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If the government picked up the slack, would America become less religious?

Churches provide services where the government does not. I read a journal that said "Recent empirical research has demonstrated that countries with higher levels of religiosity are characterized by greater income inequality."

If we were to close some of the gap with income inequality- and the government provided more services to people- what would be the effect on churches and religion?


silvereyes 8 Mar 19

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I think it would make some difference, because there are some people like my aunt who believe we need hardship and tragedy to "bring people back to God." It's such a vile perspective, because it amounts to wishing harm on people (or tolerating evil behavior, if not perpetrating it outright) for the sake of some faith-based, religious revival. I think less strife would diminish that sort of thinking in the long run.


It has been shown the biggest thing cutting the effect of religon is a national healthcare plan. People no longer feel the need for an invisible diety to preserve their health when they have a tangible program.


RE: the study:

" To this end, we first developed a simple political-economy model
in which the more religious the individuals are, the higher is the satisfaction they get from
making voluntary donations. In order to be able to spend a higher portion of their incomes
on voluntary donations, the religious vote for lower levels of taxes as compared to secular
individuals. The political process thus results in a smaller government size in countries with
higher levels of religiosity, implying lower levels of spending on public goods and redistribution.
Since tax-based redistribution is a major force shaping the distribution of income, our
model implies greater income inequality in more religious countries"

It's based on a model with unqualified assumptions: It assumes a correlation between being religious and getting satisfaction from donating... It assumes a correlation between being religious and lower taxes... It then says this results in smaller government that imply lower level of spending and income

I tried to make sense of these assumptions but could not, this paper being very dense with equations but light on explanations behind them. So I admit that how they went about this is unclear to me. But from what I can make out and the assumptions that I do see, the conclusion seems less empirical evience and more model-fitting which chooses which empirical evidence will be fit that model.


RE: the question.

Clearly if the government provided the services that the church provides now, the people would be thankful to the government not the church and that woudl have a negative impact on the amount of reliigous. However, if the government is providing these services, then that means the the church has a lot more money and time to focus on other services or blatent self promotion... the money they used to spend on the soup kitchens they can now spend on advertising or more churches or other programs, like after school education and the like. While I don't exactly follow the reasoning in the paper above, I think the arguement that this would reduce religious gross involvement is an easy arguement to make but the net involvement is not so easy to predict given that if the government did more, it would not just lead to the churches "doing nothing" in turn.


Not if there is a republican running things they must find every dollar the weathy do not need and give it to them at the sacrifice of the majority.


I think if ht egovernment did more, it woudl help.

The whole idea as put forth by republicans that private (and religious) charities woudl step in as they discontinue programs for the poor is ridiculous. I fprivate charities would have doen the job, there woudl be no need for the government programs to behin with.

I am of the opinion that too many charities pay out large slaries and very litte of the money given actually goes to the people who need it. So, a rich persons sits on teh board, draws a huge salary, and it is just another way to con poor people out of their money to benefit the rich.

In other words the whoel idea of charities steping in when government programs are defunded or ended is just another con like "trickle down".


I don't see that the religious amounlt would change for any realistic reason. However, if government were to enforce no religion, that would probably increase it. It sounds stupid I know. Humans, have a tendency to rebel against authority. The governments rejection of religion is the perfect reason for reblling for a lot of people. On the flip side, I think one way to reducereligion, would be to take away tax free status. That could also solve some of our deficit problem, if not all.

@silvereyes Governments already push religion. That’s where tax-free status comes from, and why everyone insists this country is a so called Christian country. To be honest, I almost feel like religion was a government conspiracy from the beginning. By that I mean governments use religion as a way to pacify people and keep them subservient.


Yes. I think the effect would be much like you see in secular countries where the churches are still around but they don't pretend to be charities.


No. You cannot fix stupid


I agree that the "slack" needs to be picked up by the government, but maybe not necessarily in the same form as it exists now. I'm actually a very big believer that a living basic income provided to all Americans would kick our economy into a higher gear, along with universal Medicare and Medicaid.

I feel these steps should be taken, regardless of their effects on church attendance. Heck, for all I know, it could lead to people spending every day with their butt in a pew. Really, as much as I would roll my eyes, I'd rather see a bunch of religious folks who are getting the care they need than a reason-centric populace still fighting hunger and homelessness.

@TjallTjallOUTLK if you have a lot of time on your hands, consider reading the book "Capital in the 21st Century" by Thomas Piketty. It's not light reading by a long shot, but the guy is really on the ball.


We need secular societies, and secular governments. There is an inbalance of secularists in governemts.


Probably no effect at all.Religion is a virus and/or dillusion and very little if anything will affect it.


My experience with churches has been that most of them do very little that is not in their own self interest. I think the religious group would remain about the same. I would add that it is my belief that the Xain religion is in decline.


lol no. Churches don’t do shit either.

@silvereyes they CLAIM they do this but do so statistically less than reported.

@silvereyes the Friendly Atheist addresses the Catholic Church on this too, but yeah— there’s few that do true “mission work” (gotta love the biblethon versus food I’m starving populations.)


Idoubt it but hard to say but they are in bed together with the basic same aim.


I have read and researched several studies along these lines and all indicators point toward a definite link. Just take a look at Scandinavia and large portions of Europe to get an overview of how it plays out. Improve education. Reduce stress. Increase the quality of life. Reduce religiosity. Simple.


There is no question that poverty leads people to be more religious. Those in countries where the economies are strong tend to be more secular.


Federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, try to keep people from swindling consummers with fraudulent advertising and claims. IMO they are derelict in their duty,,....they need to prosecute Christian organizations that are swindling the "Sheep."


It is just a fact that many people are followers, they need a purpose for them religion is the easiest route. To boot they have been so brainwashed that they lead their children down the same religious path. The cycle of religious indoctrination is endless.


This country was founded by a group ,puritans, so xenophobic they were asked to leave Europe. It going to take a long time for that fear of the other to go away so long as religion provides scapegoats and justifications for such fears.


Perhaps wealth goes along with superiority many Christians feel they have over others.


Please explain what you mean by "picked up the slack."

@silvereyes It could make a difference on how people identify with religions, but I'm not sure. I wish that both government and private non-religious charities would take a greater role in promoting and sustaining the well-being of people -- all people.


I too believe the Conservative viewpoint of relying on religious institutions and charity to solve our socio-economic needs is extremely flawed. It also invites a lot of scams. I thought I heard just the other day a bunch of people got arrested for a scam on the Wounded Warrior project.

As for the idea that it would reduce the influence of religious institutions? Nah. There will always be a segment of the population that needs its gods.

@silvereyes: I believe that is just a political trope used by Republicans. I believe church attendance has little to no impact on the overall ability to fulfill services to the needy. While I do believe some religiously created organizations have contributed significantly, such as the Salvation Army, they have as yet to truly meet the demand, even with government sponsorship. And the fact of their religiosity has indeed been problematic for them on many occasions when they do act as a surrogate for publicly funded services.


This is an excellent question, although, to me, the real question is whether society should take up the slack. Framing it as a question of big government tends to generate more heat than light. Also, it's not just a question of chuches only, but of private charity generally.

In countries such as Norway where taxes are high and society provides and sustains and optimizes a very pervasive safety net, there is very little private charity because there's very little NEED for it.

People tend to shirk their responsibilities to their fellow man if charity is voluntary. If everyone contributes equally to the common pot as a condition of citizenship I think that's totally fair and tends to produce more equality and more cohesiveness and community.

Here in 'Murica, we have so many exceptions and loopholes that the wealthy plutocracy mostly shirks and the rest of us have a patchwork of often overlapping and ineffective private and public and NGO safety nets, with lots of cracks to fall through. It needs more coordination and commitment. That takes government, sorry to say.


That's a good question! I haven't done enough research to know anything about this exactly...but I'm eager to do some reading


The last thing we need is "more services from the government." I'm sure this will ruffle some folks' feathers, but I believe "income inequality" is nothing more than a buzzword for socialists who would love to usurp and "redistribute" the wealth of this country "equally." Should this ever become the reality we live in in the US (and we are terrifyingly close to this already), I'm outta here.

Religions and Governments are the two biggest problems we have. Getting rid of religion and reining government in to its proper role will allow Capitalism to function properly. This will fix a great many things. Part of reining in the gov't will be to eliminate the crony capitalism that gives all business a negative connotation. Sorry, showing my Libertarian roots here.

@silvereyes I'm not a student of politics, really, but I do know that our government at the Federal level has produced volumes and volumes of laws with the supposed intent of "protecting the people" from whatever. Much of this legislation enables entitlement programs that create dependency and do not enable people to become self-sufficient, much less successful. We see redistribution of wealth taking place already in the form of taxation. Therefore, the mechanism is already in place. California is just as bad as the Fed.

As long as we have ANY form of Capitalism, we have entrepreneurial incentive. Successful entrepreneurs create jobs, many unskilled, which provides at least employment opportunity for the poor. Individuals must own the responsibility for improving themselves. I understand that there is inequality in terms of education since (at least in California) the amount tax dollars supporting public schools is tied to the demographics of a given area. Still, there is a baseline of education that is equal (and I am not a fan the public school system), so how legitimate is the complaint about inequality in education? I don't know.

I believe my initial response provides part of the solution.

With regard to income stratification/classification: I don't know much about this. How do you land in an "income class?" I see the income curve of an individual generally increasing throughout their working life, whether they work in the same career, or for the same employer, or not. That's how it has been for me, more or less. I am a HS graduate who enlisted in the USAF almost immediately upon graduation. While in HS, I worked in a family business (something that could be considered a privilege, but I could have and would have found work elsewhere, regardless.). After honorably completing my service obligation, I went back into the family business for a time and eventually moved on to other jobs. In my mid-thirties, I retrained myself at a local business college where I obtained an AAS in Computer Science and, while still in school for that, was hired by Intel Corp. where I had a career lasting 8 years doing various types of IT support jobs before being laid off. I then took a pretty big paycut after finding work in state service, but have exceeded my income at Intel now. I received an average education in a public school and, apart from the family biz, have been afforded no special privilege. Now, I'm a White male so I'm sure much will be made of that.

@silvereyes Who is to say who is allowed to own 20 houses and/or 50 cars. I do not believe I will EVER achieve that kind of success or wealth, but I would never endorse or support a system that thinks it's okay to penalize someone by stealing (yes, stealing) that which they honestly earned. This does not take into account people who build fortunes dishonestly, or by coasting on the momentum of a predecessor (the CEO whose predecessor built a huge empire and leaves his or her post for whatever reason whose replacement creates no new value for the company and simply shows up every day collecting a massive check for doing nothing - I know this happens). If we assume, however, that the super-rich (especially captains of industry, who not only earn huge salaries, but their company(ies) create huge value in the form of jobs) legally own what they earn. To say they "have too much" and that any portion of it "should go to those less fortunate," is stealing.

Systemic change, to my mind, should come in the form of less legislation and more corporate freedom (and I don't mean tax breaks for corporations). We could have a long conversation about public schools. I think they are admin-heavy. Billions and billions are poured into the public school system yet schoolteachers still pay for basic classroom needs out of their pockets, or are compelled to basically beg for parental support to get them. That is just unbelievable to me. They blame it on the system being overwhelmed with too many students. The issue within the PS system to me seems to me to be mismanagement. Poor administration. Poor budgeting. Privatizing schools would create a truly competitive market where quality would go up and prices (tuition, in this case) would go down. You can apply that same theory to the healthcare industry.

I don't have the answers either, but I feel this would be a start. Appropriating (stealing) the wealth of the rich to "give to the poor" is a hallmark of socialism/communism.

Perhaps what we are seeing in the US is a decline of freedom which has a correlation to our prosperity. More laws, rules, regulation result in less freedom, less opportunity, less prosperity.

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