Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Least Church-Going Rich Countries Give Most

Least Church-Going Rich Countries Give Most

Admittedly, it's more complicated than that, especially in this report, with its various and confusing indexes, but there are some interesting implications to the data. One is that countries that support a socially involved government do little private giving--apparently trusting that the government will act in behalf of the citizens.

On the other hand, in a country like the U.S., where people have been taught over the last 30 years that the government is not to be trusted, there is little government giving and a relatively high amount of private giving. On a private level, the U.S. is one of the more generous countries, but if you add together both private and government giving, we still come out near the bottom.

There are some ramifications to this. Is there a connection between being religious and not trusting the government? Or does it have more to do with what level of group organization you identify with?

A friend who lived in Denmark for a year remarked that Scandinavian countries are tribal. The citizens regard each other as members of the same extended family, so the government is, for them, like a family organization. There is a high level of trust, a willingness to give to the government for undertakings they believe are for the good of the tribe and for others in the world, and an expectation that the government won't be corrupt. And indeed, Scandinavian governments are the least corrupt in the world. Perhaps corollary to this, the tribe mentality gives Scandinavians the sense of belonging that citizens in other countries seek in their churches.

In the United States, composed of the rejects from other tribes living in uneasy proximity, the government tends not to be seen as a voice of the people, no matter that democratic government is supposed to be just that. Our many competing tribes, and the large number of us who have no tribe, tend to see other tribes and the government as outsiders who don't have their best interests at heart.

Well, that's my theory. Do you have a better one?


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