Several years ago I met a pastor from the inner city of Philadelphia where he had ministered for close to four decades. He shared how during that time he witnessed a gradual change in his congregation from a dependency upon God to a dependency upon the government. As their dependency upon government took root, their self-sufficiency disappeared, their faith waned and attendance at church evaporated. Many abandoned the faith as government became their God. The final nail in the coffin was the relative moral decree by government of right and wrong.
Now comes confirmation that if people can get what they want/need from the government (be it health care, education, welfare, proteciton, etc.) they’re less likely to seek God. In a research paper, psychologists found that better government services were in fact linked to lower levels of strong religious beliefs. Those findings held true in states across the U.S. and in countries around the world, researchers said. The article, “Religion as an Exchange System: The Interchangeability of God and Government in a Provider Role,” was published April 12 in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
An exchange model of religion implies that if a secular entity such as government provides what people need, they will be less likely to seek help from supernatural entities. Controlling for quality of life and income inequality (Gini), we found that better government services were related to lower religiosity among countries (Study 1) and states in the United States (Study 2). Study 2 also showed that during 2008-2013, better government services in a specific year predicted lower religiosity 1 to 2 years later. In both studies, a combination of better government services and quality of life was related to a particularly low level of religiosity. Among countries, government services moderated the relation between religiosity and two measures of well-being, such that religiosity was related to greater well-being only when government services were low.