Is there a correlation between religion and financial success?

This NYT article asks “Is your religion your financial destiny?,” but a better question may be “How does religion affect your financial destiny?” or “How does religion affect attitudes towards finance?, ” if fatalism isn’t your thing.

More after the jump + why “Calvinist Islam” is a flawed term…

Are religious persons more likely to opt for low-income/high-service jobs (ie. social work or teaching)? Not necessarily, what about non-religious altruists? Religious persons do have the benefit of living out a spiritual value, such as the upside-down kingdom ethic.

To say that religion inculcates a work ethic is dismissive of those who have a moral–rather–than spiritual incentive for good behavior on the job. Does HR view a religious affiliation as extra assurance that an employee will not pocket products?

The selfish wealthy are eviscerated in many religious texts and parables; generosity is a virtue. And yet, some people subscribe to prosperity theology.

There is always a gap between doctrine and practice, although it may not be reflected in the crisp, nearly linear Pew data above.


I understand the origins and recognize the writings that inform the concept of the ‘Protestant work ethic,’ but as this article gushes over Muslims businessmen and workers who are described as having Protestant work ethic, I wonder if rather than defining them through a Western lens, we might call it a Muhammadan work ethic?

The region’s mix of Muslim values, hard work and raging capitalism has even prompted sociologists to coin a new term to describe the phenomenon: “Calvinist Islam.”

Sociologists should know better–and know this:

Even so, business is thriving, a fact that local business leaders attribute to an entrepreneurial spirit that, they say, is also part of Islam. Herdem said that the secret behind the city’s business prowess could be traced to the Prophet Muhammad, himself a trader, who preached merchant honor and commanded that 90 percent of a Muslim’s life be devoted to work in order to put food on the table. Opening a factory in Islam is a sort of prayer, Herdem added.


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