Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Wealth and Religiosity
One of the most interesting results from the PEW Global Attitudes Survey is the correlation between wealth and belief in God. As a general rule, the wealthier the nation the lower the religiosity—with two major outliers. Here's the chart that's invading the blogosphere.
Canada is the blue square that falls right on the line above Western Europe. As usual, Canadians are more religious than Western Europeans but less religious than Americans. The key question is why is America so different?
Many people have argued that there's no point in challenging religion in America because you are never going to change people's minds. According to them, Americans will always be religious and the "aggressive atheists" are wasting their time. I don't agree with this pessimistic outlook and, when I see charts like the one above, I tend to think that Americans may be near a tipping point where there might be large scale abandonment of religion with just a little nudge in the right direction.
On the other hand, maybe the poll results are deceptive. Maybe the US value for religiosity and wealth is an average of two distinct classes. One class could be economically disadvantaged (poor) but very religious. This would put them on the curve at the same place as, say, Mexico. The other class could be wealthy and less religious, ranking them closer to Western Europeans. Is that possible? If so, it may be harder to change the minds of the religious groups since they aren't seeing the benefits of American per capita GDP.