An interesting article in The Times of Israel engages the thought that “religion is being priced out of affordability.” Giving some rhetorical feet to that thought, a separate article published by LENDEDU asks, “how many consumers are including the cost of religious affiliation into their monthly or yearly budgets?”
In his article, Alex Coleman analyzed reports on consumer spending habits and integrated the existing studies with a new poll conducted by LENDEDU about religious spending. Coleman’s “goal was to take an objective approach to gauge consumers’ financial contributions to their respective religions, but also to understand the impact this cost has on their daily lives.”
Coleman observed how religion plays a role in a large percentage of the population and followed that with a series of pointed questions.
With more than 3 in 4 Americans identifying themselves with some religious faith, the effects of religion on daily life in the United States are widespread. Many think of the time commitment of religious affiliation, yet overlook the financial commitment involved with the participation in religious faith.
Is this because we classify the financial commitment of religious affiliation differently than say, our monthly car payment? Does this interpretation differ based on your religious affiliation or age?
The survey revealed:
[The] average respondent donates $1,190.31 per year to his or her respective religion. Jewish respondents reported donating the most to their religion, donating $1,442.91 per year on average. Christian donated the least at $817.42 per year, on average.
Our survey revealed that the average respondent spends an additional $944.12 per year to participate in his or her religion, excluding monetary donations. Muslim respondents reported the highest yearly cost, spending $1,313.26 per year to participate. Christians respondents again reported the lowest yearly cost, spending $335.08 per year.
Our survey ultimately revealed that the average respondent reported spending $2,134.42 per year on his or her respective religion. This total yearly cost is a summary of yearly monetary donations and yearly costs to participate, excluding monetary donations. Jewish respondents reported the highest yearly cost, spending $2,624.69 per year on average. Christian respondents reported the lowest yearly cost, spending $1,152.51 per year on average.”
After reporting on some of the ways in which religious institutions use the donations, Coleman reveals, “We found that 54.55% of all respondents indicated that they do budget for their monetary donations to their respective religions. 59.64% of Jewish respondents reported that they do budget for monetary donations to their religion, this was the highest reported among the three religious groups surveyed. 51.64% of Muslim respondents reported that they do budget for monetary donations to their religion, this was the lowest reported among the three religious groups surveyed.”
Possibly the most informative portion of Coleman’s article is found when the study asked respondents about their religious giving. In each group (Christians, Jews, and Muslims), a sizeable percentage have considered changing their religion over financial concerns.
Surprisingly, “16.00% of Christians respondents indicated that they have distanced themselves from their religion due to the financial cost and 11.27% indicated that they have considered switching their religion due to the financial cost.”
The LENDEDU article lends credibility to the existential crisis faced by the author of the piece in The Times of Israel. In that article, the anonymous author confesses that he can “do Jewish” on half of what he was led to believe by the rabbis and other leaders of his synagogue. The trade-off is that he has greatly distanced himself from his faith community. In other words, he’s creating a Judaism that’s defined by his budget and not necessarily by the teachings of his synagogue.
For the sake of argument, assuming that all faith traditions are of equal eternal value (and they’re not of equal eternal value) there seems to be a growing disconnect between temporal values and eternal values. On the flip side, the leaders of faith communities need to look in the mirror and make sure that their greed or man-made rules aren’t a stumbling block to participation by laypeople.
How does your religious giving stack up to the survey results?