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Random research question

Are there any studies of the effect of an economic recession or depression on religious behaviour?

(I'm not talking about politicians' public displays of piety, but actual increases/decreases of religious activity — prayer, attendance at places of worship, evangelical outreach programs, basically holy wars: the entire spectrum — and how they correlate with the economy.)

Added bonus questions: do dispensationalists follow the same pattern as other religions? How does prosperity theology fit into the pattern? And what, if any, effect do economic recessions have on the Islamic world?

(Warning: I'm hoping for some actual evidence-based findings here, not uninformed speculation. This is not your soap-box, it's my research tool. If you try to use this discussion as a soap-box, I will take it away from you.)

75 Comments

1:

Peter Watts has a post where he links to this study demonstrating that people are more likely to perceive patterns in randomness when they feel they have less control over their lives.

2:

Looks like some research has been done, for example State Welfare Spending and Religiosity: A Cross-National Analysis published in Rationality and Society 16, no. 4 (2004): 399-436 (ISSN: 1043-4631).

There's more out there - getting access to a university library might be the best way of finding such data. From the looks of it it may prove interesting to search sociology, economics and religious studies publications.

3:

Some research that I found (not directly about a recession, but about correlations between economics and religion):

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1140766
http://ideas.repec.org/p/uct/uconnp/2002-09.html

The first one, in particular, ought to have some interesting citations.

4:

Brendon: I note the first paper was based on a survey of Mississippi households. (Which may or may not generalize to other societies: I'm just noting it in passing.)

5:

Here's a few I've found via Marginal Revolution:

http://www.heritage.org/Research/Religion/hl841.cfm ~ "Religious participation is negatively correlated with economic growth."

Laurence Iannaccone has a few papers that might be worth a look.

My gut instinct is that the USA will be an outlier in any examination of the relationship between economic health and religion, and that it's going to be harder to find papers where the USA isn't the main source of data.


 

 

6:

It's U.S.-specific, but http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1103142 (Praying for a Recession: The Business Cycle and Protestant Religiosity in the United States). Perhaps you can see what sources they cite and who cites them and build up some research materials from there.

Plugging in terms like "cross-cultural" and the like might get you more generalized results - I'd be cautious about using terms like "depression" with multiple meanings, but perhaps "recession," "economic downturn," "economic crisis," stuff like that.

7:

This may well be too specific or too focussed on right-wing populism rather than religion but it seems a suggestive title:

Marx, G. T. (1962). "The social basis of the support of a Depression Era extremist: Father Coughlin, Monograph No. 7." Berkeley: Univ. of California Survey Research Center.

He seems an interesting guy.


8:

According to the wiki the Black Death in the 14th century may have exacerbated a pre-existing recession. Initially, because of the die-off I suppose, there seems to have been an increase in activism in an already religious society but eventually secularism got a foothold and we ended up with the renaissance. The flip side is the reformation may have been a direct result to all this too. Maybe it could be suggested the while there may be an increase of religiosity there may be a move away from established churches?
Possibly we may have to keep an eye out, depending on how bad a recession we end up having, for the demonising of certain groups from the pulpit.

9:

The third comment here:

http://radar.oreilly.com/2008/10/effect-of-the-depression-on-te.html

Says the following:

After the economic disaster in Argentina at the end of 2001, lots of people suffered for many years. At the same time, involvement in cultural activities (theater, sport, dance etc...) went up big time. A friend of mine told me that although it looks counter intuitive, people did that to avoid becoming "loco".

this is backed up by: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9507E4DD1038F933A05754C0A9649C8B63 and
http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=arts_anew
--

I would think that something similar went on in churches, but I can't back it up. If, however, in culture the rising tide is lifting all boats as in the economy, then increased "religiosity" as you define it may just be a collateral effect. People going to church more often not so much for spiritual reasons, but because they finally have time to or just too much time on their hands.

10:

Hi Charlie

I'm a research psychologist. An appropriate review of the material would take too long for me to do from scratch (research into religion is quite unsystematic), but if you see any abstracts that you don't have full text access for, or you'd like to discuss any psychology-related material that you come across, drop me a line.

Best
Ian

11:

I found a couple of stories relating to an increase in attendance for churches around wall street:
http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSN2241600720080922
NPR has another: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95296475
The CofE also reports "Web users looking for support during the current financial situation have boosted traffic to a Church of England website section focusing on debt advice by over 70 per cent, and increased visitor numbers to the Church’s online prayer page by more than a quarter."
http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr7608prayer.html
it also comes with a 'prayer for the current financial situation'.

and although this might not be what you're looking for the guardian reports about a cut in spanish divorce rates as a result of the economy http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/16/spain.globaleconomy
i heard something similar on radio 4 but can't find the link (sorry). the office of national statistics says the UK divorce rate is lowest for 26 years: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/div0808.pdf

12:

Peter Watts talked about this subject a bit on his blog, citing some studies as well. It's the entry for October, 8th.

http://www.rifters.com/real/crawl.htm

Cheers, Christian

13:

What would also be interesting is to see (in a proper study) what effect 9/11 had on religious activity. Anyone got any sources on that?

14:

http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=477k3d8mh2wmtpc4b6h07p4hy9z83x18 is an interesting article in the "Chronicle of Higher Education" comparing the current global economic circumstances with the Panic of 1873.

The following quote speaks to your question: "Americans, on the other hand, mostly blamed themselves; many began to embrace what would later be called fundamentalist religion".

Perhaps coincidentally, the annual Niagra Bible Conference, responsible for the codification of modern Christian fundamentalist beliefs in the United States, started in 1878.

15:

Hi Charlie,

This is very complicated question as religion covers a wide range of human behaviour. If you mean organised fundamentalist religion, then I can give you an indirect relationship.

I work with Gravsian psychology, it provides a way of analysing how people place value on life and how those values evolve/devolve.

A present, western society is centred somewhere around what is known as ER values. These are rational, reductionist, self centred and do not care about side effects on others. People with these values like to work out life for themselves look out for themselves first and don’t care all that much if people get hurt in the process, as long as it does not have an impact on their lives. Our current economic system is a very good example of these values in action. People with these values do not typically belong to fundamentalist religions. But that does not mean they are not religious or do not attend church – but when they do it tends to be a church that supports their ER beliefs.

ER values evolved out of a values system labelled DQ. It is rigid, dualistic, absolutist, fundamentalist and hierarchical. Everyone has their place. People with these values believe life is as their superiors tell them it is. They are community orientated and like the stability that the community gives them, but always have an ‘other’ who is the enemy. Fundamentalist religion thrives in this value system, but that does not mean that this value system is inherently religious.

The value system that evolves after ER is known as FS. This value system is Pluralistic, Relativistic, post modern. People living here are once again community orientated, but their source of authority lies with their peers rather than with a superior. This value system is capable of dealing with the problems that are caused by ER (such as Global warming, depleting resources and economic meltdown). Religion, or spirituality, can also play a large part in the lives of people with FS thinking, but it is far from fundamentalist.

It is not known why our values evolve as they are, but there are several known vectors, in particular, as the values systems progress there is an increased sense of ‘freedom of behaviour.’, which suggests to me that the inner conflict between our hard wired drives and our ‘free will’ have something to do with it. Scarcity of resources is also involved. Up to ER, increased resources encourages evolution. After that it is not clear.

The process of change between values systems is very complex, and it is hard to say whether a recession would provoke a regression to DQ values, which would support fundamtalisim, or an evolution to FS values. This is because it depends on the surrounding context.

In Germany. Pre world war 2, the economy crashed drastically and this led to conditions that were ripe for DQ, resulting in the rise in the Nazis, who were not overtly religious, but where highly fundamentalist. DQ values and ER science equals pant wetting.

Current conditions are not quite the same. Society has moved on, ER values have had a long time to stabilise and there is an increasing undercurrent of FS values. The process of change from one dominant system to another involves the breakdown of the current dominant system, so it would not surprise me if progression to FS values was not proceeded by recession. This is just opinion, no society has ever had FS as a dominant system.

It is a complex process and I am simplifying a great deal above. For example, people usually have multiple values systems running simultaneously and their relationships are not simplistic.

If you want to read more, then I write about it on my blog.
http://www.skyshine.co.uk
specifically.
http://www.skyshine.co.uk/spiral-dynamics-introduction/
which includes a list of links to other resources. In particular
http://www.clarewgraves.com/neq/neq.html
which is unfortunately only available in paper.

Feel free to email me with questions.

BTW, Just finished reading Glasshouse this morning. Good stuff. I haven’t read much Sci-fi in recent years, but there are some refreshingly original ideas in your work.

16:

Here's my two cents, from a quick search on 'Religiosity and the Economy'. The first refers to one of the above links, but adds some commentary.

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2008/04/economic-condit.html

http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~cook/movabletype/archives/2008/04/praying_for_a_r.html

Trying not to think too much about Osteen and his ilk, all those teeth are a bit disturbing.

18:

Hey Charlie,

Might not be quite what you're looking for, but - as a cross-cultural comparison - I wrote an essay for the final year of my undergraduate degree on "occult economies" in post-crash Thailand (i.e. 1997 onwards).

For your purposes, it might be worth looking into the work of anthropologists Jean & John Comaroff. They've written extensively on "millennial capitalism", particularly as it manifests in a post-colonial context.

19:

Speaking as a bona-fide religious nut, I can tell you that the shit hitting the fan is always a good opportunity for teaching. Most of the time people are coasting along in a kind of fog, not thinking about their situation. When the shit hits the fan, the fog clears for a moment, and people start thinking about just how far south their situation could go, and, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the stimulus, the fact that they are going to die.

This opens them up to a variety of religious teachings, some helpful, some not. A friend of mine got sucked in by the Jehovah's Witnesses right after his parents were both killed in a car crash. I started practicing Buddhism after my mother had a stroke.

Anyway, I don't know of any studies on the question, sounds like other folks have that covered. I just thought you might find the first-person view interesting. I think you will find that in fact there is an increase in religious activity as a consequence of this situation. The question is, will it be the kind where people start taking responsibility for their happiness and the happiness of others, or the kind where they start finding excuses for why they are the chosen and others are not. I hope it's the former; time will tell.

20:

"Warning: I'm hoping for some actual evidence-based findings here, not uninformed speculation. This is not your soap-box, it's my research tool. If you try to use this discussion as a soap-box, I will take it away from you."

Up to this point I had enjoyed your blog but this is pathetic. Goodbye Mr Stross.

21:

Sounds like some of the research Peter Watts was talking about in the blog post I linked to in you last bog post. Here it is again:

http://rifters.com/real/2008/10/understanding-sarah-palin-or-god-is-in.html

You might also want to email Peter directly and ask him if he has any good references. Man's a decent chap, as well as a practicing scientist and a good writer.

22:

Wasp_Box #17:

If you are truly "gone", you won't reply, but I am

curious about what is "pathetic" about Mr. Stross

being straight forward about HIS blog. He clearly states

the rules right up front in the web site. He is, after

all, the guy that PAYS FOR IT.

23:

Well, my one concern would be that the only thing that's more pathetic than the sound of one hand clapping is the enthusiastic clapping of the politburo

24:

Arthur @21: your comments haven't been deleted, have they?

It takes a bit more than just disagreement on principle to get my goat.

But I'm trying to keep a civilized discussion going, and there are some sorts of behaviour you can't tolerate, because they are not only self-reinforcing, they drive away other folks who were contributing interesting stuff. Wasp_Box's drive-by is fairly typical; obviously, matters that impinge on religion are -- even more than politics -- likely to result in heated argument if they're not moderated, and I infer that Wasp_Box is your typical low-level troll, in search of a forum that will amplify the sound of their own voice and generate a babel of destructive echoes; deprived of permission to use the thread here for their own purposes, all they can do is throw poop in passing.

(Message to Wasp_Box: don't let the doorknob hit you on the ass.)

25:

Charlie, I enjoy the discussion, and I appreciate the forum. I think there's always a danger in the stern warning cutting off some legitimate level of discussion, but I can totally appreciate the desire to minimize trolling, and to not rehash arguments better made elsewere.

For the record, I did not think your post was at all loaded, or anything of the sort. But perhaps we all bear scars of our various flame wars.

26:

Here is an article from Friday noting that Islamic finance seems to be doing rather well in the current conditions. It describes sharia law in this area, and some of its reasoning.
I can't help noticing though, that despite the West's occasional periods of plummeting banks and bankers, its economic growth since the industrial revolution seems to be higher.

http://business.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/islamic-finance-rides-the-storm-20081010-4yft.html

27:


While this isn't exactly what you had asked, I think it's interesting as living 'research' into how people work religion into such things - perhaps getting ready to cash in or be there for when people turn to religion in such times, or else coax people into it through fear-mongering...

Anyway, I thought you might find this interesting.

http://ezinearticles.com/?How-To-Survive-The-Coming-Recession-Or-Possible-Depression&id=961203

28:

The second Middletown Study tracked changes in religious behaviour during the Depression in a small Indiana city.

29:

Does anyone have information on the amplifying/dampening effects of Web 2.0 on religion? Since we're moving into what seems like a somewhat different social structure, it may be more or less resistant to trends in religious conversion.

30:

Anecdotal, from The Globe and Mail:
But the Panic of '73 also reformed American society, mostly in the mould of Dwight Moody, a British evangelist who drew 100,000 acolytes per rally just by telling hard-luck stories from the panic. Then he told the crowd to embrace Jesus to sweep away the pain of its losses.

Moody was an important inspiration for the rise of American unions, the formation of the U.S. Communist Party, and the creation of the National Guard. It was a hard, strange and wildly creative time. The fathers of Rosa Luxemburg, Anton Chekhov and Sigmund Freud all lost their fortunes in the Panic of 1873. Luxemburg went on to incite Communist panic in cities across Europe; to save his family's cherry orchard, Chekhov wrote stories about the effect of panic on compassion; Freud invented an entire psychology based on hysteria. The Depression, in turn, produced John Maynard Keynes's insights into deficit financing that still help governments steer their economies.

31:

People should get

[ DELETED BY MODERATOR ]

[ What did I say about uninformed speculation and soap boxes? Some people just don't read before they post -- Charlie ]

32:

It's not a journal article, but it's a useful quote on the subject by John Wesley, who's kind of a big deal in the history of Western Christianity. Note though that the school of thought founded on his teaching is the polar opposite of dispensationalism. Anyhow, Wesley said that following Christianity must necessarily lead to wealth, since it encouraged diligence and frugality. And this tendency toward wealth would eventually lead to a forsaking of the true principles of Christianity (or what he called "primitive" Christianity) because the acquisition of wealth leads to a love of money, etc.

Anyway, here's the quote.

Christianity has a tendency, in process of time, to undermine and destroy itself. For wherever true Christianity spreads, it must cause diligence and frugality, which, in the natural course of things, must beget riches! and riches naturally beget pride, love of the world, and every temper that is destructive of Christianity. Now, if there be no way to prevent this, Christianity is inconsistent with itself, and, of consequence, cannot stand, cannot continue long among any people; since, wherever it generally prevails, it saps its own foundation.

--John Wesley, 1789

Depressingly accurate prophecy of modern Christianity, I think.

33:

The Toronto Star : A bear market for Prosperity theology
http://www.thestar.com/News/article/515831
"According to a Time magazine poll conducted in 2006, 61 per cent of Americans believed that God wants people to be prosperous, and 31 per cent agreed with the statement that if you give your money to God, God will give you more money in return.
...
It's a seduction that may have landed thousands of congregants in financial turmoil. Churchgoers who truly believed that God would bless them with a house – poor credit or not – may have seen the fact that they got a house as proof of Prosperity's truth that they are "worthy of having more and doing more and being more." J. Lee Grady, editor of the magazine Charisma ..."


Also, check out:

The Pursuit of the Millennium
http://books.google.com/books?id=tDVaYvh4qj0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+Pursuit+of+the+Millennium&sig=ACfU3U2Nh74tOZU2l2A7TiSVuF16pUGA9w

particularly this chapter, The impact of rapid social change
http://books.google.com/books?id=tDVaYvh4qj0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+Pursuit+of+the+Millennium&sig=ACfU3U2Nh74tOZU2l2A7TiSVuF16pUGA9w#PPA53,M1

34:

See the likes of:

Last Name: Namaazi
First Name: Hossein
Date of Birth: 1323/ 1994
Place of Birth: Shiraz/ Iran
- M.A. in Economics from Innsbruck University, Austria, 1350

- PhD. dissertation: "Tax System in Islam Comparing Neumark Tax Theory", Supervisor: Professor C.A. Andreae

Specialized Fields:

- Tax System

- Comparative Economic Systems

- Islamic Economy

Areas of Interest:
- The Role of Ethics in Economics
- Change of Structure and Efficiency of Economic systems
- Issues in Islamic Economy

- The Problems of Globalization, Islamic Development Bank: Summary Record of Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank; Syrian Arab Republic; 25-26 November, 1997

- Policies to Fight with World Economic Recession, International Monetary Fund; Summary Proceedings of the Fifty Third Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors; Washington DC, October 6-8, 1998,

- "The Need to Adapt the Economic Policies in relation to the Conditions of the Other Countries Islamic Development Bank; Summary Record of the Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governours; Contonu, republic of Benin, 17-18 November, 1998

35:

Hmm.

Check this out:

Abstract

Economic and political developments affect religiosity, and the extent of religious participation and beliefs influence economic performance and political institutions. We study these two directions of causation in a broad cross-country panel that includes
survey information over the last 20 years on church attendance and an array of religious beliefs. Although religiosity declines overall with economic development, the nature of the response varies with the dimension of development. Church attendance and religious beliefs are positively related to education (thereby conflicting with theories in which religion reflects non-scientific thinking) and negatively related to urbanization. Attendance also declines with higher life expectancy and lower fertility. We investigate the effects of official state religions, government regulation of the religion market, Communism, religious pluralism, and the denominational composition of religious adherence. On the other side, we find that economic growth responds positively to the extent of some religious beliefs but negatively to church attendance. That is, growth depends on the extent of believing relative to belonging. These results hold up when we use as instrumental variables the measures of official state religion, government
regulation, and religious pluralism.

36:

Also this:

"Unlike Francis Fukuyama?s expectations, the end of Cold War did not lead to an ?end of history? and a world wide ideological consensus in favor of secular democracy, but rise of a new religious resurgence. Global wave of de-secularization had a significant impact on countries and their domestic politics. In many countries, religious parties gained political and ideological ground in the early 1990s. India and Turkey are two of those that experienced the rise of religion at political party level. Religion-based political parties in both of the countries increased intensity of religious rhetoric. In India Hinduism, in Turkey Islam were the bases of those formations. Diamond et. al. (1995) claims that ?corruption, social injustice and economic stagnation? are the main reasons behind this change. Along these lines, this paper seeks to understand the impact of economic stagnation on de-secularization of politics in India and Turkey. Specifically the relationship between intensity of religious rhetoric of religion based political parties with changes in economic determinants is explained. The main question asked here is ?What is the impact of economic determinants on the political party rhetoric of religion based party leaders?? This paper proceeds in six parts. The first is a brief overview of the relationship between religion and politics. The second part focuses on the evolution of Hindu nationalism and rise and fall of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India. Rise of Political Islam in Turkey appears third. Fourth part is the research design, which includes hypothesis and measurement of variables. Speeches of political party leaders three months prior to and three weeks after national elections examined for the years 1996, 1998, and 1999 in India and 1995, 1999 and 2002 in Turkey. In the fifth section data analysis is offered. Our preliminarily research support the idea that religious rhetoric is not independent from economic determinants in India and Turkey. However, the relationship is more confusing than expected. In the case of India, economic stagnation decreases religious rhetoric. Contrary, in Turkey religious rhetoric increases during periods of economic recession. The paper concludes with implications for future research."

And this:

" Recession Hurts Christian Donations, Study Says
06/18/2008

Because of the recession and soaring gas and food prices, Christian adults have decreased their giving to charitable organizations, a study from Wilson Research Strategies reveals.

Christian News Wire reported that Wilson, commissioned by Dunham+Company, found that about 46 percent of the 1,000 Christian adult respondents to their survey reported they are giving less to charities because they simply don’t have as much discretionary income as they used to. “Christian nonprofits need to understand that now, more than ever, it's crucial to be proactive in communicating the importance of their mission and their organizational effectiveness to their donors in order to sustain the same share of donor dollars that are becoming more scarce.” Rick Dunham, president and CEO of Dunham+Company, said. Of people older than 55, who are generally most supportive of nonprofit organizations, 53 percent listed they were strongly affected by the recession.

It’s notable, though, that most survey respondents who said they attend church “regularly” are less likely to let the economy affect their giving than infrequent attendees. The survey did not specifically address how much churchgoers put in the collection plates."

But that's just google. When I get into work tomorrow, I may troll through the professional resources.

37:

On the Islamic world, back in the 1990s Michael Field was particularly good at showing how disfunctional economies and political exploitation - rather than recessions per se, helped to seed radical Islamic movements in the Arab world. Nothing available online, as far as I can see, but here's a link that may help:

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/FIEINS.html

On the same track, it's worth noting that the recent spread of puritan Islamist ideologies in the Gulf has accompanied the biggest economic boom in the region's history. The simple theory is that this is a reaction to the supposedly "Western" culture of conspicuous consumption and consumer excess. Many Saudi jihadis, for example, come from well-off families. So the poverty-radicalism link may not be as simple as many people assume. I'll try and dig out something to back this up for you.

38:

From the 1300s to 1700s there was a massive set of changes in religious observance and behaviour all very much linked to social upheaval which is, when you get right down to it, both a cause and result of economic change.

Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas covers these topics over that time period well. Particularly interesting is the results of prayer on economic return; "If a man beg of God riches, honour, health, liberty and such like, and he receiveth them not, but instead thereof hath God's grace and providence to sustain him, he receiveth therin from God much more than he asked." (T. Tymm 1618 quoted from said book). That sort of sentiment marks the start of Providence rather than the failure of such prayer being a result of divine retribution for anonymous sins.

This also tracks the impact of the renaissance on religion which eventually brought about the industrial revolution and a large improvement in economic well-being, it concludes that new technology had a direct influence on the decline of religion and magic. As the economic situation changed, so did the understanding of how God was affecting changes in the world.

This work stops a little earlier than dispensationalism but it's millennial nature is nothing new, for example Fifth Monarchism.

There are no direct economic studies in this book but the economic situation of the populous is referenced continuously.

39:

Hi,

NationMaster.com has a whole bunch of different correlation reports, culled from data from various sources around the world.

Quick chart for national GDP / Church Attendance correlation here:

http://www.nationmaster.com/plot/rel_chu_att/eco_gov_spe_in_res_and_dev/flag

I'm not sure how robust the data set is though, but this particular graph relies on data from the international Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Canadian-based Religious Tolerance.org

40:

Here's a Compete chart for BeliefNet. I suppose if you track it and similar sites over the next few months you will see a correlation re: any correlaion to Web 2.0 or the crisis in general.

http://siteanalytics.compete.com/beliefnet.com/?metric=uv

41:

I take care of a lot of pastors (for some reason, since I am more sacreligious than anything else) and I can tell you, their coffers are hurting. Donations have been down more than 30 percent on average for months, even before the Decline and Fall of America the Country. Some of my pastors work at Colorado's so-called MegaChurches and even they are hurting a lot.

42:

Religion and the Decline of Magic is brilliant genius. May I also recommend The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas in the English Revolution by Christopher Hill?

43:

It seems like it would difficult to find good statistics on the subject. You'd need to find info on church attendance before, during, and after major economic crises.

I don't think comparing across groups would be that helpful. For one thing, it's hard to be sure of cause and effect. Is society A rich because they lack religion or do they lack religion because they are rich? Or do the two stem from something else entirely?

And within religions, wealth doesn't seem to have much connection with strength of belief. The Saudis have a great deal of wealth, and practice one of the strictest forms of Islam. Mormons tend to be rather successful financially, and yet are one of the fastest growing religions.

44:

Another thing that might be helpful is if you can get a hold of publication/sales numbers for the bible at different times and compare it to economic conditions.

Church music might be something else to look at, both publication dates for popular hymns and sales numbers for sheet music...

45:

Have you considered participation in organized religion as a social / psychological / economic support system, as opposed to the theological elements of any particular brand of religious activity?

As secular support systems (the investmenet markets, government benefit programs, etc.) fail, people increasingly turn to the support offered by religions AND other "support groups" which can supply both economic benefits and a compelling narrative of why times are hard and how to make them better (Hezbollah in modern Lebanon, for example ... or the Ku Klux Klan in the US in the 1920s and 1930s -- much more than just a marginal racist hate-group back then, it was both a wildly popular social organization and an influential political party in its own right).

Here's a link to a journal article on organized religion as a support system for the elderly, a chronically marginalized segment of modern western society, which may apply more and more to society as a whole as economic times get harder:

http://www.haworthpress.com/store/ArticleAbstract.asp?sid=WHX01VVT9EXV8H52CAE6EAHGX16128JD&ID=78664

Abstract:

Based on secondary analysis, interviews and participant observation in one case-study community, this study describes the emergency and on-going services provided by local parish churches around issues of loneliness, crisis readjustment, home health care, and emergency needs. The concept of a church as a surrogate family for older people is also discussed. Direct quotes, taken from the interviews, are used for the purpose of illustration.



Journal Title:
Journal of Gerontological Social Work
Volume: 4 Issue: 2
ISSN: 0163-4372 Pub Date: 6/30/1982


46:

Have you considered participation in organized religion as a social / psychological / economic support system, as opposed to the theological elements of any particular brand of religious activity?

As secular support systems (the investment markets, government benefit programs, etc.) fail, people increasingly turn to the support offered by religions AND other "support groups" which can supply BOTH economic benefits and a compelling explanation of why times are hard and how to make them better (Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Taliban in Afghanistan and tribal Pakistan ... or the Ku Klux Klan in the US in the 1920s and 1930s -- much more than just a marginal racist hate-group back then, it was both a wildly popular social organization and an influential political party in its own right).

Here's a link to a journal article on organized religion as a support system for the elderly, a chronically marginalized segment of modern western society, which may apply more and more to society as a whole as economic times get harder:

http://www.haworthpress.com/store/ArticleAbstract.asp?sid=WHX01VVT9EXV8H52CAE6EAHGX16128JD&ID=78664

Abstract:

Based on secondary analysis, interviews and participant observation in one case-study community, this study describes the emergency and on-going services provided by local parish churches around issues of loneliness, crisis readjustment, home health care, and emergency needs. The concept of a church as a surrogate family for older people is also discussed. Direct quotes, taken from the interviews, are used for the purpose of illustration.



Journal Title:
Journal of Gerontological Social Work
Volume: 4 Issue: 2
ISSN: 0163-4372 Pub Date: 6/30/1982


47:

From the Pew Global Attitudes Project (http://pewglobal.org/reports/pdf/258.pdf), a survey of over 45,000 people worldwide:

"The survey
finds a strong relationship between a country’s religiosity and its economic status. In poorer
nations, religion remains central to the lives of individuals, while secular perspectives are more common in richer nations. This relationship generally is consistent across regions and countries,
although there are some exceptions, including most notably the United States, which is a much
more religious country than its level of prosperity would indicate. Other nations deviate from the
pattern as well, including the oil-rich, predominantly Muslim – and very religious – kingdom of
Kuwait."

(cf. Graph, pg. 3, "Wealth and Religiosity")

48:

@24- "I can't help noticing though, that despite the West's occasional periods of plummeting banks and bankers, its economic growth since the industrial revolution seems to be higher."

Makes you wonder how much people would prefer predictability to actual growth.
If you started investing with a thousand dollars (pounds, euros, etc) and had steady growth to 1100 at the end of the year, you'd likely be pleased. If you had variability such that you peaked at three thousand dollars midyear then crashed to 1200, you'd likely be unhappy.
How much would people try and legislate the first outcome?

49:

Vikings in Greenland - IIRC my European History 2 lectures from 14+ years ago, when things went pairshaped for them, they burnt more candals and prayed harder. The resulting ice mummies are a source of endless fascination for future generations...

50:

These mioght be a good start for citation linking:

Title: Articulating Class In Post-Fordist France
Author: Lem,Winnie
Citation: American Ethnologist 2002May1 Volume 29, Issue 2
Year:2002
Abstract:
In analyses of the key changes that have taken place in the international organization of capitalism, it has been argued that the shift from Fordism to post-Fordism has transformed the material realities of peoples' everyday lives and their forms of ...
ISSN: 0094-0496
Contents: First page: 287

Community Form and Ceremonial Life in Three Regions of Scotland
Gwen Kennedy Neville
American Ethnologist, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Feb., 1979), pp. 93-109

Chatters, L., Religion and Health: public health research and practice. Ann Rev


De Vogli, R. (2004) Change, psychosocial stress and health in an era of globalization. Working paper. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, USA. (Unpublished) http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/2051/

51:

From a purely numbers point of view, the Church of England releases yearly reports showing attendance figures - not just for Sunday services, but also special holidays like Christmas and Easter.

http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr1008.html

If you dropped their press office a line I'm sure they could supply attendance figures going back many years.

52:

@4: thing is, was that a consequence of their GDP declining from 'not very much' to 'very little indeed', or a predictor of their GDP declining from 'very little indeed' to zero?

Actually, in general, that whole way of thinking of things seems problematic - considering a feudal society as being like a rich country with a low GDP is like thinking of the UK as an islamic country with a lot of sinners.

Maybe it's better to just treat economics as a brand of theology, and talk about conversion to and from it, instead of net increase and decrease of religion. Certainly, the whole duality between Progress and Apocalypse built in to the stock market is like a distilled essence of Chsistianity.

obref: Diamond for the Greenlanders.

53:

I had a quick prod at my normal source for "hard numbers", but could not find any handily broken-down numbers for people attending mass, on a per-year (or per-any-time-chunk) basis. Unfortunately, the only source I suspect have these hard numbers would probably not be inclined to publish them.

I'll have a more extensive poke around when I get home, though.

54:

@ 13 - 11/9/2001 WAS religious activity!

55:

G.Tingey@54: By that argument, the IRA was religious activity as well.

One point of caution in using Church of England stats is that a lot of people engage in what you might consider religious activity, but outside the bounds of a formal religion. A lot of the New Age beliefs, for example, fill the same spiritual/emotional needs, but don't have a formal hierarchy. I read somewhere (and can't locate the reference, sorry) that most Americans end up in a denomination other than the one they start in—people seem to 'shop' for religions in the same way they shop for cars.

56:

Best robust finding may be Hungerman in Journal of Public Economics 2005. He finds that people cut off from welfare (as it is called in the US) increase church participation and has a good overview of some of the literature. He has other very good papers as well, including some with Gruber mentioned below.

High quality work on economics of religion, in addition to Iannacone already mentioned, is done by Jon Gruber at MIT. Non-gated version of his stuff available at his website or through Google Scholar.

Scheve and Stasavage (again: google scholar them) have a paper on effects of religiosity on preferences for economic policy.

Dehejia, DeLeire and Luttmer has a paper on insuring against consumption losses through religious participation, in Journal of Public Economics but available in non-gated versions as well.

Richard Sosis, an anthropologist at U of Connecticut has interesting stuff on religiosity as signalling, related to Iannacone's work.

Generally: there's a lot of crap research in this area, as people have strong preferences over it. Let me know if you have any questions or problems finding the stuff, should you still need it.

57:

R. Prior @ 55

You are seriously deluded!

58:

This may be redundant but the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life has a lot of statistical info.

http://pewforum.org/

Cheers!

59:

I supppose a pew forum is rather appropriate here....

60:

To second Alex at #42, The World Turned Upside Down is wonderful. It's a very Marxist view of its subject (social, economic, & religious revolution in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland in the 17th century) but that's not exactly unusual amongst social historians.

It wasn't really a recession per se at the time, but the seventeenth century is when everything changes. (It rained a lot then, too.) Massive social authoritarianism (enclosures and the conversion of self-sufficient peasantry into wage workers, all justified and encouraged by the Established Church) led to a heavy kickback and a thousand flowers in the form of new religious movements. Many of said flowers turned out to be extremely strange ones indeed, and some were even viable. The sudden increase in potential social & geographic mobility helped the spread of revolutionary ideas a lot.

I can see some crude parallels, but I'm also wondering whether the degree of mobility & free communication we've got is too high for these things to happen this time around - not enough steam pressure in the vessel.

61:

Andrew G @44, different churches use different bibles and hymnals.

G Tingey @57, you are aware that the IRA is primarily religious based?

62:

Yes, the IRA was (is) made up of catholic fuckwits, same as the DUP is protestant fuckwits.

However, their "cause" was a "United, Catholic Ireland". which is infeasible.
You can have:
a] A catholic Ireland
or
b] A United Ireland
Which do you want?

The IRA's problem was that they could not, or would not see this.

Whereas Al-Quaeda, and the other jihadist outfits want a Caliphate and a universal ummah.
They can't have that, either, but it doesn't stop'em trying - for a PURELY (ahem) religious "cause", whereas the IRA's objectives were much more political.

63:

All statistics gathered by the government run bureau Statistics Netherlands (or CBS in Dutch) can be accessed online free of charge in English here: http://statline.cbs.nl/statweb/?LA=en.

You can make your own tables and graphs out of the available data. It's probably a good idea to read the instructions. It's a treasure trove of Dutch statistics, but it may be hard to find exactly what you are looking for.

If you can't find anything relevant, just email Statistics Netherlands. Being civil servants, they probably have an obligation to help whenever possible, based on freedom of information legislation.

Good luck with your search, and I hope the Netherlands show up in some way in the results. (sorry, 24/7 domestic media coverage of the US elections and sub-prime mortgage crisis cause temporary fits of nationalism. I'm okay now.)

64:

The classics would be Max Weber and his studies about religion and economy, especially his study on protestantism and capitalism (in the 1910s) is notable even today.

65:

With regard to revolutionary nationalism and religious belief in Ireland:

There has been (since the failure of the secular, protestant-led revolutionary attempt of 1798) a strong connection between religion and nationalist politics in Ireland. That connection has always been far more ambiguous and conflicted than people tend to assume, and it is a connection that has consistently changed and evolved over time.

In 1974, for example, An Phoblacht (the official newspaper of the Provisional IRA) carried a front-page story denouncing artificial contraception as a British plot to undermine the Irish nation; it is a long time such a world-view would have front-page status in any Irish publication of whatever ideological bent.

In 1979, Pope John Paul II visited the Republic of Ireland, and amongst other things called for an end to violence in Northern Ireland. This call was ignored by the Republican movement.

Since then we've had three decades in which conflict has given way to peace, and society in both parts of the island of Ireland has changed in many ways, the relationship of religion (of any kind) to that society being only one of them.

I could go on, but what I'm trying to say is that it's a gross oversimplification to say that 'the IRA is primarily religiously based', unless you wish to define 'religiously based' in terms that become increasingly vague and obscure.

66:

Charlie, are you at all interested in the systematic theology involved? I would be happy to help with that.

As a Christian reading sci-fi (surely, a rare breed), it is very frustrating that no author seems to understand Christianity as more than something to be dismissed, or a source for crazies.

P.S. More from the Eschaton universe! Less "Atrocity Archives" and "Merchants War"! ;)

67:

Nedbrek: I sometimes listen to Ken MacLeod discussing weird Protestant doctrinal schisms, but beyond a certain point it's all Leninists, Maoists and Sparticists: the kind of minutiae that are only of interest to true believers. (If the fundamental axioms of a belief system strike you as implausible, you're likely to give up long before you get to the third-order consequences. Right?)

68:

I understand. It's funny, I just finished reading a block of MacLeod (I liked "Cassini Division" best).

To some extent, you can treat reading the Bible like reading SF. Accept the MacGuffin (God is real, the Bible is His word), and see what follows from there. That's what systematic theology is.

I'll get off my soapbox now :)

69:

nedbrek @66:
You'll be waiting a looong time. This from the fiction FAQ:
"Stross currently has no plans to write any more space opera or far-future SF novels, especially Eschaton novels (don't hold your breath waiting for a sequel to "Iron Sunrise"!), or to re-visit the Singularity."

70:

Charlie, you may find this link from the Monthly Review of some interest, even if you find the MR's initial (Marxian) premises implausible:

http://www.monthlyreview.org/0106straub.htm

The author argues that in a US state like Ohio, contemporary evangelical churches fill a void left by the decline of labour unions and left parties, and also act to shield at least some people from the economy difficulties presented by a rapidly receding welfare state and a declining manufacturing economy. The churches also seem to bolster the 'self-esteem' of those trapped in the no-man's land of economic decline.

(this piece was written in the wake of Bush's 2004 win, and makes for slightly strange reading in today's climate of Obama fever).

71:

It doesn't hurt to ask!

Unless, Charlie is a contrarian, and will do the opposite of what I ask, just for spite...

Please, Charlie, no more Eschaton books! It would be the end of the world! :P

72:

There are several ways of tackling the question of macro-economic changes and religiosity.

As noted by #6, Beckworth looked at whether religiosity goes up or down with economic cycles, and he founds an interaction effect. He suggests two reasons that religion should be counter-cyclical (i.e., religiosity goes up when the economy goes down). 1) We have less opportunity to make money, so we turn to non-monetary things like religion. 2) We turn to religion for support and comfort during hard times. Looking at various data from the last several decades in the US, he finds that evangelical religion increases during economic hard times but that mainline religion doesn't.

Another approach to this question is to ask how religion modifies the consequences of economic downturns. Various studies have found that religion buffers against all sorts of external stress, including financial stress. E.g., Smith, Timothy, Michael McCullough, and Jutin Poll. (2003). “Religiousness and Depression: Evidence for a Main Effect and the Moderating Influences of Stressful Life Events.” Psychological Bulletin. 129(4): 614-636.

Still another approach flips the question around and asks what are the influences of religion on economic growth, but this isn't what you asked, so I'll not go on. :-)

73:

One major motivation for religions doing better in hard times (not disastrous, though) is that it offers a hedge against social and internal mindset condemnation for violating social norms. You know, like going out and murdering people for their lands so long as they aren't exactly of the same religious group. Or being a wandering charlatan bilking people out of precious savings. That sort of thing. The sale of a visably clean conscience didn't just stop because Martin Luther nailed some conclusions on the wall...

74:

Depends on the "Islamic World" and when it is. I'd suggest looking at Donald Quataert's "Economic History of the Ottoman Empire" especially the latter volumes. The suck-period after the 1871 war and ondownward through the wild inflationary cycle at the start of the 20th century fueled the rise of the CUP faction and then the Third Army (Attaturk) secular reformist party which produced the Republic.

The collapse of oil prices engineered by Saudis at Doha helped bring on the Iranian Revolution (though it fits the meta-narrative of the Russian Revolution, or even the English; boom economic growth draws the more religious country folks to the cities, economy collapses, revolution) See http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-shah17-2008oct17,0,7636765.story

The downside is that neither of these is a particularly useful data point. Turkey had had a secularizing, Western faction for about a century by the time the First World War helped kill the Sultanate, while Iran's Imams had always played a part in their modern politics, dating back to the Tobacco Revolt, and, you know, the Savafids claiming to be a device of God's apocalyptic will. More broadly speaking, the Iranian Revolution, and its heirs are like the Falwell-Dobson Party in the States or Likud's religious settlers; reactionary anti-modernist piety wielding the tools of the modern political party to further its aims.

There's some decent stuff coming out of Pakistan right now, in real time, via the Beeb and McClatchy, but there's too much to divide signal from noise just yet.

More context would be more better.

Best

L

75:

A quick search led to this review of an Essex University study. Annoyingly it doesn't bother to mention what the study title is or how the conclusions are inferred. It's about poverty and religion rather than depression.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2002/jan/16/socialexclusion2

"These findings seem to go against the grain of most assumptions about affluent northern Europe and the poorer south. But the researchers argue that the earlier independence gained by young people in northern/Protestant countries can lead to material disadvantages, because many leave home without having a job. Thus their chances of being poor, at least for the first part of their working lives, are that much greater.

Whether that trend will continue through their working lives is something that will be revealed only over time. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the balance of wealth in Europe is shifting, not because of any new political or economic realities, but because of that most old fashioned of reasons - religion."

On a less related note; there's David Liss thesis mentioned into the afterword of "A conspiracy of paper" that the rise of the novel in England was an after effect of the South Sea bubble.

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