I haven’t listened to this yet, but it sounds interesting:
Tom Rees has conducted research into religion and personal insecurity in 50 countries. Using figures on how much people pray and how unequal income is in each of them, he claims to have found evidence to show that the most religious societies are the most unequal, and concludes the inequality leads to religion. Is it fear and hardship that makes people of one country more religious than another, or is there a mysterious third factor that can explain why some nations pray so much more than others? Laurie Taylor talks to Tom Rees about his findings, and to sociologist of religion David Voas.
October 9, 2009 at 5:27 pm
I don’t know why anyone would assume that inequality leads to religion, when it is readily apparent that it is the reverse. Certainly it is a self-reinforcing problem, but primacy in this case is obvious. Religious groups represent an easily-corrupted channel for economic interests to use to keep the masses from acting in enlightened self-interest. The act of prayer itself, the ascetic doctrine of eschewing the mortal world, that is a powerful pacifier in the face of oppression. That combined with the respect for authority inherent in almost all religious belief systems represents a remarkably powerful force for the establishment, as if by design. Or in the words of Marx, “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. It is no mystery, and it should be no surprise.
October 11, 2009 at 8:02 pm
It’s likely that the causality goes both ways. But there’s lots of evidence from psychological studies that people made to feel stressed, uncertain, or threatened have a tendency to be more susceptible to be more religious, and also to succumb to the mental illusions that go along with religion.
Income inequality is linked to a whole host of social problems that would cause people to feel stressed or threatened. But you’re right, religion also makes people less likely to support government welfare. It’s circular.