Some research was carried out in 2003 to explore the connection between religion, religiousness and economic growth. The story is told in this article by The Economist: God, man and growth. The conclusion supports the thesis that values are key to social and economic success, not religion itself. It is the belief in being part of something bigger, more than the practice of religion, that fuels prosperity.
Here’s an extract:
The most striking conclusion, though, is that belief in the afterlife, heaven and hell are good for economic growth. Of these, fear of hell is by far the most powerful, but all three indicators have a bigger impact on economic performance than merely turning up for church. The authors surmise, therefore, that religion works via belief, not practice. A parish priest might tell you that simply going through the motions will bring you little benefit in the next world. If Mr Barro and Ms McCleary are right, it does you little good in this one either.
Indeed, Mr Barro and Ms McCleary go further. They find that church-going, after a certain point, is (in an economic sense, anyway) a waste of time. They argue that higher church attendance uses up time and resources, and eventually runs into diminishing returns. The “religion sector”, as they call it, can consume more than it yields.