Religion News Service reported on a recent study that has attempted to quantify the impact of religious congregations and institutions on the nation’s economy, putting the amount at $1.2 trillion – making religion “‘the 15th largest national economy in the world, ahead of 180 other countries in terms of value,’ [according to] Georgetown University’s Brian Grim, the study’s author.”
“That would also make American religion larger than the global revenues of the top 1o tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google,” he continued. “It would also make it 50 percent larger than the six largest American oil companies’ revenue on an annual basis.”
For the skeptics, the seeming paradox – measuring the positive impacts of religion in terms of economic data – might change perceptions of religion and faith. The study took into account 344,000 religious congregations as well as religious organizations, and all of the ways they contribute to the economy, from soup kitchens to staffing to hiring snow removal.
In a culture in which people often hear much more about the evils committed by religious people — from sex abuse scandals to genocide — it’s time for some “balance,” Grim said.
Even clergy often downplay the value of their work, said Ram Cnaan, who directs the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania and came to Washington to help Grim unveil the new study.
Cnaan — though quick to describe himself as secular — hopes Grim’s work boosts the confidence of the religious and allows them to take pride in their contributions to the economy and society.
Some of the numbers include:
• 130,000 alcohol and drug abuse recovery programs.
• 94,000 programs to support veterans and their families.
• 26,000 programs to prevent HIV/AIDS and to support people living with the disease.
• 121,000 programs to train and support the unemployed.
Four times as many churches as museums reported visitors coming to see art or architecture each year; congregations coordinate 7.5 million volunteers in the U.S., 40 percent of the top 50 charities in the U.S. are faith-based and religious individuals are more likely to donate to charities.
The report can be found online here.