Losing your religion can be good for your wealth, claims a new study carried out by the universities of Bristol and Tennessee. It argues that as nations become more secular, they tend to become richer.

Researchers examined the gross domestic product of 109 countries, alongside the importance of religion in the societies studied. They found that an increase in secularisation correlated with an average increase of £800 per person over a period of 10 years, and this increased further over subsequent decades.

This doesn’t strike me as at all unexpected. Christianity has never encouraged people of faith to focus on money and the accumulation of wealth. Jesus’s attitude was distinctly unmaterialistic: “Consider the lilies of the fields – they reap not, neither do they sow…”

In St Matthew’s Gospel, we are told: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt… But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” A young man who seeks perfection is told to give away all his wealth to the poor. And St Paul warns that “the love of money is the root of all evil”.

So it follows that those who do not place emphasis on material values will usually not be as rich as those who do. Because that is the way to grow rich: focus on money and on wealth, and leave aside what stands in the way of material values. I was told this by a very rich man, the late Felix Dennis, who wrote one of the most persuasive books ever published about the accumulation of wealth, called quite simply How to Get Rich.

Felix’s central message was this: if you sincerely want to be rich, then regard money as your priority, giving it primacy over everything else. When you have made the money, then focus fully on defending it.

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