The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

To sign-up to receive the CSR Newsletters regularly during the fall and spring academic semesters, e-mail author David Chandler at

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Strategic CSR - Prayers

The article in the url below deals with the issue of religious prayer offered on behalf of others, particularly in the aftermath of a public/national crisis of some kind. In particular, it is an attempt by economists to price such prayers for those who may be the object of such divine intervention. Perhaps not surprisingly, the value of someone else's "thoughts and prayers" depended on the beliefs of the person who was asked. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, however, for some in the study, the value was negative:
"Rather than settling on one price for all, the study found the value of a compassionate gesture depended overwhelmingly on a person's beliefs. While Christian participants were willing to part with money to receive thoughts and prayers from others, the idea made nonbelievers baulk. Instead of shelling out to receive the gestures, on average they were willing to pay to avoid them."
The researchers were trying to understand public reactions to offers of prayer by prominent people (e.g., politicians) following disasters. While many appreciate the sentiment, there are some that are offended and react more viscerally:
"The study … focused on 436 residents of North Carolina, the state most affected by Hurricane Florence last year. The participants were given $5 (£4) 'in support of their hardship' and asked how much, if any, they were willing to exchange to receive thoughts and prayers from strangers, most of whom were recruited over the internet."
As noted above, many certainly valued receiving the thoughts and prayers of others:
"Prayers from a priest were worth $7.17 to the average Christian in need. Prayers from less exalted Christians were valued at $4.36, while mere thoughts from another Christian were cheaper still at $3.27. The researchers used statistical models to estimate prices people would pay above the $5 they had."
Others, however, placed a negative value on the offer:
"Atheists and agnostics, meanwhile, were averse to 'thoughts and prayers.' On average, they were willing to pay a priest $1.66 not to pray for them, and more than twice that, $3.54, to ensure a run-of-the-mill Christian similarly refrained."
I find this all quite amusing and very human. Of course, if you are an atheist, then why would you pay to alter the thoughts of others, which you do not believe have any effect on you or anybody else? The more important point about the paper, however, is that politicians are perceived to be using the offer of "thoughts and prayers" to cover for their unwillingness to act. As one activist seeking to prevent gun violence in the U.S. put it:
"'What we're hearing today at the Capitol and the White House are thoughts and prayers,' he said. 'Your thoughts and prayers aren't going to stop the next shooting. Only action and leadership will do that.'"
Take care
David Chandler
© Sage Publications, 2020
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: 
Strategic CSR Simulation:
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at:

Economists calculate monetary value of 'thoughts and prayers'
By Ian Sample
September 16, 2019
The Guardian