Friday, May 27, 2011

Predictions that Religion Will Become Extinct in Some Countires


Religion May Become Extinct in Nine Nations

The study is done by the American Physical Society, an organization of physicists. why would they be studying religion? Perhaps its to analyze their statitsical model which enables one to analyze things with a huge data base:

Their means of analysing the data invokes what is known as nonlinear dynamics - a mathematical approach that has been used to explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part.

One of the team, Daniel Abrams of Northwestern University, put forth a similar model in 2003 to put a numerical basis behind the decline of lesser-spoken world languages.

That would explain their interest in the topic, but it still doesn't' guarantee results. What are the nations in question:

The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

The assumption is that there is a utility or a status in taking part in some socially advantageous activity rather than one that is not as useful or that doesn't garner enough status. There's more utility in speaking Spanish in Peru rather than a dying Native language.

"For example in languages, there can be greater utility or status in speaking Spanish instead of [the dying language] Quechuan in Peru, and similarly there's some kind of status or utility in being a member of a religion or not."
Dr Wiener continued: "In a large number of modern secular democracies, there's been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion; in the Netherlands the number was 40%, and the highest we saw was in the Czech Republic, where the number was 60%."
My friend Tiny Thinker, who is a professional anthropologist and runs the Peaceful Turmoil Blog has discussed this study and shows the fallacies and flaws. His take on it I urge the reader to consult and take seroiusly. Tiny is one of the most brilliant people I've known.

But here are my ramblings on the subject:

There's always a conceptual flaw in every study. We find that while they do documented through a study at Cornell that the social dynamics of the countries named are similar to each other, that does NOT prove that they are similar to the societies where the dying language dynamic is studied. Declining religion and declining religion may be two different things. This reality is reflected in statements by the researchers themselves:

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".

In other words people in modern industrial societies are more indpdent and less dependent upon immediate traditional support than natives in South America. So the stakes of belief in religion in modern industrialized West are different than those of speaking a language in a third world country. There are a lot of other things they are not taking into account too.

First of all they need to prove that the non affiliated status is really equal to "non religious" status. All they are really saying is that they equate belief with membership. That is a false assumption. The most this study can prove is that the lines of affiliation are shifting, it doesn't and can't demonstrate that actual belief in God will go extinct in these nine countries. The most it shows is that traditional churches may fail.

There is a very useful study we need to know about, that tells us some things germiane to this issue: The Demand for Religion:Hard Core Atheism and "Supply Side" Theory by Wolfgang Jagodzinski, University of Cologne, Andrew Greeley,University of Chicago and University of Arizona.

This study shows that Northern Europe is still more religious than social scientists have given it credit or. It's true objective is to disprove the theory of supply side economics as applied to religious believe, but in executing that goal there is some data would should interest us. At this point I'll refer to this new study as "Greeley." I'll refer to the original study as the APS study.

Norway is not as religious a country as Ireland (many of whose citizens are distant relatives of the Norse). However, religion persists in Norway. Moreover, the recent research on the social history of religion in the middle ages raises serious questions about how religious any country in Europe was in ages past. Perhaps Norwegians are less devout than they used to be, but that fact remains to be proven. Hence it remains to be proven that there is not a religious demand in Norway to which the religious supply has failed to respond.
That is interesting because Norway, being Scandinavian, is supposed to be totally secular and religion on the way out. It's not as religouis as Ireland, Ireleand is ond the countries in the APS study. That means Norway should be almost bereft of religion by now but Greeley names the section on Norway "the failure of secularism" and says it's, though not as religious as Ireland still plenty religious. That would seem to suggest that religion is in even better shape in the more religious Ireland.


The religious picture of Norway which appears in these three tables indicates that the portrait of the country as being in the final stages of a secularization process is, to say the least, much too simple. Even the "social differentiation" dimension of the secularization theory is hardly compatible with the financial contributions all groups make to church organizations. Religion has not disappeared from the public or private lives of Norwegians. There are traces of religion to be found among both the Atheists and Agnostics and strong residues of religion among the Marginals. The differentiation between the Devout and the Private is what one might expect in a society where there is a lazy monopoly and no great effort to reclaim to the Private to say nothing of the Marginal.

Are the Norwegians religious? Thirty seven percent of them say they are, while only 16% say that they are not; the rest equivocate by saying that they are neither religious nor non-religious. Seventeen percent of the Marginal and 53% of the private assert that they are religious. To assert that such a country is thoroughly secularized is to deprive the word of all meaning.

here is what Greeley says about Ireland:

Unfortunately for the efforts of those to apply the "supply side" perspective in Europe, there are few countries in which an open religious market place exists. Germany is a duopoly, the Netherlands a collapsing triopoly. However, Ireland is an excellent natural laboratory for testing the perspective. Ireland (the twenty six counties in the South) is a de facto Catholic monopoly while northern Ireland is a fiercely competitive market place in which Protestants and Catholics compete, not infrequently inn the streets. While both Catholics and Protestants in Ireland are devout, the supply side theory would predict that Catholics in the North would be more devout and more orthodox than Catholics in the South.

In fact the data in Table 9 do not force us to reject this hypothesis derived from supply side theory. Northern Catholics are notably more likely to be believe in God, the Devil, life after death, heaven and hell. They are also more likely to attend mass regularly and to reject extramarital sex and homosexual behavior. It seems probable that in the absence of competition on the southern counties, Catholicism has lost something of the "edge" it once had in both orthodoxy and devotion while in the competitive northern counties, the orthodoxy and devotional levels have been only slightly affected, if at all.

Doesn't really seem like a place where religion is dying out. Over all they find that Northern Europe is still very religious and atheism is very soft core. Hard core defined as answering "I do not believe in God" and "there is definitely no after life." the questions:

  1. I don’t believe in God
  2. I don’t know whether there is a God and I don’t believe there is any way to find out.
  3. I don’t believe in a personal God, but I do believe in a higher Power of some kind.
  4. find myself believing in God some of the time but not at others.
  5. While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God.
  6. I know God really exists and I have no doubt about it.


Do You believe in life after death?

  1. Yes, definitely
  2. Yes, probably
  3. No, probably not
  4. No, definitely not

Soft care atheists defined as rejecting God but not after life.

  1. The proportion of Hard Core atheists is relatively small in all the countries except East Germany (42.7%)
  2. The proportion is above 10% only in former socialist countries (12.4% in Russia, 13.9% in Slovenia, and 11.3% in Hungary) and in the Netherlands (11.4%) and in Israel (12.1%).
  3. In the other eleven countries, the highest rates of Hard Core atheism are in Norway (6.7%) and Britain (6.3%). Thus if latent demand for religion is excluded only from the Hard Core atheists, there is still the possibility of a large clientele for those firms which might venture into the religious market place in such supposedly "secularized" countries as Norway and Britain.
  4. There are not all that many Hard Core atheists in the countries studied, nor indeed all that many soft core atheists either.
  5. The "Softest Core" Atheists are less than a third of the population in every country except East Germany. They are more than a fifth of the population only in four former Socialist countries – East German Russia, Hungary and Slovenia. With the exception than of East Germany more than two thirds of the population of the countries studied are willing to admit the existence in some fashion of God and the likelihood of life after death. Devout many of them may not be but on the two central issues they are more religious than not. They then may be considered as part of the religious market place if not always enthusiastic consumers.

Furthermore in the sample as a whole, Hard Core atheism correlates only with gender (women less likely to be atheists) and not with education or age (those favorite measures of the more naïve of the "secularization theorists.") 83% of the Hard Core Atheists say they never believed in God, 61% say they never attended church services when they were eleven or twelve years old and 9% more say they only rarely attended. The choice of Hard Core atheism as a philosophy of life was apparently made at a very young age in life and is sustained through the life course.

Age correlates significantly with Hard Core atheism only in Britain (r=-.08), East Germany (r=-.18), the Netherlands (r=-.05) and Israel (r=+.08), Hungary (-.14). Education correlates significantly with Hard Core Atheism only in Hungary (r=.11), Slovenia (r=.18), and Norway (r=.10) West Germany (r=.08), Israel (r=.10). In these countries as in the whole sample, there is an inverted U curve in the relationship between age and atheism, the very young and the very old being somewhat less likely to be atheists. In the middle years of life, however, the line representing atheism is flat. Only in Slovenia and Hungary is education still a significant correlate of Hard Core Atheism in a regression equation which includes age and gender.

In the United States, Northern Ireland, Austria and Poland, the countries with the lowest scores for atheism, there is no correlation with gender.

Table 2 demonstrates that Hard Core atheists in the countries where they are most numerous have been for the most part atheists since childhood. Everywhere but Great Britain, West Germany, and Norway, four out of five assert that they never believed in God. Only in Britain did the majority say that they went to church more than rarely. In East Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and Russia more than seven out of ten went to church only on rare occasions.

That includes two of the counters in the APS study. This certainly should give us pause to consider the fallacies of that study. The sense of religion fading away is strongest in the Scandinavian countries. We have seen that Norway is still religious, now we find that Sweden is as well.

Sep 1, 2006
Are Swedes losing their religion?
by: Charlotte Celsing, freelance writer

Annika Gustafsson is a theology student whose studies have included work experience in congregations and at confirmation camps. She says that almost all of the young people she meets are open to questions relating to religious and spiritual matters, even though they may have objections to ecclesiastical matters.

The role of religion has changed

Religion has not become less important in Swedish society but it has changed color, according to a report from Åbo Academy (Finland). In the secularized Nordic area the Protestant Lutheran church has to be liberal and open to a modern interpretation of the Christian message. Otherwise the church feels too authoritarian – an attitude that most Swedes do not accept....Yet many Swedes express a longing for a spiritual dimension and a deeper meaning. Modern society has left a void that neither science nor a high material standard can fill....Those who the Church of Sweden fails to attract look for alternatives. Non-conformist churches – of which the Pentecostal Movement is the largest with around 87,000 members – is one example. Others are varieties of eastern religions, such as Buddhism or Hinduism.

Due to immigration to Sweden, Islam is now the country’s second largest religion after Christianity. A number of mosques have already been built in different parts of Sweden and more are planned.

Within Christianity the Catholic Church in Sweden is also large. Today it has a total of 80,500 registered members.

* Almost 8 out of 10 Swedes are members of the Church of Sweden - 7 million.
* Only 1 in 10 Swedes thinks religion is important in daily life.
* Around 7 out of 10 children are christened in the Church of Sweden.
* Just over 5 out of 10 weddings take place in church.
* Almost 9 out of 10 Swedes have Christian burials.
* Islam has around 130,000 adherents in Sweden (more according to Muslim

If the countries of Northern Europe are holding on to faith in many aspects, though the standard image is that its all but gone, the findings pertaining to more religous countries like Ireland are probalby wrong.

On CARM an atheist used this study to argue that all religions going to die out. This is another example of the stupidity of atheists, their dishonesty and their inability to understand what they read. He extrapolates form nine nations to all of it dying out becuase that's what he hopes for. So typical of the to ignore the details.


Toyin O. said...

Interesting stats, thanks for sharing.

Metacrock said...

Thank you