Being religious, and no, it doesn’t matter which religion, is one of the nine things most happy people have in common. It made me wonder how being religious affects success - especially since happy people tend to be dramatically more successful (Inc 2022).
What are my religious views?
Before getting into the data, I want to explain my religious views because I want you to understand where I might be biased. If you're looking to jump to that bit, it's at the end. I believe in God, and I have since I can remember, but I only consciously acted as if God existed from around the time I turned 18 when I moved overseas and needed something to cling to. God and acting in a way that God would like became more important to me as everything I had known felt further away.
The first time I felt like I felt God was visiting my friend Jon in Israel. I remember standing in Jerusalem marvelling at the beauty, I was fully present. It was a simple moment, and I could be crazy, but if you’ve felt what I’ve felt- you know exactly what I mean. After visiting Jon, I went back to university and I went through what I’ve come to fondly call “my Christian phase.”
In my Christian phase, I got involved with my uni’s church group. They were a lovely group of people, and I went to gatherings and church with my friends Sophie and Ade for a few months. I stopped going when one of the well-meaning women told me God’s plan for me might be to be single forever. Considering I’m a girl who grew up on a steady diet of Twilight and Wattpad (aka the cheesiest romance stories you can read) - I didn’t like that very much.
Where am I now?
I would consider myself spiritual. For the next few years after my “Christian phase”, I didn’t think about God as much, although I did try to act in a way I thought God would be happy with, and I found comfort in going through life knowing there was always a place I could turn to for hope, forgiveness and guidance. I don’t follow any specific religion, but I probably follow the rules of Islam and Christianity the most after being exposed to Islam by Sabah Ahmedi at a People Like Us Event and Christianity at university.
Meeting Sabah and following him on Instagram prompted me to look more into Islam. I used Tik Tok to record my journey, but right now I’m learning more in private.
For me, every religion has its strengths and at its core, they promote love, peace and purpose. I don’t think I will convert to any religion, but I’ve liked taking part with my friends Sana and Farhan at the East London Mosque on an occasional Friday, and I like the guidance Islam and Christianity give because I feel a lot of what’s said fits with what my gut says too.
I didn’t grow up with religion, but I’ve developed a sense that this life is too beautiful to have been created by something as happenstance as a big bang.
Two fears I faced for a long time about God were the fear that smart people would think I was stupid for believing and the fact I’ve never quite known where to put my belief. Of course, I have my doubts about God, however at some point, I came to the conclusion that if I believe in God and God doesn’t exist, nothing happens, but if I act like God doesn’t exist and I’m wrong, I’m f*****. I still struggle with my identity and the way it relates to what I believe, but there’s something about God that has brought me peace and purpose which I hope to spend a lifetime being thankful for.
The main reason I wouldn’t convert right now is I can’t genuinely say I believe in prophets. I believe God speaks through all of us, but this view may change the more I learn, and I’ll never be closed off to any path I feel drawn to. I will never be perfect, but I won’t convert to any religion right now because I try very hard not to lie in general, and there’s no way I’m going to lie to myself or God for the sake of having an identity or pleasing other people.
God and success
As I’ve been exploring ideas of success. I began to wonder how success fits in with my beliefs, leading me to question if believing in a higher power was more likely to leave people with not only greater happiness, but a greater bank account too. Aside from the billions of religious people in the world actively choosing a lifetime of faith demonstrating there must be something worth staying for, research from Paul Dolan shows religion makes other people more likely to be happy (it doesn’t matter which religion), so it seemed like a reasonable hypothesis that if being religious makes you more likely to be happy, it can make you more likely to be successful too.
So… does being religious make you more likely to be a millionaire?
A 2015 study from New World Wealth found more than two-thirds of the world’s millionaires are affiliated with a religion, and more than half identified as Christians. It’s worth noting before reading the below the study is eight years old now, and the richest countries are also Christian-dominant (7 out of 10).
New World Wealth is a nonpartisan organisation. The study found that of the 13.1 million millionaires in the world, 56.2%, identify themselves as Christian, 6.5% of millionaires identified themselves as Muslim, 3.9% identified themselves as Hindu and 1.7% identified as Jewish. About a third (31.7%) identified as other which includes other religions and atheism.
Let’s compare this to the religious affiliation of the world population in 2022 from Pew Research. Christians make up 31.11% of the world population, Islam makes up 25.90%, Judaism makes up about 0.18% and Unaffiliated + Other makes up 16.07%. As you can see, Christians, Jewish and “other” people have a significantly higher proportion of the millionaire population when compared to the world population.
This is only one study, but the findings show if you meet a millionaire- it’s very likely they’re religious. However this does not mean if you meet someone who is religious, they’re very likely to be a millionaire. In fact, a 2017 paper from the Sociology of Religion found that increased religiosity was linked to lower income, GDP, and social welfare availability.
Lisa Keister, a professor at Duke University, found that "wealth affects religion indirectly through educational attainment, fertility, and female labour force participation" but can also have negative effects of religion on wealth attainment such as cultural norms associated with some religions like having a lot of kids or women not working.
In other words, the interpretation of religion and personal circumstances matter when it comes to financial success. Regardless, the 2017 paper mentioned earlier found religious people are more likely to feel economically secure regardless of their income levels. The data indicates being Christian or Jewish can likely help you be successful, and being Muslim probably won’t due to differing gender norms and family size. The good news is, while being Muslim might not make you a millionaire, you probably won’t mind.
Thanks for reading this week’s blog post, I hope you found this information valuable. Come back next week if you want to know if higher education actually has a positive impact on success anymore.
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