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The German sociologist Max Weber famously argued that capitalism developed in Northern Europe in part because Calvinists, racked by uncertainty about whether God had predestined them for salvation, pursued success in the secular world. Success, if attained, could signal that they were among those God had chosen to save.

Now, decades later, the Wall Street Journal's Neil Strauss takes a look at pious Grammy nominees and turns Weber's thesis on its head. Here's his theory: If you believe God has chosen you to succeed, you're more likely to succeed.

Strauss declares that celebrities--whether in sports or music--owe their fame in part to their unwavering belief "that God favors their own personal, temporal success over that of almost everyone else." Here why:

Let's call it competitive theism, a self-styled spirituality that can be overlaid on any religion and has nothing to do with personal morality. This faith gap, I've noticed in the interviews I've done, is often what sets the merely famous apart from the ridiculously famous. It can make the difference between achieving what's possible and accomplishing what seems impossible ...

The more successful you get, the faster, louder and more savage the criticism becomes. To deal with the psychological burden of becoming a household name and the attacks that come with it, it helps to be thick-skinned. It helps even more to have a sense of divine mission and to feel that, when everyone else seems to be against you, God is walking at your side. 

Strauss provides several colorful anecdotes to bolster his argument. You can check them out here.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.