Better Living Through Religious Conversion?

A response via Twitter concerning our recent post about Cambodian villagers who reportedly converted to Christianity to save money:

@DavidFCox: I had an Indian friend that changed religion 4 times to get best education

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  1. Ian M says:

    I know this may sound overly simplistic but I don’t think it truly is.
    I am not a deeply religious person but I do believe in and worship God. I think many (most?) open-minded believers would agree that worshipping God through prayer, and perhaps more importantly our deeds, matters far more than belonging to a specific religion.
    If a student was given support by a mission (for example) and later changed religions, I hope the spiritual leader of the mission would be able to say that, “It is good to see that the student is continuing his studies and continuing to worship God.”
    Naive? I hope not.

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  2. Taylor says:

    I’m also a Christian, and worshiping and following God comes first in our religion, as well as in others. However, if one lives in a community in which there are different options to attend school, and the islamic school charges net fewer fees than the Christian school and has a notably better education quality due to government subsidies or something, then it would certainly pay off (short and long term) for the Christian to “formally” switch religions. It might not be ethical from a religious standpoint but it’s Machiavellian

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  3. Paul H says:

    Having been to Cambodia myself I’ve seen how poor many people in this area are, and how much they need each dollar. Even so the postscript to the article is important, “Residents say that converting to Christianity has alleviated their fears of black magic, saving them hundreds of dollars in sacrifices to the gods in order to prevent illness and bad luck.”

    It’s not just a financial incentive.

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  4. tioedong says:

    Religious links to economic activity are often ignored but are important:

    China actually encourage both Confucian and Christianity to counter the high rate of corruption in that county.
    Fukuyama’s book “Trust” notes that many middle class people in South America become Protestant and network to become entrepeneurs.
    We see the same thing here in the Philippines. Catholics take bribes because “family ties” come first, so they seek self wealth. Protestants see wealth making as serving the Lord in the Calvinistic work ethic.

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