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Religion & Prosperity

August 2, 2018

Why do secular societies tend to be more prosperous?



Religion and prosperity. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Over the past century, countries that are secular, or non-religious, tend to become more prosperous, a finding confirmed by University of Tennessee-Knoxville anthropologist Alex Bentley and his colleagues, and reported recently in Science Advances. But Bentley explains that this doesn’t necessarily mean that religion itself hampers economies. He says the data suggest that the culprit is intolerance.

ALEX BENTLEY (University of Tennessee, Knoxville):

Tolerance of other people can encourage migration, and it’s also in the 20th century was a factor in the inclusion of women in the workforce. So, you know, there’s half your population; that’s obviously going to have a big impact on GDP.


He says that many highly religious countries are also intolerant of new ideas, and that can affect education. Bentley says it’s most likely these qualities that prevent some religious societies from becoming prosperous ones. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon