We all know religion has costs – sometimes changing your faith (or leaving it all together) can cause you to lose your friends and family – but a new study shows there are economic implications, as well.
The average religious person in the United States spends about $2,134.42 per year to participate in their religion, including monetary donations and other annual costs, according to LendEDU.
With more than 3 in 4 Americans identifying themselves with some religious faith, the effects of religion on daily life in the United States are widespread. Many think of the time commitment of religious affiliation, yet overlook the financial commitment involved with the participation in religious faith.
At LendEDU, we have constructed a number of reports analyzing and deconstructing consumers’ spending habits. This time around, we polled 1,000 religiously affiliated Americans who indicated that they did contribute financially to their respective religions to determine the financial impact of their religious affiliations. Our goal was to take an objective approach to gauge consumers’ financial contributions to their respective religions, but also to understand the impact this cost has on their daily lives.
The study looked at adherents of the three most popular religions in the U.S. – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – but it wouldn’t be hard to do a similar analysis with more minor religions. The researchers found that Jews reported the highest annual cost at $2,624.69.
LendEDU also asked other important questions, including whether or not believers felt “pressured” to donate by peers or leaders of the religion. It turns out 24 percent of Christians felt pressured by fellow members, while 25.09 percent felt that from a religious leader.
Our survey found that 33.58% of all respondents reported experiencing pressure from their peers to donate to their religions. Additionally, our survey found that 31.52% of all respondents reported experiencing pressure from religious leaders to donate.
Our survey found that 22.67% of respondents indicated that they have distanced themselves from their religions due to the financial cost and 19.03% indicated that they have considered switching their religions due to the financial cost. Similarly, 24.00% of respondents indicated that they have distanced themselves from their religions due to the pressure to donate and 19.64% of respondents indicated that they have considered switching religions due to the pressure to donate.
One of the most interesting parts of this study, to me, was millennials are reportedly “more sensitive to the financial and social pressures of religious affiliation.” More younger people say they feel pressured to donate, and more leave the church because of it, according to LendEDU.
24.05% of millennials indicated that they have distanced themselves from their religions due to the financial cost and 20.24% indicated that they have considered switching their religions due to the financial cost.
Similarly, 25.65% of millennials indicated that they have distanced themselves from their religions due to the pressure to donate and 20.44% indicated they have considered switching their religions due to the pressure to donate.
This is an interesting trend because it could mean the “rise of the nones” we’ve seen in other studies, often attributed to the internet and the age of information, could be even bigger than we imagined. This is just another major reason some people are distancing themselves from organized religion, and instead pursuing their own spiritual or personal development.
We’ve all heard a version of Pascal’s Wager. It goes something like this: “If I’m wrong I have lost nothing; If you’re wrong, you have lost everything.”
I’ve often argued that believers do lose something if they devote their lives to a particular religion. They lose their time, and they lose the ability to live their own life (as opposed to adhering to strict dogmas). Well, now there’s another thing they lose: about $2,134.42 per year. Since the average lifespan of an American is 79 years, that comes to $168,619.18 for a lifelong believer (give or take a few years when parents are paying).
I can think of many better ways to spend nearly $170,000. Can you?