Organized religion will go the way of the dinosaurs in nine Western democracies, reports CNN. “Religion will be driven toward extinction” in Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, researchers conclude in a new paper. It will also fade in Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Switzerland, they predict. “If you look at the data, ‘unaffiliated’ is the fastest-growing group,” said the paper’s lead author. The U.S. could not be included in the study, because unlike the other countries, census data on religion was not available. The study began with two sociological assumptions. First, people want to be part of the majority rather than the minority, making it increasingly desirable to avoid church rather than to attend. “Just a few connections to people who are [religiously] unaffiliated is enough to drive the effect,” said the lead author. Also, there are social, economic, and political benefits to not being religious in these countries. “The utility of being unaffiliated seems to be higher than affiliated in Western democracies,” he said. Despite the lack of U.S. data, other studies suggest people who identify as “unaffiliated” are the fastest-growing belief group in the United States.
Abrams and his co-authors are not passing any judgment on religion, he’s quick to say – they’re just modeling a prediction based on trends. “We’re not trying to make any commentary about religion or whether people should be religious or not,” he said. “I became interested in this because I saw survey data results for the U.S. and was surprised by how large the unaffiliated group was,” he said, referring to a number of studies done by universities and think tanks on trends in religion.
Studies suggest that “unaffiliated” is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, with about 15% of the population falling into a category experts call the “nones.” They’re not necessarily atheists or non-believers, experts say, just people who do not associate themselves with a particular religion or house of worship at the time of the survey. Abrams had done an earlier study looking into the extinction of languages spoken by small numbers of people.
When he saw the religion data, his co-author “Richard Wiener suggested we try to apply a similar technique to religious affiliation,” Abrams said. The paper, by Abrams, Wiener and Haley A. Yaple, is called “A mathematical model of social group competition with application to the growth of religious non-affiliation.” They presented it this week at the Dallas meeting of the American Physical Society. Only the Czech Republic already has a majority of people who are unaffiliated with religion, but the Netherlands, for example, will go from about 40% unaffiliated today to more than 70% by 2050, they expect. Even deeply Catholic Ireland will see religion die out, the model predicts.
“They’ve gone from 0.04% unaffiliated in 1961 to 4.2% in 2006, our most recent data point,” Abrams says. He admits that the increase in Muslim immigration to Europe may throw off the model, but he thinks the trend is robust enough to withstand some challenges. “Netherlands data goes back to 1860,” he pointed out. “Every single data that we were able to find shows that people are moving from the affiliated to unaffiliated. I can’t imagine that will change, but that’s personal opinion, not what the data shows.” But Barry Kosmin, a demographer of religion at Trinity College in Connecticut, is doubtful.
“Religion relies on human beings. They aren’t rational or predictable according to the laws of physics. Religious fervor waxes and wanes in unpredictable ways,” he said. “The Jewish tradition that says prophecy is for fools and children is probably wise,” he added. And Abrams, Wiener and Yaple are not the first to predict the end of religion. Peter Berger, a former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, once said that, “People will become so bored with what religious groups have to offer that they will look elsewhere.” He said Protestantism “has reached the strange state of self-liquidation,” that Catholicism was in severe crisis, and anticipated that “religions are likely to survive in small enclaves and pockets” in the United States.
He made those predictions in February 1968
Read original story in CNN | Thursday, March 24, 2011
Here is the enlightened comment on the story on CNN’s website:
Ummm…Francis Bacon’s three goals were to uncover truth, to serve his country, and to serve his church. FACT CHECK I can not stand people who use someone’s name to bolster their cause without knowing if that person would have really backed the cause in the 1st place. Idiots.