The Future Of Religion

The religions of the world are in serious decline. Each generation is less religious than the last and the grip of the Church is being steadily weakened. Ireland used to be the most religious country in Europe, yet even here religion is being eroded away. The simple fact is that religion’s future is one of decline into insignificance as the older generations die off and young fail to take their place. Churches are facing a crisis in even finding members to join as priests and the closing of churches will soon be a common sight. Within 50 to 100 years religion will be but a shadow of what it once was, a mere footnote belonging to a forgotten time.

As so much of religion is private, it is not easy to quantify the level of religious belief in the country. Officially, the vast majority of people claim to be religious and in the most recent census 84% of the population claimed to be Catholic. However, religion has been caught up with people’s identity and many consider themselves Catholic the same way they consider themselves Irish. It is something that came with their birth and they cannot change. However, few of these people could in anyway be consider religious or practicing Catholics. A more accurate measure of religiosity is opinion polls and church attendance, both of which are crude and liable to overstatement by respondents who claim to practice more than they actually do (this dates back to when being seen as a “bad” Christian was a terrible shame). One study found that 36% of people claimed to attend church on a weekly basis whereas only 20% actually did. However, despite the differences among opinion polls, they all point in one direction, the unstoppable decline of religion.

In 1973 weekly church attendance in Ireland was a whopping 91%. This was the peak of Old Ireland, the absolute height that religion reached. Since then, the only way has been down. This steadily declined to 66% in a 1996 Irish Times/MRBI poll, 48% in 2002 Milward Brown IMS poll. A host of polls showed numbers jumping around the 40s throughout the 2000s due to variance in the conducting of polls and the responses people gave. While each one varied from each other, they all showed that less than half of Catholics were actually practicing. If you are unwilling to devote an hour a week to your religion, it probably isn’t that important to you. Global polls have found that Ireland has experienced the 2nd largest drop in religious belief, falling from 69% to 47%, with 44% describing themselves as not religious and 10% as Atheist. When the Association of Catholic Priests conducted a study in 2012 that found only 35% of Catholics attended Mass on a weekly basis, no one could deny that the Catholic Church was in a crisis.

Linked to this decline is the rise of Atheism. In fact church attendance figures would be lower if it wasn’t for the large number of people who are leaving religion. To be an Atheist at the moment is to enter a movement on the ground floor. Numbers are small at the moment, but rising rapidly and will certainly challenge mainstream Churches within a generation. According to the latest Census in 2011, the numbers of people listing No Religion, doubled to 350,000 and 7.5% of the population, making it the 2nd largest religious grouping in the country. I can see this change occurring among my friends. We all come from Catholic backgrounds, yet none of us could be called religious and rarely does anyone go to Mass. Among my college friends Atheism is dominant and once people move away from home, they stop attending church.

The decline is also to be seen in people’s views of the Church. In the study by the Association of Catholic Priests mentioned above (an admittedly biased group) even they found widespread discontent with the Church. Only 20% felt the views of laypeople were taken into account by the hierarchy, dropping to only 12% discussing Bishops. There was a consensus that the Church is out of touch with the rest of society and its members. There is a similar disconnected between believers and the social teachings of the church. 77% of Catholics think women should be allowed to become priests and 87% think that priests should be allowed to get married. The survey revealed that people no longer listen to the Church with 75% saying the Church’s teaching on sexuality have no relevance to them or their family. Only 18% agree with the Churches stance that homosexuality is immoral. Only 5% believe that divorced people should be refused Communion. In other words, the Church itself has found massive rejection if its policies and teachings as well as widespread alienation.

Catholic Bishops conducted their own study which also revealed the erosion of belief in core principles among Catholics. 25% didn’t believe in sin, another quarter did not believe in Heaven and almost half didn’t believe in Hell. If you thought these were dangerously high levels of disbelief among supposed Catholics, it gets worse. 28% don’t believe in life after death (isn’t that the whole point of Christianity?) and a surprisingly hilarious 10% don’t believe in God (but still call themselves Catholic). In other words, a large proportion of Catholics don’t actually believe in Catholicism.

This alienation from the Church and decline in religiosity is most pronounced among the young, the well educated and the wealthy. It is observed across the world that as countries become richer they become less religious. This could be because rich people don’t need religion as much, in that they are less desperate and in less need of divine help in their life. Also having money allows you to broaden your horizon and move away from static ideas like religion. Education too is strongly correlated with secularism and it was at university that I became an Atheist. This is because higher education encourages you to challenge preconceived ideas, think in new ways and demand evidence to support claims. Especially if you move away from home, college is a time where people are pushed out of their comfort zones and meet new ideas. Finally, the fact that the young no longer identify with religion is deeply worrying for Churches. With each generation less religious than the last, then it is only a matter of time before religion dies out in Ireland and Europe.

Allow me to stare into my crystal ball and make a guess at how the future will unfold. The Church will continue as it is, slowly losing members and finding it harder and harder to entice people to become priests. It will gradually lose power and influence and become a discredited institution (its weakness can be seen in the way it was overruled by even conservatives in Fine Gael during the recent abortion legislation). As the hierarchy becomes smaller and older, it will become more and more out of touch with the rest of society. This is where the death spiral kicks in, less members leads to less relevance leads to less members etc. As the number of priest’s declines, churches will have to be closed. Churches will literally recede from public life and fewer and fewer people will be willing to commute every Sunday. The current position where every tiny village has its own church won’t last.

As religion declines, secularism will rise. At the moment the Church’s social teaching are ignored and ridiculed, a position which will only worsen. It is only a matter of time before Ireland becomes a secular state (goodbye to references to God in the constitution and blasphemy laws). Religion is something that once lost, is incredibly difficult to regain. It is almost impossible to convince thinking adult about stories like Noah’s Ark, Garden of Eden and Jonah and the Whale really happened. Only a gullible child who has it hammered into them at home, church and school can believe it to be true. If you take an adult who has never heard of Christianity and try to convince them about virgins giving birth, the dead coming back to life etc, they would think of it as the strangest fantasy they’ve heard.

The decline of religion will not be smooth. It will get a boost from immigrants from religious third world countries, but rather than saving faith, it will only delay the inevitable. There will probably be the occasional dead-cat-bounce where some young people buck the trend, but their view of religion will be unrecognisable to us. The old traditional Catholic guilt of Cardinal McQuaid is gone and not coming back. People will experiment with other religions and forms of spirituality like Buddhism, Islam or even paganism. However, religion requires too much faith and ignoring contrary evidence for these trends to be more than temporary. By the time I die, I would expect Atheism to be the dominant belief of Ireland, with Catholicism being nothing more than a niche held by 5-10% of people. In fact Atheism (which is the absence of belief) may no longer be a thing as without religion, it is not necessary. You can’t reject what isn’t there.

So that’s how I see the future. Of course, by its nature the future is unpredictable, but this is a rough outline. Religion is trapped in a holdout of the old, a constituency that is ever shrinking. It is caught on the wrong side of history. The question of time is debatable, what is certain is the result. Over the coming decades we will see religion decline across the Western World as sure as the advancement of tide. Some countries (France, Scandinavia, Czech Republic) will advance faster than others; in fact these countries are pretty much there now. Other countries (America, Italy, Greece) will be slower but even there the decline is clear to see. The Third World remains an open question, but history shows that as countries become better educated and richer, they become less religious. The future is bright and it has no place for God.

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78 thoughts on “The Future Of Religion”

  1. “In other words, a large proportion of Catholics don’t actually believe in Catholicism.” 🙂 Priceless!

    The truly great hit to the Abrahamic religions is going to come when its starts getting broadly reported what’s been known inside archaeological departments for well over a generation: the entire Pentateuch is myth. Abraham never existed, neither did Moses, the Exodus most definitely didn’t happen, and there was never a military conquest of Israel. Not a single shred of evidence for any of it has been found, and that’s after 75 years of extensive excavations looking to actually verify the biblical tales. Israeli archaeologists are in complete agreement: its all a geopolitical myth, and Judaic monotheism only appeared in the post-exile period, 5th century BCE…. 1,000-1,500 years later than claimed. The evidence is in fact so conclusive that even conservative Jewish rabbis are admitting the farce. When the Jews give it up (as is happening) Catholicism and Islam will be in a real mess.

    1. I don’t mean to sound pesky, but what would believers care about any of that. If anything, religious erosion must come from within. There has never been anything intrinsically believable about the dogmas and myths told in the respected religions of the old, the contemporary or the new. To believe in a creator being or a personal mentor/judge that no one can see or taste or touch was as ridiculous 2000 years ago as it is today. Human kind is simply too prone to believe any sort of afterlife nonsense as to find some peace when mentally confronted with the perspective of an ending life.

      I seem to remember I cried when I was told Santa Claus wasn’t real in the full knowledge I’d still receive my gifts next year.

      I guess death is a different matter altogether.

      1. True, some kind of nonsense seems an inevitable blunder. The point was simply that in admitting the Pentateuch is nothing but a geopolitical myth means (ultimately) no supernatural revelation to anyone at any time. The Jews are coming around, and when they jump ship its going to leave Christians and Muslims quite a deal naked.

    2. Every year as we are learning more and more about the world we live in, in terms of physics, archaeology, biology etc more and more religious myths are being disproven. Religion has hardly a leg to stand on. Science is advancing and religion is declining. The tide of history will wash it away.

      PS good posts

  2. Well written Robert. I do often find myself thinking that even the so-called Atheists are actually driven by their belief in something (away from established religions…) – it is inherent to human nature that we act and live according to our inner beliefs, whatever they may be. The way I see it is that the Church instead of counting the numbers at Sunday Mass etc should actually embark on research into beliefs held by people who have given up on them, etc. The results might well lead some to analyse these “Atheist” beliefs and see how they correlate with the cores of “Bible” teachings. It’d be most interesting I think.

    1. There is certainly a big difference between church attendance and other headcounts and what people believe but the correlation goes the other way. Self-proclaimed religious people often have very heretical views. There may be Atheists with religious views but I doubt it.

      Atheists certainly have beliefs, but mine are political and economical rather than religious. We don’t need religion to motivate or drive us or give ourselves meaning.

      1. No, we do not need religion to drive or motivate us etc but beliefs – we do. Those beliefs can be in anything as you point out and if they are built on similar principles as “classic religions” (but different content) then as far as humanity is concerned then both hold the same weight of good. One does not need to believe in “the Bible” or partake in religious rites (devised by mankind, anyway) to feel good about one’s life. Indeed, it’s most likely that moving away from the church has many of its roots in most in disappointments with the so-called religious practice. “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” does not require a practicing religious framework but it does require belief in that.

        1. Exactly, a world without religion is not a world without beliefs or morals or hope. For too long religion has claimed a monopoly over so many aspects of life. Its time to take it back.

          1. I agree with you Robert – democracy in the empowerment of individuals to lead life as they believe best is the key to happiness (of course, as long as that belief does not include doing harm to others).

  3. I never really cared about statistics concerning religion. Most people are so gullible, they’ll believe anything. Obviously the problem isn’t organized religion anymore, the problem is people being perfectly content with being uninformed. Mix in an ever increasingly complexity when it comes to knowledge scaring even the most sincere away and an avalanche of bullshit being posted on blogs, E-zines, Twitfart and what have you, and you get the world we live in today.

    if intelligence and critical thinking skills is what it’s going to take to survive the already cascading economical, cultural and energy related crises that are going to sweep the Earth for the coming decades, then I’d be positively surprised. But I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Actually religion will die slower than an operatic tenor. It will take centuries. But your point is cogent. It will die inwardly more rapidly than outwardly. People will still pay lip service to religion even if they won’t show up for service.

    1. Its like wind erosion, its slow, hardly noticeable, but relentless. Perhaps my view is distorted by living in Ireland where the decline has been very rapid. It will still hold out in the Third World for longer. But among developed economies, it is gradually being reduced to purely symbolic actions.

  5. Nice analysis. I think what keeps institutional religions propped up in light of the evidence or lack thereof that God and an afterlife exists is the element of evil. Church fathers use this when all else fails to scare poorly informed people that awful things will happen once you have no faith in a divine super power. Science can minimize this fear and eventually eliminate it by research, demonstrating chemical reactions and displaying how cause and effect makes bad as well as good things happen. Not demons and angels.

    1. Absolutely. Fear is by far the Churches strongest weapon. Even people who no longer believe the myths still call themselves Christian out of fear of Hell. Gradually we will show that their fear is irrational, but it will take time.

  6. Of course, to belong to the Roman Communion it is a requirement to be completely taken in by the bizarre notions enumerated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Needless to say, these rules are backed up by the Code of Canon Law which describes the offences and punishments for transgressing those rules.

    For example, Can. 751 reads: 
    “Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and Catholic faith. Apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith. Schism is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

    And Can. 1364 §1 reads:
    “An apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae [sentence (already) passed] excommunication, without prejudice to the provision of Canon 194 §1, n. 2;…”

    Putting this into perspective, 75% of adult Irish “Roman Catholics”, who were polled by the Irish Times (published 5th June 2012), said that they do not believe in what they recite in the creed, 66% said that they do not believe in transubstantiation and “[s]ome eight in 100 don’t believe in God; 15 in 100 don’t believe Jesus is the son of God; and 18 in 100 don’t believe God created man”. [Yes, you read that right. 8% of adult Irish “Roman Catholics” do not believe in God. They’re what I think Dara Ó Briain would call Catholic atheists.]

    So, at least 75% of adult Irish “Roman Catholics” cannot possibly be described as being actual Roman Catholics and have been automatically excommunicated under the Church’s own rules.

    1. Haha somehow I have the feeling the Bishops will gloss over the fact that they should excommunicate their entire flock. Church attendance is low enough as it is, requiring only people who actually agree with the Church would exclude the few remaining.

  7. Interesting post. Here in the US, even in TX, I’ve seen a big change in attitudes over the last 10 years (though the Baptists remain extremely annoying). There are a lot of folks like me raising their kids without religion, which means we’re adding to the ranks of the unchurched.

  8. Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Paarsurrey says:

    I don’t agree with you; though in a way you have described the tussle between Paul’s modern “Christianity”- definitely a misnomer, and the Atheism in the West correctly. The above phenomenon in the West does not present a true picture of the truthful religion.

    Atheism will demolish Paul’s Christianity which was a myth carved out of the thin air by Paul and does not represent Jesus or his teachings.

    The destruction of Christianity does not prove that Atheism has any sound and valid foundation either; it is itself based on simple superstition and hides for refuge under Science; yet science refuses to provide any refuge to Atheism.

    There are some intelligent Christians who know that they cannot defend Christianity under the situation and hence in response they expose the superstitious foundation of Atheism; and believe me that they are equally good at it.

    So Christianity and Atheism will nullify each other in the interim strife period.

    Paarsurrey says:

    I don’t agree with you; though in a way you have described the tussle between Paul’s modern “Christianity”- definitely a misnomer, and the Atheism in the West correctly. The above phenomenon in the West does not present a true picture of the truthful religion.

    Atheism will demolish Paul’s Christianity which was a myth carved out of the thin air by Paul and does not represent Jesus or his teachings.

    The destruction of Christianity does not prove that Atheism has any sound and valid foundation either; it is itself based on simple superstition and hides for refuge under Science; yet science refuses to provide any refuge to Atheism.

    There are some intelligent Christians who know that they cannot defend Christianity under the situation and hence in response they expose the superstitious foundation of Atheism; and believe me that they are equally good at it.

    So Christianity and Atheism will nullify each other in the interim strife period.

    Paarsurrey says:

    I don’t agree with you; though in a way you have described the tussle between Paul’s modern “Christianity”- definitely a misnomer, and the Atheism in the West correctly. The above phenomenon in the West does not present a true picture of the truthful religion.

    Atheism will demolish Paul’s Christianity which was a myth carved out of the thin air by Paul and does not represent Jesus or his teachings.

    The destruction of Christianity does not prove that Atheism has any sound and valid foundation either; it is itself based on simple superstition and hides for refuge under Science; yet science refuses to provide any refuge to Atheism.

    There are some intelligent Christians who know that they cannot defend Christianity under the situation and hence in response they expose the superstitious foundation of Atheism; and believe me that they are equally good at it.

    So Christianity and Atheism will nullify each other in the interim strife period.

  9. Robert,
    I wonder if your experience with Irish Catholicism has blinkered your view of the rest of the world. But then, I’m at a loss to explain the uncritical comments that follow your post, other than simple wishful thinking.

    Enlightenment thinkers since Thomas Woolston (18th c) have been predicting the inevitable demise of religion. Voltaire predicted religion would be gone from the western world by 1810. Nietzsche, Marx and Freud thought it inevitable that religion would give way to their ideas of progress. Sociologist Max Weber predicted the “emancipation” of the mind from supernaturalism. Anthropologist Anthony FC Wallace also publicly declared it inevitable. Peter Berger predicted a worldwide secular culture by the 21rst century. Under Communism, China was supposed to become the model of a secularized, postreligious society. When Mao came to power in 1949 there were an estimated 700,000 Christians in China. Today there are some 16 million registered church members (TSPM), and the number of millions of underground Christians is unknown. This religious explosion occurred despite an atheist government’s attempted indoctrination of the people. Equally unexpected was the survival of religion in Russia, despite an ideological, “scientifically enlightened” atheist government’s attempt to wipe it out. I was alive when the USSR imprisoned pastors, categorizing them as “mentally ill.” Yet, the percentage of atheists in Russia has now fallen to 4% – pretty much the same as it has been America for the past 60 years (Gallup Poll in 1964 to Baylor National Survey of Religion in 2007.)

    Peter Berger has now recanted his predictions of inevitable worldwide secularization:
    “I think that what I and most other sociologists of religion wrote in the 1960s about secularization was a mistake” (Christian Century interview, 1997.) indeed, not only is resurgent Islam on the rise in the Muslim world, evangelical Protestantism is growing even faster, and its growth is not confined to historically Christian nations. You can read Berger’s insights here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/01/002-secularization-falsified-1

    In light of these facts, your opening statement is less plausible than the story of Noah’s Ark: “The religions of the world are in serious decline. Each generation is less religious than the last and the grip of the Church is being steadily weakened…”

    Twice you assert: “It is observed across the world that as countries become richer they become less religious… history shows that as countries become better educated and richer, they become less religious.”
    That is news to me as an American, since the vast majority of people here are active church-members, and the next generation shows no signs of ditching belief in God.

    Of course, none of this addresses the question of whether or not there is a God, but it is certainly further proof that we’re all the same, both atheists and theists; we are all inclined to believe what we want to believe despite the evidence.

    1. @art & life notes: Seriously??? “That is news to me as an American, since the vast majority of people here are active church-members, and the next generation shows no signs of ditching belief in God.”

      What part of America do you live in? Do you read the papers? I would say Robert’s assessment is spot-on.

    2. Just because religions decline has been falsely predicted in the past doesn’t mean it will never happen. A crucial difference between now and the Enlightenment is that the Church no longer as an iron grip on society and the education system.

      Your use of examples doesn’t support your case. Christianity may have risen in China (I don’t know for sure as you do not cite sources) but the dominant religion was Confucianism. How is that holding out? Religion has made a resurgence in Eastern Europe, but bar Poland and Russia it is still much lower than the rest of the world (it has practically disappeared from the Czech Republic).

      It is interesting that you completely ignore the elephant in the room and the crux of my post. Namely the undeniable decline of religiosity in Western Europe. By any measure this is a massive drop. The Southern states of the US are holding out, but even there there has been a decline (which is much more pronounced in Northern states). You provide no evidence to support your claims instead relying on anecdotal evidence.

        1. Deborah, I stand corrected! I meant to say the vast majority of Americans consider religious belief to be important (which is not the same as saying they are active church members – my mistake.) Nonetheless, my point remains that Robert’s statement, “The religion’s of the world are in serious decline…” is incorrect.

          The rise of the “nones” is interesting. This group includes atheists, but even so, the Pew Forum says that 68% of nones still believe in God. 37% of them say they are “spiritual” but not religious. (I would even say that about myself.) This hardly spells the death of belief in the supernatural.

          1. @art & life notes If you look at the trends by age, you’ll see that the young (under 30) unaffiliated/nonbelievers are growing at a faster pace than the other age groups. Since 2007, however, the number of unaffiliated has been growing while the percent of those attending church has been declining. While not all of these are atheists/agnostic/naturalists/etc., it is only a matter of time, IMO, before those who no longer have regular reinforcement from the church lose their faith completely. Also, I believe Robert noted that religion is declining in those countries where level of education is high and poverty is low. What does that suggest….

            _____

            1. Deborah – Well, regarding the “nones” we’ll just have to wait and see. I don’t think either of us has a crystal ball, but what we do have is historical and current data, and so far events have unfolded opposite to secularist’s predictions.

              You asked, “Robert noted that religion is declining in those countries where level of education is high and poverty is low. What does that suggest….”

              Since it’s an unproven assertion, it suggests that Robert is displaying the common human tendency to see what one wants to see, as we all are prone to do. There simply is no clear correlation, and certainly no causal relationship:

              Within Europe, Italy is as modern as Sweden and has a higher gdp, and yet, Italians attend church and Swedes do not. Among Muslim nations there is no correlation between Mosque attendance and gdp. And you can’t explain away the freaking glaring fact that America’s gdp is far beyond that of any nation, yet it began and continues to be a highly religious nation. Second in line is China, with an enormous population, where religion has been gaining there even as the nation has been in the process of modernizing. India is in the gdp top 10, and is also in the top 10 countries with the highest Muslim population. (http://money.cnn.com/news/economy/world_economies_gdp/) When half of your examples are exceptions to the rule, maybe it’s time to admit your rule isn’t a rule at all. The question is much more complex than to simply say that religion and modernization are at odds.

              Also, imho, it is bizarre and blindly ignorant to speak in general of “religious” populations and nations, as if all religious faith is the same, and as if all religions produce the same behavior in people (as Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins famously assert.) That’s like saying everyone who eats is eating the same food and eating it for the same reasons. But I suppose that’s a topic for another thread.

              1. “Since it’s an unproven assertion, it suggests that Robert is displaying the common human tendency to see what one wants to see, as we all are prone to do. There simply is no clear correlation, and certainly no causal relationship:”
                Would you please look at the evidence! There is a clear and strong correlation and I even linked to the studies in my post. Here it is again for you
                http://redcresearch.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/RED-C-press-release-Religion-and-Atheism-25-7-12.pdf
                If you read it you will see that religiosity is in decline in most countries and there is even a chart comparing religiosity and income levels.

                “Within Europe, Italy is as modern as Sweden and has a higher gdp, and yet, Italians attend church and Swedes do not.”
                It actually has a lower GDP as though the most religious Mediterranean countries, Spain, Portugal and Greece. The most secular Scandinavian countries are some of the richest in the world. This is what happens when you argue GDP with an economics student 🙂

                You don’t seem to understand what correlation means. It does not mean that the rule holds exactly true in every single case. It means that on average, richer countries are less religious. Let me repeat, this holds true on average. Even America doesn’t quite support your case as the richest states are the least religious and the most religious are the poorest.

                All religions share similar features, particularly the Abrahmaic ones. After all, what is the difference between Catholic and Protestant? So as generalisations go, it holds fairly well (while still being a generalisation).

  10. To Robert:
    I would continue to take issue with you on a couple of points. You wrote:
    “A crucial difference between now and the Enlightenment is that the Church no longer as an iron grip on society and the education system.”

    This only makes the continued persistence and growth of belief in God more puzzling. Plus I gave you two examples of countries, China and Russia, where there certainly WAS an (anti-religious) iron grip on both society and education, and religion exploded. (You can easily google sources on China.) I didn’t mention Latin America and Africa, where church growth has also exploded, not declined.

    As for the elephant and “crux of your post,” you wrote of
    “…the undeniable decline of religiosity in Western Europe. By any measure this is a massive drop….”

    Not necessarily true. The “decline of religiosity” in Western Europe is plausibly deniable, and may not be a “massive drop” at all. There is good reason to believe that the great majority of the peasantry in Medieval society seldom or never went to church, based on period reports from many sources. Andrew Greeley states, “There could be no de-Christianization of Europe…because there never was any Christianization in the first place. Christian Europe never existed.” According to Rodney Stark, after the conversion of Constantine, “Christianization” of Europe as it moved northward often was a matter of baptizing the nobility, and the ceding of legal recognition of the ecclesiastical sovereignty of the church. Following this, a state-supported clergy predictably had little incentive to missionize the rural populations, and so for the most part the people stayed away from church in droves. Stark contends that areas such as Southern Europe, which were Christianized before Constantine, continue to have fairly high church attendance today, as they always have. By contrast, Scandinavians haven’t stopped going to church; they simply never were churchgoers.

    I think you would enjoy reading Rodney Stark’s book, “The Triumph of Christianity,” as an economist and as an atheist. The book is a study on why Christianity succeeded in the world. I’m still mulling over some of his claims, some of which I find pretty annoying. He doesn’t go much for miraculous reasons, attributing much to politics and economics. At any rate, it’s a perspective worth hearing.

    1. “This only makes the continued persistence and growth of belief in God more puzzling.”
      Why do you keep saying thus? It isn’t true! Look at the study I supplied or find some yourself, they all show religion in decline.

      Russia isn’t that good of an example as religion was hidden as opposed to being non-existent. China does not support your case at all as it is the more Atheist country in the world with 47% describing themselves so (only 14% describe themselves as religious).
      http://redcresearch.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/RED-C-press-release-Religion-and-Atheism-25-7-12.pdf

      In relative terms Africa is at saturation point and therefore not rising proportionally. Latin America is declining (please look at evidence)

      I am comparing Western Europe to 20-50 years earlier in which there has been a massive drop. The Mediveal peasants religious beliefs are pretty unknowable and therefore not relevant.

      “The book is a study on why Christianity succeeded in the world.”
      Was it by the point of the sword (as in Latin America and Africa) or by converting leaders who pressured the rest of society? (Europe)

  11. I’ll answer your last 2 posts together. Unfortunately, so far I have been unable to successfully open you Red c source, which is a bummer because I’d really like to see what you’re looking at.
    1) We’re both right about Italy and Sweden. Italy is listed as having one of the top 10 highest gdps in the world, as I said. If you’re talking per capita, then Sweden’s gdp is higher. My point stands that Italy is not a poor, uneducated country, yet it has high religious participation and belief.
    2) You say Russia isn’t a good example. Russia is a great example! Soviet dictators had fervent faith in the “secularization thesis,” viewing religion as an impediment to progress that was destined to die out. They disallowed religious instruction for decades, and forcibly indoctrinated the nations children (the atheist version of forced conversion,) yet now that the smoke cleared, atheism is something like 4%. If religion was going to die out, it certainly should’ve happened in the USSR.
    3) China “doesn’t support my case at all”? The “most atheist country in the world”?!
    My understanding is the Chinese Gov does not allow anyone, from any nation, to ask questions about religion, so I question how your source can claim that 47% describe themselves as atheist, and 14% religious. Furthermore, if such a poll were allowed in China, would it be surprising that most people would register an opinion that would not get them in trouble with their atheist totalitarian government? China does not have free speech or a free press. As I stated, the membership of the legal, registered church (TSPM) is known. The numbers for the underground church is not, but it is in the millions (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14838749.)
    4) Latin America declining? It’s just not that simple. When Protestantism was finally allowed into Latin America early last century, it eventually exploded, prompting predictions that Protestantism would eventually overtake Catholicism. Instead Catholicism rallied with a revival of its own, the two sects making L America a remarkably religious continent today. It’s true that secularization is also growing, but the question is what does that mean? Secularism is not necessarily at odds with religion. It essentially allows for a “free religious marketplace” rather than imposing a state religion. I think what is happening in Latin America, and in much of the rest of the world, is that we’re seeing more pluralism and freedom. Competing ideas can now respectfully coexist to a greater extent than ever before in much of the world. I hope we can all agree that’s good for everybody.
    5) “All religions share similar features, particularly the Abrahmaic ones. After all, what is the difference between Catholic and Protestant?”
    I want to respect the fact that this is your blog, and I’m not sure if you want to open this can of worms here. But since you asked, I’ll only say that there are very significant differences between Catholic and Protestant. I’ll cite the big one – the issue of authority: Protestants view the Bible as their ultimate authority. Catholics view church tradition as equal to the Bible. This has led to many extra/anti-biblical Catholic ideas like a pope who can speak infallibly, a (celibate) priesthood, transubstantiation, infant baptism, human theocracy, and theological anti-Semitism. They really are quite different.

    I applaud your exit from a religion that was meaningless and false to you.

    1. Shame you can’t access the pdf, that’s probably why we have this communication failure.

      If you look at the global level, rich countries are less religious while the most religious countries are the poorest. Within countries, poorer people tend to be more religious. If you narrow the focus to just Western Europe, it is the poorer countries (Italy, Spain, Greece) that are most religious.

      Russia wasn’t a good example because it was forced, whereas I am speaking of voluntary Atheism. Also many people in Russia were religious but had to pretend otherwise. Also other former Communist countries have not returned to religion (Poland and Russia are the main exceptions). Overall Eastern Europe is less religious than Western Europe.

      If you disallow my use of China then surely you cannot use it either. It should be obvious that underground figures are by their nature unreliable and biased.

      I note that you don’t use any sources or data to support your view. Why is this?

      The differences between Catholic and Protestant are minor. They both believe in Jesus, God, Heaven, Bible etc

      1. I don’t think there is a communication failure, and I don’t dispute your source. I think we’re all basically looking at the same data. I just disagree with you as to what it means (see #4.) What I’m disputing is that there is no inherent conflict between modernity/wealth and religious belief (at least not with Judaism and Christianity,) and there is no inevitable march toward majority atheism. I will grant that wealth tends to create a distraction from religion, and that it certainly creates a sense of security.

        Why no sources? A lot of what we’re discussing can be easily Googled by anyone (Sweden vs Italy.) I did provide a source for China, because it’s harder to find the info. For Latin America I was looking at the Gallup World Polls (which can be Googled) but I couldn’t find a concise summary. Is there some statement in particular that you question? I’ll be happy to provide a source.

        Russia: If the “inevitable march” toward majority atheism and the extinction of religion was helped along by an atheist governmental system for decades, and it still didn’t happen, then I think that makes Russia a very important example.

        China: Same with China.
        And I didn’t disallow your use of China, I asked for your source, and where your source got those numbers since Stark claims China doesn’t allow religious polling from outsiders. I didn’t cite “underground figures.” The official government numbers for the TSPM are legit, and that number alone makes my case that religion is growing in China. The underground church numbers, which are unknown, (but in the millions,) only strengthens my point. You should read the BBC article I referenced.

        The differences between Catholic & Protestant are minor? Wait…a Pope and infallibility? A (supposedly) celibate priesthood? Theocracy & its violence? Transubstantiation? These are several of the reasons that you left the Catholic Church. Now you say they’re minor things? These things don’t exist at all in Protestantism.

        Saying “They both believe in Jesus, God, Heaven, Bible etc” doesn’t mean the differences are minor. Cults like the Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in those things too. The Koran and Islam believes in those things, but is worlds apart from biblical Christianity. You can’t broad-brush all religion, or all faith. Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins simply don’t know what the hell they’re talking about when they say all religious faith is the same. Roman Catholicism is one religious viewpoint that developed around Jesus, often in contradiction to what he taught. Protestantism was at least a step in allowing people the possibility again of following Jesus apart from R Catholic control. But biblical faith requires neither.

        1. I really shouldn’t be responding to art & life notes because I don’t have time to address all of his points. I would like to just pick at this low hanging fruit: “These things don’t exist at all in Protestantism.” Protestantism substituted consubstantiation for transubstantiation. And you seem to know your doctrine, so you’ll know that one is no more or less magical than the other. Religious beliefs are all very similar, though the specifics of each religion are different. However, there’s no doubt that religions like Islam and Christianity and Judaism all sprouted from the same seeds. Both Christians and Muslims got their concept of a singular god from the Jews. So they all believe in the same god and are similar in other ways. Muslims are followers of Jesus; they just do not believe he was divine. etc. etc.

          _____

          1. With all due respect Deborah, I disagree with pretty much every one of your statements.

            Catholicism considers consubstantiation to be a heresy. Consubstantiation holds that the elements do not become the literal body & blood of Jesus, therefore it certainly is less “magical.” You could take such Eucharistic elements to a laboratory and test them, and the results would not contradict the doctrine. Whereas I can’t imagine a Catholic response to such a laboratory test that I would agree with. Having said that, I’m not aware of anyone who believes in consubstantiation other than some Lutherans. I certainly don’t. So your statement about Protestantism is a bit sweeping.

            Your statement, “Religious beliefs are all very similar, though the specifics of each religion are different” is incomprehensible. That’s like saying all modes of transportation are very similar, but the specifics are different; (like where they take you, and how safe or efficient a given mode might be.) If you’re simply arguing that an elephant and an airliner are “very similar” in that they both take you somewhere, I guess I have to agree with you.

            However, you are certainly incorrect in saying that Jews, Xians, & Muslims all believe in the same God, and that Muslims are followers of Jesus. I don’t dispute that Jews and Xians believe in the same God, but the Islamic conception of God differs significantly, perhaps most notably in that he is not relational or knowable (see http://artandlifenotes.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/5-things-in-the-bible-that-once-embarrassed-me-but-that-i-now-think-are-freaking-profound/)

            As for Jesus, I wonder if you are aware that the Koran teaches that Jesus did not die on a cross, but that God rescued him and put an imposter in his place (Women, Surah 4:157.) By contrast, Xianity holds Jesus’ sacrificial death to be essential to the salvation of the human race. Muslims don’t follow their “Jesus” in any meaningful sense. They follow the prophet Mohammad, a warrior who fought in many battles, and who married one of his many wives when she was 6 years old, consummating the marriage when she was age 9. By contrast, Jesus was a healer, not a warrior, and never married. We’re not talking different flavors of ice cream, here. The differences around who God is, who man is, and what salvation is, are enormous (examples provided on request,) and they accordingly produce different behavior in each group.

            1. It seems to be the hallmark of those who appear to favour religion to attempt to derail the topic in an attempt to bolster their flagging belief perhaps?
              Robert’s clear and erudite post demonstrates the inexorable decline of religion and whether it takes fifty years or ne hundred it will fade away and that is all that counts. Nitpicking over details, art & Life notes is just petty.

              1. “Derail the topic”? Had you read my comments above you would have seen my comment to Robert:
                “I want to respect the fact that this is your blog, and I’m not sure if you want to open this can of worms here. But since you asked,…”
                Unless Robert has appointed you to police his blog, I’ll defer to his judgment, and bow out at his request. Robert is a big boy, and he can handle some divergence of opinion here. He asked me a direct question, and I answered it.

                As to the supposed “inexorable decline of religion,” I’m happy to wait and see how things shake out, and I’m happy with either result. Although, as I also stated above, I favor pluralism, and freedom for all viewpoints, which I would hope you favor as well.

                As for my supposed “nitpicking over details,” perhaps you have heard the phrase, “the Devil is in the details.” But don’t worry – it’s just an expression; you needn’t let the details frighten you.

                1. Unless Robert has appointed you to police his blog, I’ll defer to his judgment, and bow out at his request.

                  Oh, I wasn’t saying you couldn’t go off on a tangent, good heavens, of course you can, I was merely making the observation that religiously inclined people have a habit of doing this when they have their back up against the wall or feel they are on a hiding to nothing, that’s all.
                  Lol…no, sir, details are not a cause for fear, It is always better to look at the big picture. The somewhat blinkered religious folk are oft disinclined to do this.

                  1. I see. Then I would tend to agree with your statement, since you’ve merely described a tendency true of anyone who holds a cherished opinion, be they people who “favor religion,” political ideologues, atheists, etc. An equally informative statement would be, “religiously inclined people eat food and grow hair.”

                    But in the interest of staying on topic, I have a question for you. Hypothetically, what if, over the next decade, evangelicalism and Pentecostalism begins to sweep the Scandinavian countries. Would you change your opinion about religion inexorably fading away?

                    I’ll go out on a limb and guess your answer: Of course you won’t. You’ll say it’s a hiccup, or a temporary setback, and we’ll all be dead before sufficient time has passed to prove either of us right or wrong. My point is that, since we’re discussing the future, neither side can really “have their back up against the wall” despite what you may think. Secularization/religion is a multi-faceted and complex topic, and continues to be full of surprises. We are well past the 200 year mark since the first “enlightenment” predictions of inevitable secularization began. As for details, “Is there an inherent conflict between modernity and all religion?” or, “What has been the nature of religious growth in the world?” are enormously important questions. If you think such details don’t matter, you are whistling in the dark. For example, your European buddies had better start making some little atheist babies, or else Muslim birth rates alone will eventually turn Europe into a religious region.
                    http://www.thecommentator.com/article/3770/the_islamic_future_of_britain
                    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/feb/11/islam-population
                    And the birth rate issue doesn’t even address whether or not atheism or Islam are reasonable viewpoints, deserving of growth or decline.

                    1. My European buddies? Really?
                      There are over 2 billion christians. Who gives a flying f***.?
                      That they all believe in a lie means what?
                      Your attempt at rationalizing this is nonsense.
                      Best go and study up on people like Herzog and Finkelstein.
                      Your hypothetical question will likely remain just that. Unless , of course, Jesus decides to make a first appearance, because, let’s face facts here, the biblical character sure as s*** did not make a
                      first one, now did he?
                      Considering how long Christians and other religions have been around, a few hundred years before they all fade away means zip.
                      The question is not that the truth will eventually catch up with you but what the hell are you going to do when it does?
                      And THAT is the only question you ought to consider.

                      Amen to that, right?

                    2. “Hypothetically, what if, over the next decade, evangelicalism and Pentecostalism begins to sweep the Scandinavian countries. Would you change your opinion about religion inexorably fading away?”

                      What if religion stopped declining and started rising? Then of course I would change my view. I’m only 21 so I can assure I probably won’t be dead that soon.

                      Its a shame that you naturally project your negative views onto me and presume I would be so stubborn in the face I contrary evidence. Let me assure you that as an Atheist, I have no faith so that when faced with contrary evidence I change my mind.

                      What about you? What if the trend of religious decline in Europe continues? What if church attendance continues to decline in America? What if each generation continues to be less religion than the last? In other words, what if things continue as they are now? Will you change your view?

                      “We are well past the 200 year mark since the first “enlightenment” predictions of inevitable secularization began.”
                      So one person made a prediction that turned out to be false, therefore all future ones are too?

                      “For example, your European buddies had better start making some little atheist babies, or else Muslim birth rates alone will eventually turn Europe into a religious region.”
                      There was once another religious group whose large birth rates threatened to swamp out everyone else. They were Catholics and now look, Catholic Ireland has a birth rate below replacement rate. Religions can change. People use more contraception as they become better educated and richer. The global birth rate is falling. Not even mass producing babies can religion.

  12. “Its a shame that you naturally project your negative views onto me and presume I would be so stubborn in the face I contrary evidence. Let me assure you that as an Atheist, I have no faith so that when faced with contrary evidence I change my mind.”

    Robert, that particular question and comment was directed at Ark, not you. The reason I engaged you in the first place is that you seem like a person that I could have a reasonable conversation with. I’m not sure what stake you think I have in this issue of religiousness vs secularization. I’m actually generally not “favorable to religion” (Ark’s term.) In fact I think many religions are horrible, on balance. At best, some are merely better-than-nothing, in my opinion. As I stated earlier, I’m perfectly happy to wait and see what will happen, and there is little point arguing about the future. What I have been arguing about is the interpretation of the data regarding the past and present; I don’t think it’s as black and white as you think it is, although from what you’ve presented, the decline of Catholicism in Ireland is undeniable, and interesting to me.

    Having said that, I don’t think what I said to Ark is even negative. A surge in European church growth really could merely be a temporary setback, and he (or you) wouldn’t be unreasonable to think so.

    “So one person made a prediction that turned out to be false, therefore all future ones are too?”
    No, not one person. It’s been scores of intelligent, highly educated secularists and atheists. They’ve all been wrong. (Except Peter Berger, since he’s changed his mind.) Religion was supposed to be long gone by now. In present day America, secularists have long controlled academia, the news media, and the entertainment industry, and they still haven’t been able to make the revolution happen.

    Will I change my view? It depends on the country and the data. The explosion of Xianity in Africa wasn’t supposed to happen. Nor was the explosion of Protestantism in S America. Currently many Muslim countries have anti-conversion laws with severe penalties. What if those are liberalized? How do you even count what’s really going on?

    “…Catholic Ireland has a birth rate below replacement rate. Religions can change…The global birth rate is falling…etc…”
    In the case of Islam, we can only hope. Did you read the 2 articles on this I posted? I even posted one that’s hostile to my viewpoint. Again, we’ll have to wait and see. However, if you think Muslim birth rates in Europe, (which are at 6.something, I think,) are going to fall to native European extinction levels, I think you have more faith than you think you have. Did I mention that many Muslims practice polygamy? Just sayin’.

    1. Well, as I have still have a few chips on the table I shall offer my answer.
      If we accept as a given that the greater access a person has to information the likelihood that person will become better educated or at least, better able to make an informed decision.
      This is a general pattern and has resulted in a general moving away from religion. Predominantly Christianity.

      Notwithstanding the rise of religion in African countries there has been a greater shift towards non religiosity and atheism over the past ten to twenty years than ever before in recorded history. I would suggest in no small part due to the internet.

      So, if we play out your scenario what might happen?
      Well, secularism will likely predominate across northern Europe and to a lessor extent southern Europe and Christianity will dwindle.
      Whereas Islam will continue strong and Muslims, because of their much higher birth rate and greater intolerance will begin to make stronger attempts to force their religious practices on an every growing secular society, probably to the detriment of an increasingly more apathetic Christianity..
      Muslims might begin to insist on dress codes, build more mosques, push for Sharia Law etc etc, while Christians, who previously had everything their own way suddenly find themselves marginalised. Funny old world, is it not?

      It will likely fall to the non religious to put the brakes on Islamic expansion and the only friend the Christians will have is the atheists.
      And what will they do? There is little chance they will be able to regain lost ground, as more and more Christians are deconverting and Churches are closing.
      So, eventually, in the face of all evidence, Christians will have to accept that what they have been inculcated with for over two millennia is nothing but crap and throw in their lot with the non religious.

      In the face of this, Islam doesn’t stand a chance.

  13. Hmmm. That is one possible scenario. Here’s another possible scenario:

    Nominal Christians will continue leaving the church, correctly seeing their irrational faith and meaningless traditions for what they were. As more of the non-religious settle into a purely material view of existence, this will set the stage for a new recognition that there is more to life than the mere physical, especially as the internet continues to get around the hammerlock that secularists have on academia. The non-religious will grow disillusioned with a pointless existence in an impersonal, accidental universe. The “freedom” of living in a magical evolutionary world where human life has no more intrinsic value than a bacterium will begin to grow thin. The pendulum will begin to swing back as seekers realize there is no conflict whatsoever between modernity/rationality and biblical faith, and more people will begin to accept the relevance of the message of Jesus and spiritual rebirth.

    In the Hindu religion, the Dalit (Untouchable) population will continue to embrace the message of Jesus in a mass exodus from Hinduism, despite persecution. A large portion of Jews and Christians worldwide will rethink and renounce their traditional religious exclusivities and unite instead under a new common identity in Jesus, the Jewish messiah. This will rock the Muslim world, and, as the more radical sects continue to kill each other off, much of the rest of Islam will grow tired of being manipulated through force and fear, leaving Islam. More Muslims will demand freedom, since the “secularization theory” can actually be correctly applied to Islam. In desperation, some reckless Muslim government will do something incredibly stupid militarily, touching off WW3 and throwing the world into chaos. Then nobody will be able to tell what the hell is going on. As there are no atheists in foxholes, atheism will dwindle, and no one will notice.

    We’ll just have to wait and see.

    1. Art&Life in Notes Our Christian presidents have led us into many wars. But that’s not important; it’s in the past. This is a very narcissistic world-view you’ve presented. It supposes that the individual is special, destined, important. None of us are individually. Only all of us are, together, because as a collective we advance and continue our species. No doubt we will die off one day, too, as all species have.

      You wrote: “The non-religious will grow disillusioned with a pointless existence in an impersonal, accidental universe.” You assume that an afterlife should give us meaning. And what would that be? We live this life like children trying to make a blind, deaf, mute invisible man happy so that we can earn a ticket to heaven? And then what? We are magically transported to life-ever-after? To do what? Float around with the rest of the spirits? Is this all sounding a little silly? Whether you believe in a god or not, your existence is pointless. “Heaven” has no point either. The only way we can make our lives meaningful is by deliberately defining who we are and what we stand for. Then, our existence becomes meaningful to us and to those around us. Believers worry that, if there is no religion, no god, that people will suddenly lose their morality. They fail to realize that people have always been able to act in selfish, evil ways, and in the case of Christians, they can do so over and over and over again and be forgiven. (Check out our prisons.) Christianity hardly promotes morality. It only teaches people to be good because someone is watching, to believe that they can be loved and forgiven no matter what (well, as long as you are a believer, you can be forgiven for any worldly crime). Having an appreciation that we are conscious in this “impersonal, accidental universe,” at this point in history where we can communicate via Internet and where we have food, shelter and safety, also gives one a sense of awe and gratitude.

      _____

      1. Hello Deborah. (Since Robert has also responded I will take this as tacit permission to continue this, now off-topic, discussion.) I very much appreciate your compassionate viewpoint and response. I believe we are after the same things.

        I don’t see the logic in your Hitchens-ish “narcissistic world-view” comment. Only if every individual is intrinsically valuable does the collective have value as well. The only compelling, transcendent basis I’ve found for believing that every individual has objective, intrinsic value comes from the Torah: all human beings bear the image of God. Take that away, and why does the collective matter? Why is the continuance of our species important if we’re merely one random branch on an accidental tree? At any rate, valuing only the collective hasn’t worked very well historically. The idea that the individual is not important or intrinsically valuable has resulted in the slaughter of millions under Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Hitler, etc. It seems the greatest atrocites are usually committed “for the good of the people.” (Though I’m certainly thrilled that you choose to value the collective.)

        You wrote, “You assume that an afterlife should give us meaning…Is this all sounding a little silly?”
        It does sound silly. But then, nothing you said between the ellipses is found in the Bible, though it is the usual, cartoonish stereotype of “Christianity,” so I understand why you repeat it. However you’ll notice I didn’t “assume that an afterlife should give us meaning.” You assumed that I assumed that.

        I agree with you that we can make up a meaning, and therefore have meaningful lives. But in the case of the materialist, it’s all just an illusion. You are merely a bag of chemicals reacting to your environment. You and those you “love” have “no more free will than a bowl of sugar,” as colorfully stated by biologist, Anthony Cashmore. My point was not that we can’t each cough up some subjective meaning. I was merely pointing out that an accidental, material universe can have no objective, transcendent purpose. By contrast, I joyfully embrace the idea that love does exist, because we do have free will, and that you and those you love (as well as those you don’t,) have intrinsic worth and are loved by their relational Creator.

        Your remaining characterizations of “Christianity” and “believers” I have found to be untrue, but of course you are entitled to your opinion. I’m sorry that your experience has been so unpleasant.

        1. art&life notes I appreciate your response and the respectful dialogue. I’m not trying to take pot shots at what you believe. I’m just trying to tell you why some of us believe as we do. Just a couple of things. I do not believe this is true: “Only if every individual is intrinsically valuable does the collective have value as well. ” The individual has intrinsic value in our society only under the eyes of our secular laws and from our humano-centric view. This is a good thing for us, but for our species, it matters not. We can fool ourselves into thinking we’re so important, but nature is the ultimate judge over who has value and who doesn’t. There is no “objective, transcendent” value to a human being if you don’t believe that the Torah, Bible or Quran (all similar) are anything other than a collection of myths and loosely-based historical tales passed down from one man to another. The continuance of our species is not important. That’s why climate change only matters to us. The planet and the universe will continue on, oblivious to our existence.

          I think the disconnect comes from the belief that there has to be a universal law or force that determines what is good. Many of us see that “goodness” is defined by man and is preprogrammed through evolution. Each individual has it to varying degrees. We have hardware and software, and as we mature, we learn to lean more towards good behaviors or bad. Good behaviors, we have learned, are not only beneficial for the community but also for the individual. So this, to me, is a romantic view of the universe: “…you and those you love (as well as those you don’t,) have intrinsic worth and are loved by their relational Creator.” If the xtians in this country really believed that every person has “intrinsic worth” from their creator, don’t you think they’d extend healthcare to those who cannot afford the outrageous costs of medical care? Make sure the poor were fed? If your Creator loves his people, he has abandoned them. That is not how I show love. Don’t lump me with Hitchens. I have read him, but I’ve been reading, writing and thinking as a nonbeliever for several decades. I am not trying to attack you. This is not a war. To get back to Robert’s point, times are changing. Nonbelievers are starting to speak up–all over the world (former Muslims, too). We’re raising our children without religion. From where I’m standing, religion is in decline.

          _____

    2. Ok I accept that any prediction of the future is going to be based on each individuals own opinion so its no surprise that we differ there. However, there are other statements you slipped through that I have to pull you up on.

      “The non-religious will grow disillusioned with a pointless existence in an impersonal, accidental universe. ”

      Really? Life has meaning and a point, it just isn’t in the stars. The meaning of life is in other people. How the universe was created is quite irrelevant to my life or whether I value it. Deborah gives a great refutation below so I won’t labour the point. The idea that you must believe in God to have a meaningful life is plain silly.

      “a magical evolutionary world where human life has no more intrinsic value than a bacterium”

      What are you talking about? Evolution is a scientific fact, turning water into wine is magic. Big difference. Where did you get the daft idea that human life is the same as bacteria? No Atheist believes this and it is stupid to the point of insulting. If human life had no meaning why are Atheists disproportionately opposed to the death penalty, anti-war and supportive of the welfare state? As opposed to spending all their time murdering and raping?

      “In the Hindu religion, the Dalit (Untouchable) population will continue to embrace the message of Jesus in a mass exodus from Hinduism, despite persecution.”

      The Hindus have been holding pretty strong against Christianity up until now (Christianity is only 2% of India’s population). What makes you think things will change?

      “A large portion of Jews and Christians worldwide will rethink and renounce their traditional religious exclusivities and unite instead under a new common identity in Jesus, the Jewish messiah.”

      The Jews have resisted Christianity for 2000 years, what makes you think they’ll suddenly change their mind? Also Christians have a history of violence with each other that rules out unification.

      Basically your message is that the whole world will become Christian? All religions will become one? We’ve had 2000 years for that with little progress, so its unlikely to happen anytime soon.

      “As there are no atheists in foxholes, atheism will dwindle, and no one will notice.”

      Well that’s just patently untrue. In fact times of great war and upheaval have lead to rises in secularism. For example Western Europe’s drift away from religion began after the mass slaughter of World War One. In fact it could be said that there are no believers in a loving, protecting God in a foxhole.

      1. Greetings Robert. I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood quite a bit of what I said. Perhaps I’m a lousy communicator. Bottom line, I was offering a counterpoint to Ark’s faith-filled prediction with one of my own. But if I may clarify some things…

        You wrote, “Really? Life has meaning and a point, it just isn’t in the stars. The meaning of life is in other people. How the universe was created is quite irrelevant to my life or whether I value it.”

        I pretty much agree with you that life is about relationship. And as I stated to Deborah above, of course we all subjectively make up meaning. I’m certainly not saying, nor do I believe, that atheist are any better or worse people than anyone else. However, how the universe was created is quite relevant to the question of whether or not there is an objective reality outside of the physical universe.

        You state, “…Where did you get the daft idea that human life is the same as bacteria? No Atheist believes this and it is stupid to the point of insulting…”

        I didn’t say we’re the same, I said we have no more value than bacteria. Bro, in your view, we’re here as a result of mindless processes; we’re less than a cosmic fart. There is nothing of value outside of what our own minds falsely value for whatever genetically predetermined reason. And, actually, many atheists do believe this. You could start with paleontologist Steven Jay Gould. Don’t shoot the messenger, my friend. I’m on your side – I believe you are intrinsically and deeply valuable.

        “…Hindus have been holding pretty strong against Christianity up until now…What makes you think things will change?”

        There over 200 mil Dalits. They are considered subhuman and below animal status in the Hindu religious system. I happen to have firsthand knowledge that thousands are leaving Hinduism and embracing the message of Jesus. This could turn into a significant movement by the principle of multiplication. What do they have to lose?

        “The Jews have resisted Christianity for 2000 years, what makes you think they’ll suddenly change their mind?…”

        Just keep watching. For the first time in 2000 years the theological anti-Judaism of most of the gentile church is finally falling away. Dialogue is now possible. The anti-Jewish theology and tradition of the Catholic/Orthodox church was never biblical, and it was always the intention of Jesus and his apostles that Jew and gentile would be united (See Ro 11:13-35; Eph 2:11-16.) “Christianity” was originally a sect of Judaism. Both Jews and Christians are beginning to notice.

        “Basically your message is that the whole world will become Christian? All religions will become one?”

        No, I don’t believe either of those.

        As for the “No atheists in foxholes” thing, I wonder if we have a cultural misunderstanding there. That phrase is an old American expression, and I was just using it to play around with Arkenaten. It wasn’t really a serious point.
        I appreciate your open-mindedness in allowing this free dialogue on your blog.

  14. @ a & l notes

    As there are no atheists in foxholes, atheism will dwindle, and no one will notice.

    We’ll just have to wait and see.

    LFAO

    Yeah right….And Jesus will appear and say, “See, Dickhead, I told you this would happen, but you just wouldn’t believe me”.
    And because he is talking you, hotshot, you jump up out the foxhole and shot the shit out him with your Uzi and scream, “No more false prophets!”

    This you will love….
    http://attaleuntold.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/clash-of-cultures-belgistan-sharia-showdown-looms-in-brussels-540/

    1. Ooo. I think I love that about as much as you do.

      In my humble opinion, you atheists should financially back Christian ministries that evangelize Muslims. (‘Cause Muslims are certainly not going to listen to atheists.) THEN, after they leave Islam, you guys can take over and work on “educating” and wealthing them into secularism. Win-win. I admit it’s the long way around, but it’s your only hope. They do have you guys outnumbered.

      – Peace & love, man

  15. THE BIGGER PICTURE:

    I see the same mistake being made time and time again, and it causes any discussion of the future of religion to go off track and miss a bigger picture. Yes, atheism and secularism are on the rise and there is a drop in religious adherence, but this doesn’t mean that the trend will continue and religion is done. Several things could happen. A major cataclysm or social upheaval could cause the educational levels necessary to sustain a disbelief in magic to disappear almost overnight. Result: a return to magic-based religions by new generations of young uneducated people. Or a new religion not based on magic and offering enough to entice people away from both the magical beliefs and skepticism could appear. My point: a trend towards secularism is most likely short-lived and deceiving, a trend towards atheism is perhaps a long term one, and the likelihood of a new religion capturing the adherents of polarized camps in magic-based religions and skepticism is a wild card we should anticipate and perhaps relish.

    1. Nobody can accurately predict the future, all we can do is speculate.
      Thus it is difficult to formulate a valid hypothesis about humans and religion.
      On saying this,however, we can look back on other forms of supernatural and superstitious nonsense and see what became of them.

      While the move away from current religious beliefs is small it is undeniably happening and the choke hold of all theological forms is weakening in the face of understanding and an easier dissemination of information.

      Even if the earth suffered a cataclysmic encounter with a Dino-Killer there is no certainty that humanity would revert to Neanderthal type god worship.

      Though the population undergoes ebb & flow as far as religion is concerned
      it is probably a natural cycle that China, for instance, will also go through. It too will eventually ”get it out their system” as Northern Europe is doing right now.

      Unlike science, which moves all the time, religion is mostly stagnant and has nothing new to offer.
      It is, like the gods it is built upon, unchanging,and when something is built upon a foundation of lies it cannot hope to survive indefinitely.

      And, thank the gods for that.

      1. Thanks for your response. I agree that the future is not set, but I also see something in even the granted false religions that is the seed of goodness and need. I believe that there is a human need for religion and that it just needs a major overhaul to get rid of the sludge and gremlins it has picked up. In fact, it needs an entire rebuild from a new premise involving chance and free will. I want to strongly reiterate the possibility of some new kind of magic-free religion: this reflecting an advancement in understanding while addressing the idea that religion cannot be subdued. Do you feel that this is an impossible task- to construct such a religion?

          1. I chiefly mean any religion based on magic ( aka the supernatural). I also mean any parody religion or any blatantly profiteering science fiction kind of religion. And to anyone reading this, I’m not interested in blending God and the universe. That also strikes me as being nonsense- any way we might choose to slice, dice, and cook it. At most, one religion is going to be right- and only because it matches an arguably correct and advantageous reality scenario. As to the proofs necessary for making one religion (if any) true- typing this lengthy discourse would strain my eyes and fingers too much. So would discussing the parameters for such a religion. That I can maybe do on a website of my own creation.

            1. Do you not think that science will plateau rather than constantly move forward? There has to be some limit to what we can empirically discern, and then reason alone must take over to answer the big questions like there being any meaning to our existence. This is why religion is an idea that should be saved: so it can reasonably fill in the blanks. Of course it needs to stop being so unreasonable before it can plausibly suggest the real means of continuation beyond death and some ongoing purpose.

              1. I consider all religion to be false based on the criteria you cite. As far I am aware in belief the supernatural is the basis for all religion.
                Certainly Judaism, Christianity and Islam qualify unreservedly.
                In fact,any god, with or without the capital is supernatural, thus I am at a loss by what you mean false religion.
                Could you be be more specific, please.

                Do you not think that science will plateau rather than constantly move forward?

                No. And as for the rest of the comment I do not adhere to any theory that posits a god in the blank spaces. Why would anyone?

                1. I never posited God should fill in the blank spaces. How could you get me so wrong? And there is a long standing example of a religion recognizing that God is a problematic concept. How could you not see this? And there is nothing that should lead you to conclude that I have stated criteria for false religiosity that would preclude the possibility of a magic-free one of sufficient merit to replace the false ones. You totally don’t get me. Reason in your last comments eludes me, although I think that you have at least rejected the magical explanation as I have. I will let you have final word on this matter, I will read it and then I’m out of here and on to better things.

                  1. You will excuse me as I am confuse. You haven;t made your position clear, but that you would use a capital G when referring to a god made me thinkyou wer religious. I felt your reply somewhat obscure.
                    All I will ask then , is this.
                    Are you a deist or Christian?

                    1. Oh great. You’re online at the same time. How are you doing? if you read my posts carefully you will see that I’m neither a deist nor a Christian. I’m against magic, which includes three components in God, soul, and heaven. The capital G on God is used to differentiate God from any god and nothing more. Don’t read anything extra into this.

                  2. Are you a young or youngish person fixated on disgust for God as Hitchens and the like would have you do? There is something better past all this hatred and revulsion. Follow me on Facebook if you want.

  16. In the future(100 years from now), I belive all religions with share a common relationship with Ethiopia. I’m not alone.

    Some people will identify this as a form of Ethiopianism .

    For those hearing this for the first time this might seem a bit odd but here is something to read :

    The Greeks believed God had a special relationship with Ethiopia. Ethiopia has special meaning to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Now it has become a Mecca to a religion called Evolution.

    The mystery appears to have begun to come to light in the year 1974.

    In 1974, something happened in Ethiopia….

    It was in 1974 when science began to validate the claim that Ethiopia was indeed near or associated with the Garden of Eden, as written in the biblical chapter of Genesis in paragraph 2:13.

    The three million year old fossil that became known as Lucy, found in Ethiopia in the Rift valley, linked this country as near the cradle of life, where human evolution occurred—the scientific Garden of Eden

    It also sparked scientific and religious controversy.

    The year 1974 was when also the ruling Ethiopian monarchy and its king, the proclaimed descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, were forced from power by a regime that would impose a disastrous form of Soviet-sponsored communism.

    Millions of Ethiopians would perish.

    What happened in Ethiopia 1974 has forever changed the religious, scientific, and political landscape of world history. Yet, little attention has been made to associate these two events.

    Whether this was a mere coincidence or an act of “divine synchronicity” — what is certain, Ethiopia offers a rich and unique history that extends beyond these two events.

    It also extends the legacy of a movement recognized as Ethiopianism.

    What might seem a bit fictional could in fact become truth as it can be suggested somewhere lies the mystery to explain that Ethiopia is the metaphysical location where the spiritual and physical bind, where original sin occurred.

    Facebook fans can get more insight by visiting http://www.facebook.com/ethiopianism411

  17. Got bored reading all the posts of whys and what ifs. Im religious I keep close it. If the all the Bibles of the world had one word in it what would it be?

  18. Excuse me et me rewrite that I m sorry lol “I got bored reading all the posts of why’s and what if’s.
    I am religious and I keep it close to me.
    If all the Bibles of the world had one word in them, what would that word be?”

  19. The day we started to play with religion, instead of taking it seriously, is the day religion began to end. You have to be serious about religion for it to have authority. If you are not serious, religion becomes a child toy and children do not fear God.

  20. “By the time I die, I would expect >Atheism to be the dominant belief of Ireland,Atheism (which is the absence of belief)< may no longer be a thing as without religion, it is not necessary. You can’t reject what isn’t there."

    "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." James 1:8
    Which statement of yours are we to believe?
    " without religion, it is not necessary. You can’t reject what isn’t there."
    If God is not there, as Atheists believe now, and they are still Atheists, what would change for them?

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