Protestant cultural legacies

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The atheist and Harvard University historian Niall Ferguson declared: "Through a mixture of hard work and thrift the Protestant societies of the North and West Atlantic achieved the most rapid economic growth in history."[1]

Due to the history of the Protestant Reformation, significant Protestant populations can be found in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, the northern part of Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the east, north and west of Switzerland.[2]

All the above countries are developed countries. And when looking at any economic prosperity of the above countries and any positive effects that prosperity causes or other positive cultural attributes, one has to consider cultural legacy of Protestantism and the Protestant work ethic in these countries.

Many irreligious countries in Europe, particular Nordic countries, have Protestant cultural legacies. Furthermore, in terms of Protestant cultural legacies, one has to look how atheism affects a culture and other relevant statistics related to atheism related to the social sciences (see: Atheism and culture and Atheism statistics).

Effects of cultural legacies

The website Cultural Front notes:

In chapter 6 of Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell highlights cultural legacies. He opens with disturbing descriptions of how longstanding cultural patterns and beliefs influenced violent conflicts among generations of families in Kentucky during the 19th century.

The compelling research findings concerning long-term and deeply held values led Gladwell to the conclusion that cultural legacies are powerful forces. They have deep roots and long lives. They persist, generation after generation, virtually intact, even as the economic and social demographic conditions that spawned them have vanished, and they play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them. He goes on to note the possibilities of “taking cultural legacies seriously” in order to learn “why people succeed and how to make people better.”[3]

Protestant work ethic statistics

See also: Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and Atheism and sloth and Christianity statistics

Harvard University historian Niall Ferguson declared: "Through a mixture of hard work and thrift the Protestant societies of the North and West Atlantic achieved the most rapid economic growth in history."[4]

(Ferguson is an atheist.[5])

Protestant missionaries and economic and societal development

The article The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries published in Christianity Today notes:

In his fifth year of graduate school, Woodberry created a statistical model that could test the connection between missionary work and the health of nations. He and a few research assistants spent two years coding data and refining their methods. They hoped to compute the lasting effect of missionaries, on average, worldwide...

One morning, in a windowless, dusty computer lab lit by fluorescent bulbs, Woodberry ran the first big test. After he finished prepping the statistical program on his computer, he clicked "Enter" and then leaned forward to read the results.

"I was shocked," says Woodberry. "It was like an atomic bomb. The impact of missions on global democracy was huge. I kept adding variables to the model—factors that people had been studying and writing about for the past 40 years—and they all got wiped out. It was amazing. I knew, then, I was on to something really important."

Woodberry already had historical proof that missionaries had educated women and the poor, promoted widespread printing, led nationalist movements that empowered ordinary citizens, and fueled other key elements of democracy. Now the statistics were backing it up: Missionaries weren't just part of the picture. They were central to it...

Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.

In short: Want a blossoming democracy today? The solution is simple—if you have a time machine: Send a 19th-century missionary."[6]

Eurozone crisis and countries with a cultural legacy of Protestantism

A 2011 Telegraph article said about the Eurozone Crisis: "Either way, not a single Protestant or Germanic EU country has so far needed a bailout."[7]

Protestant work ethic and China

See also: Growth of Christianity in China

Christianity is rapidly growing in China. See: Growth of Christianity in China

According to Slate, "Protestant Christianity has been the fastest growing religion in China."[8] Evangelical Christianity is especially growing sharply in China.[9]

Hugh Whelchel's article The Protestant Work Ethic: Alive & Well…In China declares:

Christianity has exploded in China over the last twenty years. A 2011 report from the BBC conservatively estimated there were 60 million Christians in China. Small, primarily Protestant “house churches” are especially having a strong impact on the country.

This growth in religion has accompanied China’s rapid economic growth over the last twenty years. Now the world’s 2nd largest economy, China illustrates how even a limited amount of economic freedom has the power to lift millions of Chinese out of abject poverty and build one of the strongest economies in the world.

Ferguson suggests that China is starting to supplant the West, but is doing it by becoming more Western. China is booting up several of Ferguson’s “killer apps” – especially the Protestant Work Ethic.[10]

Evangelicalism and Switzerland named the happiest country in 2015

In 2015, Switzerland was the happiest country in 2015 according to the world's happiness index.[11]

In 2015, Switzerland was the happiest country in 2015 according to the world's happiness index.[12]

Switzerland and prosperity

Although it is certainly not the only variable related to a person's overall happiness, happiness is positively correlated to wealth.[13]

On June 22, 2013, Business Insider reported that Switzerland has the most competitive economy in the world.[14]

Wikipedia was founded by an atheist and agnostic. According to a recent Wikipedia article on Switzerland: "Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world by per capita gross domestic product, and has the highest wealth per adult (financial and non-financial assets) of any country in the world. Zurich and Geneva have respectively been ranked as the cities with the second and eighth highest quality of life in the world."[15]

Switzerland and evangelical Christianity and creationism

In 2007, the Christian Post reported:

But proponents of creationism contend that most Swiss want creationism taught alongside evolution in biology class. A survey commissioned by the Christian organization Pro Genesis earlier this year found 80 percent of Swiss want creationism taught in schools, according to swissinfo. Meanwhile, an international survey last year found 30 percent of Swiss reject evolution – one of the highest rates in Europe.[16]

A Swiss website also reports: Evangelical churches are booming in Switzerland and Faith, love and Swiss evangelicals.

Happiness and irreligious countries with Protestant cultural legacies

Various studies within the Western World indicate that atheism is negatively correlated with physical and mental health (see: Atheism and health, Atheism and depression, Atheism and suicide, Atheism and alcoholism, and Atheism and drug addiction).

As noted above, although it is certainly not the only variable related to a person's overall happiness, happiness is positively correlated to wealth.[17]

Psychology Today declares:

According to Gallup data for 2010, the happiest nations were Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. These are among the least religious countries in the world. Also according to Gallup data, Sweden, Denmark and Norway were the second, third, and fourth least religious states, being exceeded only by Estonia in their atheism.

Why are these European countries so happy? Their happiness is explainable in terms of a combination of national wealth and redistribution of resources via high taxation and a well-developed welfare state. So paying taxes makes people happy after all!

It is not the actual payment of taxes that cheers citizens of course but the end result of good government which is to say a secure standard of living for everyone.

In the jargon of religious studies, the European social democracies provide existential security. No one has to worry about being arbitrarily dismissed from their job and running out of money for basic necessities.

The principle source of European happiness is also the main reason for their unprecedented level of atheism. As detailed in an earlier post, when countries become more affluent, and their people acquire greater material security, their religious temperature nose dives.[18]

Flawed conclusion of Psychological Today article

As noted above, due to the history of the Protestant Reformation, significant Protestant populations can be found in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, the northern part of Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the east, north and west of Switzerland.[19]

When atheist and secular leftist apologists cite various favorable economic and societal statistics of irreligious countries which formerly had a strong presence of Protestantism (typically in Northern Europe), they generally do not mention the issue of the effects of cultural legacies (For example, what factors in their past best explain their current prosperity?).

Next, since there is a significant amount of data indicating that religiosity is positively correlated to physical and mental health (see: Atheism and health, Atheism and depression, Atheism and suicide, Atheism and alcoholism, and Atheism and drug addiction). There is the issue of comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Namely, a legitimate question is: How much happier or less happier are the religious within irreligious countries that have significant Protestant populations, than the irreligious in those same countries or do they have the same degree of happiness?.

In short, well-designed studies which attempt to form solid conclusions use the principle of ceteris paribus (all other things remaining equal). This is done by choosing appropriate study participants and using statistical analysis to isolate variables related to the socioeconomic profiles of study participants (Generalized linear model analysis, etc.).

See also

Notes