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Secularism, individual rights can bring economic prosperity: Study

London, July 19 (IANS) Secularisation coupled with respect and tolerance for individual rights such as abortion, divorce and homosexuality can boost a country’s economic growth, reveals a study.

The findings, published in Science Advances, showed that a decline in religion can influence a country’s future economic prosperity.

However, secularisation predicts future economic development only when it is accompanied by a respect and tolerance for individual rights.

Countries where abortion, divorce and homosexuality are tolerated have a greater chance of future economic prosperity, the study showed.

“We noticed that secularisation only leads to economic development when it is accompanied by a greater respect for individual rights,” said lead researcher Damian Ruck, from Britian’s University of Bristol.

“But that isn’t to say that religious countries can’t become prosperous. Religious institutions need to find their own way of modernising and respecting the rights of individuals,” Ruck added.

The subject has long been debated by classic scholars of social science including French sociologist Emile Durkheim, who claimed that religion fades away once economic development has satisfied our material needs, whereas German sociologist Max Weber, argued that changes in religion drive economic productivity.

For the study, the team measured the importance of religion in 109 countries spanning the entire 20th century (1900 to 2000).

“Over the course of the 20th century, changes in importance of religious practices appear to have predicted changes in GDP across the world,” said Alex Bentley from the University of Tennessee.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that secularization caused economic development, since both changes could have been caused by some third factor with different time lags, but at least we can rule out economic growth as the cause of secularization in the past,” he noted.



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