Researchers found in a new study that better government services and quality of life reduce need for religion and that is why people in developed countries are secularizing. On the other hand, people from third world countries are becoming more religious because religion is used as an exchange system, according to this scientific article. The article, "Religion as an Exchange System: The Interchangeability of God and Government in a Provider Role," was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
According to some philosophers, religion developed out of primitive man's fear of the unknown and provided illusion of support and protection which came from some divine being. Bertrand Russell wrote in "Why I am not a Christian": Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown, and partly … the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing – fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death.
The authors of the article, Miron Zuckerman and Chen Li of the University of Rochester and Ed Diener of the Universities of Utah and Virginia, reason that if the function that religion provides can be acquired from some other source, the role of religion in people's life will become less important. In other words, if people can get what they need (better quality of life) from the government (for example health care or welfare) they are less likely to turn to religion and divine beings for protection. Researchers compared the percentage of GDP that nations, as well as each U.S. state, spent on health care and education. It found big government correlated with lower rates of religious observance, both overseas and in the U.S.
As Patheos reports, the study’s abstract reads:
An exchange model of religion implies that if a secular entity such as government provides what people need, they will be less likely to seek help from supernatural entities. Controlling for quality of life and income inequality, we found that better government services were related to lower religiosity among countries, and states in the United States. [One study] also showed that during 2008-2013, better government services in a specific year predicted lower religiosity 1 to 2 years later. In both studies, a combination of better government services and quality of life was related to a particularly low level of religiosity. Among countries, government services moderated the relation between religiosity and two measures of well-being, such that religiosity was related to greater well-being only when government services were low.
The conclusion of the research is that if government services provide quality of life, social safety, education, health care etc., less people will turn to religion. This is the reason why masses are better kept yoked to faith in societies where social safety nets are destroyed.
Photo Credits: Magazine Training