Creationism and Economic Prosperity

BECAUSE of the backwards way we go about scanning for news, we first learned of this startling news at the website of Jack Chick. Specifically, we examined his newsletter, Battle Cry, where we found this amazing article: Belief in Hell Good for the Economy. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

A recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis concludes that a belief in hell is good for the economy. The report was based on studies that included 35 countries. Those with a wide-spread belief in punishment in the afterlife for sins committed, tended to have the highest standard of living.

The St. Louis Fed concluded that? Let’s read on:

It has long been obvious that corruption was the primary factor in keeping a country poor. Much of the population of Africa and Latin America suffer grinding poverty while a rich, corrupt leadership revels in luxury. Haiti is a classic example. Widely considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, millions of dollars have been poured into it by relief organizations. Yet there has been little improvement in the situation of the common people.

We understand the pernicious effects of corruption. But belief in hell? Let’s continue:

The Bible standard was cast aside to make drunkenness, abortion, homosexuality, and even gluttony acceptable. Instead of God seekers, we became pleasure seekers, as one author has put it: “Amusing ourselves to death.”

Okay, okay. We see where the Chick newsletter is going. But did the St. Louis Fed say the same thing? We went looking at their website and found this: Fear of Hell Might Fire Up the Economy. No fooling, they really published that article. Let’s see what they say:

Economists have long been interested in why some countries are rich and why some countries are poor. Differences in labor productivity, inflation, and saving and investment rates are traditional economic explanations for variations in wealth across countries. But when these explanations fall short, researchers sometimes turn to noneconomic factors. Two such factors are a country’s legal and social institutions. Religious factors can also help explain variations in economic growth, many economists are increasingly finding.

Good lord — the Federal Reserve System is getting strange! Here’s more:

Adam Smith wrote that one of religion’s most important contributions to the economic development process is its value as a moral enforcement mechanism. He argued that, in a society imbued with these religious mechanisms, fewer resources will be devoted to determining the veracity of an individual’s or firm’s business ethics – what economists call the credit or default risk associated with lending to an unknown individual. In short, argued Smith, in societies where there is a widespread belief in God, the values of honesty and integrity are more prevalent.

We paused in our reading to search for a reliable listing of the countries with the highest per capital income. We found this at Wikipedia: List of countries by GDP per capita. Here are the top ten countries, starting with number one: Qatar, Luxembourg, Norway, Singapore, Brunei, United States, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Ireland, Netherlands, and in the number ten position — Iceland.

The US and Ireland are known to be religious countries, and probably that’s true of Qatar and Brunei, but the others? Let’s read on from the Fed’s article:

According to the secularization hypothesis, as a country’s inhabitants become richer and more educated, their faith in religion and religious institutions wanes, and they attend church less regularly. Economists Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote find some support for this hypothesis. They wrote in 2002 that increased education results in a decrease in the extent of religious beliefs, perhaps because public school systems tend to reinforce secular education that, the economists argue, conflicts with traditional religious beliefs. By contrast, economist Laurence Iannaccone wrote in 1998 that church attendance rises with education, which suggests that rich Western countries should have higher rates of church attendance. Ultimately, then, the issue is whether religious beliefs, as Weber and Smith argued, can be shown to have an effect on a country’s economic growth.

This strikes us as wildly speculative. Somehow, we doubt that there’s any meaningful correlation between, say, high income and a belief in Jack Chick’s style of creationism. One more excerpt from the Fed:

In a paper last year, economists Robert Barro and Rachel McCleary provided evidence that church attendance and economic growth are negatively related, but a belief in hell — their measure of religious beliefs — was positively related to increased economic growth. … Interestingly, Barro and McCleary also found that economic performance was largely unrelated to the dominant religious theology of the nation.

Yes, as a glance at the GDP per capita listing clearly indicates. We also went searching for additional information and found this: Income, Religion and Politics. One brief excerpt:

People in “poorer” states [of the US] were more likely to have voted Republican in 2004 and to attend church above more than average.

Anyway, let’s return to Jack Chick’s newsletter for a final excerpt:

Powerful forces in America today are determined to destroy the righteousness that fueled our prosperity. They believe we can continue to promote sin without any consequences. In the Old Testament, God’s dealings with Israel teaches us that it won’t work. The only hope is a return to righteousness one person at a time.

Gospel tracts are a proven way to challenge a person to face the truth and repent. But unless they are widely distributed, they cannot do the job. Soul winners, we need to get busier.

The lesson is clear: We need a new economic stimulus package to purchase and distribute Creationist Comic Books from Jack Chick. It’s our only hope!

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Creationism and Economic Prosperity

  1. This is a little bizarre even for Chick. Is he trying to preach a new form of the Prosperity Gospel? Except this time the message is “Go to church and get a slight boost in the GDP.” I don’t know about you, but I’ll put my “faith” in a reasonable free market.

  2. Article claims

    …economists Robert Barro and Rachel McCleary provided evidence…a belief in hell — their measure of religious beliefs — was positively related to increased economic growth. …

    So, if we have a fresh look at Feudal Europe in, say, the 13th Century — when general European belief in hell and eternal damnation was far greater than today — we will find huge economic prosperity and a GDP dwarfing our own?

  3. Via Phayrngula:
    You can watch a video of Pat Robertson blaming the earthquake on Haitians and their deal with the devil; it’s about 6 minutes in, so you can skip most of the wretched CBN noise.

  4. Great Claw asks:

    So, if we have a fresh look at Feudal Europe in, say, the 13th Century — when general European belief in hell and eternal damnation was far greater than today — we will find huge economic prosperity and a GDP dwarfing our own?

    Yes, but the Darwinists in academia have destroyed the evidence. Let’s face it, no Darwin, no poverty.

  5. Gabriel Hanna

    Oh dear Lord. Correlation is not causation.

  6. Gabriel Hanna says: “Correlation is not causation.”

    Quite so. I could probably get a better statistical fit by comparing per capita indoor toilets and per capita income.

  7. Gabriel Hanna

    And wasn’t the sale of indulgences a corrupt practice, perpetrated by and on people who firmly believed in Hell, and wasn’t this corrupt practice one of the reasons for the Protestant Reformation?

  8. “A recent report…”? Chick thinks July, 2004 is recent. That helps explain why they believe in YEC. They operate by a different time reference than most other people.

    I see Chick skipped mentioning the part of the Fed report that said, “In a paper last year, economists Robert Barro and Rachel McCleary provided evidence that church attendance and economic growth are negatively related…” It wouldn’t do them much good to put the fear of hell in you and then not spend your money in church, huh?

  9. James F says: “He’s baaaaack.”

    Yeah, I’m working on a post about it. Soon …

  10. retiredsciguy

    You could make a better case for the idea that nations that have embraced The Enlightenment have high prosperity, rather than a belief in Hell.

  11. Not sure if it’s fair to say that Ireland is religious these days. Most people are nominally Catholic, but church attendance is about half what it was 20 years ago. We’d be comparable in that sense to France, where (as Maupassant put it) people attend church five timers in their lives, and have to be carried for the first and last ones.

    But let’s say we are religious. Does that explain the current state of the economy?

  12. Amadan asks: “But let’s say we are religious. Does that explain the current state of the economy?”

    Bingo! It’s all about the behavior of government. The classic case is the policies adopted by the UK and Germany in the postwar era. Germany opted for free markets and the UK adopted Labor policies. Result? The country that had been reduced to rubble grew far faster then the country that won the war.