This is first article in the Series of Future of Religion in this world, next articles in this series will cover specific details about how the future looks like for Islam and a detailed study about Pakistan.
You must have come across a new study based on the claims by the Author and noted Biopsychologist Nigel Barber about Religion to disappear by somewhere between 2038 to 2041. Following are the main points discussed in his study:
- Atheism is most prevalent in developed countries
- According to his projections, religion will completely disappear by 2041
- Research carried out in 137 countries, Nigel found that atheism increases for countries with a well-developed welfare state (as indexed by high taxation rates)
- He argues that the phenomenon of religion declining as personal wealth increases
- He cites the reason as people having less of a need for supernatural beliefs when the tangible, natural world is providing for their needs.
- He concludes that the majority of the world will come to view religion as completely irrelevant by 2041
On contrary, Political Scientist Eric Kaufmann has a different view. Kaufmann states that the ever growing population in the Religious Countries / Societies will eventually mean that the Religious people will outnumber Secular Population because the population growth in Developed Societies can not compete with the Population Bomb in Under Developed (not necessarily Religious) countries.
How do we define the basis to consider the death of Religion ?
Before we jump to the conclusions, lets do a quick analysis on Nigel’s claims and Kauffman’s opposing views.
In my opinion, we’ll first have to define the criteria to decide when we can consider Religion(s) to have disappeared. If, by disappear we mean not to have a single person on earth believing in Religion then Nigel’s claim doesn’t sound to be realistic and may be termed as bit too over ambitious. However, if we can agree on the following list then we may have a real possibility even well before 2040s.
- Religion not to have Final Word in important / major decisions made by Government and more importantly on Society Levels
- Moral Values to be dictated by today’s needs and ever-changing circumstances of society
- Religion to lose ground on its insisting for an automatic right to be Respected
- End of Blasphemy Laws making room for more freedom of expression freedom to criticize ideas
- End of Conservative Tribal System and an open acceptance towards tolerant multicultural societies
Kauffman’s Population Bomb Argument:
Kauffman’s argument has a realistic side to it, the societies in Developed Countries (with growing Atheists) have a Declining Population problem while the population bomb is a reality but not necessarily in Religious Countries only. India and China are prime examples, while China has already successfully controlled the population growth problem the country is still the biggest country in world with 1.35 billion followed by India with 1.21 billion people today. Ironically, Religion isn’t the center of universe in Chinese Society and at the same time India could be termed as the biggest country with a growing Secular Population where the Religion is taking a back seat at a faster pace than expected earlier.
More population in Religious countries does not necessarily mean better societies …
Second issue is that the more Middle Class System is getting strong hold in countries with Population bomb they are also following the same Population Control mechanism that Western or even Chinese Societies adopted. Even otherwise Conservative and Religious societies in countries like Pakistan, Iran and Middle East are losing their passion for Larger Families and people have started to get comfortable with the ideas of Two to Four kids at maximum.
Last but not the least, Economic Conditions will drive the basis for how many Kids a particular Family from a specific society will be able to afford. The Working Middle Class is on the rise in societies like India and gradually the Religion is taking back seat in today’s Fast Pace life. It doesn’t or may not mean the end / death of Religion but what it means is that the role of Religion is changing in their life, the long list of typical Religious Practices is being replaced by a new interpretation of Religion where God does / might exist but not have to dictate every aspect of their life.
There is also a Fallacy in this population Argument. More people does not mean better people and it might come down to the same basic Quality v/s Quantity argument. The deciding factor will depend on how much and what role the Religion will play to make their life better and whether or not it can fulfill the basic necessities of people. If the Religion combined with Traditional Conservatism fails to make their life better that might give rise to a growing frustrated young generation ready to blame Religion as well as Conservatism for society’s failures.
The desire to take Religion out of mainstream society seems to be real and not a new phenomena itself and also seems to be heading into the direction desired by the Secularists but a complete disappearance of Religion may not be possible from every corner of the world. In fact this divide between Religious and Secular Societies may grow further in different countries. However, the Authority enjoyed by Religion or so-called Divine Orders today looks almost certain to be slowly diminishing, given the fact that the current wave of Democratization not only continues but also gets stronger.
The desire to take Religion out of mainstream society seems to be real one
In next article we’ll discuss how the Future of Islam looks in coming years …