Why people in Brazil and in the U.S. believe in God

Janet R. writes:

I’d just like to thank you for your blog. I have found it very interesting and thought provoking.

I am no philosopher or theologian but I would like to add some comments based on my own experience.

I am English and I was raised a Catholic as my parents were Irish Catholic. I have always had a firm belief in God. I remember that even 35 years ago at school and university in England if I said that I believed in God people would laugh increduously and derisively and I learnt to keep my beliefs to myself.

Then I married a Brazilian and came to live in Brazil and I found it so refreshing that everyone talked openly about their faith God and their dependence on him. I came to the conclusion that the reason for this was that in Brazil there is no welfare state.

Although here in Brazil we pay the taxes of Sweden, the state is so bankrupt because of generalised corruption and incompetence that the services provided are nonexistent. Apart from a privileged caste of civil servants with their higher than market salaries, guaranteed employment and full pensions, the rest of us have no security.To make matters worse the political and economic climate is very hostile to capitalism. The very fact that one manages to survive from year to year appears to be nigh on miraculous.

People here believe and pray to God because there is nothing else; God is our only help . I think that Europeans will only start to believe in a Christian God when their idol of the welfare state self destructs, as one day it surely will; or perhaps when they have to muster up a reaction to wholesale Islamisation.

I once read that Paul Johnson had written that one of the criteria for a successful society based on capitalism is the belief in a providential God. Apparently this statement ruffled some academic feathers in Australia where he was giving conference. I think that it is obvious that people will only take risks if they believe that there is benign influence looking after them. I think that is why capitalism in the USA (where most people believe in God) is so successful and unlike the unattractive kind of capitalism unleashed by Margaret Thatcher’s reforms in atheistic Britain which became a synonym for pure greed.

I would go even futher and add that from my reading of the book of Wisdom chapter 14 : verses 1-7 ( I don’t know if this book is found in the Protestant bible) it seems that man’s desire for profit is the means by which the works of God are effected on earth.

I have a lot more to say but perhaps another tome.

Once again thank you for your illuminating blog.

LA replies:

I thank Janet for the interesting thoughts. She is making two quite distinct arguments, and I’m not sure how they fit together: (1) Brazilians believe in God because their society offers them no welfare state nor apparently anything to depend on, so they need God; and (2) Americans’ belief in God gives them a belief in an ultimate harmony between self-interest and the larger good, and this gives them a positive attitude toward life, including a confidence in entrepreneurship, that makes America uniquely dynamic and creative.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 15, 2007 11:07 AM | Send

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