A study released this week found that fewer people adhered to religion in places where there are more government services available.
The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that psychology researchers from several American universities—including the Universities of Rochester, Virginia, and Utah—found that if governments provided services such as welfare, education, or health care, people were less likely to seek help from higher power.
“If the function that religiosity provides can be acquired from some other source, the allure of religion will diminish,” researchers from the study concluded.
The researchers said that the results held true not just in the U.S., but in countries around the world. They also found a “staggered” link between government services and how many people adhered to a religion, and cited research that showed more government services in a year foreshadowed “lower religiosity one to two years later.”
“If a secular entity provides what people need, they will be less likely to seek help from God or other supernatural entities. Government is the most likely secular provider,” the researchers concluded. “We showed in two cross-sectional analyses, one using world countries and one using states in the United States, that better government services were related to lower levels of religiosity.”
The study authors said they pored through data from the World Bank, the U.S. Census, the World Fact Book, and Gallup to come up with their findings and measured government services through the gross domestic product (GDP) each state or country spent on social services such as health care and education.
“If the benefits acquired in the religious exchange can be acquired elsewhere, religion becomes less useful,” researchers wrote, adding that “the power and order emanating from God can be outsourced to the government.”
The lead study author, Miron Zuckerman, has conducted other studies linking a decline in religiosity to other factors. In a 2013 study, he found that the more intelligent people are, the less they adhere to a particular religion.