Religion? What is That?


“Religion? What’s that?”—the earnest question of future Australian, Irish, Swiss, and other children?

Scientists presenting at a recent meeting of the American Physical Society have predicted that religion is on its way out—at least, in nine countries the team studied. The researchers used a mathematical model and census data to estimate future changes in overall religious adherence based on the “social utility” of membership in religious groups.

Data used in the study came from censuses in Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland. Among those countries, the Czech Republic had the highest rate of religious non-affiliation, at sixty percent.

“The idea is pretty simple,” explained team member 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. . . . In a large number of modern secular democracies, there’s been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion[.]” Thus, as more and more people stop identifying with religion, the rate of conversion to religious non-affiliationwill accelerate.

Both the causes and the consequences of unbelief and the societal abandonment of religion are troubling, especially given that the nations the study examined can in general be described as Christian or, perhaps more accurately, post-Christian. As society gives up on God’s Word and His Son, it gives up not only objective morality and a transcendent meaning of life, but also on the offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. Wiener’s conclusions may be accurate; the question is whether that is something to be celebrated.

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