A new study on census data from 9 European nations (Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland) has predicted on the basis of mathematical modelling that ‘religion will become extinct’. One of the authors of the study, Richard Weiner of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the University of Arizona, explained to the BBC that Facebook-type phenomenon could account for this – whereby people affiliate themselves with the biggest and most popular type social groups. In Netherlands and the Czech Republic for instance, 40 % and 60 % of people apparently declared themselves to be not affiliated with any religion.
Are such extinction fears justified ? Or do they just reflect a factor of modern demographics, whereby people nowadays are increasingly reluctant to label and brand themselves with any one particular political or social ideology ? Religion was an all-encompassing aspect of our psycho-social identities in the past, but now we have gurus for fashion, politics, blogs, astronomy, evolution promoting their own brand of following. Google ‘Cult of Oprah’ and you get nearly 3,050,000 hits in nearly a fifth of a second. We build our modern day affiliations from a plethora of sources, and labeling ourselves with one ideology is often against the norm.
The issue of extinction is however a completely different matter. True we don’t have many who call themselves exclusively Greek in their philosophical outlook, but does that make Greek philosophy extinct ? With regards to religion, the matter is more complicated. If one implies by writing on the census form ‘not affiliated with any religion’, does it mean he (she) implies that he refuses to exclusively call himself a follower of Jesus or Abrahamic faith ? Perhaps, we have moved into an era of multiple ideologies, and religion is no longer the sole means of identifying ourselves.And even if the traditional faiths and the methods of practising them change radically in the distant future, does that mean religion dies out ? In the sense of encompassing spiritual teachings and practices in our daily lives ? A highly improbabilistic scenario, illustrated by the fact that The Legend of Gilgameshknown to be recorded on stone as early as the 9th century BC has seen three new editions published in 2006, 2009 and 2010 respectively and are being sold on Amazon.
And that is hardly comparable to the degree of penetrance of the major religions in our social, cultural and academic lives.
Source report here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12811197
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