Rich countries are less religious than poorer countries as discovered by Pew Research Center. The two big outliers are the U.S. and China. Americans are far more religious than expected: on par with Lebanon despite 4 times its income. China is an extreme outlier the other way. In the middle are the Nordics: liberal capitalist democracies where 75%+ are atheist, agnostic or unaffiliated. Though tolerance is practised, culturally these irreligious regions are religious monopolies.
Whenever doctrine clashes with economics, religions must adapt, or their followers incur a penalty, which can shake belief. When a religion dominates a community, the only acceptable alternative is apathy. Strict cultural norms relax as the lapsed outnumber the fanatics. Monopolistic institutions fail to innovate and decline in relevance, creating an opening for secular humanists wielding evidence-based policies. Wealth creation is unleashed, generating the tax base necessary for social welfare spending, further decreasing reliance on the church.
Communism attempted to shortcut this shift, hoping a technocratic elite unencumbered by ‘irrational’ religious beliefs would bring wealth. The U.S. never lost its religiosity, as it was a free market of ideas. Freedoms of religion, assembly and speech are enshrined in law, and more than 50% of Americans change religious affiliation in their lifetimes. Faith faces economic reality without protection from the state – becoming stronger through natural selection – at the cost of under-developed welfare infrastructure for the unaffiliated.
Faith in Flux
Freedom of religion in China
Growth of religion
Irreligion in Sweden
Map: These are the world’s least religious countries
Memetic Tribes and Culture War 2.0
Religion: why faith is becoming more and more popular
Scandinavian Nonbelievers, Which Is Not to Say Atheists
The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority