Is a Rise in Secularism Correlated with a Declining Economy?

From a recent article at

“As older cohorts of adults (comprised mainly of self-identified Christians) pass away, they are being replaced by a new cohort of young adults who display far lower levels of attachment to organized religion than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations did when they were the same age,” Pew’s 2015 report said. “[T]he United States is growing less religious (in percentage terms) not because there are fewer highly religious people but rather because, as the overall U.S. population has grown, there are now many more non-religious people than was the case just a few years ago.”

The societal impacts of this trend should not be understated. With $1.2 trillion of economic contributions on the line – or roughly $5 trillion per the Grims’ more extreme estimate – waning religion could imperil jobs, company revenues and aid provided to those in need over the next few decades.

In fact, a study published last year in the Journal of the Urban Affairs found that declines in an area’s “social and economic viability” appeared connected to “the closure of geographically based congregations” and churches.

It’s also worth noting that, per Pew, 45 percent of “highly religious” individuals indicated they had volunteered in the past week, while 65 percent said they’d recently donated money, time or goods to the poor. That’s compared with 28 percent and 41 percent, respectively, for those “not highly religious.”

The Independent Sector – a coalition of nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs – estimated last year that an hour of volunteer work was worth $23.56 for the national economy. And the Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy estimated Americans’ charitable giving in 2015 soared to a record $373.25 billion. Should charitable giving and volunteer work decline, American tax dollars could potentially be on the line to fill in the gaps of support to those in need.

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4 Responses to Is a Rise in Secularism Correlated with a Declining Economy?

  1. Allallt says:

    But, in answer to the question the made the title of this post, there is no evidence to support a positive answer. Secular countries don’t have diminishing economies and highly religious countries are not prospering disproportionately.

  2. TFBW says:

    The prosperity of secular and religious countries technically doesn’t have any relevance to the effect of a rise in secularism. A not-very-prosperous religious country might still become less prosperous with a rise in secularism, for example.

  3. Dhay says:


    Letting you know I referred to one of your blog posts in the responses to Michael’s earlier “Atheists Need Safe Zones” post:

  4. FZM says:

    Secular countries don’t have diminishing economies and highly religious countries are not prospering disproportionately.

    I guess a declining population would lead to a shrinking economy, unless, say, there were some important technological advances that led to increased productivity of the remaining population to compensate for the fact.

    For example, the indigenous (and more secular) populations of many Western European secular countries do seem to be shrinking due to low birth rates. However, the population of these countries doesn’t decrease in overall terms because less secular immigrants from other less secular parts of the world are available to make up the numbers.

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