New research published in the journal Science Advances has found that a rise in secularism has generally preceded economic growth over the past century.
According to the researchers, more religious countries have long been known to be poorer than their less religious counterparts, though it hasn’t been established as to exactly why.
Does secularism make us richer, or does being richer make us more secular?
The researchers in this new paper looked back over the past 100 years at a time series of secularisation in various nations, using global values surveys. They then compared these to historic GDP figures.
What they found was that the secularism generally comes first.
They caution however that this still doesn’t necessarily mean that secularism is causing the growth in wealth – it could be that both secularism and wealth are driven by a third factor.
Okay there is a reason why I’m including that bit of Chinese propaganda here.
Contrast that with the US right now – in which their current president got elected in part through his promise to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out, along with his hostility to Muslims.
Donald Trump’s support was overwhelmingly religious – a majority of white Christians, across all the major denominations, voted for him. Those who were most fervent about America being a Christian nation, were most fervent in their support. Religious nones, or secular individuals, overwhelmingly voted against him, at about the same rate as Latino Catholics according to Pew.
Where America sees predators, China sees prey. Which nation is rising?
With Islamic states – a lot of them are highly impoverished and full of clerics who will proclaim outside ideas as being “un-Islamic” – which stifles their development because in a world where the majority aren’t Muslim, the majority of ideas aren’t going to be either.
In South Africa we have xenophobic attacks on foreign shop-keepers, with people saying how can these guys have shops when we don’t have jobs right? Well who started the shops? The foreigners.
Without the foreign shopkeepers there is no shop, and their contribution to the economy doesn’t get made, we aren’t losing anything by having them here, but deep down a sense of tribalism tells us they’re somehow cheating when they’ve really just got different ideas which happen to work better.
We’re all on this planet together, coming up with all sorts of solutions to our problems. When we dismiss solutions because their origin isn’t our culture – we’re the only people getting disadvantaged by that.
Which is to say, as much as I’d love to give a hooray for atheism here, I think it more down to how secularism plays a role in weakening identities and promoting tolerance of this sort of difference.
The ability to accept people of any and every religion, provided they respect the rights of everybody else just as their rights should be respected, I think is far more important than any metaphysical views.
Hat tip to the Tippling Philosopher.