Economic Growth And Religion: What’s The Connection?
Religion & Liberty Online

Economic Growth And Religion: What’s The Connection?

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation has issued a global study that links religious freedom to economic growth. Researchers say that religious freedom has been a previously “unrecognized asset to economic recovery and growth,” and that religion contributes heavily to peace and stability, both of which are necessary to economic stability.

Mark A. Kellner breaks down the study’s findings:

According to the RFBF [Religious Freedom & Business Foundation], the study looked at GDP growth for 173 countries in 2011 and found religious freedom correlated with lower corruption. Moreover, “when religious groups operate in a free and competitive environment, religion can play a measurable role in the human and social development of countries.”

The authors analyzed 2011 GDP data and compared with data on religious restrictions, the level of economic and business freedom in a given country, and “measures of government regulation, taxes, labor issues, demographics and economic circumstances.”

The study notes that entrepreneurs are less likely to attempt to start businesses in places where religious hostility occurs and may choose to move elsewhere. Cycles of peace and religious clashes also hurt tourism, which obviously affects economies. The study also concludes that when religious faiths and differences are respected within a business, the company tends to do better economically. For instance, the clothing retailer fired a Muslim woman for wearing a hijab, saying it was outside of the company’s dress code policy. The case not only cost the company in legal fees, but they suffered substantial negative publicity.

Brian Grim, of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, offers seven reasons why religion is good for business:

Freedom of religion or belief is good for business. As outlined in Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights,

Article 18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

But why is it good for business? In short, because religious freedom:

  • Fosters respect
  • Reduces corruption
  • Engenders peace
  • Encourages broader freedoms
  • Develops the economy
  • Overcomes over-regulation
  • Multiplies trust

One analyst says this study means that religion and religious freedom should inform foreign policy, as well as clearly indicating that if a nation wants to do well economically, religious freedom must be figured into the bottom line.

Read Religious Freedom Linked to Economic Growth, Finds Global Study” at RFBF.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.