CANTERBURY, England (RNS) Too much religion can harm a society’s economy by undermining the drive for financial success, according to a new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Vintage Business Bible with business commandments and rules

Vintage Business Bible with business commandments and rules Photo courtesy Siarhei Tolak via Shutterstock

The study of almost 190,000 people from 11 religiously diverse cultures is raising eyebrows among some of England’s religious leaders for suggesting Judaism and Christianity have anti-wealth norms.

Written by academics at University of Southampton in England and the Humboldt University of Berlin, the study found that religious people in religious cultures reported better psychological adjustment when their income was low.

The study cites the Bible to show how Judaism and Christianity turn upside down the belief that the highest possible income leads to the highest possible happiness and psychological adjustment.

It quotes biblical examples such as Jesus’ teaching, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” from Matthew 5:3.

The academics conducted their interviews in 11 countries, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Turkey.

“What the great faiths condemn is the irresponsible use of wealth, not wealth itself,” said Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester in the Church of England. “The worship of money is the root of all evil and not money on its own.”

The authors said they received no financial support for the research authorship and/or publication of the article.

YS/AMB END GRUNDY

13 Comments

  1. The good bishop is full of it, the New Testament, consistently and repeatedly argues against the hoarding and acquisition of wealth, NOT against it’s misuse.

    “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
    Matthew 19:24.

    Note how it says “someone who is rich” and not “someone who is reach and abuses that wealth”.

    The bible is quite anti-capitalistic, which makes the Religious right (especially in America) even more laughable of course with their paradoxical worship of both God and Currency.

    • I think the Bible makes the point that wealth can be an incumberance, but it is not a disqualifier as he implies – as with his quote from the Bible, the quote is prefaced with the statement that it is difficult for a rich man to enter heaven – or it is with difficulty that a rich man would enter heaven (not impossible) and concludes that is is impossible for any man to enter heaven (rich or poor?) but that with God, all things are possible.

      The Bishop seems to have a very reasonable and plausible take on this – but yes I do agree with Mark about the religious right embracing wealth that can be contradictory to what are sometimes termed as kingdom (of God) values.

    • My understanding of Matthew 19:24 is that the “eye of the needle” referred to the narrow city gates through which merchants entered under the watchful eyes of the city’s guards. A large caravan would be subject to particularly careful surveillance lest it smuggle contraband, fail to pay customs duties, and so on. The passage makes an analogy: that a wealthy man’s soul will be subject to even greater inspection at heaven’s gates than a camel laden with goods at the gates of Jerusalem. This does not by itself show that the Bible as a whole is pro- or anti-capitalist (a term that is, at any event, inappropriate for the ancient economy). It does mean that we have to read such passages carefully.

  2. There is a responsibility to treat everything one has as an asset. If one has livestock, or even pets, they are to be well cared for. The barter system was used in biblical times, until actual precious metal was used for the purchase of goods, and was looked on as being good by YHVH. But, we will not be given wealth if we can’t take care of what we have already. During Yeshua’s ministry, there was no need of wealth, because they traveled, and had no permanent home, so it was sold and put in community pool for their needs. As far as it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter heaven, it needs further explaination. The gates to the city were closed at night. There was a gate, named the needle gate, and if one showed up at night with a laden camel, the camel had to be unloaded before it could kneel and crawl through the needle gate. If we want wealth in order to do work for church, assembly, synagoue, etc. we have to do the work, and then he’ll do his part. Besides, we never really own anything in this world. We can only possess it, and maybe do some good with it, imo.

  3. John A. Nelson

    And here go the zealots….trying to make sense of a 2,000 year old book in today’s terms. FACT: Any one of you would be considered “rich” according to the context of biblical times. THEREFORE: You will not reach heaven. Now you have to turn, twist, explain this fact away.

  1. […] Study: Too much religion can harm economy CANTERBURY, England (RNS) Too much religion can harm a society's economy by undermining the drive for financial success, according to a new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Vintage Business Bible with business … Read more on Religion News Service […]

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