Earlier today, I gave my 33rd "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester. I picked a topic that was at the front of my mind due to a talk I gave last Wednesday on behalf of Speakers for Schools.
The book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010” by Charles Murray looks at the differences between richer and poorer white Americans.
For me, one of the most eye-catching facts was the difference in religious practice between richer and poorer white Americans. Very briefly, rich white Americans normally belong to a church, or a synagogue, or a mosque. They attend reasonably often. Conversely, many fewer poor white Americans report having a religious belief.
Obviously, these are averages. There are plenty of rich Americans who are non-religious and plenty of poor white Americans who are religious.
This raises “the chicken and egg question.” Are rich white Americans religious because they are successful? Alternatively, are they successful because they are religious?
Last week, I spoke at St Chad’s Catholic and Church of England High School in Runcorn. I shared with the sixth form my opinion that having a religious belief helps you to succeed in life.
I think religion gives you a moral compass for taking the difficult decisions that life requires. Also, religion teaches you not to waste your money, and to think about the long-term. At its simplest, committing sin now might cause you to miss out on Heaven for all eternity.
Karl Marx of course called religion “the opiate of the masses.” He was as wrong about this as he was about everything else. I believe that religion is something that, practised properly, helps to lift people out of poverty.
As Jesus said in the Gospel of John: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” [John 10:10 King James Version]