Religion in the US is worth $1.2 trillion a year, according to a new study from the Faith Counts organisation.
The study entitled The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis, by Dr Brian Grim of Georgetown University and Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute, analysed the economic impact of 344,000 religious congregations around the country, religious institutions and religion-related businesses.
The total economic contribution of religion to the US is equal to the world's 15th largest economy and is more than the annual revenues of the top 10 tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google, combined.
The study also noted that almost 120,000 congregations report attracting visitors for their art or architecture each year, nearly four times the number of American museums visited during the same period.
"For the first time, we have been able to quantify what religious institutions, faith-based charities, and even businesses inspired by faith contribute to our country," said Dr Grim. He continued: "In an age where there's a growing belief that religion is not a positive for American society, adding up the numbers is a tangible reminder of the impact of religion. Every single day individuals and organisations of faith quietly serve their communities as part of religious congregations, faith-based charities, and businesses inspired by religion."
During the last 15 years the amount of money spent annually by religious congregations on social programmes has tripled. Examples of the social issues addressed by these congregations and religiously-oriented charity groups include alcohol and drug abuse recovery, veteran and veterans' families support, HIV/Aids programmes and support or skills training for unemployed adults.
Faith Counts is a multi-faith campaign aimed at promoting the value of faith. Spokeswoman Kerry Troup said: "From our work with diverse faith communities across the US, we know that despite differences among individual religions, there are many more things that bring us together. This study shows that faith is still a cornerstone of our economy and society, and we're actively working together to celebrate and promote its value."