Ted Malloch: Does America Depend On Its Religious Faith for Its Greatness?

Guest post by Ted Malloch author of Spiritual Enterprise


Watch this short video and ponder its message from one of the greatest business professors of all time.


New polls from the Pew Research Center suggest, “The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing.”

Surveys show these changes are “taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups.”

The drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, but “it is occurring among Americans of all ages.”

The same trends are seen “among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.”

Are we living on the fumes of our past, its spiritual legacy that was the bedrock of our civilization and of American democracy?

The Economist magazine recently said, “If you want to avoid an argument over religion at your next dinner party, you might suppose it safe to invite an economist, sociologist, or two. They of all people could be expected to stick to Mammon.”

Well maybe not.

We are living through that proverbial next dinner party and we need to stir some controversy and explore the influence of religious belief and observance on economic growth, nation-building, democratic norms and social life.

Without a spiritual foundation we do not have a country, a civilization or a soul.

Well, then what is Spiritual Capital?

It is an emerging concept that builds on the recent research on social capital that shows that spirituality is a major factor in the formation of social networks and an impetus for economic and social progress.

I have written about it extensively.

There is growing recognition, that religion is not epiphenomenal.

It is not fading away from public significance around the world; indeed, it is a critical factor in understanding every facet of life from the radius of trust to behavioral norms – all of which have vast economic, political and social consequences.

The so-called positivistic desire for a “waning of religion” was wrong—dead wrong.

Scholars such a Gary Becker and Robert Fogel, both Noble Laureates, have used the term “spiritual capital” to refer to that aspect of capital linked with religion and or spirituality.

Given that Robert Putnam’s influential work on social capital found that religion is by far the largest generator of social capital, contributing more than half of all the social capital accounted for; spiritual capital is conclusively a major subset and thus an area worthy of much attention on its own.

This is not the first time economists have held forth on this subject.

A century ago exactly, Max Weber, founder of sociology, observed that the Protestant work ethic was what made northern Europe and America rich.

More recently, Niall Ferguson, a British historian, argued that the present economic stagnation in Germany and elsewhere in Europe owes much to the decline of religious belief and church attendance during the past four decades.

Is that work ethic really dead?

Here are four questions (you can add more) to address this critical issue concerning spiritual capital.

We need to look at the effects of spiritual and religious practices, beliefs, networks, and institutions that have a measurable impact on individuals, communities and societies in America.

– To what extent is or should religion be considered in various experiences in nation building, in America, and elsewhere?

– Can one measure the state of national spirituality and do comparisons over time and across countries?

– How do society, public policy and the mediating structures actively generate more spiritual capital?

And finally,

How are economic growth, democracy and social development linked to spiritual capital founded in faith?

Unless we address these questions and truly rediscover our spiritual legacy, while practicing the freedom of religion, we are, I am afraid…


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