The Indulgence Effect

Just remember that if you make donations to the Church, the bigger the donation the more likely you are not to go to Church at all

A recent study by an MIT economist finds that, on average, for every one percent increase in a household’s donations to religious groups, participation in faith-related activities, including attendance at services, declines by one percent. Economists have long wondered whether religious participation and religious giving tend to rise in tandem, or whether people view giving as a substitute for participation. For every religious denomination studied, the latter seemed to be true: write a bigger check, it appears, and you’ll feel better about shirking services on Sunday (or Friday night, or Saturday, depending on your faith). This indulgence effect, as one might call it, was least pronounced among conservative Protestants (who were only half as likely as the average to supplant churchgoing with donations), followed by Roman Catholics, who appear to have left “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs” back in the sixteenth century.