Data from five studies:
(1) Religious freedom is one of only three factors significantly associated with global economic growth, according to a 2014 study by researchers at Georgetown University and Brigham Young University (see press release). The study looked at GDP growth for 173 countries in 2011 and controlled for two-dozen different financial, social, and regulatory influences. The full report, “Is Religious Freedom Good for Business?: A Conceptual and Empirical Analysis,” is available on the website of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (IJRR). The authors of the study are Brian J. Grim, Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, and Greg Clark and Robert Edward Snyder, Brigham Young University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies.
(2) Religion annually contributes nearly $1.2 trillion of socio-economic value to the U.S. economy, according to a September 2016 study by Brian Grim and Melissa Grim in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion.
— That is equivalent to being the world’s 15th largest national economy, putting it ahead of about 180 other countries.
— It’s more than the annual revenues of the world’s top 10 tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google.
— And it’s also more than 50% larger than that of the annual global revenues of America’s 6 largest oil and gas companies.
So – you might say – that represents a lot of spiritually inspired fuel being pumped into the U.S. economy. Religion does play a unique role in the socio-economic behaviors of Americans. For example, adults who are highly religious are significantly more likely than those who are less religious to report they did volunteer work and made donations to the poor in the past week, according to the Pew Research Center.
(3) The Price of Freedom Denied shows that, contrary to popular opinion, ensuring religious freedom for all reduces violent religious persecution and conflict. Others have suggested that restrictions on religion are necessary to maintain order or preserve a peaceful religious homogeneity. Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke show that restricting religious freedoms is associated with higher levels of violent persecution. Relying on a new source of coded data for nearly 200 countries and case studies of six countries, the book offers a global profile of religious freedom and religious persecution. Grim and Finke report that persecution is evident in all regions and is standard fare for many. They also find that religious freedoms are routinely denied and that government and the society at large serve to restrict these freedoms. They conclude that the price of freedom denied is high indeed. By contrast, they find that religious freedom correlates with well-being in countries.
(4) Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent, Wesleyan Church, write for the World Economic Forum on religious freedom and its impact on women. Religion is often seen as a barrier to gender parity. Stories abound of gender-based violence done in the name of religion. As a result, in many cases, the issues of religion and gender parity are often dismissed as too complicated to address. There appears to be no way to unwind this rather complex multi-institution. However, a critical factor overlooked in this conversation is religious freedom. Unless there is religious freedom, minority groups, including women, will not be at the table and their vital, productive and creative voices will not be heard. Corporations and economies will suffer if they miss out on the contribution of women. The denial of religious freedom contributes to gender inequality throughout the world. Extremist ideologies such as ISIS represent the complete loss of religious freedom, and when respect for a diversity of religious beliefs and practices disappears, gender equality suffers.
(5) Grim and Finke’s article in the American Sociological Review demonstrates that explanations of social conflict cannot ignore the unique role of religion, especially when investigating conflicts such as religious persecution. Specifically, we find that religious regulation – composed of social and government regulation – offers a strong explanation for variation in the level of religious persecution. Government regulation is the strongest predictor of religious persecution even when controlling for other possible explanations. The results show that a state’s regulation of religion is a reaction to pressures created by the social forces seeking to regulate religion. These regulatory actions contribute to religious persecution and can set up a vicious cycle of persecution once unleashed. Finally, while governments typically view religious regulation as a necessity to maintain order and reduce potential violence, the irony is that more regulation leads to increased persecution, which means less order and more violence, as shown by the data.