At Miller-McCune, David Villano reports on a study by independent researcher Gregory S. Paul which indicates a correlation between prosperity and secularity at the national level. Paul found that amongst a group of developed nations, those that were least religious were also the most prosperous:
Paul is quick to point out that his study reveals correlation, not causation. Which came first—prosperity or secularity—is unclear, but Paul ventures a guess. While it’s possible that good governance and socioeconomic health are byproducts of a secular society, more likely, he speculates, people are inclined to drop their attachment to religion once they feel distanced from the insecurities and burdens of life.
“Popular religion,” Paul proposes, “is a coping mechanism for the anxieties of a dysfunctional social and economic environment.” Paul, who was criticized, mostly on statistical grounds, for a similar study published in 2005, says his new findings lend support to the belief that mass acceptance of popular religion is determined more by environmental influences and less by selective, evolutionary forces, as scholars and philosophers have long debated.
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