About Us

The Project on Religion and Economic Change is made possible through the Spiritual Capital program of the Metanexus Institute and the Templeton Foundation. In 2005, Prof. Robert Woodberry was one of three scholars awarded multi-year grants to study the influence of “spiritual capital” on societies.

The Metanexus Institute is a respected educational center promoting the constructive engagement of science and religion. It seeks to create an enduring intellectual and social movement by collaborating with persons and communities from diverse religious traditions and scientific disciplines.

The John Templeton Foundation advances an appreciation for the critical importance of the moral and spiritual dimensions of life. By supporting studies which demonstrate the benefits of a progressive approach to learning in these areas, it is the Foundation's purpose to stimulate a fresh interchange between the theological and scientific communities. The Foundation currently funds more than 300 projects, studies, award programs and publications worldwide.

What is “Spiritual Capital?”

Religion is increasingly being recognized as an important factor in molding a diverse array of social phenomena. One of the chief ways it operates, social scientists believe, is through the building of networks and trust between individuals and groups, a concept referred to as “social capital.” Spiritual capital, then, may be thought of as a type of social capital, one that has a unique and specific origin in religious or spiritual beliefs and practices. The effects of this type of capital can be measured, evaluated, and compared as it is enacted by groups, such as missionary organizations or political parties, and individuals, such as the devout versus the nominally religious.

The application of spiritual capital in the context of the Project on Religion and Economic Change translates to an examination of the economic “return on spiritual investments” made by missionaries, religious leaders, and individuals around the world, within nations, communities, and in the lives of individuals. Thus, spiritual capital here takes on a precise and particularly appropriate meaning that will contribute substantively to our understanding of this important concept.