The question of the relationship between religion and economics has long fascinated—and divided—scholars.
In the early 20th century, Max Weber helped to found the modern field of sociology with his theories on religion and capitalism. Faced with an economic mystery with profound practical implications—by the late 1800s, the nations of northern Europe, such as England, Scotland, Germany and Holland, enjoyed booming economies, while the countries of southern Europe, such as Italy and Spain, lagged behind—the scholars of Weber’s day struggled for an explanation. Were the hotter climates of the south a deterrent to the hard work and industriousness demanded by capitalism? Were the parliaments and political bodies of the north more amenable to a free-market model?