antonia williams-gary.pngThankfully, it has begun to matter less and less the ship, era or peerage of your ancestors when they entered America.  But what about the God they worshiped?

I was surprised to read in a recent nationwide publication that expected earnings are tied to religion (and graduation from college).  Dare to guess who is at the top? Or the group of worshipers at the bottom? 

Does religion really determine financial destiny?

Before I reveal the answer, I question how much it should matter which form of worship gets you closer to your just reward — on Earth.  And I question the inherent message or not-so-subtle lessons delivered from the pulpit that directly affect economic standing and/or levels of affluence.

I’m thinking about an African-American at-large, descended from those brought over from Africa, who has been raised according to the Good Book, practicing some form of “protestation” (against what I don’t think anyone remembers or could care less about). Or another African American, who, by accident of birthplace or conversion, follows a form of Roman Catholicism (versus an Eastern rite).  The former is likely to be less affluent than the latter, according to the report.

Then there is another person, born into a certain racial/ethnic and/or long-term resident group, who, by virtue of birth heritage, is likely to be more affluent than all the rest, including African Americans, Irish Catholics, most Asians, etc.

There are large masses of folk, who make the sign of the cross, wear a crucifix or in some other manner acknowledge Jesus’ walk and rule who are less affluent than those for whom Jesus is another historical figure, important, yes, but not worthy of reverence or worship.

In America, we are all born and bred into our national religion, that devotional ritual belief in the promise that we are all created equally, with an inalienable right to the pursuit of health, wealth and happiness or some variation on the theme.

Time now to look at the Religion is Financial Destiny study reviewed by David Leonhardt, NYTimes, May 15.  A scale that measured the percentage of households with an annual income above $75,000 and corresponding percentage of college graduates belonging to specific religions shows an unmistakably strong relationship between income and education.

The data were collected by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The Findings:

  • The national average of households with annual earnings above $75,000 is just above 30 percent; with 29 percent college graduates.
  • The highest percentage for households: Reform Jews (67 percent) in both categories
  • The lowest percentage of households: Pentecostals (17 percent); 12 percent for graduates
  • The biggest surprise, to me: Secular (39 percent and 45 percent. Who?
  • A somewhat interesting category: Orthodox Christians (45 percent and 44 percent.  What are these?
  • Totally expected, by me: Anglicans/Episcopalians (59 percent in each category
  • Of no surprise, to me: Unitarians: (44 percent and 52 percent
  • A little more surprising, to me: Muslins (28 percent and 25 percent
  • And, best of show: Hindus (65 percent and 73 percent

The data was collected by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
All of this leaves me with these unanswered questions:

What does the Qu’ran say that differs from what the Bible says about wealth?

What does the Buddha say about money and investments?

Where is King David on the matter of property?

What about Mormons’ support of higher education?

Is it simply that some religions preach modesty, shunning material wealth, investing in spiritual growth and development?

Or is this so not about religion?

What about culture? Ethnicity?  Race? National origin?

Interestingly, Pew’s category for “traditional black Protestants,” while not printed, was reported to find a discrepancy between higher levels of education and lower average household earnings for that group.

What I know for sure: My early childhood was spent following my mom, having no choice as a minor.  We covered a broad base.  Until I was 13, I attended, in this order: Baptist Sunday School; praying at home with the itinerant neighborhood Evangelist on Saturday mornings, missing out on my play time; the African Orthodox Church, mom’s childhood church; the AME Church, dad’s childhood church; the Unitarian Church; the Seventh Day Adventist Church — mom met and followed some “nice people” while we were living in Bermuda; the Roman Catholic Church, new in the neighborhood.

I stopped following mom just before she went to the Jehovah Witnesses and the family never got to the Synagogue or the Hindu Temple.   What if…….?

Today, I’m looking for a good tree to sit under and give thanks for my daily bread.

Where do you pray?  Has it paid off?

Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at