once the survey is complete, they get handed their money in a blank envelope.Before they go, a guy comes in and makes an appeal to their charitable … [Read more...]

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Is education the main reason why some countries are less religious?

There's no shortage of hypotheses for why some countries are religious and others are not. Sometimes it seems like everyone has a different idea - coming up with hypotheses is easy. It's testing them that's the tricky bit! Part of the problem is that you need a lot of data for a rigorous test, but many of the data we have are not very good. You can, if you look hard enough, pull out huge numbers of different datasets with information that might possibly be relevant, but how do you figure out … [Read more...]

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Inequality drives everyone, but especially the poor, to support religious politicians

It's now widely recognised that social and economic inequality is an important factor related to how religious a given society is. But what's less clear is whether inequality actually increases support for religious politicians - and whether this affects the rich as well as the poor.Ekrem Karakoç (Binghamton University, USA) and Birol Bașkan (Georgetown University, Qatar) used data from the 2000 World Values Survey to test this relationship. They found that older, less-educated, poorer people, a … [Read more...]

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What kind of insecurity turns Europeans on to religion?

As Europe staggers towards financial apocalypse, one question that's almost certainly not in the minds of Merkel, Sarkozy, and Papandreou is what effect all the turmoil will have on people's religious beliefs. After all, there's been a bunch of research linking anxiety and insecurity to heightened religious beliefs, and earlier this year there was more evidence linking religion to economic insecurity.But a lot of these studies have been pretty broad brush. They look at average conditions and … [Read more...]

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Do the rich use religion to keep the poor in their place?

In the previous post, I took a look at the fairly substantial weight of evidence linking religion to inequality, specifically income inequality, with religion. The most unequal countries also tend to be the most religious, even when you take into account a variety of other factors.Why should this be? There are a number of theories. One is that unequal societies also tend to have a lot of other problems, and the stresses that these cause may turn people to religion.Frederick Solt and colleagues … [Read more...]

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Well that settles it: income inequality really does go hand in hand with religion

Long-time readers of this blog will know that the link between inequality and religion has a particular fascination for me. In fact, the blog started while I was doing background research into a paper I wrote in 2009, on the link between income inequality and religion in countries around the world.The idea was first put forward in rough form in an earlier book by Pippa Norris and Ronald Ingelhart. My paper took that a modest step further, by showing that income inequality really did seem to … [Read more...]

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Non-religious nations have higher quality of life

Quality of life is a pretty nebulous concept. There's a lot of coffee-table chat about which places have the best quality of life, but is it really possible to measure it objectively?Well, yes it is, an one way to do it is to do what a team from The University of Arizona and Washington State University have just done. They began by assuming that 'Quality of Life' is a thing that has effects and causes. It basically sits in between them as a mediating factor. They used a sophisticated model to … [Read more...]

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European Christians don’t want government to reduce income inequality

You may have seen the article by Jo Stiglitz, Nobel-Prize Winning Economist, in the current issue of Vanity Fair, in which he rips into the yawning chasm of wealth inequality that now exists in the US. Dan Ariely (of Predictably Irrational fame) is also in the news, talking about his study in which he showed that US citizens don't actually know how unequal their nation is, and that regardless of political persuasion they'd like it to look more like Sweden.Now, inequality is a complex social … [Read more...]

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