10 ’ I " he achievement of material success is probably the most widely respected form of
A self-improvement in the United States. Many scholars believe that the nation’s Protestant heritage is also largely responsible for bringing this about. The idea of mixing materialism and religion may seem contradictory; religion is considered to be concerned with spiritual matters, not material possessions. How can the two mix?
11 Some of the early European Protestant leaders believed that people who were blessed by God might be recognized in the world by their material success. Other church leaders, particularly in the United States, made an even stronger connection between gaining material wealth and being blessed by God. In 1900, for example, Bishop William Lawrence proclaimed, “Godliness is in league with riches. . . . Material prosperity is helping to make the national character sweeter, more joyous, more unselfish, more Christlike.”
12 American religious leaders, however, never encouraged the idea of gaining wealth without hard work and self-discipline. Many scholars believe that the emphasis on these two values made an important contribution to the industrial growth of the United States. Protestant leaders viewed the work of all people as holy, not just that of priests. They also believed that the capacity for self-discipline was a holy characteristic blessed by God. Self-discipline was often defined as the willingness to save and invest one’s money rather than spend it on immediate pleasures. Protestant
tradition, therefore, may have played an important part in creating a good climate for the industrial growth of the United States, which depended on hard work and willingness to save and invest money.
13 The belief in hard work and self-discipline in pursuit of material gain and other goals is often referred to as “the Protestant work ethic” or “the Puritan work ethic.” It is important to understand that this work ethic has had an influence far beyond the Protestant church. Many religious groups in the United States share this work ethic, and even Americans who have no attachment to a particular church are influenced by the work ethic in their daily lives. Interestingly, the United States is the only industrialized country that does not have a legal requirement for workers to have a certain number of paid vacation days. Americans take an average of only two weeks of vacation time a year.
Source: AOL News. June 25, 2003, citing Catherine Valenti. "The No-Vacation Nation.“ www. ABCNews. com.