Will religion fade in the near future?

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Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Mon Mar 30, 2015 12:01 pm

The time frame is in the next 5 centuries
Do not criticize religions, at the most say why the religion is outdated.
Do not say religions are right or wrong, say why they won't work in the future.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Portia1 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:45 pm

Yes, I think it will. As Science solves many of the "mysteries" of the Universe, people will have less need to depend on a supernatural explanation.
But, I think that will be sad, as I have had many chances to rely on a "supernatural" explanation and I am glad I did.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Storyteller » Tue Mar 31, 2015 12:30 am

Religion is not, and has never been, about explaining how things happen, so science does not render religion obsolete.

Religion was weakened by social rather than scientific changes. although these changes are largely driven by the advancements of consumer technology.

In the short term, I actually expect religion to play a more rather than less prominent role over the next century. There's a considerable revival of religion brewing in many parts of the world. But in five centuries... It's hard to even know which species will be on top of the planetary food chain five centuries from now.
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:41 am

I really liked your comment about how Religion is not linked to science, and how you talked about how social more than scientific changes have affected religion. As for us not being around in half a century or more specifically not being on the of the food chain I slightly disagree with that but that's a different topic.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby GlassHouse » Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:04 am

Storyteller wrote:Religion is not, and has never been, about explaining how things happen, so science does not render religion obsolete.


You realize that a lot of people, very vocal people, don't share this view.... I wish more did. But while I agree with you, I probably would have said that science doesn't touch on the question of God or gods, it's just not it's business. But it's a pretty common perception that one of the main functions of religion is to explain, not only why the sun rises, but why it exists in the first place.

Storyteller wrote:Religion was weakened by social rather than scientific changes. although these changes are largely driven by the advancements of consumer technology.


I think you're both right. No question that social forces have been a big reason why religious belief has fallen off, at least in the West, where there's little or no pressure to believe the same as everyone else. But I also believe that as people better understand the world around them they have less of a need to look for supernatural explanations.

Storyteller wrote:In the short term, I actually expect religion to play a more rather than less prominent role over the next century. There's a considerable revival of religion brewing in many parts of the world. But in five centuries... It's hard to even know which species will be on top of the planetary food chain five centuries from now.


Yep, there certainly is and for the most part, it's a destructive force in the world. But I'm thinking that's not the direction the OP wants this thread to go in so I'll leave it at that.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Tue Mar 31, 2015 10:52 am

Glass house wrote:No question that social forces have been a big reason why religious belief has fallen off, at least in the West
. There are numerous reasons why Religion isn't the dominant world view in the west any more. To state a few: Religion doesn't fit people's ideas of believing in what you see, Evolution and other scientific theories are more attractive than creation stories, and most scientists are atheists and most people rely on scientists for their information. There are several other reasons for Religion's decline as you can possibly tell I'm slightly bent towards a religious worldview.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby GlassHouse » Tue Mar 31, 2015 12:09 pm

Billobob wrote:
Glass house wrote:No question that social forces have been a big reason why religious belief has fallen off, at least in the West
. There are numerous reasons why Religion isn't the dominant world view in the west any more. To state a few: Religion doesn't fit people's ideas of believing in what you see, Evolution and other scientific theories are more attractive than creation stories, and most scientists are atheists and most people rely on scientists for their information. There are several other reasons for Religion's decline as you can possibly tell I'm slightly bent towards a religious worldview.


I'm with you except maybe on the "most scientists are atheists" part. because, you know, I can't speak for them and don't want to rely on stereotypes. Then, you'd have to define atheism (does being a deist count as religious? Or just "spiritual"?) I know atheism has a dictionary meaning but it's not always the case that people follow the dictionary in general conversation. I would probably accept that a lot of scientists, maybe even a majority, are not members of organized religions - but I'd have to see a reliable survey.

But Storyteller mentioned social forces, which he didn't define either, so I took it pretty broadly which would include things like a fairly well educated population that has been exposed to ideas like evolution and other theories. Like you say though, there's are a whole lot of reasons. Where I live for instance (New England) it's just the social norm to not be overly religious. Not sure why, maybe it's the climate? Hot climate = more religious. Cold climate = less religious. You could make a case for that. :P
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Tue Mar 31, 2015 12:37 pm

Thanks for showing that the line between Atheism and Religion isn't always clear cut. As for the social forces being broad I'm not sure there as broad to include weather but I understand your point, but we can't list them all so we should probably get back on topic to whether you think religion will fade in this half century and if you think it will fade sooner make a prediction.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Old_Begonia » Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:25 am

I’d like to jump in here with my own thoughts, but I need to be sure we’re talking about the same thing. Can we get some definitions on the table? Otherwise there’s a tendency to paint with a pretty broad brush, which may seem efficient, but rarely turns out well.
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Dictionary dot com offers these…
noun
1.
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2.
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:
the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3.
the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices:
a world council of religions.
4.
the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.:
to enter religion.
5.
the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6.
something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience:
to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
7.
religions, Archaic. religious rites:
painted priests performing religions deep into the night.

The Oxford dictionary gives the origin, which is the way I always think of religion:

Middle English (originally in the sense 'life under monastic vows'): from Old French, or from Latin religio(n-) 'obligation, bond, reverence', perhaps based on Latin religare 'to bind'.

Parsing out the word, we have the same root as ligature, to bind. Now, as such, it seems to me, one could say that some people (and I know at least one or two) do adhere to science, do bind themselves to the scientific approach to Life, the Universe, and Everything, to such an extent, science is their religion. As such, adhering to atheism may be viewed as a religion as well.

If, on the other hand, we are going to limit ourselves to one or two of the definitions provided above, or, say, to the known, major sets of beliefs, i.e., Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc., that may simplify and clarify things.
"And it is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance else that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen."

There is something profound about standing AT sea level.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:54 am

Old Begonia said:
1.
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2.
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:
the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.


I believe these are the definitions we should use for religion at least for this thread.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Old_Begonia » Wed Apr 01, 2015 9:35 am

Are we talking about in the West? Or in the world?

In either case, no, I don't really see it going away anytime soon.

You will ask why and I will say that I must come back later to respond to that question. RL issues press. However...


I shall return!
"And it is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance else that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen."

There is something profound about standing AT sea level.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Wed Apr 01, 2015 9:41 am

We are talking about the world which I know does make a difference but I see no need to restrict this thread to discussion about religion in the west.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby GlassHouse » Wed Apr 01, 2015 10:03 am

So I guess I never answered your question did I? Sorry. I think if things continue as they are without some kind of major intervention (say, the Second Coming or first contact with aliens) then I think it will probably continue on a trajectory similar to what we see today. That means it will be different in different regions. I see religion probably continuing to decline in places like Western Europe and the north east US (and maybe some other places but I don't feel like doing the research to pin them down) and probably increasing in other places like China, where state enforced atheism has unnaturally suppressed religion. I don't know if it's even possible for religion to increase in the Middle East (if it does, hopefully along a more peaceful path) where you have state sponsored religions. India, the other major country is pretty well saturated too afaik.
But as far as I can see, there's no reason to assume that this won't be the case, unless there's some major event or new trend that comes along - and that's hard to predict.

Old_Begonia wrote:....

Parsing out the word, we have the same root as ligature, to bind. Now, as such, it seems to me, one could say that some people (and I know at least one or two) do adhere to science, do bind themselves to the scientific approach to Life, the Universe, and Everything, to such an extent, science is their religion. As such, adhering to atheism may be viewed as a religion as well.

.....



Lets not conflate atheism with science...you and your broad brushes (which made me laugh)

:nono: :P
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Wed Apr 01, 2015 12:32 pm

Glass house said:
I think it will probably continue on a trajectory similar to what we see today. That means it will be different in different regions. I see religion probably continuing to decline in places like Western Europe and the north east US (and maybe some other places but I don't feel like doing the research to pin them down) and probably increasing in other places like China, where state enforced atheism has unnaturally suppressed religion. I don't know if it's even possible for religion to increase in the Middle East (if it does, hopefully along a more peaceful path) where you have state sponsored religions. India, the other major country is pretty well saturated too afaik.


I see what's you're talking about and you're right religious fervor will increase or decrease at different and relatively constant rates across the world unless there's some flashpoint.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Jnyusa » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:47 pm

I don't disagree with the definitions that Begonia offered, or with restricting them to the two that Billibob prefers, but I'll take issue with the following statement by Begonia:

Parsing out the word, we have the same root as ligature, to bind. Now, as such, it seems to me, one could say that some people (and I know at least one or two) do adhere to science, do bind themselves to the scientific approach to Life, the Universe, and Everything, to such an extent, science is their religion. As such, adhering to atheism may be viewed as a religion as well.


If we accept the word 'bind' in all its uses as defining religion, then the architect who is bound by principles of engineering is practicing religion when he designs a house. The soccer mom who is bound to the schedule of her children's after-school activities is practicing a religion when she chauffeurs them around. The cook who is bound to a recipe is practicing religion when he sticks his cake in the over. We bind ourselves to all kinds of things that are not belief systems, and I think when we speak of religion we have to restrict ourselves to belief systems ... systems of suppositions about the world which require the acceptance of certain premises on 'faith,' i.e. without supporting evidence.

Science is not a belief system, it is a methodology. I do not 'believe in' gravity or evolution or the orbit of the world around the sun. I accept these things because there is material evidence for them which satisfieds the rules of epistomology. And there are rules of epistomology. There are rules for determining how it is we know what we claim to know and by which we can really know it and not simply believe it at our convenience. When a scientist confronts new evidence that contradicts previous assumptions, the scientist changes his/her assumptions because what we are loyal to is the method of inquiry and not its outcome.

Nor is atheism a belief system but rather the refusal to join in any of the variety of available belief systems for which no evidence can be offered and for which there are no rules for determining whether or not something is true or even whether it can be known with confidence.

Probably there are scientists and atheists who promote their own criteria for knowledge with a fervor reminiscent of religion, but that is not the same thing as being a religion.

I understand the temptation to conflate affect (enthusiasm) with content, but I feel this is a subversive approach that should be vocally opposed.

Do I think religion will survive this conflict? No. I think religion is in the last throes of its domination in its current manifestation. People will always be superstitious, I think ... they will seek to explain to themselves their experience of awe, and they will seek intermediaries in the unseen, but my suspicion is that organized religion, as a bunch of belief systems with hierarchies and dogmas and funding vehicles and violent defense of the indefensible will be gone within 100-200 years. The number of people who learn from a young age to approach their lives as being authored by an invisible person in the sky will simply get smaller and smaller; and without that initial, coercive delusion inflicted on us in childhood, we will explain ourselves to ourselves differently, and we won't any longer be willing to shovel money to the frauds and charlatans who are currently responsible for keeping religion alive on a respirator.

My $.02
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Aredhel Ar-Feiniel » Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:52 am

I don't think religion will ever fade... not "soon" anyway.

I think a lot of ancient pagan religions may have existed to explain how things happened, but there is a reason most of those religions are no longer current; it's an outdated concept. Religion today thrives on faith, and there are way more religious people now than there ever were. I don't think science is capable of disproving religion. It can never be proven - without a shadow of a doubt - that god(s) do(es) not exist(s) - and that science and religion aren't two things that can't coincide.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Fri Apr 03, 2015 8:45 am

I would also like to point out that there are several Christian scientists who say that the creation of the world is feasible according to science and that certain things like the potential carbon dating unreliability prove that the earth is not billions of years old so many Christians don't believe they rely on blind faith or superstition.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby GlassHouse » Fri Apr 03, 2015 10:20 am

Jnyusa wrote:....

Do I think religion will survive this conflict? No. I think religion is in the last throes of its domination in its current manifestation. People will always be superstitious, I think ... they will seek to explain to themselves their experience of awe, and they will seek intermediaries in the unseen, but my suspicion is that organized religion, as a bunch of belief systems with hierarchies and dogmas and funding vehicles and violent defense of the indefensible will be gone within 100-200 years. The number of people who learn from a young age to approach their lives as being authored by an invisible person in the sky will simply get smaller and smaller; and without that initial, coercive delusion inflicted on us in childhood, we will explain ourselves to ourselves differently, and we won't any longer be willing to shovel money to the frauds and charlatans who are currently responsible for keeping religion alive on a respirator.

My $.02


I agree with everything up to this point but while I personally think this would be a good thing (mainly because of the destructive aspects of religion that we see all around us, not just in the most obvious example in the Middle East) and believe that people would benefit from a world view based less on what I consider superstition, I don't see it happening.
Not that I'm sure Aredhel Ar-Feiniel's assertion that that there are more religious people now than ever is right either. (or are there just more people now than ever?). But there are large parts of the world where the 21st century's promise of prosperity hasn't come yet for the majority of the common people. Hell, in too many places it might as well still be the dark ages. What relevance does a greater understanding of the natural world have to a population of poor or near starving or oppressed people and doesn't the comfort that religion provides feel much more beneficial to them? At least in the here and now if not in the long run.

IMO, it's no accident that the places where you see the greatest decline in religious thinking is in the rich western countries. As long as the majority of the world is more focused on just staying alive rather than on getting ahead, I don't see that changing.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Fri Apr 03, 2015 10:42 am

Glass house said:
IMO, it's no accident that the places where you see the greatest decline in religious thinking is in the rich western countries. As long as the majority of the world is more focused on just staying alive rather than on getting ahead, I don't see that changing.


Religion almost always thrives best in strife. For example when the Christianity was persecuted by Rome it thrived more and more everyday yet when Christianity became the state religion of Rome it lost a lot of vigor and became harmless and did not affect the roman way of life to a large extant. Like now in the west when a country or a people prospers they feel as if they don't need religion anymore yet when they are in danger and turmoil Religion is revived. This is the way it has been and will be for quite awhile. If religion fades it will be in a time of prosperity.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Aredhel Ar-Feiniel » Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:35 pm

GlassHouse wrote:Not that I'm sure Aredhel Ar-Feiniel's assertion that that there are more religious people now than ever is right either. (or are there just more people now than ever?).

Well yes, there are, for precisely that reason. ;)

A quick Google search tells me that 84% of the world's population (8 billion) is religious. Which is roughly 5.8 billion people (a greater number than the entire world's population in 1990). Of that, 2.2 billion people are Christians and 1.6 billion are Islamic. So while I can't be certain if the percentage of religious people today is higher or lower than it used to be, it is a fact that there are more religious people now than ever.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Storyteller » Sat Apr 04, 2015 12:09 am

So, there's a Pew study out about the future of world religions. Interesting stuff.

Highlights:

Religions in general are projected to grow over the next half-century, with Islam growing the fastest (the only one growing faster than natural population growth), possibly reaching parity with Christianity. Buddhism will stagnate. Judaism, folk religions of Africa and Asia and the religiously unaffiliated will grow as well in absolute numbers, but decline as share of world population.

By 2015, the number of atheists will grow to from 1.1 billion 1.2 billion people but decline from 16% of global population today to 13% by 2050. They will, however, increase as a share of population in Europe and the USA.

Christianity is expected to lose 106 million adherents from people born Christian and leaving the faith mostly benefitting the "unaffiliated", yet gain 46 million adherents who weren't born Christian. Atheists are expected to gain 97 million people from "conversion" while 36 million atheists are expected to convert to a religion. Islam and folk religions are projected to experience a net gain of 3 million adherents each (as in the number of people joining will exceed the number of people leaving).

The bottom line appears to be demographics. The birth rates of societies where religion goes into decline tend to shrink. Whatever growth atheism experiences locally in such societies is offset globally - and eventually, through immigration, locally as well - through sheer population growth.

Makes one wonder if atheism, rather than religion, is long-term sustainable...
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Old_Begonia » Sun Apr 05, 2015 8:41 am

GlassHouse wrote:Lets not conflate atheism with science...you and your broad brushes (which made me laugh)


:D I did say may, I didn't say must. I'm just spitballing here. :-P

Jnyusa wrote:...and I think when we speak of religion we have to restrict ourselves to belief systems ... systems of suppositions about the world which require the acceptance of certain premises on 'faith,' i.e. without supporting evidence.


OK, although I take exception to the quotes around faith, as though faith is not a real thing.

I agree, science is a methodology. However, as I said, I am personally acquainted with those who extend their relationship to science, if one can put it that way, to something more resembling a belief system, erroneously, I believe, nevertheless it is their world view. I’m not saying this is the case for all scientists. Far from it. I am also acquainted with many scientists who find no contradiction between science and religion. They are quite devout practitioners of both.

Storyteller wrote:The bottom line appears to be demographics. The birth rates of societies where religion goes into decline tend to shrink. Whatever growth atheism experiences locally in such societies is offset globally - and eventually, through immigration, locally as well - through sheer population growth.

Storyteller, have you read America Alone by Mark Steyn? Also interesting stuff.
"And it is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance else that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen."

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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Storyteller » Sun Apr 05, 2015 11:35 am

Old_Begonia wrote:Storyteller, have you read America Alone by Mark Steyn? Also interesting stuff.

No, I haven't. David P. Goldman's "It's Not The End of The World, It's Just The End of You" is somewhere on my reading list.

I generally have very little time or energy for reading lately. When I got a tablet for New Years this January, first thing I did (after sorting out the home screen and downloading must-have apps) was downloading The Portrait of Dorian Gray; I remember reading it in Russian ages ago, and I wanted to re-read it in the original. I'm yet to pass page 5 - in part because reading on a tablet does not generate the same degree of focus as reading an actual book, and in part because my current job is so intensive that when I get some free time, I want to rest, not think. (I am a cancellations specialist for a large travel agency, which makes me the designated bad guy for the customers, the salespeople and the management alike).
"...Their aim in war with Germany is nothing more, nothing less than extermination of Hitlerism... There is absolutely no justification for this kind of war. The ideology of Hitlerism, just like any other ideological system, can be accepted or rejected, this is a matter of political views. But everyone grasps, that an ideology can not be exterminated by force, must not be finished off with a war.” - Vyacheslav Molotov, ""On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union", 31 October 1939
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby 28Lights » Mon Apr 06, 2015 12:05 am

What is religion?

Religion is a word that is there to describe a unity of various people under the same thought of mind and direction. For the believer of God the word 'religion' has more spiritual connotations. For the believer of a world bereft of a Master Creator, the word has a more practical terms stemming out of the wish to live his life in accordance to his individual desires. For both, the spiritual and the atheist, there is a desire to belong and be a part of a group of likeminded individuals who share the same world outlook, for they are both members of a religion. One is a religion of spirituality, the other a religion of convenience.

So the question that was asked by the Original Poster : " Will religion fade in the near future'? My answer is that as long as people exist, religion will stay.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:36 am

1.
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2.
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:
the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.


These are the definitions we are using for this thread. :roll:
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Jnyusa » Mon Apr 13, 2015 7:06 pm

billobob wrote:I would also like to point out that there are several Christian scientists who say that the creation of the world is feasible according to science and that certain things like the potential carbon dating unreliability prove that the earth is not billions of years old so many Christians don't believe they rely on blind faith or superstition.


If you take everything on youtube to be equal in validity and integrity ... but if you dig a little deeper into sources, you discover that those with Ph.D.s who support creationism are not employed as Ph.D.s doing research in their chosen fields but have been shuffled out of the universities and into the religious non-profit sector because their work did not measure up to professional standards. It is a little like a doctor having his license to practice medicine revoked but then finding employment in the circus while continuing to call himself 'doctor' and to brag that he graduated from medical school. That person is not a doctor; he is a circus performer.

A scientist is a person who is not only trained to practice science but also practices it. There are no practicing scientists who accept creationism as a science. None. The reason is simple: creationism does not bow to physical evidence and science only deals with physical evidence. That is the boundary of scientific method. To step outside that boundary is to make claims that are invalid and unethical.

Claims about the invalidity of carbon dating are a conscious fraud. It is unreliable over short periods of time (50 years) but is not mistaken about the difference between 7 thousand years and 70 million years.

Storyteller wrote:Religions in general are projected to grow over the next half-century, with Islam growing the fastest (the only one growing faster than natural population growth) ... <snip> ... The bottom line appears to be demographics. The birth rates of societies where religion goes into decline tend to shrink. Whatever growth atheism experiences locally in such societies is offset globally - and eventually, through immigration, locally as well - through sheer population growth.


I haven't read the Pew Report yet but I found your summary a little confusing. Of course it is the growth of religion relative to the growth of population that matters. If Islam is the only religion growing faster than natural population growth, then it must be growing by a heck of a lot to make the growth of all religions greater than the growth of all populations! The Pew Report seems to be concerned only with the relative growth or decline of different religions, against which population set wasn't clear from your post. If I find time over summer I'll read the report.

There are going to be measurement problems, you know, because of the way people self-identify on multiple choice questions. There are people who will check "Christian" or "Jew" because they were raised that way and never consciously bothered to become something else, but neither do they consciously believe in the religion of their parents. For practical purposes belief in a god has no role in their life. One startling evidence of the fluidity of surveys is the rate at which people change the race with which they identify over time; something like 2% of the population do this on census surveys. None of the choices really fit their self-perception, and they change their mind over time as to which choice fits them best. I suspect a whole lot of that happens when you ask people to self-identify with a religion.

The mainstream churches themselves have bewailed for six decades the decline in religious participation - in the developed countries, granted - but it seems more likely to me, with the emergence of newly industrialized countries where population growth rates continue to be high and so does the growth in living standards - that institutionalized religious practice and donation will decline as a proportion of the global population. It is also my opinion that we might have certain causalities backwards, i.e. that religious fervor causes poverty rather than the reverse ... because it distrusts education, forbids inquiry, punishes imagination, encourages proclamations in place of outcomes, accepts unverified authority ... in other words it teaches habits of thought that are no longer competitive but difficult to unlearn ... and that this will be ever more severely punished in the global marketplace. Younger generations will desire escape, in the same way that they desired escape from the pogroms of Europe or the hopelessness of being a farmer in the dust bowl.

Of course, predicting the future from an armchair is an unearned luxury! It could be that 20 years from now half the world will believe in Scientology. Not likely but not safely impossible either.

Begonia wrote:OK, although I take exception to the quotes around faith, as though faith is not a real thing.


My apologies. I put 'faith' in quotes because I did not bother to define it and did not want to use a word whose definition is arguable without indicating in some way that I was aware we might all define it differently. I think faith as a sentiment is quite real, however we define it.

I agree, science is a methodology. However, as I said, I am personally acquainted with those who extend their relationship to science, if one can put it that way, to something more resembling a belief system, erroneously, I believe, nevertheless it is their world view. I’m not saying this is the case for all scientists. Far from it. I am also acquainted with many scientists who find no contradiction between science and religion. They are quite devout practitioners of both.


Certainly there are lots of scientists who can and do believe in a religion. There's no inherent contradiction between those two realms, insofar as legitimate science will not make any claims at all about a realm that has no physical manifestations.

But I distrust your interpretation of scientists thinking of their science as their religion. I hardly think there are any who could be described that way accurately. However, I have heard Richard Dawkins answer casually that he believes in science or he believes in evolution when asked what he believes in if he doesn't believe in god, and this answer really annoys me because he certainly does not mean "believe" in the sense that a religious person would mean it. His confidence in evolutionary biology isn't remotely like a religious belief. It is misleading language, and my suspicion is that your friends probably express their opinions too casually as well.

I don't know how it would even be possible to view science the way a religious person views god: listening to our thoughts and magically granting inner petitions, personally interested in us as individuals? How could a system of equations do that? I have a lot of confidence in economic theory but I don't pray to Adam Smith. When I'm troubled, solving equations calms me down, which might be sort of like the effect that religious people get from prayer, but I don't believe there is an invisible person listening to my equation and granting me the favor of a peaceful heart, and surely no other economist believes this.

Dawkins and Harris and the other outspoken atheists of our time, and all scientists really, should take care not to use the word "believe" at all, ever, I think. (Even though I do use it myself.) We don't have faith in science. We have confidence that science will reveal better answers than any other method would - not absolute success but greater success than the next best alternative. That confidence arises not from the success of science in the past (which would be induction and disallowed) but from the fact that we have a very deep understanding of how the methods and mechanisms of science work, a much deeper understanding than any religion has ever been able to offer for the workings of their god or their laws.

But we also all tend to use language imprecisely, and when scientists and religious people talk to one another about science and religion, I think the mutual translation is often Engrish.

I wish that scientists would discipline themselves to talk about science as what they do and religion alone as what they believe in (if they believe) or what they don't believe in (if they don't). We need to stop acquiescing with vocabulary that allows everything to be everything else if we just, you know, wave our hands around and make approximations.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Storyteller » Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:18 am

Jnyusa wrote:I haven't read the Pew Report yet but I found your summary a little confusing. Of course it is the growth of religion relative to the growth of population that matters. If Islam is the only religion growing faster than natural population growth, then it must be growing by a heck of a lot to make the growth of all religions greater than the growth of all populations!

Then apparently it does, since the headline conclusion of the report is "Why Muslims Are Rising Fastest and the Unaffiliated Are Shrinking as a Share of the World’s Population".

There are going to be measurement problems, you know, because of the way people self-identify on multiple choice questions. There are people who will check "Christian" or "Jew" because they were raised that way and never consciously bothered to become something else, but neither do they consciously believe in the religion of their parents. For practical purposes belief in a god has no role in their life. One startling evidence of the fluidity of surveys is the rate at which people change the race with which they identify over time; something like 2% of the population do this on census surveys. None of the choices really fit their self-perception, and they change their mind over time as to which choice fits them best. I suspect a whole lot of that happens when you ask people to self-identify with a religion.

The mainstream churches themselves have bewailed for six decades the decline in religious participation - in the developed countries, granted - but it seems more likely to me, with the emergence of newly industrialized countries where population growth rates continue to be high and so does the growth in living standards - that institutionalized religious practice and donation will decline as a proportion of the global population.

The poll apparently indicates that this dynamic may be unique to the Western developed states. The religious composition of South America - which is certainly full of newly industrialized countries - isn't expected to change much.

It is also my opinion that we might have certain causalities backwards, i.e. that religious fervor causes poverty rather than the reverse ... because it distrusts education, forbids inquiry, punishes imagination, encourages proclamations in place of outcomes, accepts unverified authority ... in other words it teaches habits of thought that are no longer competitive but difficult to unlearn ... and that this will be ever more severely punished in the global marketplace. Younger generations will desire escape, in the same way that they desired escape from the pogroms of Europe or the hopelessness of being a farmer in the dust bowl.

Maybe, maybe not. I think that kind of explanations are too crude and self-flattering on the explainer's part to adequately explain anything, and there is no evidence in their favor. I think much more is at play.

I also don't think that decline of religion correlates with decline in poor habits of thought, and I'm not convinced that new habits of thought acquired with prosperity are necessarily good, shiny and productive. I suspect that if one asks a devout Christian from a half-starved African village and a smartphone-addicted Westerner of the same age to accomplish a real-world productive task requiring imagination and creativity, the outcome will not favor the Westerner. Another piece of evidence I would site to that end is the speed with which immigrants from religion-dominated places like Pakistan and India came to constitute a high proportion of doctors in American hospitals.

I think poverty is largely a function of demographics, and there's a demographic bubble of sorts that a society goes through when birthdates begin to decline. Smaller families can be better off because of reduced household expense, which is why countries like China and Iran sought to reduce poverty through population control. It eventually undermines the economy as a whole as it reduces the available working age population, drives up labor costs and flips the working-to-dependent ratio, but for a time it creates an increase of personal prosperity. The influence of religion goes both ways and is a much more complex factor than is commonly believed.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby hamlet » Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:24 am

Jnyusa I Think wrote:It is also my opinion that we might have certain causalities backwards, i.e. that religious fervor causes poverty rather than the reverse ... because it distrusts education, forbids inquiry, punishes imagination, encourages proclamations in place of outcomes, accepts unverified authority ... in other words it teaches habits of thought that are no longer competitive but difficult to unlearn ... and that this will be ever more severely punished in the global marketplace. Younger generations will desire escape, in the same way that they desired escape from the pogroms of Europe or the hopelessness of being a farmer in the dust bowl.


First, sorry if I'm misattributing the quote, but I can't be certain and I think Jn said it so correct me if I'm in error. Anyway . . .

It is at this point that I have my biggest problems. Not that I'm disagreeing with much of what you say, Jn, but this right here is something that's been bothering me for . . . well . . . years now, mostly because I always feel stuck somewhere in the middle of these things, out of either community so I catch it from both ends so to speak. The biggest thing that bothers me is that the very assertion rests on the assumption that religion deals wholly with "silly superstition" and that it is lesser than Science (with a capital S no less) when, as far as I can tell and for the last several hundred or even thousand years, science and religion have really been about two quite different subjects. It's not a matter of superstition and concrete epistomology or anything like that, though I suppose you could argue that they both sit at opposite ends of an epistomological spectrum.

Religion, as far as I understand it, is a search for meaning, which is outside the purview of Science. Religion seeks the "why?"'s rather than the how. I had a great discussion on these boards years ago with . . . I hoestly can't remember at the moment . . . but it was a great discussion on the nature of Sin. In the end, my assertion was, and remains to this day, that the moral rules indicated in many religious texts are not arbitrary. They exist for reasons, whether historical or faithful or other. Essentially, it boiled down to "It is not a sin because God tells us so, God tells us so because it is a sin." The things that The Church spent 2000 years telling us were sinful were so because their act were inherently harmful to the individual and the community as a whole. It gave a moral weight and the inertia of tradition to some basic common sense.

Which is not to say that all of it is of equal value since most assuredly a lot of what exists in such texts consists of personal editorialization by various authors, but to a certain extent, I think that's what Religion is going on about. It seeks to give meaning to an otherwise seemingly morally barren existence. It's a form of social engineering, community building, and personal profundity that cannot be replicated by the sterile and cold facts of Science.

Science, on the other hand, to be utterly flippant about it, seeks out the how of the universe. It seeks to examine and determine the function of the universe and to understand how Everything functions. "How" is largely meaningless to religion, but is the fundamental purpose of Science. it rests on the principle assumption that, given time and method, humans can and will comprehend pretty much everything there is to be observed.

One of my friends, a pathologist by trade, made the assertion that Science attempts to understand the method of God while Religion attempts to understand the soul of God. Science is informative, religion is instructive. Take that for whatever it may be worth.

Anyway, that's a long winded way of getting around to my actual point: I do not think that Science and Religion are "at odds" at all as we in Western society seem to have decided. Somewhere along the way, and I'd actually argue it happened no earlier than the late 18th century or probably the 19th century, it was determined that the story was that Science and Religion were, like lions and zebras, mortal enemies. It's not a conspiracy on anybody's part as I would assert that, roughly at the same time, both "sides" decided that the other was out to get them. Fundamentalist religions of various stripes have, as has been pointed out in this forum many times, become alarmingliy anti-knowledge. At the same time, many who consider themselves . . . I dunno . . . "rationalist" for lack of any better term . . . have assumed prima facia that religion is nothing other than a bunch of hokum and of no real value to the world if not outright pernicious. I think GH actually asserted so above (i.e., that religion was overall harmful, not utterly without value).

This thing frustrates me to no end simply because it's come to a point right now where it's fundamentally impossible to have a rational discussion about it. Everybody's starting from different, opposing, and utterly bunk assumptions and so meaningful discourse just cannot happen, and it's remarkably frustrating to be stuck in the middle of it as I am now: try defending the Catholic faith from stupid nonsensical criticism out of one side of your mouth while catching idiocy from an overzealous and idiotic deacon from the other side (I wonder if it'd be homicide if I were to launch the jerk from a catapult or public service).

Is religion going to go away any time soon? Or ever? No. It will do what it's always done: transform, transmogrify, and evolve. Right now, certain factions of various religions perceive themselves to be under attack and, to a certain extent they're not wrong, and so they're drawing closer together and becoming more insular doctrinally and socially in an effort to circle the wagons so to speak. They will continue to do so as long as they perceive a threat, rightly or wrongly. Some of them, I will argue, have gone way too far in the other direction, but that's to be expected. Much like rednecks, conservatives, and geeks, one of the religious population's biggest problems is that they can't keep the worst of them off the television (out of the newspapers, off the radio, and away from a microphone).

Prediction: relgion, as a whole, will schism into two relatively distinct parts. 1) A part that will simply withdraw largely from the social aspects and political aspects of the world and seek simply to quietly coexist and function as a service to its members. It will become as much a cultural identity as a religious one much as Judaism has become. It will, if you'll forgive the semi-religious imagery, go into the hills and wait for the time of trial to be over. 2) A much more vocal, angry, and unhappy part will become ever more vocal and, in some ways, violent as it seeks to "fight back." It will attract the dissaffected, the angry, and those looking for an excuse to say and do terrible things. No, I don't pretend to know where the line will get drawn.

I don't know, I think I'm rambling at this point.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Billobob » Tue Apr 14, 2015 11:11 am

Jynusa said:
If you take everything on youtube to be equal in validity and integrity ... but if you dig a little deeper into sources, you discover that those with Ph.D.s who support creationism are not employed as Ph.D.s doing research in their chosen fields but have been shuffled out of the universities and into the religious non-profit sector because their work did not measure up to professional standards. It is a little like a doctor having his license to practice medicine revoked but then finding employment in the circus while continuing to call himself 'doctor' and to brag that he graduated from medical school. That person is not a doctor; he is a circus performer.


I said that there are many Christians who did not see their faith as blind. I said nothing more nothing less :roll:.
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Re: Will religion fade in the near future?

Postby Jnyusa » Tue Apr 14, 2015 11:03 pm

Storyteller wrote:... there is no evidence in their favor. I think much more is at play.


I agree that more is at play, but the evidence is the same for religious fervor leading to poverty as it is for poverty leading to religious fervor: a very high regional correlation (in the US at least) between abject poverty and religious affiliation. We have never attempted to test which way the causality runs.

I suspect that if one asks a devout Christian from a half-starved African village and a smartphone-addicted Westerner of the same age to accomplish a real-world productive task requiring imagination and creativity, the outcome will not favor the Westerner.


The circumstantial evidence is pretty strong, in that 100% of the aid is going in one direction. The ills of former colonies have much more complex origins than religion, of course, but it's humorous to suggest that they are better problem solvers than we are.

Another piece of evidence I would site to that end is the speed with which immigrants from religion-dominated places like Pakistan and India came to constitute a high proportion of doctors in American hospitals.


And religion fades as a focal factor in their lives once they start medical school here. I see this pretty clearly because I teach in one of those schools and always, for example, offer special test-taking options during Ramadan, which will be used by maybe one out of ten Moslem students. And they stay here and get jobs in our hospitals instead of returning to India and Pakistan because it's more comfortable to live here than it is to live there, not least because of the absence of mullahs or a caste system determining the intimate details of one's life. I don't think the difference in living standards is the main motivation because those who come from families wealthy enough to send them to school in the US are at the top of the heap back home, and live there in equal absolute luxury and much greater relative luxury than they can have here. If you ask them why they chose to stay, they pretty much all give the same answer: here you are free to live the way you want to live. When people have the option to escape, they overwhelmingly do it because it is hideously oppressive to live under religiously authoritarian regimes.

I think poverty is largely a function of demographics, and there's a demographic bubble of sorts that a society goes through when birthdates begin to decline.


Yes, your paragraph is a good explanation of the Demographic Transition which started in Western Europe in the 17th century. You're right up to a point, I think, but this too involves complex causalities. There have been buckets of research done on it, and on fluctuating dependency ratios which cause problems regardless of overall birth rates. The topic could be a thread of its own so I hesitate to stick pages about it into this thread.

Hamlet wrote:Anyway, that's a long winded way of getting around to my actual point: I do not think that Science and Religion are "at odds" at all as we in Western society seem to have decided. Somewhere along the way ... it was determined that ... Science and Religion were, like lions and zebras, mortal enemies. It's not a conspiracy on anybody's part as I would assert that, roughly at the same time, both "sides" decided that the other was out to get them.


[My bolds.] I don't know which "we" you are thinking of, Hamlet, but for sure it is not true that both sides decided that the other was out to get them. With the exception of one or two infamous figures in the previous two centuries, scientists as a community have never had anything to say about religion, have never rallied for science to replace religion in our children's upbringing, have never tried to prevent a religious person from becoming a scientist, have never demanded that priests and ministers and rabbis and imams give the theory of evolution equal time from the pulpit, have never demonstrated outside a church or synagogue or mosque over the falsehoods perpetuated within. Scientific texts don't have a word to say for or against god or religion. All of the hatred and persecution has gone in the opposite direction.

The very reason that religion despises science is because science does not say anything about religion. If you want to believe that god picked some ape along the way and infused it with a soul, fine with us. Think whatever you like about invisible realms; it's not my business. It is our total indifference to invisible realms that religious people hate so much because they can't stand the idea that anyone can offer explanations of anything without referring back to god and submitting to the authority of religion.

It is religious people who want religion to be included alongside science in science classes. It is religious people who want god inserted into science textbooks. It is religious people who say that science is just another kind of religion too, or else that science is Satanism. It is religious people who says thing like ... as was said to me right here on Manwe at one time ... I want you and every other scientist to be deprived or your jobs and to starve to death. What balanced person thinks in those terms?

I do not accept this equivalency that is promoted as the new tolerance. Acquiescence in a lie is not tolerance, it is deceit.

And it is a lie that science attacks religion. Science ignores religion and that is what those who crave power by means of religion despise so much. It is religion that belligerently seeks quarrel with science and tries to suppress science and even prosecutes and imprisons scientists going back not hundreds but thousands of years. The very existence of people who dare to seek efficacy without reference to a god is an affront to religious authorities, and what they want to wipe out is not merely our theories but our very existence. We are the ones who don't give a flying frog what they do with their lives, but for sure, if I know that I am under attack and in a battle for my existence I am going to defend myself.

It's peculiar, I guess, that I feel so strongly about the need to defend science against casual equivalence with the mindset of religion because religious people don't generally object to things in economic theory. It's not like I'm on the front lines; no one ever picks a fight with me. But from time to time I'll have a student who feels the need to bear witness while introducing themselves in class at the start of the term. And, you know, if I walked to the front of the room on the first day and announced that the God of Moses brought us together in this classroom and I will pray to him for everyone's success, I would be fired on the spot. That would be prejudicial and offensive. Not only because I am the one who decides their grades but because statements about god have no place in an economics classroom. There is no justification for inserting religious beliefs into that context. But the students who do that have been taught that there is no context where their god does not belong. And that's at the very heart of the problem, that's the beginning and the end of the problem. Believers want to insert god everywhere. And scientific theories aren't able to talk about things that are invisible.

I never say anything to students who do it ... I thank them for their contribution, you know, and move on ... if some other student wants to complain about it they can complain to the Dean. But they figure out pretty quickly, I guess, that unless Jesus has a secret hot line to the Federal Reserve, believing in him isn't going to help them learn economics. And that process of separation continues within their minds (I must suppose) as their learning obligations multiply and are impervious to spiritual intervention. The arenas where religion feels efficacious to them probably shrinks over time. I'm guessing, inferring ... I've never spoken to a student about their religion, ever, not even to my Jewish students in private conversation. But I can see where those who remain religious might feel waylaid in a sense, and that their parents could find it appalling that the role of religious observance might be shrinking in their lives. The existence of realms that have nothing to do with god is a challenge to them, and they have to figure out how to deal with it. So I have sympathy for their spiritual conflict. But eliminating science is the stupidest answer of all possible answers, and the hatred that the religious right exhibits for science is just beyond the Pale. It is inexcusable. The lies, the deceit, the fraud they consider justified by their belief in god ... and the casual way that otherwise intelligent people will accept redefining science as an alternative religion ... unless Richard Dawkins kneels on the floor and prays to Charles Darwin evolutionary biology is NOT a religion. Until I insist that every priest talk about supply and demand in church on Sunday, my 'belief' in economics is not like your belief in your religion. Everything is not exactly like everything else, and anyone who cares about truthfulness has a human obligation to speak out against such untruthfulness.

billobob wrote:I said that there are many Christians who did not see their faith as blind. I said nothing more nothing less.


Since I showed the quote from your post before answering you, what you said is indisputable, isn't it? You said there are several Christian scientists who support Creationism and/or claim that carbon dating is erroneous (I paraphrase now). I was not contradicting their claim to be Christian but rather their claim to be scientists. There are no practicing scientists who accept Creationism as a science or claim that carbon dating is erroneous. You have read/listened uncritically to the word of circus performers and you can avoid that by digging a little deeper into the background of the people who make these claims.
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