Religion, Liberalism, and Worldly Success | James Kalb | Catholic World Report
The irony of modern liberalism is that it is made possible by ties and loyalties that it rejects and destroys.
Why does it seem that orderly, prosperous, and well-run societies are usually less religious, but the less religious a society becomes the more disorderly it gets?
The situation is complex, it’s hard to do comparisons, and polling results are subject to a great deal of interpretation, but general trends seem clear. Northern and Western European countries are irreligious, Northeast Asian countries such as China and Japan are irreligious, and communist and post-communist countries are irreligious, except where religion was part of resistance to foreign ideological domination. In contrast, less developed areas such as Africa, South America, and Asia outside the Russian and Chinese cultural spheres are usually quite religious.
Given all that, it seems clear that religion doesn’t mix with success or modernization, right?
Actually, the picture is more complicated than that. It does appear that more order and prosperity mean less religion. That should be no surprise: people have been saying for some time that there are no atheists in foxholes and the poor are closer to God. It’s also true that the trend throughout the world seems to be away from religion. On the other hand, it’s equally true that less religion means less order and prosperity. Kill a country’s religion, and you kill the country. Throughout the West the post-60s period has been marked not only by a trend toward extreme secularity, but by an end to the postwar boom and by intractable social problems, including radical increases in crime and family instability.
To explain the situation we need to look at the relation between religion and social order.