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Thread: The effect of Protestantism on the success of colonies

  1. #1 The effect of Protestantism on the success of colonies 
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    There is a theory that part of the reason Anglo-Saxon colonies/countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada etc, were more successful than French and Spanish colonies (like those in South America) was because of the protestant beliefs of those early colonists. The theory is something like this; Catholics believe that god is found in the bible, but you need to be 'taught' how to interpret what it god means. Priests and bishops learn Latin and become indoctrinated into the 'right' ways of interpreting gods meaning. Therefore, all the power is in the hands of priests, bishops and the hierarchy of church itself. The people rely on the church for the 'right way to live' as good Christians.

    Protestantism on the other hand, believes that god is found in the bible. So they teach the people to read the bible and interpret gods meanings for themselves. This is said to make them more independent in their thinking and more entrepreneurial. It is this independence and entrepreneurial spirit that is said to make them more successful. (Although many of the immigrants to the USA since, have not been protestant, the 'American way' was set up by protestants)

    I want to know if people on here hold much weight to this theory? Do you think it - at least partly - explains the economic success of Anglo-Saxon countries? Does it explain the differences between North and South America? I find it fascinating if does. A slightly different emphasis on the same fundamental beliefs and values (Christianity) can be the difference between America, and Brazil

    PS I have probably butchered that theory. The general gist of it is correct, but please correct me if my retelling of it is inaccurate.

    PPS I am British - half Irish on my dads side -, was brought up Catholic but am now an atheist. I don't want anyone thinking I'm some god nut who hates Catholics :wink:


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  3. #2  
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    My guess is that it very little to do with religion. The English colonist came from a country where the idea of some sort of elected government was the appropriate way of running things. In contrast France and Spain were absolute monarchies, so colonial leaders were appointed by the kings.


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  4. #3  
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    Protestantism is basically Utilitarian Ethics, translated into a religion. Protestant societies should always be expected to succeed over Theocratic religions, like Catholocism, because the *only* common bond between all protestant religions is their dedication to generating ethics that, when applied to society, will create beneficial results.


    The mechanism is simple. People are effectively voting for which religion they think defines the best moral system for their little community to live under. Ie. which one they think will benefit their children the most. You don't follow a protestant religion because it's somehow intrinsically special. You only only follow it because it delivers results. If the baptist preacher isn't managing it, everybody leaves his flock and starts listening to the Church of Christ preacher.


    I think that if a religion like Islam were to become protestant. (I mean begin to have protestant traits) It probably wouldn't be that bad/dangerous of a religion. If different protestant flavors of Islam dominate in the same city, people will only be so enslaved by any one Mullah's teachings, because he can't prevent them from listening to the competition if they think he's going nuts.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Protestantism is basically Utilitarian Ethics, translated into a religion. Protestant societies should always be expected to succeed over Theocratic religions, like Catholocism, because the *only* common bond between all protestant religions is their dedication to generating ethics that, when applied to society, will create beneficial results.
    This doesn't seem right. One of the major differences between Catholics and Protestants is, or originally was, the Catholic emphasis on good works vs Protestant salvation by faith alone. Which idea is more "utilitarian"?

    The English king was the official head of the church at the time America was being colonized. It's one reason why many people left, for religious freedom. Isn't that just as theocratic?
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  6. #5  
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    True, I might be confusing "protestantism" with religious freedom. Of course, as practiced today in the United States, the two concepts are one and the same. A baptist preacher has little to say about what will happen to your soul if you leave his flock and head over to the Church of Christ.


    It's gone beyond the point of a formal legal issue, and extended into the actual beliefs of the faiths. Since most protestants believe that any number of other protestant religions are capable of offering the same salvation, this leads to free choice between institutions, because you're not afraid of going to hell for disagreeing with the opinions of just one person.


    It quickly becomes an embodiment of pure utilitarianism, because the utilitary success of one institution by comparison with another is the dominant basis upon which somebody will make the decision of which group they want to affiliate themselves with. They choose whichever preacher will make for the best community for their kids to grow up in, having very little other basis to work from.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    True, I might be confusing "protestantism" with religious freedom. Of course, as practiced today in the United States, the two concepts are one and the same. A baptist preacher has little to say about what will happen to your soul if you leave his flock and head over to the Church of Christ.
    If by "religious freedom" you mean "freedom to be whatever denomination of protestant you want." And of course, it has to be one of the good branches, not something like mormonism or jehova's witnesses.
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  8. #7  
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    Well, yeah. It's doesn't meet the social ideal of true religious freedom. My point is that ministers are effectively being elected, and unseated regularly, if their ideas don't end up benefitting the individual members, or the town.

    The ability to move freely between similar religions takes all the power over your "soul" out of the hands of any one person, or leadership group. In Catholocism, no matter how badly a pope or cardinal abuses their position, it usually doesn't go to anyone else. There's no mechanism for the people in that church to push back against their leaders, and still be able to go to Catholic heaven.
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  9. #8  
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    It has absolutely nothing to do with religion but with the methods of colonialism.

    First of all, Canada was not a protestant colony, it remains to this day predominantly Catholic.

    France employed a mercantile colonial system in which colonies were managed as feeders for the nation. Quebec had very low populations built around trading post and Catholic missions. Lumber and furs were harvested and directly returned to France for the benefit of the empire. Also, if a French fur trader needed shoes or liquor or anything of that sort it was imported from France.

    The British on the other hand built colonies up, they had minor industries and services within the colony. As well as a policy of increasing the population. The British also employed the French method at times like in their African colonies, and you can see that the African colonies have not fared as well as the USA.

    France in the later days attempted to employ the British model and tried to develop Quebec, and eastern Canada by it's model, but this kind of collapsed after losing the 7 year war and surrendering New France to the British. Other French colonies like Vietnam, Haiti, and the Ivory Coast continued under the dominating mercantile fashion because of the high native populations.

    Now why have Australia, Canada, and the USA been prosperous compared to other former European colonies. The answer to this is quite clearly Democracy, which was possible as a result of colonial populations capable of being self sufficient from the home country.

    If it was merely protestantism that mattered Dutch colonies, like South Africa (later British) would have been as successful. As well as other protestant colonies like Jamaica.

    I find the available resources of a nation and the degree of freedom of it's people much more significant to the success of it's people than their religion.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    If it was merely protestantism that mattered Dutch colonies, like South Africa (later British) would have been as successful. As well as other protestant colonies like Jamaica.
    I don't necesarily disagree with what you post regarding democracy and freedom,
    but wasn't Jamaica effectively run as a mercentile colony, like you describe the French colonies? Also isn't South Africa one of the more successful countries in Africa?? It seems wrong to dismiss the (supposed) effects of protestantism based on the limited successes of two colonies.

    What about the Spanish colonies of South America, were they mercentile as well?
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  11. #10  
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    (Great post, SE - thought provoking, and I've not heard it before).
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  12. #11  
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    just read the protestant ethic and then if you don't get it shot yourself
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