American Christians often overuse the word blessed. Whole series’ of sermons discuss how to better receive blessings, why blessings aren’t coming, or how you can work to be a tool for blessing others. Congregants are reminded they have to have faith in order to receive these vague blessings and then told about miracle anecdotes, (stories that would likely be difficult to confirm). So why is it that people, otherwise rational grown-up, non-fairy-tale-believing people continue to invest their time and money in religious institutions? There are a lot of reasons but we’ll discuss one, an important one; the phenomenon of social evaporation.
Social evaporation is very simple, but we’ll need to define some terms. First of all we have to admit that not everyone has equal access to the things we want and need, we will call those things rewards to keep it simple. People that are wealthy have access to many of the rewards, but so do people that are beautiful or talented but not necessarily wealthy. The point is that rewards are varied, things are not equal, life is not fair. This should not be news to anyone.
The people with no access to rewards, the social outcasts with mounting financial problems for example, have limited time and money to invest in a religion. So it will either provide them with rewards, or they will leave in search of something that does. People with limited or no access to rewards often seek religious groups that have high-tension verses the society in which they exist. Groups with high-tension often espouse a message that reinforces the unfairness of the world and the promise of rewards in the afterlife. This makes them feel better, it is a form of temporary reward we will call a compensator.
Religious groups that consist of people with access to rewards exist in low-tension with the society at large, and are often highly involved in the society. Their message is often one that reinforces why they are blessed. It focuses less on providing promises about the future, or compensators, because the people are not dependent on them for happiness.
When individuals with no access to rewards are surrounded by people with more access they will doubt their faith, they will question the message of the church, and ultimately leave, unless they gain access to rewards. This social evaporation is observable today in the dichotomy of rich churches and poor churches. It is interesting to see the ways that people naturally segregate themselves in search of rewards and compensators. This phenomenon is how some churches eventually gather a large percentage of wealthy people and then claim they are blessed.
It isn’t God, its science. In this case it’s social science!