Economics and Religion, What is the Relationship? -- A Case Study of Nordic Social Democracy

13 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2016

See all articles by Robert H. Nelson

Robert H. Nelson

University of Maryland - School of Public Policy

Date Written: September 15, 2016


The most influential religions in the public arena of the modern age have been secular religions such as Marxism, the American progressive “gospel of efficiency,” and more recently environmentalism. Environmentalism is a revealing exception but modern secular religions have typically been based on a faith that economic progress will save the world -- that continuing rapid economic advance will abolish poverty and indeed all material scarcity, the true source of bad (sinful) behavior in the world. This paper describes briefly the overall concept of “economic religion” and offers another example of such a religion that has received less study, the secular religion of Nordic social democracy. Like other secular religion, its roots can be traced to earlier themes of Christianity, in the Nordic case to Lutheranism. Indeed, as Max Weber argued with respect to Calvinism and the spirit of capitalism, Lutheranism represents a second Protestant ethic that is a main source of the Nordic spirit of social democracy. This paper explores the relationship of Lutheranism and Nordic social democracy as a further case study of arguments of mine that are developed in greater depth in writings such as Economics as Religion (2001) and The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America (2010).

Keywords: Economics, Religion, Nordic Social Democracy, Lutheranism, Economic Values

JEL Classification: A11, A12, A13, B59, P49, Z1

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Robert H., Economics and Religion, What is the Relationship? -- A Case Study of Nordic Social Democracy (September 15, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Robert H. Nelson (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - School of Public Policy ( email )

College Park, MD 20742-1815
United States
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