Greed is good. Sorry… God is good

Religion is big business. Just how big? A new study by a father-daughter researcher team says religion in America is bigger than Facebook, Google and Apple – combined.

The article in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion said that the annual revenues of faith-based enterprises – not just churches but hospitals, schools, charities and even gospel musicians and halal food makers – is more than US$378 billion ($518b) a year. And that’s not counting the annual shopping bonanza motivated by Christmas.

Washington DC-based Georgetown University’s Brian Grim and the Newseum’s Melissa Grim – in a study sponsored by an organisation called Faith Counts, which promotes the value of religion – produced a 31-page breakdown of all the ways religion contributes to the US economy.

Perhaps it is time we start the Church of Whaleoil.  

Religious charities also contribute to the economy. By far the largest faith-based charity, according to the study, is Lutheran Services of America, with an annual operating revenue of about US$21 billion. The study counted 17 more faith-based charities, all among Forbes’s 50 biggest charities in America, with revenues ranging from US$300 million (Cross International) to US$6.6 billion (YMCA USA).

Almost all the charities are Christian, except for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, with an annual operating revenue of US$400 million.

Religious revenues also include faith-based colleges and universities, where 2 million students pay more than US$46.7 billion in tuition annually, the study said.

The tally includes tuition revenues for religious elementary through high schools as well, plus the Christian book industry, sales of Christian music, the Christian cable networks EWTN and CBN and the US$1.9 billion halal food industry that caters to faithful Muslim consumers. The study counted US$12.5 billion in annual sales of traditional kosher foods, but not the US$300 billion in food sold that has a kosher certification but, like everything from Oreos to Coca-Cola, is generally purchased by non-Jewish consumers.

The study suggested all sorts of other ways one could count the contribution of religion to the US economy – the revenues of faith-linked businesses such as arts and craft stores Hobby Lobby and fast food outlet Chick-fil-A, the box office profits of religious blockbuster movies such as Heaven Is for Real, even the household income of millions of Americans who run their financial lives guided by their faiths.

But sticking just to the direct profits of faith, religion comes out as highly lucrative – a larger chunk of the country’s US$16 trillion GDP, the Grims pointed out, than many giant corporations.


  • DeplorablePersonOfColor:WHITE

    I must admit to being gobsmacked when every American sermon ended with urging to ‘exit through the gift shop’.

    • DeplorableHungarianPhrasebook

      The yanks possibly get a little carried away, but never forget the immortal words of Saint Pontiff Queen The Magnificent M. Thatcher.

  • Sailor Sam

    Church of Whale Oil?
    We could get Brian Tamaki to annoint our Bishop.

  • cows4me

    Is it any wonder that many countries throughout history have tried to outlaw religion and tried to install a state based religion. And I’m not saying religion has only a material value.

  • johcar

    And how many of those organizations have a “charitable” status and don’t contribute to the tax take?

    • It’s actually quite interesting. As a system of providing welfare assistance, it may in fact be a perfect example of why the state doesn’t have to get involved in the first place. Remember, these people gave the money freely. Whereas the state takes it from you with a threat of incarceration (at the extreme end)

      • DeplorableHungarianPhrasebook


  • Pious Pete?

    Pete the Priest?

    Pater Pete?

    Oh… I missed the obvious

    Pope Pete

    • Nige.

      Pontifical Pete!

      • bristol

        Saint Peter?

    • Dan

      Sorry that Saint Peter is already taken

    • Miss McGerkinshaw

      Go on admit it you just want a ride in that Pope Mobile. Or is it the long flowing robes and the scarlet hat thing that attracts?

    • Malcolm

      And at Christmas you could be Swarte Piet

  • Old Man Walking

    Pope Cam 1 would work