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Religion May Become Extinct in Nine Nations


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Initial post: May 23, 2012 6:26:41 PM PDT
Jack Vix says:
Jason Palmer
Science and technology reporter, BBC News, Dallas

A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team's mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Their means of analysing the data invokes what is known as nonlinear dynamics - a mathematical approach that has been used to explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part.

One of the team, Daniel Abrams of Northwestern University, put forth a similar model in 2003 to put a numerical basis behind the decline of lesser-spoken world languages.

At its heart is the competition beween speakers of different languages, and the "utility" of speaking one instead of another.

"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 behavior drives the mathematics in all of them.

And in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction.

However, Dr Wiener told the conference that the team was working to update the model with a "network structure" more representative of the one at work in the world.

"Obviously we don't really believe this is the network structure of a modern society, where each person is influenced equally by all the other people in society," he said.

However, he told BBC News that he thought it was "a suggestive result".

"It's interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data, and if those simple ideas are correct, it suggests where this might be going."

"Obviously much more complicated things are going on with any one individual, but maybe a lot of that averages out."

In reply to an earlier post on May 23, 2012 6:27:59 PM PDT
reply to Jack Vix's post:

will never happen

Posted on May 23, 2012 6:58:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 23, 2012 6:59:33 PM PDT
It may become extinct, but it will never completely die out. Witness the number of people in the 21st century who believe in astrology and an assortment of other superstitions. There is plenty of gullibility to go around in the world. There are a few thousand people to this day in the world who believe that the Earth is flat. Believers in gods becoming a minority in the world. Possible. It may be another 100 years, but there will always be people born who will want to believe in gods, ghosts, goblins and other superstitious nonsense.

Posted on May 24, 2012 1:22:20 AM PDT
Lj3d says:
I would have to seriously doubt religion could become extinct. From what I have seen in my years alive...it appears superstition and religion are alive and well, and gaining more adherants than ever. Even beliefs that are seemingly non religious reflect this. By that I mean belief in UFOs which has become a religion all its own. Even belief in lunar hoaxes and 911 conspiracy theories indicate a rise in belief based systems.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 1:30:34 AM PDT
B. Josephson says:
Looks like nobody buys this idea Jack.

Do even you buy it?

Best Wishes,
Shaamba Kaambwaat

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 3:17:04 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 24, 2012 3:19:14 AM PDT
Lj3d - "I would have to seriously doubt religion could become extinct."

I agree, though I think it can become much more marginalized. Countries such as Ireland and Italy, where the church was a central power only a couple of decades ago, are now full of churches visited only by tourists and the elderly. That trend started before the priest molestation scandal broke. So while I think extinction is an unrealistic end-point to hope for (or to fear, if you're so inclined) I do think religion will probably be less prominent in society than it is now.

My kids are 18 and 20 now, and unless their generation has a huge change of heart, non-believers are going to be a lot more common than I ever anticipated. Some of their classmates are of course religious, or even fundamentalists, but in any given group of kids there always seems to be someone willing to voice dissent, to call them on it. That didn't happen when I was their age. Back then non-believers kept their mouth shut, and people of faith went unchallenged. Things changed much more quickly than I would ever have anticipated. Same with their support for gay marriage. Something seems to have reached a critical mass. There is no longer as much of a social stigma in being a non-believer, at least in that generation.

Posted on May 24, 2012 3:30:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 24, 2012 3:31:19 AM PDT
S. Schoby says:
As far as religion continuing to exist as it is now, I would have to agree it would appear to be vanishing or at least becoming a very small minority.
Trending has been showing an ever increasing amount of people not wanting to be associated with an organized religion.
Pew polling has been showing this pattern over the past 30 years.
On a world wide level this pattern of movement away from religions (organized religions) has been showing an increasing desire of people to not be connected with them.

As far as people moving away a god type of belief to the point of it becoming extinct, this I do not think will never happen; I do think it will become a minority belief.
Religion has only itself to blame for its downfall, each time it denies science study, each time it seeks to label lifestyles as abominations, each time it preaches intolerances towards other beliefs it results in a questioning of it and its motives.

Organized religion as it is now becoming extinct, perhaps very possible a god belief vanishing not likely, both ideas (organized religion and a god belief) becoming a minority this does appear to be happening.

Posted on May 24, 2012 4:46:45 AM PDT
The way I look at it, coming from a very religious 3rd world country background, I highly doubt we'll see the end of religion in our lifetime. It is too deeply rooted and kept being passed on to younger generation.

Heck, it might even be considered a major progress if we start seeing secularism being practised in all countries. One baby step at a time :)

Posted on May 24, 2012 5:19:48 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 24, 2012 5:20:04 AM PDT
Brian Curtis says:
Two obvious ways to encourage this trend would be to reinforce critical thinking in our education system (appeal to reason) and to publicly shame and mock the backward believers in superstition (appeal to emotion).

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 5:25:02 AM PDT
anne says:
Jack: "in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction."

S. Schoby: <Trending has been showing an ever increasing amount of people not wanting to be associated with an organized religion.>

anne: Yay! There's hope for us!

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 5:28:01 AM PDT
anne says:
Brian: <reinforce critical thinking in our education system>

anne: Wouldn't that cost money? I'm thinking it would or why else wouldn't it have been done already.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 7:09:11 AM PDT
Vicki says:
Dear Jack,

I have to wonder if the census information that the study used, took into account the projected increase of the Muslim population in Europe for 2010-2030? The religious preference of immigrants could be one of those more complicated things they need to look at before making a prediction that religion may become extinct in the European nations listed.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 8:29:17 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 24, 2012 3:16:07 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
Scientific Mind, as an astrologer I don't "believe" in astrology, I accept that it works because that's been my experience. Astrology is not a religion and does not demand blind belief. Any astrologer worth her salt will tell you the same thing.

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Posted on May 24, 2012 1:52:03 PM PDT
After watching the news lately and seeing all the hate coming out of churches I can understand why religions were persecuted prior to coming to the new country. It's too bad it still isn't illegal.

They should change the constitution and outlaw it.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 2:35:06 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 4:07:32 PM PDT
Vicki says:
Dear Jack,

You said :"I have no idea if they included immigration information. Although it's not very significant besides to a particular area being more religious. A rising population is not a conversion of more people, other populations are growing too."

There is a concern in some European countries that birth rates of people born in those countries are not nearly as high as the birth rate of Muslim immigrants. I have also read studies that indicate that a doubling of the Muslim population is expected by 2030 in some European countries.

Of course it is a significant factor. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the world and if European countries are allowing immigration from Muslim countries in order to meet their labor needs, even in some of the countries mentioned in your OP, religion isn't going to become extinct, there.

And there is another factor. If Christianity is on the wane in Europe as studies indicate, Islam may indeed begin to appeal to people who are hungry, spiritually.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 4:11:12 PM PDT
brunumb says:
Nancy Davison: "Any astrologer worth her salt will tell you the same thing."

Sorry Nancy, but all astrologers are completely worthless.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 4:47:33 PM PDT
Bubba says:
Thank you for sharing that, it is VERY good news.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 4:52:00 PM PDT
Bubba says:
Even though there are people who still believe in astrology and that the Earth is flat, they are such a small minority that they are not a major political threat, such as Christians are in the US. Even in many parts of Europe, Christians are so small in number that they are no long a major political force.
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Discussion in:  Religion forum
Participants:  83
Total posts:  2002
Initial post:  May 23, 2012
Latest post:  Jul 24, 2012

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