For centuries, pastors have preached the concept of hell fire to try to keep believers’ behavior in check.

Now, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, it’s possible belief in a blazing afterlife punishment is the reason some national economies sizzle more than others.

“In countries where large percentages of the population believe in hell, there seems to be less corruption and a higher standard of living,” the July review states.

The report examines 35 countries, including the United States, charting out the percentage of people who believe in hell, along with per capita income.



Using figures from the United Nations Human Development Report 2003 and 1990-1993 World Values Survey, U.S. residents have the world’s highest income at $34,320, and 71 percent of citizens say they believe in hell.

Ireland, which ranks fourth in numbers of hell believers at 53 percent, had the second-highest income, at $32,410 per capita.

But the report also shows the country with the highest percentage of hell believers – Turkey, at 85 percent – had one of the lowest incomes on the list: $5,890.

And some countries which have virtually the same amount of believers in flames after death show great disparities in wealth.

For instance, France, Hungary and Russia have between 16 and 17 percent of their populations believing in hell, but the typical Parisian’s income is about twice that of someone from Budapest, and more than three times that of a Moscow resident.

The report also indicated “a strong tendency for countries with relatively low levels of corruption to have relatively high levels of per capita [gross domestic product].”

While the Federal Reserve report focused on the concept of hell, there was no mention of God in the analysis.

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