If Religion Is So Good for Society, How Come Catholic Countries Are Economic Basket Cases?
Alternative title: Cultural Determinism is Tricky.
I have not been alone on Ricochet in calling for a conservative reconquista of The Culture (TM). And not alone in insisting on the vital importance of churches as mediating institutions to stand against the suffocating embrace of the modern bureaucratic state. Or in insisting upon the vital resource that centuries of Christian thinking about ultimately important things brings to discussions about public policy today.
But how does one meet the objection that those countries where the religious institution with the most self-confident social teachings - the Roman Catholic Church - has dominated civil society are not countries that are marked by a stellar economic (or governance) record?
Of course, those countries are concentrated in Latin America and Southern Europe. But that is just to restate the problem: if culture is important (and how can it not be?), and religion is an important component/determinant of culture (ditto), then why do those countries that are strongly Roman Catholic (seem to) perform so poorly?
Part of the answer might well be that other faith traditions also show similar correlations between piety and underperformance. (It is not the purpose of this post to pick on Roman Catholics.) Hence the wider question: why do we think a renaissance of religion will help, exactly?
Just as a reminder, here is a list of countries with more than 1 million Catholics, where 80% or more of the population reports being Catholic: Honduras, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Spain, Argentina, Colombia, Italy, Poland, Paraguay, Croatia, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Ireland, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Philippines, Haiti. (Wikipedia)