6 Reasons Religion Is Dying
Religion in developed countries is declining—but why so fast? In the coming years, it is estimated that 9 countries will be comprised entirely of non-believers.
We have seen a significant decline in religious belief in most developed countries. For example, the U.K. took just 10 years to make a full u-turn from being a country comprised mostly of religious believers to a country predominantly made up of non-believers.
Even in the USA, a country known for being very religious, we see this decline in religious practice. From 1990-2008, the percentage of Christians in the population fell from 86.2% to 76%.
As our societies change and develop, so too must our understanding of them. So why is it that our developed countries are seeing such a dramatic fall in religious adherence?
The 6 reasons why religion is dying
- People, most importantly children, are given more choice generally
- Education has gotten better and is far more widespread
- Greater coverage of issues grounded in religious beliefs
- The trending belief that religion is counterproductive to human development
- The trending belief that religion incites wars
- Greater use of free thought and logic inhibits blind faith
Each of these topics will be explained in greater detail in the paragraphs below.
1. People, most importantly children, are allowed to choose their own beliefs
As parenting around the world continues to evolve and improve, providing children with the choice to assess the world around them and come to their own conclusions on ideological matters, including religion, is viewed as a moral necessity by more and more parents. When we try to understand why religion is declining around the globe, we must take these two factors into account:
Today, with more rights and more freedoms, children are frequently given the choice to believe in a religion or not. There is no longer one clear way of behaving enforced upon them, and the need for parents (consciously or subconsciously) to protect their children from prejudice - by raising them to conform with the community's faith - has fallen sharply.
With the relatively new acceptance of multiculturalism, people are exposed to many alternatives to what they were taught as children. They come to understand that perhaps their way was not the best one, and certainly not the only one. Thus, people now have more inclination, or at least freedom, to change their own beliefs as they see fit, and the choice to teach many different views and morals to their children, providing them with the ability to choose the life that best matches their personalities and desires.
The social result of religious choice
Religious choice has reshaped society in ways that most of us are unconscious of. A few of these social changes include:
Naturally, with the introduction of new choices, religion will have lost some of its members to non-belief simply because non-belief has become an acceptable option.
- Overwhelmed by choices
Many people now see that there are over 100,000 different denominations of religions, and none of them have any more evidence than the others. Hence, without a clear reason for choosing one over another, many people conclude that they are simply unable to choose one at all. Since the decision forms the most fundamental beliefs a person can have, young people are no longer making the choice lightly or superficially.
Consider what religion attempts to answer:
- What is right and wrong?
- Is there an after-life?
- What is our purpose?
Given the complexity of answering these questions, today's young people find religion to be an inadequate guide for surviving in the 21st-century.
2. Religion declines due to evolving education systems
As schools around the world continue to evolve, religious studies become less biased and more open to criticism. When we try to understand why religion is declining around the globe, we must take these two factors into account:
Linking back to the idea that there are more choices and rights available to us in today's society, the modern schooling system accelerates the effects of these new choices by allowing for an unbiased teaching of different cultures and ideas.
In many countries, it is mandatory for all school-children to go through religious studies and understand the basic views of at least a few religions. Each religion is given less weight because children are no longer taught that only their parents' religions are correct (and any of the others are ludicrous). In other words, schools are now showing children that religions have very large similarities and that no one is more important than the others. This makes it very difficult to commit to any one in particular.
With the invention of the internet, and its availability to citizens of modern societies, information is no longer a luxury reserved for the richest. People can now check certain facts that religious leaders had previously claimed were undeniable truths. Many of these "facts" are being revealed as falsehoods.
The social result of "The Information Age"
- Challenging Religious Dogma
One example of how increased access to information challenges religious belief was when a study that showed how Pope Benedict XVI's views about how condoms are "evil" lead to more outbreaks of AIDS in Africa. Increased access to information caused widespread opposition to the Pope's stance. Religion had had authority over information because leaders seemed to know certain things that the masses did not; however, in today's high-tech society, everyone has the liberty to double-check any bold statements they were skeptical or curious about.
- Scientific Improvement
Many questions that could not be answered before have now been answered. Evolution and astronomy are no longer subject to outdated religious explanations. This frees up the subjects to further, unbiased, inquiry. Questions that would have lead people to religion, simply because no other option was offered to them, now have scientific explanations or, at least, a better process for answering those questions. There is no necessity for a God because the scientific method provides alternative theories. Naturally, when provided with alternatives to religion, some people will choose those alternatives.
3. Bad press causes a decline in membership
In recent times, the media has featured news relating to crimes that religious leaders and authorities have committed.
These Crimes include:
- Stories of Catholic priests committing pedophilia
- Female circumcision
- The abuse of, and the inequality of, women worldwide
Since the exposure of these religious hypocrisies, many people wonder whether religion really helps create morality—whether the beliefs are at all valuable. Ideas such as female circumcision and female inequality, in certain religious societies, make us wonder whether being religious is at all valuable to modern women.
4. The growing view that religion is counterproductive
Some people find religious believers, religious organisations, and religious programs irritating and think that religion is too forceful. This perception makes them reluctant to associate themselves with these religions. As our social lives continue to evolve, we must take these two factors into account:
- Religion is viewed as immoral
Many people view religion as a burden on society or themselves. Ideas such as having to take time out to go to church every Sunday, praying regularly, not eating pork, sexual abstinence, fasting, circumcision, being against homosexual relationships and abortions, etc. can seem like a waste of time or even immoral to some people.
- Religion is viewed as irrelevant
Many people simply decide that, since they do not know which religion and set of rules they should follow (and they certainly don't want to be punished for following the wrong one), religion is simply irrelevant to their lives.
5. Religion viewed as the reason for wars
In recent years, foreign wars have been so deeply rooted in religious ideologies that more and more young people are skeptical of religion's ability to provide peace and stability. As our geopolitics continue to evolve, we must take these two factors into account:
- Religion is viewed as causing wars
Many people find that many wars have been waged for religious reasons. This leads many people to conclude that the world would be better without religions.
- Religion is viewed as a form of propaganda
Others see religion as a method of controlling the masses. Many cite politicians, who use the support of popular religions to seduce voters, as guilty of profiting from religious propaganda.
6. Free thought & logic cause a decline in membership
Since the enlightenment, logic and rationality have gained praise for their ability to solve real-world problems. As generations continue to seek out personal liberty, rooted in logic and reason, we must take these two factors into account:
- New rights and the encouragement of freethought
Today, many people see religion as something that is fundamentally irrational. Stories about turning wine into water, or healing people's ailments through touch, may be seen as contradictory to modern science. This leads more and more people to become skeptical of religion altogether.
- Problems with the concept of God
Large problems arise from the concept of God. The Abrahamic God (the one in Christianity, Islam and Judaism) is defined as having omnipotence, omniscience and benevolence. Many people argue that this is logically impossible. Others argue that the concept of an omniscient god does not comfort them, but actually terrifies them.
In conclusion, our society must grow and evolve
Religion is declining because of the increase in choice, education, information, bad press, the idea that it is useless/counterproductive and the realisation that its fundamental principles are illogical.
Perhaps it is a natural progression of society to leave religion and begin instilling morality through education and understanding, rather than fear and fallacies.
Religion is like the scaffolding of a society, it has helped support us on our ascension into the modern era, but we must now let go of it in order to grow.