Did religion fuel the housing bubble?

Did prosperity thinking play a role in the real estate bubble? Sue argues that it did.

Prosperity theology is an unsustainable belief system. At a personal level, I am setting myself up for profound disappointment if I believe that prayer changes God, that the tangible world can be controlled by personal manipulation of the supernatural world. Because if I fail to fulfill my desires, then I am living my entire life in error – I am a bad person, unfavored and unloved by God.

At the level of a religious practice of millions, author Jackson Lears argues that prosperity theology generates a culture of recklessness.

Worse, she explains, subprime lenders used religious leaders to pitch wealth-building and real estate ventures and that the areas most decimated by subprime closely track that of prosperity gospel churches, the exurban middle class and urban poor.


  1. Prosperity Gospel is perhaps an inevitable outgrowth of the Puritan ideal, which saw wealth as a reward for godliness. There are big differences, though: the Puritans were fiscally conservative, believed in hard work, and thought it sinful to flaunt wealth. I don;t agree with Puritan views on wealth, nevertheless Prosperity Gospel seems like a cheap imitation intended to give unwarranted hope to the poor.

    Interestingly, Wiki links Prosperity Gospel with several “New Thought” churches, including Religious Science– particularly singling out Michael Beckwith and the book “The Secret” as examples. While less direct, “new prosperity” has similar fallacies. RS practitioners I have known have suggested to me that God can provide endless prosperity to any who seek him, disregarding economic and planetary limits. Under this theory, everyone on the planet could be wealthy.

    • Oral Roberts was one of the main founders of prosperity thinking. At about the same time, Napoleon Hill published ‘Think and Grow Rich’, which was secular. However, there’s little actual religion in prosperity thinking anyway IMO.

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