The Interchangeability of God and Government in a Provider Role

An exchange model of religion implies that if a secular entity such as government provides what people need, they will be less likely to seek help from supernatural entities. Researchers found that controlling for quality of life and income inequality (Gini), better government services were related to lower religiosity among countries (Study 1) and states in the United States (Study 2).
Study 2 also showed that during 2008-2013, better government services in a specific year predicted lower religiosity 1 to 2 years later.
In both studies, a combination of better government services and quality of life was related to a particularly low level of religiosity. Among countries, government services moderated the relation between religiosity and two measures of well-being, such that religiosity was related to greater well-being only when government services were low.

Are people actually more likely to drop religion in places where governments provide more services and stability?

When looking at the world we may see that in industrialised and economically wealthy countries there is not much interest in or for God and religious matters. though in many of those welfare states lots of people also do not seem to be so happy or often are looking for ways to be spiritually and physically in balance.

In a 2018 paper, psychology researchers crunched the numbers — and found that better government services were in fact linked to lower levels of strong religious beliefs. According to them those findings held true in states across the U.S. and in countries around the world.

The article, “Religion as an Exchange System: The Interchangeability of God and Government in a Provider Role,” was published 2018 April 12 in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The American psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who is known for studying social cognition, nonverbal communication, and the psychology of religion Miron Zuckerman with Chen Li of the University of Rochester and Ed Diener of the Universities of Utah and Virginia wrote that their findings suggest

“that if the function that religiosity provides can be acquired from some other source, the allure of religion will diminish.”

The researchers also found something of a staggered link between the government services on offer and levels of religiosity in a given state. Between 2008 and 2013 in the U.S., for example,

“better government services in a specific year predicted lower religiosity 1 to 2 years later,”

researchers wrote.

We should see that in a huge state as the U.S.A. over the past four to five decades, confidence in nearly every institution of its so called ‘great’ life has declined and even when a President told people he was going to make America “big” again he created even more division and managed to bring even more distrust  and unbelief to people.

A 2018 Gallup survey found, for example, that trust in Congress stood at 42 percent in 1973 and dropped to 11 percent in 2018. Only 29 percent of Americans gave high ratings to public schools in 2018, compared with 58 percent in 1973. Newspapers have lost altitude too, with only 23 percent at the end of 2018 expressing “quite a lot” or a “great deal” of trust in them. In 1975, 52 percent had confidence in the presidency, compared with 37 percent today. The data are similar for the medical system, TV news, and banks. The only institution showing improvement was the military. (Small business was mostly trusted and held steady over the decades.)

For the institution of the Catholic church lots of people were shocked by the sexual abuse in that institution and the will of the church leaders to hide those grave incidents. You can imagine lots of people thinking those institutions merit this loss of trust. Not only ongoing scandals involving sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have doubtless contributed to organized religion’s loss of standing. The world could see how major evangelical leaders, such as the Southern Baptist (or better: Evangelical) pastor, author, Robert Jeffress, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a Christian conservative policy and lobbying organization based in Washington, D.C., and Jerry Falwell, Jr., did not mind to become shameless flacks for a cruel and immoral president has sullied their own reputations while giving the side eye to the faith that supposedly commands non-situational ethics. On January 26, 2016, Falwell announced his endorsement of Donald Trump for the Republican Nomination in the 2016 Presidential Election; causing some Liberty University alumni and other Christians to express concern that Falwell had “sold his soul.”

We can see that lots of people preferred “selling their soul” to be popular or to gain a better position in this world, were there does not seem to be much space any more for real ethics and (godly) good moral.

In the U.S.A. only 39% of Catholics and 45% of Protestants attend church weekly whilst back in 1955, about 75% of Catholics went to Mass every week. For the Protestants, about 42% went to church weekly. For Europeans this seems still very good results, knowing for example in Belgium the Catholic (= main) church may be happy with about a 6% of the population (which is so called the majority of the population). Though in Belgium we can see that most are ‘name Christians’ and often even do not believe, but have their children baptised in the Roman Catholic Church, have the first and second communion, the marriage and funeral marked with a church-service.

In the States, Canada and West-Europe the protestants seem to do it better, church attendance having remained pretty steady for them — although they are fewer in number now than in 1955 — but church attendance for Catholics has declined dramatically and, as Gallup reports, continues to fall. In Belgium the Pentecostals could gain a lot of people around the end of the previous century and at the beginning of the 21st century. But now it seems also to become quiet along that side of the religious front.

People are busy with their work and more interested in their position in social media than their position in a religious group. The majority of people does not like to talk about religion, except when they can curse the Muslims. But to talk seriously or to go in a discussion about God and His commandments is just not done.

Most people are also convinced God can do nothing and it is all up to the governement to take care of their life and of this world. They trust more the political institutions than the churches which they consider to be even worse than politicians. but with that they also want to exclude God. Them not able to see the difference between the Leader God and the many church leaders who are just human beings often trying to take care to make the best for themselves as well.

In Belgium by the Muslims, or about 25% of the population we can see a very clear difference of attitude towards the way of life and attitude towards God. For most of them Allah still comes at the first place and even when they have to work hard for making a living, they always want to give enough time for their God. For lots of Muslims prayer time is a serious time to have a conversation with the Most High. They also live under the same government but prefer to put their hope into Allah, also regularly saying

“Inshallah” – “So God wants it” or “Like God wants it”

expressing that for them it may be like Allah wants it, and not how the world would like it.

Though the majority may have put God out of the picture, we can see that there is a slowly growing very tiny group of real lovers of God, who put their hope in Him more than in the politicians. They know the worldly government shall never be able to bring the right solution. Therefore they look for the theocratic governement soon to come.

6 thoughts on “Are people likely to turn less to a divine power for help when they have a big government?

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