As a complement to the excellent recent essays here on libertarianism, capitalism and religion, I wanted to make two very uncomplicated observations. What troubles me is the possible connection between the two; I think that without question a causal relationship exists, but I want to open matters up for discussion.
First observation: in economic terms, the United States is the most unequal of all industrialized nations. One could argue about the different ways of measuring this, but the pattern is clear, especially when one focuses on a measure like income distribution.
Second observation: the United States is the most religious of all advanced industrialized democracies. A majority of Americans who claim some affiliation (roughly 16% claim none) are Christian.
We can see a correlation between inequality and religious faith. Is there causation as well? Does contemporary, American-style Christianity in some sense exacerbate or even cause income disparity? Or is it the other way around? Is the intensity of contemporary faith merely our way of dealing with (masking, repressing, even legitimating) the ugly reality of our economic world?
If one is tempted to respond by saying that the correlation here really means nothing, or that religion and civil society somehow serve as a barrier against even greater inequality, consider the example of other nations. Those advanced industrialized democracies with the lowest rates of religious affiliation and church attendance tend to score relatively well on measures of inequality.