Spiritual Capital Research Program

invitation rfp grant award winners

Contact: Christopher Stawski


Philadelphia, PA ( March 2005 )…Three distinguished scholars have each received grants of $500,000 to lead teams of researchers in order to create a new interdisciplinary field of “Spiritual Capital” research. The grants are awarded through a program of the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science, supported by generous funding from the John Templeton Foundation.

The term “spiritual capital” refers to the economic and social consequences of religion and spirituality. While religion and spirituality are rich with various sources of personal meaning, they also have profound public significance. The Spiritual Capital Research Program will fund high-level research that could lead to new understandings of religion's role in economic, social and political life.

Winners of the invitation-only competition for the three founding grants in the Spiritual Capital Research Program were announced by Kimon H. Sargeant, Ph.D., Director for Research and Programs in the Human Sciences at Metanexus. “Now seems an ideal time to understand and assess the public effects of spiritual and religious action because there seems to be a growing openness in the social sciences towards non-material factors,” says Sargeant. “It is no longer unusual to consider that trust, behavioral norms and religion can profoundly shape economic, political and social developments.”

Principal investigators heading the award-winning teams and their projects are:


Laurence Iannaccone , Koch Professor of Economics at George Mason University : Creating an“Ecology” for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Spiritual Capital.

This project includes the development of an international Consortium for the Economic Study of Religion (CESR), bringing visiting scholars together at George Mason University for interdisciplinary and collaborative workshops, classes, research projects and conferences, instituting an economics-as-religion concentration for doctoral students, and creating a global network of scholars and institutes.


Timur Kuran, Professor of Economics and Law and King Faisel Professor of Islamic Thought and Culture at the University of Southern California : The Role of Religion in the Economic Performance of Civilizations.

Kuran's project will advance ongoing research on the role of Islam, and especially Islamic law, in the economic performance of the Middle East from its rise in the 7 th century to the present. It will also facilitate a broader range of study by bringing together a network of scholars, to be known as the Institute for Economic Research on Civilizations (IERC), to promote comparative research and raise the level of discourse on the role of various religions and forms of spiritual capital in the economic performance of civilizations.


Robert Woodberry, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin: Project on Religion and Economic Change

This project seeks to evaluate the influence of various religions on health, education and the economy by measuring religious distinctions and the resulting impact on national, community and individual levels in societies around the world. One section will analyze the impact of 150 years of missionary activity; a second section will analyze the economic consequences of Pentecostal conversions in Brazil ; a third section will focus on the influence of revivalist Islam and Christianity in rural Malawi .


Each project is 30 months in duration, beginning March 2005. Results will be disseminated through scholarly and lay publications, conferences, speaking engagements and websites.


The Metanexus Institute is interested in supporting high-level, impartial scholarship on the contribution of religion – both for good and for ill – to economic and social developments. The aim of the Spiritual Capital Research Program is to catalyze the development of this interdisciplinary research field, which may become a vital new field in the social sciences.

In The Wealth of Nations , Adam Smith raised key questions for the economic analysis of religion and looked at the effects of competition among religions and the dangers of government of religion. Just 100 years ago Max Weber published his provocative work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Since then, social scientists have vigorously debated the concept of social capital, but spiritual capital – a sub-set of the field – remains relatively understudied. Only in recent years have leading scholars, including Nobel laureate economists Gary Becker and Robert Fogel and political scientists John DiIulio and Robert Putnam, called renewed attention to the effects of spiritual and religious practices, beliefs and institutions on economics, politics and societies.

In addition to the three funded projects that are just beginning, the Metanexus Institute has issued a new call for proposals for $150,000 research grants for interdisciplinary studies on the economic and social consequences of religion and spirituality. Letters of intent are due no later than April 15, 2005. Full grant applications will then be invited for a total of $1.5 million in research funds.

For further information on the Spiritual Capital Research Program, including submission guidelines for the new granting opportunities, or to request a program brochure, visit www.metanexus.net/spiritual_capital or contact project manager Christopher Stawski at SpiritualCapital@metanexus.net or 215-789-2200.


The Metanexus Institute advances scientific research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion. Metanexus is a leader in a growing network of individuals and groups exploring the dynamic interface between cosmos, nature, and culture in communities and on campuses throughout the world. Metanexus sponsors dialogue groups, lectures, workshops, research, courses, grants, and publications. Metanexus leads and facilitates over 300 projects in 36 countries. Projects include the Local Societies Initiative, the Templeton Research Lectures, and topical interdisciplinary research projects such as the Spiritual Transformation Scientific Research Program, Spiritual Capital Research Program, Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology, as well as studies of religion and health, religion and human flourishing, and other endeavors. A membership organization, Metanexus hosts an online journal with over 140,000 monthly page views and 7000 subscribers in 57 countries. www.metanexus.net

The mission of the John Templeton Foundation is to pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodology, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise. www.templeton.org

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