Active Faith Benefits Economy

Active Faith Benefits Economy

Adult converts to a religion inject half a billion dollars annually into Australian economy, new study shows.

News Release

Men and women who convert to a faith and then engage in it regularly are more likely to donate to charitable causes and give volunteer community service according to a new study by Deloitte Access Economics.

                

The research was commissioned by an interreligious think-tank called SEIROS, the Study of the Economic Impact of Religion on Society. The group comprises representatives from Catholic, Anglican, Seventh-day Adventist, Latter-day Saint, Salvation Army, Evangelical, Bahai, Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim and Jewish faith traditions.

At a launch at Australia’s Parliament House on Thursday 31 May, The Hon Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs and SEIROS Chairman, Robert Forsyth, former Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, spoke to a gathering of faith, political and news media representatives.

“We know there is a greater societal good in supporting the work of the Church in all of its different forms,” Mr Dutton said.

“It is reassuring, but not surprising, nonetheless probably timely that this report provides further evidence of that great benefit within society.”

Mr Dutton continued: “It can come as no surprise to any of us that out of the report we affirm the fact that people of religious beliefs do have a desire to provide their hours of volunteer work to different causes outside of the Church, but all in an effort to make society a better place.”

“Without their influence on our society, our society would be a much poorer place.”

Robert Forsyth said that the findings help identify “the missing link…between religious activity and social outcomes.”

He said that at the beginning of the process SEIROS suspected there was a positive economic impact of religion but were committed to publish even what may have been negative. Above all, the group was “committed to high standards of objective research.”

“Religion is crucial to human life. A good in itself,” Forsyth said. “Although that is not to say that all religions are the same, or even equally beneficial.”

Religious activity is “not justified by economic value at all. We do not go to church, temple, mosque or synagogue to help the government’s fiscal situation. Needless to say such attitudes are destructive of religion.”

Associate Professor Keith Thompson, secretary of the SEIROS Board and Associate Dean of Law at the University of Notre Dame Australia, said all the faith-based organisations he has been connected with in Australia, “feel that their contribution to good Australian family and social life is being denigrated.”

“While we all deplore the child sexual abuse that has been perpetrated within religious institutions and elsewhere, that constant negative reporting has distorted public perception of religion.”

Thompson continued: “While SEIROS is not a Christian organisation, I doubt any of our members would quibble with James’ definition of ‘pure religion’:

“Pure religion and undefiled…is to visit [and care for] the fatherless and widows [among others in need]…and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).”

Thompson said that the primary focus of all religious organisations in Australia has been caring for the needy and living good, wholesome lives.

“SEIROS would like to refocus the debate about religion in Australia. Unselfish community service and donation by church-goers is not just altruistic; the Australian economy relies on it. While state and federal governments certainly support the not-for-profit sector with tax concessions, they do that for good reason. Church attending volunteers save the country much more than those tax concessions supposedly cost.”

He added, “Our research released here today is just a start. It shows that adult converts to religion, and there are not many of those, benefit the Australian economy to the tune of half a billion dollars every year. That is just a scratch on the surface. We would like to do more. We have two further projects planned.”

Principal sponsors of the research include: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; The Seventh-day Adventist Church; The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney; Hillsong Church; and The Uniting Church in Australia.

The full report is available here.

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