Will religion ever go away? (2023)

last place on Earth |Anthropology

Will religion ever disappear?

Will religion ever go away? (1)

By Rachel Most recentDecember 19, 2014

Atheism is on the rise around the world, does this mean that spirituality will soon be a thing of the past? Rachel Nuwer discovers that the answer is far from simple.


A growing number of people, millions around the world, say they believe that life definitely ends with death, that there is no God, no afterlife, no divine plan. And it's a prospect that may be gaining ground, despite lackluster sentiment. In some countries, openly recognized atheism has never been more popular.

“There are absolutely more atheists today than ever before, both in number and as a percentage of humanity,” says Phil Zuckerman, professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and author ofLiving the secular life🇧🇷 according to aGallup International PollOf more than 50,000 people in 57 countries, the number of people who say they are religious fell from 77% to 68% between 2005 and 2011, while those who identified themselves as atheists increased by 3%, raising the estimated proportion of non-believers. -inflexible in the world - believers for 13%.

While atheists are certainly not in the majority, are these numbers a harbinger of things to come? Assuming global trends continue, will religion ever disappear completely?

It's impossible to predict the future, but examining what we know about religion, including why it evolved in the first place and why some people chose to believe in it and others abandoned it, may provide clues as to how our relationship with the divine might play out. in the coming decades or centuries.

Will religion ever go away? (2)

A priest in the Ukraine holds a cross in the ruins of the Union building in kyiv earlier this year (Getty Images)

(Video) Will Religion Ever Disappear?

Scholars are still trying to unravel the complex factors that drive an individual or a nation to atheism, but there are some commonalities. Part of the appeal of religion is that it offers security in an uncertain world. It is not surprising, then, that the nations that report the highest rates of atheism tend to be those that provide their citizens with relatively high economic, political, and existential stability. "Security in society seems to diminish religious beliefs," says Zuckerman. Capitalism, access to technology and education also appear to be correlated with an erosion of religiosity in some populations, he adds.

crisis of fe

Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, France, and Uruguay (where most citizens have European roots) are places where religion was important just a century ago, but now they report some of the lowest belief rates in the world. These countries have strong education and social security systems, low inequality, and are all relatively wealthy. “Basically, people are less afraid of what might happen to them,” says Quentin Atkinson, a psychologist at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Will religion ever go away? (3)

Yemeni girls show off their hands decorated with traditional henna designs as they celebrate the end of Ramadan (Getty Images)

However, the decline in belief seems to be happening everywhere, even in places that are still very religious, like Brazil, Jamaica and Ireland. "Few societies are more religious today than they were 40 or 50 years ago," says Zuckerman. "The only exception could be Iran, but this is complicated because secular people could be hiding their beliefs."

The United States is also an exception, as it is one of the richest countries in the world, but it also has high levels of religiosity. (Yet,a recent Pew surveyrevealed that between 2007 and 2012, the proportion of Americans who said they were atheists rose from 1.6% to 2.4%).

Sin embargo, el declive no significa desaparición, dice Ara Norenzayan, psicóloga social de la Universidad de British Columbia en Vancouver, Canadá, y autora degreat gods🇧🇷 Existential security is more fallible than it seems. In a moment, everything can change: a drunk driver can kill a loved one; a tornado can destroy a city; a doctor can issue a terminal diagnosis. As climate change wreaks havoc on the world in the coming years and natural resources become potentially scarce, pain and hardship can fuel religiosity. “People want to escape suffering, but if they can't, they want to find meaning,” says Norenzayan. "For some reason, religion seems to make sense of suffering, far more than any secular ideal or belief we know of."

Will religion ever go away? (4)

In the Philippines, survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession (Getty Images)

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This phenomenon occurs constantly in hospital rooms and disaster zones around the world. In 2011, for example, a massive earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, a highly secular society. there was onesudden increase in religiosityin the people who lived through that event, but the rest of the country remained as secular as ever. While there are exceptions to this rule (religion in Japan plummeted after World War II, for example), for the most part, Zuckerman says, we follow the Christchurch model. “If experiencing something terrible made everyone become an atheist, then we would all be atheists,” he says.

the mind of god

But even if the world's problems were miraculously solved and we all led peaceful lives as equals, religion would probably still exist. That's because there seems to be a god-shaped hole in the neuropsychology of our species, thanks to a quirk of our evolution.

Will religion ever go away? (5)

A rabbi reads during the Purim festivities (Getty Images)

Understanding this requires delving into "dual process theory." This basic psychological element states that we have two very basic ways of thinking: System 1 and System 2. System 2 has evolved relatively recently. It is the voice in our head, the storyteller that never seems to shut up, that allows us to plan and think logically.

System 1, on the other hand, is intuitive, instinctive, and automatic. These abilities develop regularly in humans, regardless of where they were born. They are survival mechanisms. System 1 gives us an innate disgust for rotten meat, allows us to speak our native language without thinking, and gives babies the ability to recognize parents and distinguish between living and non-living objects. This makes us prone to looking for patterns to better understand our world and to search for meaning in seemingly random events like natural disasters or the death of loved ones.

Will religion ever go away? (6)

Un sij indio enciende velas durante Bandi Chhor Divas, o Diwali (Getty Images)

In addition to helping us navigate the dangers of the world and find a mate, some scholars feel that System 1 has also allowed religions to evolve and perpetuate themselves. System 1, for example, instinctively primes us to see life forces, a phenomenon called hypersensitive agency detection, wherever we go, regardless of whether they are there or not. Millennia ago, this tendency probably helped us avoid hidden dangers, like lions crouching in the grass or poisonous snakes hiding in the undergrowth. But it also made us vulnerable to inferring the existence of unseen agents, whether they take the form of a benevolent god watching over us, a ruthless ancestor punishing us with drought, or a monster lurking in the shadows.

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Likewise, System 1 encourages us to see things in a dual way, which means that we have difficulty thinking of the mind and body as a single unit. This trend emerges quite early: young children, regardless of their cultural background, tend to believe thatthey have an immortal soul– that your essence or personality existed somewhere before you were born and will always continue to exist. This arrangement is easily assimilable in many existing religions or, with a little creativity, it lends itself to creating original constructions.

Will religion ever go away? (7)

An Indian Hindu devotee the day before the Chhat festival (Getty Images)

“A colleague of mine, a Scandinavian psychologist, who is an atheist, told me that his three-year-old daughter recently approached him and said, 'God is everywhere all the time.' He and his wife couldn't figure out where he was. "I came up with the idea," says Justin Barrett, director of the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and author ofborn believers🇧🇷 "To her daughter, God was an old lady, so you know she didn't get that from the Lutheran church."

For all these reasons, many scholars believe that religion arose as "a byproduct of our cognitive disposition," says Robert McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and author ofWhy is religion natural and science not?🇧🇷 "Religions are cultural arrangements that have evolved to involve and exploit these natural capacities in humans."

Hard habits to break

Atheists must deal with all this cultural and evolutionary baggage. Human beings naturally want to believe that they are part of something bigger, that life is not totally useless. Our minds crave purpose and explanation. “With education, exposure to science, and critical thinking, people can stop trusting their intuitions,” says Norenzayan. "But the intuitions are there."

Will religion ever go away? (8)

Muslims in Azerbaijan pray at the end of Ramadan (Getty Images)

On the other hand, science, the system of choice that many atheists and non-believers seek to understand the natural world, is not an easy cognitive pill to swallow. Science tries to correct for System 1 biases, McCauley says. We must accept that the Earth rotates, even though we have never experienced this sensation ourselves. We must embrace the idea that evolution is totally indifferent and that there is no ultimate design or purpose for the Universe, even though our intuition tells us otherwise. We also find it difficult to admit that we are wrong, to resist our own biases, and to accept that the truth, as we understand it, is always changing as new empirical data is collected and tested, all staples of science. "Science is not cognitively natural, it's hard," McCauley says. "Religion, on the other hand, is mostly something we don't even need to learn because we already know it."

“There is evidence that religious thought is the path of least resistance,” Barrett adds. “You would have to fundamentally change something about our humanity to get rid of religion.” This biological pitfall probably explains the fact that, although20% of Americansthey are not affiliated with any church, 68% of them say they still believe in God and 37% describe themselves as spiritual. Even without an organized religion, they believe that some higher being or life force guides the world.

Will religion ever go away? (9)

Buddhist monks prepare for a ceremony at Sampov Treileak Pagoda in Cambodia (Getty Images)

(Video) What Does The Future Of Religion Look Like?

Likewise, many around the world who explicitly say they don't believe in a god still harbor superstitious tendencies such as a belief in ghosts, astrology, karma, telepathy, or reincarnation. “In Scandinavia, most people say they don't believe in God, but paranormal and superstitious beliefs tend to be bigger than you think,” says Norenzayan. Additionally, non-believers often rely on what can be interpreted as religious proxies—sports teams, yoga, professional institutions, Mother Nature, and more—to guide their values ​​in life. As proof of this, witchcraft isgaining popularityin the US, and paganism seems to be thefastest growing religionnot UK.

Religious experiences for non-believers can also manifest in other, more bizarre ways. Anthropologist Ryan Hornbeck, also of the Thrive Center for Human Development, has found evidence that World of Warcraft isassuming spiritual importancefor some players in China, for example. "WoW seems to be offering opportunities to develop certain moral traits that normal life in contemporary society doesn't," says Barrett. "People seem to have this conceptual space for religious thought that, if it's not filled with religion, comes out in surprising ways."

the group

Furthermore, religion promotes group cohesion and cooperation. The threat of an all-powerful God (or gods) keeping an eye on anyone who crossed the line probably helped maintain order in ancient societies. “This is the supernatural punishment hypothesis,” Atkinson says. "If everyone believes that the punishment is real, that can be functional for the groups."

Will religion ever go away? (10)

A devotee at the Thai Vegetarian Festival (Getty Images)

And again, the insecurity and suffering of a population can play a role here in helping to foster religions with stricter moral codes. In arecent reviewFrom the religious belief systems of nearly 600 traditional societies around the world, Joseph Bulbulia of the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and colleagues found that places with harsher climates or more prone to natural disasters were more likely to develop moralizing gods. Because? Helpful neighbors can mean the difference between life and death. In this context, religion evolved as a valuable public utility.

“When we see something so ubiquitous, something that emerges so quickly in development and remains persistent across cultures, it makes sense that the main explanation is that it served a cooperative function,” Bulbulia says.

Finally, there is also some simple math behind religion's ability to prevail. In all cultures, people who are more religious also tend to have more children than people who are not. “There is very strong evidence for this,” says Norenzayan. "Even among the religious, the most fundamentalists tend to have higher fertility rates than the most liberal." Add to this the fact thatchildren often follow the example of their parentswhen it comes to whether or not to become religious adults, and a fully secularized world seems increasingly unlikely.

enduring belief

For all of these reasons—psychological, neurological, historical, cultural, and logistical—experts believe that religion will probably never go away. Religion, whether maintained by fear or love, is very successful in perpetuating itself. If not, he would no longer be with us.

And even if we lose sight of the Christian, Muslim, and Hindu gods and all the rest, superstitions and spiritualism will almost certainly still prevail. Meanwhile, more formal religious systems would probably only be one or two natural disasters. "Even the best secular government can't protect you from everything," says McCauley. As soon as we were faced with an ecological crisis, a global nuclear war, or an impending comet collision, the gods would arise.

“Humans need comfort in the face of pain and suffering, and many need to think that there is something more after this life, that they are loved by an invisible being,” Zuckerman says. "There will always be people who believe, and I wouldn't be surprised if they are still the majority."

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(Video) Religion in America Is on the Decline. This Is What’s Replacing It.


1. Growing number of Americans are leaving organized religion
(CNBC Television)
2. Richard Dawkins answers to "Will religion ever disappear?"
(Hoon Lee)
3. Will Religion Ever Disappear - Sam Harris @ The Science Network.
4. Ricky Gervais And Stephen Go Head-To-Head On Religion
(The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
5. Why there is no way back for religion in the West | David Voas | TEDxUniversityofEssex
(TEDx Talks)
6. George Carlin --- Religion is Bullshit


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