Entrepreneurs pray more than non-entrepreneurs

Pic by stevendepolo

So says a study presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture:

In a separate study of U.S. entrepreneurs, researchers at Baylor University found there was little difference among economic risk-takers in terms of religious affiliation and attendance.

Where entrepreneurs did differ was in their greater likelihood to pray more often and to believe in a personal God.

When times get tough, and they often do among the long hours and high failure rates experienced by many starting new businesses, many entrepreneurs may find themselves strengthened by the belief “God is with them and interested in them and attends to their needs,” Baylor sociologist Kevin Dougherty said…

In the U.S., individuals who have started or were starting a new business reported they were more likely to believe in a God who personally cares for them and to pray and meditate more frequently than non-entrepreneurs

An unfortunate note in the study, in my humble opinion:

But outside of African-American churches, where congregational leaders have emphasized economic development as a necessary route to economic equality, few U.S. churches promote starting profit-making enterprises.

In the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey, just 15 percent of respondents said their place of worship encourages starting a business and less than one in five said their congregation encourages participants to make a profit.

Dougherty said this may be due to uneasiness with economic matters in institutions that emphasize putting others first and living lives of humility and poverty. [emphasis added]

It’s curious why leaders of congregations would believe there is tension between a business earning profit and putting others first. This erroneous belief reflects a static, zero-sum view of the world that clearly cannot be true after a few moment’s reflection.

If a business earned a profit, taking more money in for itself, then the only way that others can be harmed is if the total wealth in the world is fixed. If this were true, then it would be impossible for population and standards of living to simultaneously increase, which of course has been happening for centuries.

But since economic growth is often associated with advances in living standards, health care and reduced civil conflict, and entrepreneurs are attracted to sanctuaries that encourage them in their work, the study findings also raise the question of whether more congregations should address issues of economic development, some observers said.

So should entrepreneurs search out congregations or religions that are more open to the benefits they create? I would suggest, rather, that (along with most of the rest of humanity) religious leaders advance beyond an 18th century Mercantilist mindset. It may be true that, prior to the Industrial Revolution, the only way someone could get rich was by force or fraud and therefore a suspicion of wealth may have been warranted. But ever since Adam Smith demonstrated the true source of the Wealth of Nations as coming from free trade, and societies adhering to his philosophies have been on an unprecedented prosperity streak, there is no excuse why a mere 15 percent of respondents should feel supported in their vocations.

What would probably help is if there was some sort of parable where Jesus discusses the use of talents…

HT: Acton’s PowerBlog.

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