Is God Dying?

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Since the early 20th century, with the rise of mass secular education and the diffusion of scientific knowledge through popular media, predictions of the deity's demise have fallen short, and in some cases—such as in that of the U.S.—religiosity has actually increased. This ratio is changing. 

According to a 2013 survey of 14,000 people in 13 nations (Germany, France, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Canada, Brazil, India, South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S.) that was conducted by the German Bertelsmann Foundation for its Religion Monitor, there is both widespread approval for the separation of church and state, as well as a decline in religiosity over time and across generations.

In response to the statements “Only politicians who believe in God are suitable for public office” and “Leading religious figures should exercise an influence on government decisions,” even in über-religious America only 25 percent agreed with the former and 28 percent with the latter. All other countries reported lower figures (with Spain at or near the bottom at 8 and 13 percent and Germany in the middle at 10 and 21 percent, respectively). Moreover, most of the countries in the survey showed a declining trend in religiosity, especially among the youth. In Spain, for example, 85 percent of respondents older than 45 reported being moderately to very religious, but only 58 percent of those younger than 29 said they were. In Europe in general, only 30 to 50 percent said that religion is important in their own lives.

Why the decline? One factor is the dramatic spread of democracy around the globe over the past half a century. Most people surveyed agreed that democracy is a good form of government, with no differences across religious faiths.

Written By: Michael Shermer
continue to source article at scientificamerican.com

21 COMMENTS

  1. Most people surveyed agreed that democracy is a good form of government, with no differences across religious faiths.

    Democracy is a very bad form of government – It’s just that the others are so much worse!

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110509200021AAsH7hg

    “Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
    –Winston Churchill.

    This quote illustrates better that while Democracy is not perfect, every other system that has been tried has been worse. This is true. Tyranny of the Majority is a problem in Democracy, but it is a softer tyranny than that produced by Monarchy, Aristocracy, Socialism, Despotism, or Fundamentalism. Certainly better than Anarchy where each person is oppressed by their neighbor with a bigger stick.

    @OP -

    In response to the statements “Only politicians who believe in God are suitable for public office” and “Leading religious figures should exercise an influence on government decisions,” even in über-religious America only 25 percent agreed with the former and 28 percent with the latter. All other countries reported lower figures (with Spain at or near the bottom at 8 and 13 percent and Germany in the middle at 10 and 21 percent, respectively).

    Spain an Germany suffered from dominant politico-religious ideology under Franco and Hitler. It seems they have learned from this!

  2. Gods would fade much faster if there were not serious legal and social penalties – including the death penalty- for giving up religion. The persecution of atheists helps to keep religion alive.

    • In reply to #2 by aldous:

      Gods would fade much faster if there were not serious legal and social penalties – including the death penalty- for giving up religion. The persecution of atheists helps to keep religion alive.
      Tell me about it, a blasphemy law was passed her in Ireland last year now a person living in the Irish state could faces prison or a €10,000 fine or both for what the powers that be consider blasphemy.

    • In reply to #2 by aldous:

      Gods would fade much faster if there were not serious legal and social penalties – including the death penalty- for giving up religion. The persecution of atheists helps to keep religion alive.

      Apart from a few exceptions such as, apparently, Ireland ( cf Dublin Atheist #9) , one must -objectively, and however reluctantly- acknowledge the specific problem of Islam (Islamic countries not in Pew survey) at this time. . The increasing numbers who are vaguely associated with a religion (e.g “cultural ” Christians , Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems . etc..) are usually not a problem for anyone . But this last group does appear to have a particular high proportion of true-believers such as jihadists and of others who support them, while dissenters/ critics are truly persecuted, with only very limited objection expressed from moderates.

  3. It’ll be many, many generations before Yahweh is mentioned along with Quetzalcoatl or Thor in terms of their obsolescence or irrelevance. The transition from one state of cultural relevance to irrelevance is the province of the very patient watching anthropologist. We’re not quite in any kind of liminal period but that’s no reason to stop sowing the seeds of discontent where we can.

    I’m not sure I’m hugely convinced that the choice of data from various nations isn’t linked to the authors own world view, but I can accept the data as is without making representative of the world in general.

    • In reply to #3 by Ithaaqa:

      It’ll be many, many generations before Yahweh is mentioned along with Quetzalcoatl or Thor in terms of their obsolescence or irrelevance. The transition from one state of cultural relevance to irrelevance is the province of the very patient watching anthropologist. We’re not quite in any kind of lim…

      When that day comes, Thomas Jefferson will have been proven right:

      “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter”

      From: Jefferson letter to John Adams

  4. I am convinced that left to its own devices religion would wither and die, of course it’s adherents know this and will always redouble their efforts to ensure this does not happen mainly through terror.

  5. Like a virus, organised religion dies down in one place only to flair up elsewhere in a modified form; I think it’s bit of pointless exercise conducting poles on it.

    It’s a bit like trying to nail jelly to the ceiling or sweep water into a pile.

    And in any case the responses people give to the questions can’t necessarily be relied upon.

  6. I have a question that’s been quietly niggling for a while now. Germany is a very secular country, as confirmed here, but the ruling party is the Christian Democrat Party. Ms Merkel seems like a very rational and humanist leader. could someone enlighten me? is the term christian just a vestigal hangover or do the people of germany vote for a party made up of christians?

    • In reply to #7 by SaganTheCat:

      I have a question that’s been quietly niggling for a while now. Germany is a very secular country, as confirmed here, but the ruling party is the Christian Democrat Party. Ms Merkel seems like a very rational and humanist leader. could someone enlighten me? is the term christian just a vestigal hang…

      The CDU and Bayern based CSU are in no way the crazy sort of christian that crops too often in US politics and they are better than the likes of Pickles and some of the UK politicos but there is an underlying faith in some of the two parties. Generally I found and still do find the Germans to be much more pragmatic than the English – the current grand coalition of the main left and right parties has worked before while I could not imagine the UK Conservatives and Labour managing that sort of co-operation.

      However, Merkel has voiced her opinion on god in Europe and has opposed some secular ideas and she has been against taking the religious context out of some oaths. I think she can be generally trusted but she will always have some support for the church.

    • In reply to #7 by SaganTheCat:

      I have a question that’s been quietly niggling for a while now. Germany is a very secular country, as confirmed here, but the ruling party is the Christian Democrat Party. Ms Merkel seems like a very rational and humanist leader. could someone enlighten me? is the term christian just a vestigal hangover or do the people of germany vote for a party made up of christians?

      Some of the northern European countries have a strange relationship with religion. If you are a member of a particular religious community the state will collect additional taxes (usually around 1%) from you and give them to that particular church. In Australia people hate paying taxes and I’m sure if they faced the choice of saving 1% tax during their earthly existence versus eternal damnation they would be out of the church before you could say “tax refund”.

      Sorry I didn’t answer your question. Just another aspect that strikes me as odd. There is apparently a political ideology called Christian democracy.

      Michael

  7. For countless generations mankind’s ability to create, develop and propagate captivating mythologies has eclipsed the scientific and rational explanations of the world. Now we live in a world underpinned by science and education and it has become possible for the common people to see through the fairy stories, how ever elaborate and sophisticated they may be. It’s just a matter of time before religions decline to the point of irrelevance.

  8. God should already be dead!
    Application of reasoning instead of belief in fairies is part of educational evolution.
    I’m wondering how long it will take for belief in God, to be regarded as a trait of a simpleton?

  9. Hm…One interesting aspect of this(the popularity of religion and why it just refuses to “die”), is that I think sometimes we underestimate just how powerful is the concept of an all-knowing, all-powerful God to the hundreds of millions of people that are, so to speak, at the “bottom” of the food chain, living in poverty, or enslavement, oppression etc etc, taking blows every single day but have no choice other than remain silent and keep grinding, in order to remain alive: The idea of an Ultimate Vindicator, who for the time being stays mainly in the shadows and watches silently, but at the very final act of the play, he will be fed up with all the injustice and crimes that forever remain unpunished, and in a single instance will kick the door open, enter the scene, armed to the teeth, and destroy every “wicked” person in his path, the ones that were spending their days partying while others were rotting in the mud. Incidentally, Jodorowsky’s film “El Topo” deals with such themes, and quite obviously the final scene depicts such an Apocalypse.

    Of course, those of us that are relatively well-fed and cosy and have the luxury to think things rationally and argue on internet forums about the ontological argument or the fine-tuning fallacy, will assert that, the more those people put their hopes in the Sky, and subsequently to the self-appointed “representatives” of the Sky-Father on earth, the less chances they have to actually improve their lives in the real world. And obviously this is true…but, in practice, very hard to convince about it someone that happened to be born and live in a place where life’s primary colors are all terribly bleak.

  10. God isn’t dead – god was never alive —— its all imaginary and in the minds of some weak people who refuse to or cannot think for themselves…. God will stay in those old fashioned peoples minds and die with them…..but we know and they know god is historical fiction and not acceptable as special or supernatural….and should have no sway in the lives of non religious modern people..
    The only acceptable way for religion/god to still exist in spite of the overwhelming evidence that it is fictional and it fosters hatred, oppression and war is that if religion is treated as a cult for crazy people who should be pitied for being so stubbornly stupid and the leaders are corrupt….
    Religion and god should be treated like the corrupting factor that it is… and not seriously tolerated anymore…
    God is just another WORD concept of mans greedy power hold and control over others…..rich elites and military is the same and government….all the power in the hands of the few….that’s what god always was….a power tool.
    A now dead power tool – now we just need to work on the other corruptions that will take its place…..

  11. More and more brains are developing resistance to domination by their brain’s primitive “god-spots”, as more and more humans mature into rational thinking adults reaching the Formal Operational Stage of mental development, -

    That is despite the efforts of the indoctrinators to retard their mental development by inculcating simplistic answers to the “big” questions, during their childhood.

    This indoctrination is to discourage questioning and investigative thought so as to create dependent individuals by inculcating fallacious circular thinking based on defending dogmatic preconceptions at the behest of religious “authorities”!

    The formal operational stage is the fourth and final stage of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.

    The formal operational stage begins at approximately age twelve to and lasts into adulthood. During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts. Skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning, and systematic planning also emerge during this stage.

    Piaget believed that deductive logic becomes important during the formal operational stage. Deductive logic requires the ability to use a general principle to determine a specific outcome. This type of thinking involves hypothetical situations and is often required in science and mathematics.

    While children tend to think very concretely and specifically in earlier stages, the ability to think about abstract concepts emerges during the formal operational stage. Instead of relying solely on previous experiences, children begin to consider possible outcomes and consequences of actions. This type of thinking is important in long-term planning.

    “The formal operational thinker has the ability to consider many different solutions to a problem before acting. This greatly increases efficiency, because the individual can avoid potentially unsuccessful attempts at solving a problem. The formal operational person considers past experiences, present demands, and future consequences in attempting to maximize the success of his or her adaptation to the world.” (Salkind, 2004)

    It should therefore be no surprise that many religions praise and promote child-like dependent mental attitudes and thinking in their followers!

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