The other day, I wrote about how religion is on the decline in the United States. This is a long-term trend that doesn’t look like being reversed any time soon. Indeed, it is a long-term trend throughout the developed world. There are many reasons for this, not least the growth of (scientific) understanding of the world and information available to the general public. The Internet has certainly revolutionised the transference of information between people, organisations and the world as a whole.
There are many other reasons why religion is on the back foot, such as the changing moral zeitgeist throughout the world and progression of morality and moral evaluation. For example, attitudes towards homosexuality and sexual behaviours, in general, have hugely changed over the last 50 to 100 years, and religion has struggled to keep up with such change. Indeed, one of the main reasons given by young people for leaving religion is the idea that religion doesn’t chime with their moral outlook.
We might also look at societal changes in terms of economics, such as improved security for people leading to a situation where there is less need for a belief in God, or for organised religion. The role it plays in providing security blankets for so many people is somewhat diminished in light of greater security and welfare throughout society.
When I look at such statistics, as mentioned before with regard to the United States, I’m left thinking that this general trend really has no sign of abating. I really can’t see the increasing proportion of religious “nones” being reversed. For me, there is much to be said of our increasing and improved understanding of the world such that God, as an explanatory mechanism, is needed less and less and less.
My question is, to you, as follows: what would it take for religion to regain its foothold and reverse the increasing trend towards secularism and nonbelief in developed nations?
I say developed nations because birth rates in less developed nations are higher and the lack of security (amongst many other variables) means that religion has a much stronger foothold in less developed nations and those populations are looking to grow, going forward. I think the biggest determining influence in reversing the growth of religiosity throughout the developing nations is a move towards economic stability and economic growth. It is no surprise that, in the most war-torn and poorest of nations, religiosity is far stronger.
But in developed nations where education is key and where economic stability has helped mean birth rates are lower, the general trend is towards nonbelief. What could change this? In my opinion, the only real chance for religion to regain its prominence lies in the reserve gents of nationalism and right-wing populism that is sadly growing throughout the developed world. Trump and Putin both court religious nationalism. In Poland and Italy, we see the same thing, and so on. There is a complex relationship between secularism and nonbelief, and liberalism (in a moral-political sense). I think politics and policy-making offer the only chance for religion to make a comeback in developed nations.
What do you think could give religion the upper hand once again?
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