Protestants and Catholics: How affiliation influences economic behaviour

For a long time, religious leaders have only been involved in matters religion. However, this seems to have changed with modern religious leaders having a say in several other matters outside religion such as economics, climate change etc. Some of these leaders preach equality, fairness and all things good in whatever they advocate.

Theories about religion and behaviour

As history would have it, Catholicism and Protestantism have been two very distinct Christian groups. Max Weber the father of Sociology established one distinction in terms of Capitalism. He believed that capitalism is deeply embedded in Protestant ethics. He noted that economically, Protestant parts of Germany were a lot more advance as compared to the Catholic Majority areas. This is because Protestants believed that one had to work hard for their salvation. To them salvation was never assured.

Weber’s theory was both disputed and supported. One American Sociologist, Peter Berger believed that Weber was right. While studying Latin America, he found that Protestants, especially the Pentecostals were performing much better economically as compared to the majority who are the Catholics. He also found that most immigrants from Asia to the USA e.g. those from South Korea convert to Christianity as they get richer. This concludes therefore that Protestantism has more influence on people’s manner of working, saving or even spending.

Weber’s theory also has skeptics who believe otherwise. Prof. Sascha Becker of Warwick University is an example. He believes that there is none who is better than the other. All are equal. According to him, we cannot conclude that just because there are poor Catholic communities all Catholics are poor. He cited Bavaria, a wealthy Catholic community in Germany to prove this inconclusive. Furthermore, he believes that Protestants are not well off economically because of the psychology or theology. It is mainly because of their desire to read the Bible that lead to high literacy levels. High literacy levels equal improved economic standing and success.


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