New study suggests religion is dieing out in 9 countries. Cue Religious Right freakout in 3… 2…

Here’s a headline that’s sure to rile up the Religious Right: BBC News – Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says.

A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team’s mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

Which sounds really encouraging (if you’re one of the Nones), but reading further into the article reveals that this is speculation based on an application of nonlinear dynamics to a whole lot of census data from the countries in question. The end results suggest that countries with a trend of people claiming no religious affiliation will have that trend continue until religion dies out. But then the researchers go on to admit that the model they’re using is somewhat flawed:

However, Dr Wiener told the conference that the team was working to update the model with a “network structure” more representative of the one at work in the world.

“Obviously we don’t really believe this is the network structure of a modern society, where each person is influenced equally by all the other people in society,” he said.

However, he told BBC News that he thought it was “a suggestive result”.

“It’s interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data, and if those simple ideas are correct, it suggests where this might be going.

“Obviously much more complicated things are going on with any one individual, but maybe a lot of that averages out.”

So probably nothing to get too excited about at the moment. It’s going to be a long time before religion is “extinct”, as the headline claims, in any country and I doubt it’ll ever fully pass away anywhere. Too many overly credulous people for that to happen.

But I bet you that the Religious Right will run with this study. There’s so many ways it could be utilized! As a call to arms against secularism here in the States! Or as reason why you can’t trust those dirty, godless European heathens! Why, the possibilities are endless!

2 thoughts on “New study suggests religion is dieing out in 9 countries. Cue Religious Right freakout in 3… 2…

  1. While there may be less to this specific article than meets the eye, there’s no doubt that things are moving in the right direction in a lot of places. Religion won’t totally disappear in any country any time soon, but it will asymptotically approach extinction.

    Twenty years ago, who’d have thought that we’d be talking about religion declining so dramatically in Ireland?

    And these nine countries were chosen because data were available for such a long period. There’s plenty of evidence of similar trends all over the developed world and even beyond.

  2. As a resident in one of the nine countries cited (Austria) I can corroborate the trend. However, I’m leery of jumping to conclusions about social trends, because they are hypersensitive to illdefined and chaotic variables, and are thus in principle not reliably predictable. I too would have guessed, having grown up in America in the fifties and sixties, that there was a general trend away from political conservatism, and look what has happened.

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