Satan: The Great Motivator

From the Boston Globe:

What makes economies grow? It’s a question that has occupied thinkers for centuries. Most of us would tick off things like education levels, openness to trade, natural resources, and political systems.

Here’s one you might not have considered: hell.

A pair of Harvard researchers recently examined 40 years of data from dozens of countries, trying to sort out the economic impact of religious beliefs or practices. They found that religion has a measurable effect on developing economies – and the most powerful influence relates to how strongly people believe in hell.

That hell could matter to economic growth might seem surprising, since you can’t prove it exists, let alone quantify it. It stands as one of the more intriguing findings in a growing body of recent research exploring how religion might influence the wealth and prosperity of societies. In recent years, Italian economists have presented findings that religion can boost GDP by increasing trust within a society; researchers in the United States showed that religion reduces corruption and increases respect for law in ways that boost overall economic growth. A number of researchers have documented how merchants used religious backgrounds to establish one another’s reliability.

[Read more at the Boston Globe]

8 Comments on "Satan: The Great Motivator"

  1. this is some BS, i feel. so it's a GOOD thing that organized religion leads to consumerist ideologies?

    oh and this: “researchers in the United States showed that religion reduces corruption and increases respect for law in ways that boost overall economic growth.” wait a second… religion reduces corruption?! wow, tell that to the catholic church! oh and the Southern Babtist minister driving that new Caddy bought from the “Church's” offering plate.

    • Word Eater | Nov 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm |

      It would be nice if the article had links to the research it references.

      I completely disagree with HipGnosis' view on religious corruption, however.

      There may be highly public instances of pastors taking advantage of their positions. These few instances cannot be used to judge an entire institution, especially one as gigantic as Christianity in the United States.

      The fact is, there is not a pervasive climate of corruption. The rule books religions follow, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, etc are all freely available to anyone who wants to read them. You'll find that most of these religious works focus on being good stewards of what you are given, developing and earning trust, and “doing unto others” in the same manner you'd like to be treated.

      I know that Judaism and Islam specifically have advice about managing your money. I can't speak for other religions. Their advice does not involve being dishonest or underhanded.

      Also, to single out the Catholics is sort of strange. There are those among the Christian community who would put Catholics on the same level as Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons: only marginally Christian with wild ideas that show up nowhere in the Bible.

      A belief in Hell (or really just punishment for your misdeeds after your death) should absolutely have a measurable impact on economies.

      “Neither borrower or lender be” would have kept the millions of people drowning in debt in the US from getting into their situations. People who are trying to live beyond their means by depending on credit are “sinning” against God. But a people focused on worldly gains and good would (and did!) easily fall under the sway of easy, free money. Live for today, right?

      If lenders followed the Biblical ideals on usury, you wouldn't have adjustable rate mortgages or pay-day / car title loan shops.

      Taking care of what you are given by investing it wisely and sharing it generously is pretty much what the Bible says.

      I don't see how that could *not* lead to growth.

      • GoodDoktorBad | Nov 18, 2009 at 5:59 pm |

        Your argument is based on the notion that the bible is a true story. And because you have read it (maybe), you must “know stuff”. Your opinion is based on assumptions you cannot support with any substance. Its all based on “if its in the bible, it must be true”. Your just scared because others morons taught you to be scared of the ultimate punishment (hell), That God fellow with all his “loving acts”. No one is afraid of the “unknown”, we fear only what; through experience or suggestion, we imagine could be.
        While its possible that everything you say is true, its seems a bit more probable that you are on the down side of stupidity riding your bible sled into earthly hell.

        • Word Eater | Nov 18, 2009 at 6:15 pm |

          Maybe I didn't say what I meant to say.

          People who profess to following a particular faith typically follow a set of guidelines provided by that faith.

          The Abrahamic faiths all urge you to follow the golden rule and to be good stewards of what you are given.

          If someone is a faithful member of one of these religions, it must, by definition, have an impact on their economic life. They can't gouge people, they can't steal or cheat, they can't run up bills they can't possibly pay. If they do these things, then they are sinning.

          The original article and my comments were not meant to apply to anyone other than religious people following Abrahamic religions (and maybe Hinduism).

          Atheists don't have a religion or a hell to worry about. Any choices atheists as a group make are based on that person's personal philosophy which is based on whatever that person wants it to be based on.

          It is easy to do a study on a group that has a published set of rule books, which is what the article is talking about.

          It is sort of hard to see if “everyone else” is following what they say they will follow since there isn't a single set of rules.

          • GoodDoktorBad | Nov 18, 2009 at 7:08 pm |

            I apologize if seem antagonistic. I try to be realistic in knowing that opinions are like A holes, everybody has one and most of them stink. I suppose to a Christian or other religions, I am an athiest, as I just don't buy the all ridiculous stories they hawk. Oddly enough I think Christian philosphy is far more valuable than the Christian mythos. The practical -philosophy that involves getting along with others for instance. Religions behave as if they have a monopoly on wisdom or “god”. They don't. Neither do I.
            I think the article and all the studies they made add up to one obvious truth. Fear is a great motivator!
            It doesn't take a “study” or scholastic research to know that. Nor do you have to be a Christian or otherwise to be a “good” person.

    • Word Eater | Nov 18, 2009 at 4:58 pm |

      On the Southern Baptists, you are probably thinking about the Word of Faith movement which is like a prosperity gospel. They have a “name it and claim it” mentality where faith is an active force and your spoken words can, like magical incantations, enable and manipulate that force to create reality.

      As such, they emphasize that if you pray well enough and speak well enough, anything you desire can be yours, including a fancy car, stacks of cash, or a huge house.

      If you are poor or homeless, you didn't have enough Faith.

      In that case, driving the Caddy would be a testament to the beliefs he or she was extolling. “See? It worked for me!”

  2. Anarchy Wolf | Jul 23, 2011 at 2:41 am |

    Greed and fear usually drive the economy, and it must grow or else it will fall apart.

  3. Anarchy Pony | Jul 22, 2011 at 10:41 pm |

    Greed and fear usually drive the economy, and it must grow or else it will fall apart.

Comments are closed.