Researchers call it an exchange model of religion: If people can get what they need from the government (be it health care, education or welfare) they’re less likely to turn to a divine power for help, according to the theory.
But are people actually more likely to drop religion in places where governments provide more services and stability? In a new paper, psychology researchers crunched the numbers — and found that better government services were in fact linked to lower levels of strong religious beliefs.
Those findings held true in states across the U.S. and in countries around the world, researchers said.
The article, “Religion as an Exchange System: The Interchangeability of God and Government in a Provider Role,” was published April 12 in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Authors Miron Zuckerman and Chen Li of the University of Rochester and Ed Diener of the Universities of Utah and Virginia wrote that their findings suggest “that if the function that religiosity provides can be acquired from some other source, the allure of religion will diminish.”
The researchers also found something of a staggered link between the government services on offer and levels of religiosity in a given state. Between 2008 and 2013 in the U.S., for example, “better government services in a specific year predicted lower religiosity 1 to 2 years later,” researchers wrote.
Researchers measured government services by looking at how much each state or country spent on health and education as a percentage of gross domestic product. Then researchers compared those numbers with data about religion that Gallup collected from 455,104 people across 155 countries, according to the paper. That’s nearly 3,000 respondents from each country, researchers said.
Full story at Miami Herald.