Study Finds Religion May Be Going “Extinct” in Some Countries

By Patrick Morgan | March 22, 2011 5:33 pm

What’s the News: Looking at census data from nine countries, a team of scientists have made the bold assertion that religion is headed for extinction and it’s all based on a mathematical model of the complex social motives behind joining religious groups. As they note in their abstract, “People claiming no religious affiliation constitute the fastest growing ‘religious’ minority in many countries throughout the world.”

How the Heck:

  • The theory behind their model “posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and … that social groups have a social status or utility,” Richard Wiener from the University of Arizona told the BBC. You could call it the Facebook effect.
  • So they looked at census data spanning the past century from Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland, and discovered that an increasing number of people identify themselves as “non-affiliated” with religion. For example, 40% of the Netherlands and 60% of the Czech Republic is unaffiliated.
  • Using a nonlinear dynamics model, which allows researchers to track outcomes from a number of factors, the scientists accounted for the “social and utilitarian merits” of being in a non-religious category, concluding that religion will die in societies wherever non-religious affiliation is more socially useful than religious affiliation—which seems to be the trend in the nine countries studied.

What’s the Context:

Not So Fast: The model’s limitations are many, including its simplistic network structure, as Weiner told the BBC: It assumes that each person is equally influenced by every other person. It also assumes that mere social utility is the driving reason behind people’s religious affiliations, ignoring a slew of other, difficult to measure, non-social factors underlying faith, such as the strength of deeply personal religious convictions and a (potential) basic human tendency to believe in something larger than ourselves. The study is based on the premise that religious networks behave the same was as do speakers of a common language and non-religious social groups, a reasonable but debatable assumption.

Reference: “A mathematical model of social group competition with application to the growth of religious non-affiliation.” Authors: Daniel M. Abrams, Haley A. Yaple, Richard J. Wiener. arXiv:1012.1375

Image: flickr / DominusVobiscum

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Origins, Mind & Brain
  • sakara

    more wishful thinking than real science…?

    somebody doesn’t like religion—-and then they found “facts” to back up their prejudices?

  • ed

    Another good reason to move to Canada. Not that I needed one.

  • http://clubneko.net/ nick

    Re: sakara – try actually reading the article where the ‘somebody’ discusses the limitations of the study. Scientific studies are notoriously misrepresented in a media obsessed with sensationalism and soundbytes.

    I think what may actually be happening is a reversion of faith to a personal system rather than one thundered down upon us from on high in the sense we with which we have it traditionally associated. What I don’t need is quotations of 2000 years gone morality that has been mistranslated for millennia that aren’t quite applicable to our modern society. Or an imaginary friend who lives in the clouds and acts as a stern father figure.

  • Nigel

    I read through the scientific paper. For all the jargon and math equations the results simply arise from fitting nonlinear eqations to the data on the % “no religion” over coutries/ regions and time. It’s then extrapolated out way beyond the data points until it reaches 100% Vola! Religion is extinct! It’s always dangerous to extrapolate…the further beyond the range of existing data points the greater the danger. The confidence interval widens extremely rapidly. My suggestion to the authors for their next paper– Take the same countries (mainly “western” developed countries) over the same time period; look at the % Muslim–it has increased markedly over recent decades. Slice and dice the data as needed. Fit similar non-linear curves to the data. What do I expect? Vola! The % Muslim is increasing at an increasing rate. Next headline–“Muslim Religion Set to Take Over Western Countries”! OR “Islam Conquers the World”! Now ask yourself is this plausible finding consisant with the extinction of Religion? Yet the data may well produce both results.

  • Nigel

    The “scientific study” appears to have a built-in bias towards predicting the extinction of religion. They have adapted a model used to predict the extinction of little-used languages to study religion. However, in the language scenerio conformity to the majority pays off–in an majority English-speaking country it obviously pays to speak English (rather than say Urdu)for getting a job, running a business etc. But is this true for religion (or non-religion)? In N. America a variety of religions have survived and thrived over the centuries. This suggests that conforming to the largest religion (or non-religion) isn’t necessarily the most attractive. Look at the real world data–In the 3rd world Africa, Asia & S America Christianity (especially Charismatic Christianity) is growing rapidy. Immigrants from these countries are bringing their beliefs to N. America. Christianity is not dying in the US or Canada. It is not “headed for extinction.” Rumours of its extinction are premature! “

  • http://www.jsiwebtools.com David

    The more I learn from science the more I more i believe there is more to life than we know. I am not sure it is a God, but there must be something.
    How did an apple tree know to grow apples that animals would like to eat yet their stomachs would not digest the seeds and that these seeds would be deposited in fertilizer far away from the parent tree? I know what some would say – evolution. Have you ever thought of the number of steps of evolution would be required to get to this point? (I would love to hear a detailed explanation of this.) Yet this is only one small example of the billions and billions of wonders in our universe.
    There is so much we don’t know.
    Maybe some day we will fully understand.

  • Don

    You dont need a model to see that religion will die out sooner or later. OR at least religions as we know them.
    Science is fast growing. We see from history, that religions claimed things, they put people on stick because they were against those claims, but now we see that religions were way out of line. And as science provides us with more knowledge, we will see religions are just psychological “Boosts” in our life. They provide us an escape from reality and truth. And this is how I see religions.
    Yes the moment I gave up on my religion I found peace. I have no proof of what is out there, but at least I aknowledge it. And so the moment I die, I will just believe that there is nothing more, I will simply shut down and that I was a someone/something that provided its little stone like everyone else for the human race to move forward. In years to come we will see that there are other races out there, and this will change our world as we know it today.

  • I.B. Naga

    Predicting the extinction of religion in some countries isn’t really that far of a leap. Eventually traditional organized religion will dwindle if more people begin to regard it as contradicting the information around them. And yes social interaction plays the biggest role in someone religion, surrounded by Christians? Welcome to Christ. Surrounded by Muslims? Welcome to Muhammad. As diversity increases in an area close minded single tract religiosity decreases and this is what one would be seeing in most densely populated areas. To clarify growing diversity does not diminish religion, it just make one less likely to kill because of it. Eventually religion will be purely a cultural feature rather than the make up on one’s being.

  • http://huangsx-allstar000.blogspot.com/ rosin

    Eventually religion will be purely a cultural feature rather than the make up on one’s being.

  • http://www.scalemodelnews.com Mr J

    The survey quotes ‘safe’ countries by and large, where external protection in the form of a deity is rarely top of the average person’s daily agenda.

    However, in times of difficulty, war, or strife, the churches fill up quickly. For this reason alone, I’d say the survey is a busted crock.

    Belief in a creative system (call it what you will: God, Yahweh, whatever) seems to be pretty much hard-wired into human beings: perhaps it’s a back-stop defense, to be called upon when needed.

    On balance, I am one with the late, great JBS Haldane: “Now my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we CAN suppose.”

  • Jim Johnson

    I thought I recently read an article in Discover blogs (Gene Expression, I think), noting that in societies where pressure to be either religious or secular has been lifted, after a generation or two the society tends to settle out at something like 60% secular, 40% religious. This same result had appeared when governmental or societal pressures were lifted, whether those pressures had previously resulted in a near total religious or a near total secular population.

    If I’m remembering this correctly, and if the article was correct, then this result would argue that something in 40% of people’s psyche will always look for a religious answer, even if it’s just to become a Hoopie Witch. (A hoopie witch is the kind of witch who buys her spells at the impulse shopping lane at Wal-Mart.)

  • Doug

    Don’t worry people, the international community is doing everything it can to keep religion from going extinct. For example, several factions in the UN and a few european countries are toying with domestic and international blasphemy laws. The only way to keep religion around is to shield it from criticism; and organized religions know it.

  • John Lerch

    Doug’s assertion sure sounds like web propaganda. I.E. I’ve heard nothing like that and it seems unlikely to be real. OTOH freedom is not the same as license. So it may well be that some people may be looking for ways to keep us civil in our discussion. I.E. blasphemy merely means insult. A real god is not injured by insult–people are. And the one injured the most is the insulter.
    Finally I hope hellfire and brimstone religion does die. When one considers all the possible religions (including the 2 fastest growing–secularism and hedonism), I hope everyone will use the criterion that used to be #3 in the Britannica article on atheism–whether a god is worthy of worship (ultimate allegiance). And all gods fall short on that measure but one; the only god worthy of ultimate allegiance is the One that “puts his money where his mouth is” and dies for us.

  • Rachel

    What this study actually tells us is that the number of people who want to identify themselves with a particular religious group *on a survey* is declining in certain countries.

    That probably tells us more about the attitude toward religious freedom of expression in those countries than it does about the general state of religious belief in the world.

  • Jumblepudding

    As comedian Patton Oswalt once related, religion was essentially invented by small weak guys with imaginations to keep large psychopaths with clubs from killing them. Societal collapse could bring religion right back from the brink.

  • William G Brand

    According to the New Testament. One of the signs of the return of Christ is almost universal apostasy. This is occurring just as prophesied. God is angry at people not believing in him. Expect all of the horror of the book of Revelation to be unleashed soon.

  • scott

    I have nothing against it, religion and people believing in something higher than our litte existance on this tiny planet…AS LONG AS people keep it to themselves, dont judge others and dont try to force it down others throats via laws, politics and wars…and we have seen how well that works…

    Anyway, being a gay male (and not adding to the 7+ billion, half of which go hungry each night) I think I might be better off in a society without religion (especially shaping government). What do I have now in the US? Second class citizen ship and I have to sit around, a free thinking, science educated adult, watching the masses “debate me” and decide if I am worthy of some equal rights – in the land of the free no doubt. Careful..someday, some group might be sitting around debating you…deciding what you can do, or what you can have. On voting day, you sit back and wonder if you will get votes allowing you the right to go see your partner in the hospital….It sucks.

  • Ryan

    I grew up “as a” Unitarian but no longer attend services for church’s inconvenience in my current lifestyle. However, I think it would be nice if some humanistic “religion” like Unitarianism (though maybe a little more aggressive) emerged that didn’t battle with science but gave people the benefits of belonging to a community of worship.

    You can believe in something bigger than yourself, and it doesn’t have to be a God. If you look at accomplishments of the past, I don’t know if they could have been achieved without people’s belief in God. Look at church architecture going back to antiquity–pretty impressive stuff without power tools. If we’re not careful, we’ll start to worship money and power (maybe we already have), which, as it happened in the Catholic Church, was almost certainly responsible for the reformation.

  • Doug

    John:

    http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=9b8e3a6d-795d-440f-a5de-6ff6e78c78d5

    http://en.rsf.org/ireland-making-blasphemy-an-offence-takes-04-01-2010,35672.html

    Also, why shouldn’t we be able to treat religion just like any other idea? It doesn’t make sense for it to be protected from criticism.

    Also, blasphemy means anything not in accordance with religious dogma, not insult. Don’t make things up, it’s unbecoming.

  • Nahanni Rob

    Dear Discover:
    I am a member of the United Church of Canada and our numbers are dropping rapidly. For example, in Woodstock, Ontario, there are four United Church’s for sale and nobody wants them. The Catholics are having difficulty finding priests and their membership is dropping as well. The R.C. members are fed up with the “Hypocracy”. For example, “It is fine to be a Sexual Predator if, and only if, you do not wear a condom and you do not enjoy the Act”. They have no answer when you ask, then why have the Priests been Sexual Predators for thousand’s of years? Only a few hundred’s of years ago the average peasants did not read or wright so whatever the clergy said was fine. The Catholics did away with Masses in Latin although it was a close call. Some members felt that the Mass was closer to God when you could not understand it. Other wanted a modern Mass and they won. The “Sexual Scandals” of the last about 25 years in both churches combined with the Public Enlightenment from newspapers, TV, CNN, internet and the final separation of State and the Church has made a whole set of potential church attenders who will quickly pick up the Hypocracy and want to know in specific terms what they may gain. That is a complete turnaround from “you have to go”. Yes, I agree that many churches will be lost in the next 50 years. Historically, attending Church, having large families, and putting money in the offering plate will ‘Buy you a Place in Heavon”. Many 1000’s of attenders do not believe that any more as Churches are “Sinking in Hypocracy” Although there are some members who question nothing. My wife’s side of the family are all Polish Catholic. and when we did met I asked one of the mothers if she had read any good books lately? She looked me straight in the face and said, “The Priest will tell me all that I need to Know”. I was in such shock that I did not know what to do. With my mouth open I slowly walked away shaking my head. Over the years, I have often asked if you can believe parts of the Bible that you relate to but their answer is always “All or none” and you also must always get on your knees to worship him/her” Why must we worship? Can we not have a gentle intelligent discussion over tea?. When we are on our knees it reminds me of not that far back when we worshiped Idols. For the sake of discussion perhaps we still do and they just look different. Who knows, perhaps there is a UFO heading our way that will change everything. Keep an open mind! Nahanni Rob

  • http://teleprestexan.blogspot.com/ Stephen Daugherty

    I would say we’re in a period of transformation for religion, as it adjusts to a world where science has taken much of the territory of explanation it once held, where globalized travel has caused the collision of many different religious groups with one another, and where a worldwide media confronts people on a daily basis with the consequences of religious extremes.

    Too many of the organized religions around put preservation of their organizations and their power over the good of parishioners. Too often, religion becomes associated with undesirable levels of intolerance and backwards thinking.

    What I believe will happen is that at some point, reforms will occur that will bring today’s religion back into synchrony with today’s secular attitudes. Religion is the practice of faith in a culture. When religion becomes more attuned to the new order, more responsive to it, attendance will go up, and people will return.

  • http://listeningsrazzblog.blogspot.com/ maggie lee

    “Only a few hundred’s of years ago the average peasants did not read or wright…” Nahanni Rob

    As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be…

  • Mikki

    The Bible is a “Guidebook” and it not to be taken literally. It has many parts that say one thing, and then just the opposite in another part.

    The Bible was written for those people at a time where there was nothing known about the world as we know it today. The uneducated people needed something they could understand, focus on and learn to be disciplined in.

    The modern science of today is showing how the world and humans really have evolved and where they came from. Two or three thousand years ago, the people of that time would not have understood or believed what we now know as to be true. They would have called it the work of the devil or witchcraft.

    Genetics is going to blow the entire theory of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden clean out of the water. There are genetic tests that have been done that show there have been more mutations in the women’s mDNA than the men’s and that most likely women were here first, and men evolved from them during a genetic mutation.

    Read the book “The Seven Daughters of Eve” by Brian Sykes of the U of Oxford School of Molecular Science/Medicine. He and other researchers in this field have made some astounding advances and have had amazing results.

    Religion and Science will come together and blend into a new and separate part of history and all that we have known in the past will be moot.

  • Albert Bakker

    #6 – You’re right evolution can’t explain that one. So I once asked a wise guru about them apples and he told me that in the old days indeed there were only apple trees who grew apples with seeds that were digested by apple eating animals. The trees simply didn’t know any better, ignorance is no crime. But one especially intelligent tree started to wonder why year after year it never saw the fruit of it’s labor. The tree dropped some leaves to put two and two together and finally learned to identify the weak spot and for some reason nobody knows decided to tell the other trees. Since that day God didn’t have go around planting apple trees anymore, only maple trees.

  • Geoff

    @ David and Albert

    Evolution is precisely the answer and here’s your detailed (but simplified) explanation.

    Every living cell has a genetic code that tells the cell what to do – much in the same way as does software code for computers. Most have DNA, some single celled organisms have RNA – but I won’t get into that here. Anyway, every time a cell divides, or is exposed to something (be it food, a substance or even radiation), its DNA is at risk for being damaged. There are billions of lines of code and even if one line gets changed, all sorts of things can go wrong. The cell could start producing the wrong chemicals necessary for its survival, or become different kinds of cells all together. Cancer is exactly that – genetic code that got ruined and permanently changed the cell. Now cells have the ability to repair DNA to a point, but sometimes there is too much to repair and that cell divides (assuming the code to tell it to divide isn’t damaged) and creates more cells with that change. That change is called a genetic mutation – and is entirely random.

    Trees are no different. Things happen, DNA in the tree cells breaks, cells mutate and it starts to make its fruit differently. Over generations, one type mutates and becomes similar to apples. That tree then makes mutated copies of itself (over generations). Some of these trees have apples that are poisonous and the animals won’t eat them, so that tree relies on dropping its fruit in the right place to make another tree next to it. A fire happens, and all those trees die out. But another tree that mutated from it made apples that weren’t poisonous. Those apples were eaten and the seeds were carried far away to make trees elsewhere. The original editable apple tree died in the fire, but the ones far way survived.

    This is called survival of the fittest – it is the primary mechanism behind evolution. Evolution isn’t “conscious.” Nothing is “thinking” of what to do to be better. It is simply trial and error (it is all just an accident). The errors die and the strong survive leaving only the strong behind only to continue to mutate and become stronger, again removing the weak mutations behind.

    A lot of people throw around the word evolution who don’t really know what it means.

  • Sam BJ

    Many who are eager to predict the extinction of Christianity especially don’t know the real reasons for it’s spread. If the Bible is true, for instance, faith or unbelief will have nothing to do with its validity. Many religious folks who are merely religious, without being grounded in the truth and the claims of Jesus will have their shallow roots shaken. People who are truly born again by Jesus, who are filled with the power and the realities of the Holy Spirit, know beyond science the truth of God. Disciplines based on experimentations and the limitation of human interpretations are living on a different premise that prophetic Christian faith. Science with all its great advancements and value has no instrumentation to detect God. How then can it ever validly disprove His existence? I predict that the only religions that will have real problems in the future are those that have no true bases, who have sort of been protected by politics, culture, or the laws of blasphemies. The Bible faith has stood the fire and the heat. Nothing will make it go away as some are predicting. At least, not science. What the Bible adresses is distinct and different. The fallen human nature which has remained unchanged and the way of salvation still so much needed.

  • Jon Leszczynski

    We can only hope the world becomes so enlightened and all mythology will be understood as such and enjoyed as such.

  • http://www.designingtransformation.com Lianne Bridges

    And yet, we are experiencing the greatest awakening in consciousness our planet has ever seen. As the Buddhist’s say, “The middle way” is the best way. I look forward to a time when the beautiful minds of science come together with the wisdom of the ages to create an integrated and wonderfully diverse view of our universe that encompasses all of our perspectives. Until then, blessings to all:)

  • Charles

    Church attendance and a belief in God do not necessarily correlate, the tithe or donation that is expected by churches is a large factor and that one thing is preached in church and another practiced by them and the faithful. It is not necessary to attend an organized religions service to believe or to pray. Why would one religion be closer to God than another? Why would you need someone in a religion to send your words to God? Today as in the past religion is a moneymaking idea and many see that, so why would attendance be down. I wonder.

  • Kevin Jaques

    Mikki said, “Genetics is going to blow the entire theory of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden clean out of the water. There are genetic tests that have been done that show there have been more mutations in the women’s mDNA than the men’s and that most likely women were here first, and men evolved from them during a genetic mutation.:”

    mDNA is the DNA of creatures called mitochondria that live within us and reproduce asexually. It’s amazing. Without them, our muscles wouldn’t work, but they aren’t part of our DNA at all. It’s a separate species with whom we live in symbiosis. We catch them from our mother in the womb. Since their DNA is not subject to sexual genetic shuffling, it is useful as a genetic clock. The Y chromosome is also sometimes used as a genetic clock, since it doesn’t shuffle genetically either.

    But the bottom line is that there is no gender difference between our mDNA. It wouldn’t be possible for female humans to exist for more than 1 generation prior to male humans, because they couldn’t reproduce.

    Maybe you are mixing up mDNA with something you read about the development of sexual reproduction. If you wanted to say that the pre-gender gender was female, you could say that females long pre-dated males. But it’s kind of silly, since the pre-gender gender had no gender. It must have happened at a very very early stage of evolution, likely with very simple organisms.

    Or maybe you are thinking of the Y chromosome, which appears to have been originally an X, though it now has only 3 of the 4 limbs of the X.

  • Kevin Jaques

    In time management, they teach us to choose the really important things and work on those, ignoring the temptation to work on the easy stuff. Philosophy and religion follow that advice, identifying and working on the big questions of life. But with all due respect, they got nowhere. Science just keeps chewing away on what seems achievable, and now it is coming up with answers to some of the big questions, like where did we come from. But on others, like how should we spend our life, it hasn’t moved very far either.

  • http://boob@www.com Bob Johnson

    This is like, obvious to intelligent people, of course religions will eventually be replaced by knowledge, and then, perhaps we will know peace for once.

  • http://EPA don bronkema

    This is splendid news…once mind & memory are downloaded periodically to clones of choice, de facto immortality will render faith nugatory & undermine church authority…res ligio evolved to explain the world & help us overcome fear of death, reinforced by group pressure & affiliation…we 80 year-old erstwhile boy preachers are validated at last…what next, the demise of jingoism, hegemonism & supply-side economix? ah, to dream…

  • Donna Rogers

    Say, if you guys watched the History Channel, you’d see the documentaries that suggest God is really a space alien, Jesus was teleported up to an alien spaceship, and moses got the 10 commandments up a mountain shrowded in clouds that hid a UFO. I was going to a church, the pastor said to “Don’t believe in evolution.” I thought about it for a long time and decided that evolution is FACT. THe Christians I know are nice people but if they think evolution is a lie, then they are delusional. I also think maybe God is a space alien.

  • http://bajafresh.com Pedro M.

    Yah – religion needs to go. Jesus was saying that loud and clear back 2000 years ago…why else do you think they killed him? How else would the religious leaders keep control of the masses? As Marx said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” With it, people allow themselves to be bound by duties and lifestyles that show outward appearances of good, and they fit into whatever boxes the leaders desire. Without it, many think all hell would break loose – but only because in their freedom, people will discover they do not need to choose hell. The world is evolving and will no longer need religion to point them to God. The problem is that the church and the evangelical right wing are not evolving, and will come to arms (like other violent religious fanatics) to protect their power. Jesus said if you want your life, you need to lose it-that doesn’t sit well when your faith is in religion, not God.

  • John T

    What do you think about the idea that an overly intellectual species might need some coaxing to not give up on life when times get difficult? Without some sort of faith in the future, should we have kids when it looks like society is approaching a massive disaster, when a worried person might think that a world war and collapse of society as we know it is a distinct possibility, etc. Hope for the future seems helpful in a number of contingencies to persuade people not to give up on life like a totally rational person might. Religion provides (truly or falsely) a different basis for being rational about personal living and hope for the future. Religion also provides a social framework for relationships, values, group support, rituals for marryin’, buryin’ and so forth.

  • FJP

    We can only hope that ORGANIZED religion does indeed go extinct.
    A personal belief in something ‘higher’ is a right of the free willed individual. Belief controlled or manipulated by an external source or figure is just mental slavery.

    I just don’t understand how the idea of religion is ‘sacred’ (pun intended, sorry) in modern times. Religion was simply the first step towards science. It was primitive man attempting to make sense out of his environment. Eventually man grew to understand that the sun is not pulled across the sky (etc). Now, we should be able to move on and say all those other ideas don’t need an invisible flying spaghetti monster (google it if you don’t know the reference) to explain things.

    Removing religion doesn’t, by the way, remove or dilute the concept of morality, it simply places the matter on us rather than a mysterious unknowable figure.

    As for evolution, the mistake usually made is to think of the current forms as the ‘goal’ of the process instead of being a step in an ongoing process. An apple tree wasn’t the goal of evolution a plant that grew apples filled or exploited a niche in the environment and thrived. Someday it will probably lead to something other form of tree.

    Final comment is: the concept of something ‘higher’, no, something ‘overseeing’ may be comforting to some, but it’s certainly not necessary or even indicated in any way.

  • Enlightenment

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    Hurry Up Zero Percent !!!

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  • Enlightenment

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    People don’t need religion to have good morals, just like your pet dog doesn’t need religious morals to NOT kill and eat you.

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  • http://konagal.com konagal

    Oh sure , religion isn’t too popular when all is going well with the world and self but just as soon as someone freaks out about something, it’s immediately “OMG ! ” Oh My God , yep , most of us are guilty as sin when it comes to asking for some divine help once in awhile and some people are whining all the time in hopes of getting their ills repaired by others or a higher power.
    Religion is a man-made thing used for controlling and sometimes used to fool people into false belief systems. I know too many people who aren’t really religious but use religion for manipulating others into giving them charity/forgiveness .
    I wish everyone religious freedom, from there we make our own choices what we do with our thoughts and actions in helping or harming others

  • http://www.thegodreality.com John Heininger

    Religion is about humans relating to the existence of a higher something that they instinctively sense brought the universe into existence, namely God. , So, the extinction of religion would first necessitates the extinction of God. This turns out to be an impossible task. Here’s why:

    While science knows nothing about what happened prior to the existence of the universe, we do know that what initially “came out” was a fully “wound up” minimum entropy universe, where order, information and usable energy was at its maximum. We also know that the universe, and everything in it, is now running down towards heat death and entropy death. And will reach a final cosmic state when disorder, loss of information and loss of usable energy is at a maximum. In the end there won’t even be enough usable energy left for the atheists to do their shoe laces up, let alone wind the universe back up again.

    All of which tells us that the universe is dependent and not “self-existing” or “self-sustaining”, and thus necessitates a “cause” outside the universe. And a big juicy Nobel prize awaits anyone who discovers anything in the universe that IS self-existing and not dependent on something preceding.

    All of which means that the pantheistic cosmic god of atheism and Darwinism is dependent and dying, and therefore could not have brought itself into existence.

    So, what are the causal options. Was the source of the cosmos self-existing or likewise dependent on something preceding.

    Option 1: If the source of the cosmos was not self-existing, but infinitely dependent on something preceding, we would have an infinite dependent regress forever, where “nothing” was ever capable of bringing itself into existence, not ever. In which case nothing would exist, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Option 2: Another alternative would be that absolutely nothing existed, and that absolutely nothing brought something (the universe, multiple universes or a bubble of universes) into existence. And at the transition point of going from non-existence to existence the universe would have been both nothing and something at the same time. This option is absurd and breaks the first law of logic, the law of non-contradiction.

    Option 3: A third alternative would be that the source of the universe was outside space and time and therefore existing in and of itself. In which case the infinite “cause-effect” dependency regress would not apply. This would mean that the source of the universe would be uncaused and self-existing, and not dependent on something preceding. Thus, we have a philosophical and scientific basis for existence, and you and I can continue having this conversation.

    The term theists use to describe this “necessary” self-existing non-dependent first cause is GOD. And no alternative ever presented has offered a better explanation or basis for existence.

    Of course, Hawking and his fellow minded atheists think God and religion is not needed, and that gravity or other phenomena brought it all into existence. But this too turns out to more imagined than real – a delusion. For how did gravity or any other phenomena come into existence.

    This brings us to the age old question, which came first, the chicken or the egg, the bee or the flower. The answer to this question is neither. They are all dependent on a preceding cause, just like our dependent dying universe. All of which means that religion and God will be around for a very long time, in spite of questionable scientific surveys, and endless fluctuations in cultural beliefs.

  • ChuckB

    Religions have little to do with spiritualilty, anymore. They are more interested in pushing their own version of myth. Thus they create a bad feeling in people’s minds. Look at the problems Muslim is having, with its Sunni and Shiite divisions, and the poor image it creates outside its primary area of predominance. Or the division between mainstream and fundamental Christianity. A pox on all of them.

  • Robert Hagedorn

    Grocery stores don’t sell knowledge of good and evil fruit. And pet stores don’t sell live snakes that speak human language. So does this mean the story of Adam and Eve is complete nonsense or does the story have meaning? Do a search: The First Scandal. Then click twice.

  • http://N/A Canadian Ontario Wayne

    Enlightenment; You are correct with the zero percent. This will represent a 100% of all beings on this earth thinking and feeling the same about and for each other. Hence: No more war, no more hurt toward others. More understanding of our and the reasons for our being on this earth together. What a concept EH!! Maybe LOVE will finally rule our relationships with everyone and not just for each individuals thoughts of what they desire… Our dogs and now cats hold no grudges or hurtful thoughts, and we love them to death no matter what they did or do. Why can this not be done for human beings as well? We are all heading that way, this study confirms it. Religion will be gone, Belief will be the norm. ALL BEING AS “ONE”.

  • Aly

    Religion actually serves/ed a purpose. It is a set of rules for its adherents that allow them competitive advantage in natural selection terms against other groups, by directing agression towards other groups, facilitating harmony within the group, and, in the past, also by helping to prevent illness in the group. If people were not so prejudiced or inclined to look at them as mere “myth” they could easily see the survival benefits, but, alas, many cannot look past their own “beliefs” to see what is actually there.

    If religion is being out competed by secular beliefs, you can blame dogma and writing, which are forcing the religions to stay the same when they were meant to evolve and adapt with their adherents.

  • imnobody

    Since the XVIII century, the end of religion has been prophetized by secular intellectuals with a zeal (and with a success) that remembers the end of the world prophetized by millenarists sects. You have to remember that guys like Jefferson or Franklin were all but Christian.

    Nietzsche said that God was dead. But it is Nietzsche who is dead and God has a very good health. Judge by yourself:

    In 1960, the percentage of people in the world who believed in God was 50%. Now it is 66%. It is expected that it will be 75% in 2050.

    Of course, Europe and (to some extent) North America are experiencing a secularization process (more apparent than real: even in the secularized Northern Europe the percentage of people who believe in God is a majority, although traditional church attendance is in steep decline).

    But the rest of the world makes up for this loss.

    If you want to see a fascinating statistical study about the secularization in Western countries that will defy your preconceptions (whether you are religious or secular), see this

    http://www.religionomics.com/asrec/ASREC09_Papers/Franck%20&%20Iannaccone%20ASREC%202009.pdf

  • KungWow

    Wow, OK man that makes a lot of sense dude.

    http://www.real-privacy.it.tc

  • imnobody

    Another book that sheds light on this issue:

    http://www.amazon.com/Shall-Religious-Inherit-Earth-Twenty-First/dp/1846681448

    It was written by a secular guy and praised by Razib Khan

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/10/the-wheel-of-history-turns-to-the-gods/

    Food for thought

  • Hokon Cazalet

    Religion as a whole will not go away, we are seeing the falling of agrarian religions, mostly because it lacks relevance and is factually wrong in many aspects. However mankind still falls prey to dogma and rhetoric quite often (as any democratic election evidences) and even those who say they believe in science, do not accept science because it’s theories and laws have been demonstrated to be true to them, but because an authority (they respect) told them it is truth.

    I suspect those who actually seek out the evidence to scientific theories and laws to demonstrate their validity (to themselves or the community of man) are few in number, outside the scientific community.

    What will (most likely) happen is new religions based on modern society will begin to show up, as people seek comfort in authority and want an easy to digest guide to life. Even in academia the spirit behind the revolution during the Enlightenment (1641-1781) is already dead or dying. The quest to find rationality in everything, accept nothing until demonstrated is already gone in philosophy (the projects of Rationalism, Idealism and Phenomenology have all fallen to empiricist skepticism or postmodernism, and nothing is here to take their place).

    Positivism with its self-refuting incoherence is here to stay because quite frankly, very few care anymore. Cartesian doubt, Hume’s skepticism and the fall of logical positivism are issues nobody cares about anymore. When academia no longer cares, you can be sure the masses definitely do not care, and while intellectuals, mathematicians and scientists know their fields are valid, the masses won’t and will always be easily fooled and duped by good rhetoric.

    No, religion is not dead, we are simply realizing “God is dead” but will quickly erect new gods soon. Humanity is still just an ape in his cave, staring at the shadows on the wall.

  • Lim Soo how

    I live in a multi-religious society, Singapore. Here I can see youngsters attending charimsatic church. You can judge that it is growing by the monstrous size of the church they built and the millions of dollar they have accumulated. When I was a kid, I hardly the female population in one sector of our multi-racial society wearing a “tudung” (it’s a shawl covering their head). Now I see 95% of the females wearing it. Religion closes one’s mind. I agree with Arthur C. Clarke completely, “Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses. We should get rid of it as quick as we can.”

  • Jennifer Angela

    I am a Christian and I never claimed that evolution is a lie. As a matter of fact the bible and evolution do NOT contradict each other. Insulting Christians constantly by pretending they ignore scientific facts is ignorant. Picking Australia and Canada (Does anybody remember who the ancestors of non-migrant Aussies are?! Who would have thought those jail genetics would be non-religious?! And as for Canada… ah yes… those people many of which had escaped American prosecution… so they AREN´T religious?! Well, well big surprise!) and Austria (a very small country) and the tiny little Czech Republic (again very small) and those few inhabitants in Finland that haven´t yet escaped the cold weather to represent the whole world is ignorant too. Oh, I am sorry. I forgot about tiny little Ireland. It looks like Ireland is denying itself being so catholic and prohibiting abortion (which is very catholic) and then claiming not to be catholic at all (so they prohibit abortions for fun, do they?!). Maybe their opinion was influenced by their current big economical crisis.

  • MAGGIENC

    TO: William G Brand, God is not and cannot be angry as people not believing in Him — He created the universe and everything it in (or started the proccesses for it to evolve). As a parent and “creator” of my children, I love them UNCONDITIONALLY. There is nothing, will never be anything that can or will change that love. Therefore, I would find a way to teach them the right way of doing things, but would never cause them or pain. SO, are you telling me that I love my “creations” more than the One; God; Creator loves his?

    Also, I really like #41 comment.

  • Russ

    It seems to me a lot of people used to go to church because it was required to be in good social standing with family or friends. Fewer people now go to church but more of the ones that go do so because they find real meaning in it. We don’t have less religion just more honest religion.

  • fatkid

    In a world where pedopriests reign and wars are fought over who is more religious, I just hope I can stay out of the crosshairs (or, in the priests case, the short curly hairs!)

  • R. D. McConnell

    This evidence just shows that people are getting more honest; not necessarily any smarter.

    People have never believed in religious fantacies nearly as much as is popularly supposed: they were (and are) simply afraid to admit the truth, for millenia, as the mores of the times would have them killed or shunned or whatever the terrorist religionists were doing at the time.

    No intelligent, thinking, independent person could believe in religion, as usually expressed – – i.e., some “supreme being” or “divine watchmaker” or other nonsense. It has always been a way for (usually) more educated tyrants to terrorize the uneducated, superstisious populace to grant them special priviledge and status, based solely on fear and ignorance.

    Let’s don’t forget that ALL religions were founded at a time when the populace was illirerate and there was no supportive, logical, printed information available, even if anyone could read it. So people had to accept whatever the superstion-leaders, and or “Kings” decreed. Both were usually backed up with brute force, not logic. To demurr was cause for death: which path would you take? And then centuries of repetition appeared to give credence to such terroism. There’s really no other apt word for religion.

    The so-called Bible was written hundrede of years after anyone was literate: what are the odds of hundreds of years of passing down myths and stories having any accuracy? And it was initially written in languages with no modern equivalents and arguable translations, then and now.

    Nowadays, educated, literate, thinking people are more and more willing to admit they have been terrorized in one way or another all their lives and are willing to call a stop to it publically.

    Accept the obvious: there is no God: there is no Heaven or Hell; there is no afterlife; there is no evidence of any of this. Only Nirvana awaits our death, and thank goodness for that!

    There is hundreds of years of written evidence of a class of people willing and able to terrorize illiterate people for their own personal benefit and to justify a state. This is called “History”.

    Most of it has been written by the very people imposing this terrorism – – usually because they were the only ones who could read and write, and were unscrupulous enough to realize their position of dominance and terror.

  • Don

    @John Heininger: People are not atheists…they are agnostics. Hawkings is an agnostic. This means…even if there is a God, you, me or anyone else CANNOT define what is God. And so we are in a situation where ALL religions are wrong. And so we are in a situation where we worship false idols. So it is better to be an agnostic, live your life as it is instead of being used by a bunch of crooks. Until you find me a proof of who God really is then there is no religion, no God…because simply you cannot define what God is.

  • Russ

    The question “Is there a God” is one that must be confronted by everybody at some point. Not on the basis of other people what other people have done wether good or bad but one the basis of the facts.

  • Louis

    As we are finding with invasive species with faster reproduction wipe out the indiginous population and cause it to go extinct.

    Take a look at the birth rates of those who are islam and hindu and others then take a look at the birthrates of the non-religious. You will find that the growing multi-cultural, growing diversity, growing androgeny (feminist equality between the sexes)…are well below replacement…most are near 1.2 where replacement is 2.1.

    It looks as if the secular western world including Japan are going extinct at the same time they are giving up their religion but you dont have the guts to publish that article.

    Oh and by the way: PolPot, Moa, Stalin, Hitler, etc…were all atheists. The middle east dictators and former south american dictators who killed without pause were all atheists. Will the world really be better off without religion?

  • ChuckB

    Concerning Adam and Eve, Eve was created from Adam’s rib, so she was genetically his daughter. Maybe the original sin was incest. And where did that Land of Nod come from? It had inhabitants, so who created them? Just a couple of questions one might ask about the creation myth.

  • Brother Rolf

    A vacuum will be quickly filled. A relative handful of Muslims will move in and shortly the whole country will be under Sheria law if they like it or not.

  • Phil Doran

    These days people are more honest about their lack of belief.

    My generation (born 1920s and 30s) kept it quiet when we learnt to think for ourselves, usually in our teens, and often continued to go to church rather than shock or hurt our parents.

    But I think some knowledge of the Bible, whether one believes or not, is a good thing. After all, the King James version is part of our heritage.

    In New Zealand people can believe anything or nothing. It’s a free country.

  • Bartek

    Religion can’t die out soon enough

    I’m tired of all these religious nutjobs and their imaginary friends. It’s said that in a world where there is so much access to knowledge that idiots still believe in a virgin giving birth to a wizard who is his own father.

    Religion is a disease, and we need a cure.

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    I have to laugh, yes laugh, at the religious. You have FAITH. But proof is in the pudding. So show us your deity (on stage, no props) or spare us from your mystic mumbo-jumbo

  • R. D. McConnell

    Re: Lewis:

    Will the world be better off without religion?

    Absolutely; History proves it over and over and over . . . .

  • Chad Perkins

    I can’t make any claims that the research is valid.

    However I can say that is the cheeriest headline I have seen across the top of a story in months.

    Perhaps someday we will throw off this shackle of ignorance.

  • Chad Perkins

    Hitler was a self described devout Catholic. Really though he and the rest of them weren’t Atheists. They, just like the people atop all religions, realized that the people needed to worship them in order to steal anywhere near as much money and assert as much power as the various churches of the world.

    So yes Louis there is no Santa Claus and the world would certainly be better without religion.

  • Chad Perkins

    Jennifer Angela “As a matter of fact the bible and evolution do NOT contradict each other.”

    Yes science says that a big man with a beard made a small nudge on some basic elements in order to begin a vast scientific process. My old testament must be missing some pages.

    GOD is so powerful and knowledgeable. Too bad he didn’t have time to tell people to wash their hands before preparing food and performing medical procedures. Perhaps more of his children wouldn’t have had to suffer if he had.

  • Chad Perkins

    Aly: “If religion is being out competed by secular beliefs, you can blame dogma and writing, which are forcing the religions to stay the same when they were meant to evolve and adapt with their adherents.”

    But alas Aly religions are not meant to evolve. When you base a belief system on a loose collection of lies that defy logic, you can’t evolve and adapt. You must continue to play the game until the end. You are correct however in that “you can blame dogma and writing”. If the texts were not filled with heinous acts, death, and destruction by the prime Deity and if the stories had not been written so that those above the age of 8 could see through them, and finally if the organizations that supported them didn’t defy everything that their “Messiah” preached about in order to amass wealth and power here on earth (building elaborate churches, installing extensive audio/video systems, buying expensive vehicles and private jets for themselves, supporting hate groups and ideologies), perhaps people wouldn’t be running away from the evil of religion today.

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    If the so called leaders of a religion were to live up to the standards that they preach then religion might not be waning. Ah, But alas, alac, they do not practice what they preach.
    Tax all religions the same as any other business.

  • dr reality check

    The study was reportedly related to the University of Arizona. As a long term Arizonan resident who was educated in the East, let me assure readers that the state universities in Arizona are Diploma Mills that produce barely educated graduates. Want proof? work with their graduates and see for yourself.

    That said, the end of religion has been predicted for many centuries, and people today are more preoccupied than ever by the increase of fundamentalism. Too bad the worlds population isn’t cooperating with this Diploma Mill juggling of statistics and biased perceptions.
    To avoid any misunderstandings, I’m a non-church going religious person who believes in the separation of church and state.

  • dr reality check

    The study was reportedly related to the University of Arizona. As a long term Arizonan resident who was educated in the East, let me assure readers that the state universities in Arizona are Diploma Mills that produce barely educated graduates. Want proof? work with their graduates and see for yourself.

    That said, the end of religion has been predicted for many centuries, and people today are more preoccupied than ever by the increase of fundamentalism. Too bad the worlds population isn’t cooperating with this Diploma Mill juggling of statistics and biased perceptions.
    To avoid any misunderstandings, I’m a non-church going religious person who believes in the separation of church and state.

  • Chintan

    Nothing lasts forever.. neither will religion but I dont think it will die out based on the predictions of a non-linear mathematical model. After all you have only 2000 odd years data.. too little data and you cant model singularities like another Christ / Mohammed being born.

    Disclaimer – this is a tongue and cheek remark from a Buddhist – Atheist..

  • ChuckB

    When people decide to pick a myth as the basis of their lives, they’d better make sure of exactly what punch that myth is packing. Really, all that is needed is the philosophy expressed in the concept: Behave toward others, and toward all things, as you would want them to behave toward you. If everyone followed that concept, this world might well become something of an “Eden”.

  • Emma

    A very strange article at a moment where we are right in the middle of a war of religions mainly perpetrated by the muslims everywhere in the world. Islam that is not a religion mind you but a fascist ideology is growing very rapidly and many many christians are killed in the world. So maybe it is not a good thing that christians are less numerous. It is scary to see that a lot of people don’t believe and yet a very very tiny minority impose on us dark practices not even seen sometimes during the middle ages. Women as usual are tortured, submitted, beaten and killed. As in Muslim countries a women who has been raped is stoned to death !!!!I am not so sure about the veracity of this article but what I am sure about is that religion is a major catastrophe for humankind as 95 per cent of the believers don’t even respect the 10 Commandments and kill, pillage, torture and speak in the Name of God.

  • Russ

    Whatever you think about God lots of people have religion. “The God most people don’t believe in is not the God of the bible” to quote a book I read a while ago. A lot of people believe what the religious nuts are saying about God. Chad says “too bad God din’t have time to tell us to wash our hands”. As it turns out He did. He also told us to do a lot of other things that would protect us to at least some extent from natures ravages. Religion has done a lot of harm in the world no doubt. Two things come to mind. one is that not all people who claim to be religious like Hitler really are and second what about all the good religion has done?

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