Study: Religion Going Extinct in Most Western Countries -- Why Does It Still Dominate Our Politics?
We know that languages die out. We also know that religions die out. How many people believe in Zeus or Poseidon or Apollo? But could we see religions as a whole die out in modern societies? A new study predicts that that is exactly what is going to happen in Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland. The list is notable because in includes the two countries most similar to the United States. Both Canada and Australia were founded, mainly, by British settlers. How could it be that they are readying to bury Christianity and we've handed over one of our two viable political parties to a fundamentalist version of that religion?
I mean, Big Oil and Big Money operate in Canada and Australia, too. So, why haven't the dollars gone to the megachurches in those countries? It might have something to do with political efficacy. It is easier to capture a major party in the United States than in Canada or, especially, Australia.
Still, it's astonishing to think that Christianity may soon be extinct in Canada at the same time as it is morphing into something so powerful in our country that it can destroy reproductive choice and the teaching of biology, geology, and sex education.
We're not inherently more religious than Canada. We just have a political system that allows financial elites to enlist religious fundamentalists in their service. In other words, religion has tremendous utility in our country.
"The idea is pretty simple," said Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the University of Arizona.
"It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility.
"For example in languages, there can be greater utility or status in speaking Spanish instead of [the dying language] Quechuan in Peru, and similarly there's some kind of status or utility in being a member of a religion or not."
Dr Wiener continued: "In a large number of modern secular democracies, there's been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion; in the Netherlands the number was 40%, and the highest we saw was in the Czech Republic, where the number was 60%."
The team then applied their nonlinear dynamics model, adjusting parameters for the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership of the "non-religious" category.
They found, in a study published online, that those parameters were similar across all the countries studied, suggesting that similar behaviour drives the mathematics in all of them.
And in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction.
I don't care what people believe. I think the single best thing about our country is that we are allowed to believe whatever the hell we want. I don't believe in mixing religion and politics, even to promote agnosticism. But I think it is fascinating how our political system actually encourages a form of religious fanaticism that is actually in the process of completely dying out in counties much like ours.
Could simple electoral reform destroy organized religion in this country?