Religion contributes more to the U.S. economy than Facebook, Google and Apple combined

Religion is big business. Just how big?

A new study, published Wednesday by a father-daughter researcher team, says religion 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 $378 billion a year.

And that’s not counting the annual shopping bonanza motivated by Christmas.

Georgetown University’s Brian Grim and the Newseum’s Melissa Grim — in a study sponsored by an organization called Faith Counts, which promotes the value of religion — produced a 31-page breakdown of all the ways religion contributes to the U.S. economy.

The largest chunk of that $378 billion tally comes from faith-based health-care systems.

Religious groups run many of the hospitals in the United States; Catholic health systems alone reportedly account for 1 in 6 hospital beds in the country.

Then there are churches and congregations themselves.

Based on prior censuses of U.S. bodies of worship, the Grims looked at 344,894 congregations, from 236 different religious denominations (217 of them Christian, and others ranging from Shinto to Tao to Zoroastrian).

Collectively, those congregations count about half the American population as members. The average annual income for a congregation, the study said, is $242,910.

Most of that income comes from members’ donations and dues, meaning Americans give $74.5 billion to their congregations per year, the study said.

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 $21 billion.

The study counted 17 more faith-based charities, all among Forbes’s 50 biggest charities in America, with revenues ranging from $300 million (Cross International) to $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 $400 million. Continue reading


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