The correlation between medium income levels and religious belief is complex at best, but there is a pattern. According to Marx, “Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Religion offers hope for the hopeless. People who are struggling in the economic system or lack of system are inclined to lean on religion as a crutch.
The statistics show that lack of religion for larger regions is an indicator of wealth or higher medium income; for example, people living in France claiming religious adherents has declined 21 percent from 2005-2012. In that same time, the average medium income has increased the same amount (Eurostat, 2013). Education is the readily available solution for the poorest areas of the world, but it is hard to educate people who are more interested in surviving than learning. Money in these areas is sparse and many poor countries have corrupt governments that do not feel obligated to help.
In the United States the issue is even more complex. Only three of the top 100 poorest counties in the United States are excluded from the top 15 religious states (Pew research, 2009). People who live in the top 15 poorest states and counties in the United States also attend religious services more than people outside the top 15 poorest states and counties. People are turning to their religion to combat the effects of poor living.
The idea that religion influences income is wrong. Income and poverty is shaped by the systems they live in, but when there is no obvious solution, people use religion to ease their suffering. It gives the people hope of something better and allows for a kind of justification for their plight. The evidence supports the idea that when people are comfortable financially or at least making a higher income, they are less likely to associate with a religion. There is also evidence showing that different religions have higher and lower income tendencies. The oldest religions, such as Judaism, Catholicism and Hinduism, have higher income levels compared to newer religions. Only one of the top 15 lowest income level states does not have a protestant majority in those states.
The United States is an amalgam of races, ethnicity, and religion. There are members of nearly every religion in all areas of the United States. Using religion to determine the happiness of a people is a new way to understand the psychology of the poor. Certain religions with a high concentration of members in an area are a good indicator of income and wealth. In Loudoun County, Virginia, there is a high concentration of Catholic adherents and a much smaller concentration of protestant members. Loudoun County is the wealthiest county in the United States. This pattern is unanimous in the top 10 wealthiest counties in the United States and the pattern is not defined by geographical location, but is defined by higher medium income levels.
There is definitely a connection between income and religion. Questions that should be asked are, “What specific religions attract wealthy individuals?” What belief tenets are in place that attracts the wealthy or poor to a specific religion? Is there discussion among the religious leaders of poverty-stricken regions? Is the separation of Church and State suppressing the advancement of the poor? Instead of categorizing the poor and wealthy, sociologist need to categorize the poor with a specific religion and the same for the wealthy. Looking at the specific religions can also add additional information on the psychological effect of poverty.