A first-of-its-kind study takes an empirical look at the true “value” of faith.
A growing segment of religious nones, with their less-than-flattering views of the role of religious institutions, has led Georgetown University’s Brian Grim and Newseum Institute’s Melissa Grim to calculate three estimates of religion’s socio-economic value to the United States.
“Given the division of opinion on religion’s contribution to American society, this present study seeks to shed light on the topic by making an estimate of religion’s socio-economic value to society,” wrote the father-and-daughter team. “Indeed, we should know if the decline in religion is likely to have negative economic consequences.”
Most religiously unaffiliated Americans think churches and other religious institutions are too concerned with money and power (70%) and too involved with politics (67%), according to the Pew Research Center. And fewer unaffiliated Americans than religious Americans believe that churches strengthen community bonds (78% vs. 90%), help the poor and needy (77% vs. 90%), or do anything to help solve social problems (45% vs. 70%).
But religion, it turns out, is good for the economy.
Specifically, religion is a $378 billion to $4.8 trillion boost to the US economy, the Grims found. Even at the lowest estimate, religious organizations make more than the global revenue of Apple and Microsoft combined; at the high end, religion makes the roughly the same amount as a third of the United States GDP.
A recent journal article explained how the Grims arrived at the three estimates in their study, sponsored by Faith Counts.
“The most conservative estimate takes into account only the revenues of faith-based organizations falling into several sectors: education, healthcare, local congregational activities, charities, media, and food,” they wrote.
The biggest chunk of that comes from health care networks, such as Adventist Health System in Florida, the Baptist Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, or Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Health care systems like these raise about $161 billion a year.
Congregations raise revenues of $84 billion a year, with $74.5 billion of it coming from individual donations. Religious elementary schools, high schools, and colleges pull in $74 billion, while charities like World Vision, Compassion International, and Samaritan’s Purse bring in more than $45 billion.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra