So I’m reading a fascinating study that explains some of my own views on religion – or rather: ritualistic practice, as I like to call it. It confirms my long-held belief that people ‘need’ religion less when they have more money. Or, in formal terms, “there is an even more consistent gap on issues tied to religion and morality. People in the global middle class are less likely to consider religion central to their own lives.” (See
This doesn’t come as a particular surprise to me. I spent a great portion of my young adulthood in a poor, badly-governed country that I was told wasn’t always doing so badly. Interestingly, even as a teenager, I could detect a noticeable difference in the religious values of my older family members. What’s more, my mother – a liberal, formerly secular university-educated woman now in her early 60’s, transformed before our very eyes from all of the above to a rather narrow-minded experiment in mind-control resulting from overexposure to a zealous middle-class female televangelist.
But wait, there’s a contradiction there. My mother is definitely better off now than she was when she was younger. Yet she lives in a country that is most definitely worse off politically and economically – and therefore, in an environment where religion has come to play the role of a political institution in itself. Your religiosity is almost exactly correspondent to your own shift in values in a place like that, if that makes any sense.
So to answer the question: who needs religion when you got money, let me tell you who. My mother. Because even though she now has money, what she hasn’t got, she hopes her prayers can one day provide. More evenly-distributed prosperity, with just a tiny bit of good governance thrown in.