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The Influence Of Church On Nation Development

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Posted by Richard Ruquist on November 7, 2002 15:21:59 UTC

I heard an interesting program on NPR yesterday. An researcher was trying to determine the influence of beliefs of heaven and hell on the economic development of nations.

One conclusion that came out of the discussion was that when one particular religion has a monopoly in a nation, that nation will not develop economically. This conclusion came from citing a couple examples.

The first example was what happened to Spain after it kicked out the Jews and Moslems. It was admitted that Spain lost both its capacity to farm- apparently the Moslems were the only ones who knew how (that seems strange)- and to conduct commerce, as all money matters were handled by the Jews. But there is no reason why the Christians could not easily learn these skills. Yet even today, Spain remains less developed than other European nations whereas in the 1500s it was perhaps the most developed european nation. The reason is attributed to monopolistic religion.

A second example given is the underdevelopment of the South and Central American nations, and Mexico, in comparison to the US and Canada.

I am not convinced of this conclusion. Italy is a counter example and with the same monopolistic religion as Spain. Religion is essentially a monopoly in the Nordic countries and their development has not been arrested. The same might be said for Japan.

Islam is monopolistic in many nations and these are typically underdeveloped. Yet in the beginning the Islamic nations were the most developed in the world. What happened in my view is that Islam around 1300 decided to condemn scientific research, as we discussed on this forum some months ago.

On the other hand, China with no religious monopoly is now developing faster than any other nation; whereas when under communisn, which is something like a religious monopoly in terms of inhibiting free thinking, its economic development was stagnant.

Any thoughts on the impact of religion on economic development?

By the way, that researcher found that fear of hell was the strongest influence on human behavior. It kept the population from any endeavours not allowed by the church. So perhaps what counts is whether the dominant church or churches support individual freedom and free thinking as well as science and technology,

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