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Thread: Modeling the Decline of Religion

  1. Top | #21
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    I volunteer to give the eulogy at Religion's funeral. It obviously can't be given by clergy.

  2. Top | #22
    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    I think that science is overrated as a cause of secularism. But I do think that it has had made some difference. To consider this question, we must divide the issue into two parts: method and results.

    About method, it must be noted that a "science of God" is completely feasible, but theologians don't seem to like the methods involved very much.

    About results, the most successful paradigms involve a very mechanistic sort of Universe. God (or gods) are either very distant and uninvolved, or else very mechanistic. To illustrate the success of mechanistic paradigms, I note what happened when I once considered that oak trees are extrapolated to be sacred to the ancestral Indo-European thunder god. I quickly thought of a mechanistic hypothesis for that, that oak trees get struck by lightning because they can grow very tall. I researched oak trees, and I found that that is indeed the case - as much as 100 ft / 30 m. The height hypothesis is supported by what happens to many other kinds of trees - they are also struck by lightning. So there is nothing special about oak trees there. It is also supported by what happens to artificial structures - tall ones are often struck by lightning. So one concludes that it's due to height and not to anything special about oak trees.

    BTW, I searched online for pages on lightning damage to trees, and I found a lot of them, and phylogenetically widespread kinds of trees. Eudicots (oak itself and most other broadleaf trees), monocots (palm trees), conifers, ginkgo, ...

    There is a more immediate impact of mechanistic paradigms, however, it is what some people call "bureaucratic rationality" - people doing things in very mechanistic sorts of ways, like commercial transactions and assessing eligibility.

    Tom Flynn once composed a piece for Free Inquiry where he explained how more and more things have been taken over in greater or lesser degree from organized religion in Western society. Education, art, psychological counseling, life transitions, even spirituality.

  3. Top | #23
    Formerly Joedad
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    Religion costs money and the middle class has really taken the squeeze in recent decades. It might be that people find their income better spent on more practical things than supporting rich clerics living in mansions.

  4. Top | #24
    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    Then entanglement of religion and politics in the US. The Republican Party has embraced the Religious Right's cultural conservatism about abortion and homosexuality and the like. "It once was generally assumed that religious beliefs shaped political views, not the other way around. But recent evidence indicates that the causality can run the other way: panel studies have found that many people change their political views first and then become less religious."

    The most recent part of this religio-political trend on the Right has been some evangelical leaders uncritically embracing Donald Trump. Some other evangelical leaders are worried that this will become a turn-off for many of their followers.

    The Catholic Church has had its own troubles with pedophile priests, a scandal that the Church has made worse by trying to cover it up. It's the mistake that Richard Nixon made -- his coverup attempts made the Watergate scandal much worse.

    RI then mentioned another factor.
    For many centuries, most societies assigned to women the role of producing as many children as possible and discouraged divorce, abortion, homosexuality, contraception, and any sexual behavior not linked to reproduction. The sacred writings of the world’s major religions vary greatly, but as Norris and I have demonstrated, virtually all world religions instilled these pro-fertility norms in their adherents. Religions emphasized the importance of fertility because it was necessary. In the world of high infant mortality and low life expectancy that prevailed until recently, the average woman had to produce five to eight children in order to simply replace the population.
    But as more children survive to adulthood, these pro-fertility norms have gradually been eroding, with greater acceptance of divorce, abortion, and homosexuality. From the World Values Survey, 1981 and 2019:
    • Spain: 3.44 to 6.74
    • The US: 3.49 to 5.86
    • Japan: 3.50 to 6.17
    • The UK: 4.14 to 6.90
    • Finland: 4.63 to 7.35
    • Sweden: 5.35 to 8.49

    This trend has been spreading to the rest of the world, with one major exception. The populations of the 18 Muslim-majority countries for which data are available in the World Values Survey have stayed far below the tipping point, remaining strongly religious and committed to preserving traditional norms concerning gender and fertility. Even controlling for economic development, Muslim-majority countries tend to be somewhat more religious and culturally conservative than average.
    This may be related to what kind of economic development that the most affluent ones have -- oil wealth. Oil and democracy don't mix very well, and that is very evident in Saudi Arabia, a country ruled by a huge royal family alongside superstrict Wahhabi Muslim religious leaders. Saudis have been promoting Wahhabism to other Muslim countries, and it shows.
    In the olden days fertility was directly correlated to winning wars. The Catholic encouragement of fertility is ONLY about this.

    The history of these policies are important. Christianity was initially very sex negative. A life long abstinence and virginity was seen as the highest ideal. Their three main saints for veneration were Jesus, Mary and Thecla. These three had about equal representation in art. Thecla was the patron saint of virginity. Theclas importance waned due to imperial pressure until she vanished completely from new art. And now is an obscure saint. Why? Because the veneration of Thecla was seen as a threat to Rome's ability to win wars. Over time Catholicism switched to upholding virginity as a virtue to having as much babies as possible... yes, a 180 degree turn.

    This is one of the few conspiracy theories that is actually true. This change in church teaching is down to meddling in church matters by emperors.

    Source: Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities

  5. Top | #25
    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    Dr. Inglehart asks in his book "What Comes Next?" But in his Foreign Affairs article, The Global Decline of Religion, he doesn't address that very much, other than to point out that certain moral norms have become common in the more developed and affluent parts of the world.

    John Haught doesn't address that issue either.

    So I'll try to guess what he talked about from the chapter titles.

    For Chapter 8, we have "People need a clear belief system-- What is replacing religion?"

    He mentions in Foreign Affairs an emerging moral consensus. "Evidence from the World Values Survey indicates that in highly secure and secular countries, people are giving increasingly high priority to self-expression and free choice, with a growing emphasis on human rights, tolerance of outsiders, environmental protection, gender equality, and freedom of speech." But that seems inadequate. One might want some counterpart of religious traditions' sacred history, some narrative that may seem to justify this consensus. Especially one with dramatic storytelling. But one should avoid a narrative that is oversimplified or distorted or erroneous.

    For Chapter 9, we have "At what point does even Sweden get a xenophobic authoritarian party?" -- not sure what that means in this connection. That lack of religion will produce a void that has a risk of being filled by xenophobic authoritarianism?

    Chapter 10 is just plain "What Comes Next?"

  6. Top | #26
    Veteran Member James Brown's Avatar
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    Notwithstanding the fact that infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the fearless advocates of liberty and justice, we are constantly charged by the church with tearing down without building again. The church should by this time know that it is utterly impossible to rob men of their opinions. The history of religious persecution fully establishes the fact that the mind necessarily resists and defies every attempt to control it by violence. The mind necessarily clings to old ideas until prepared for the new. The moment we comprehend the truth, all erroneous ideas are of necessity cast aside.

    A surgeon once called upon a poor cripple and kindly offered to render him any assistance in his power. The surgeon began to discourse very learnedly upon the nature and origin of disease; of the curative properties of certain medicines; of the advantages of exercise, air and light, and of the various ways in which health and strength could be restored. These remarks ware so full of good sense, and discovered so much profound thought and accurate knowledge, that the cripple, becoming thoroughly alarmed, cried out, 'Do not, I pray you, take away my crutches. They are my only support, and without them I should be miserable indeed!' 'I am not going,' said the surgeon, 'to take away your crutches. I am going to cure you, and then you will throw the crutches away yourself.'

    For the vagaries of the clouds the infidels propose to substitute the realities of earth; for superstition, the splendid demonstrations and achievements of science; and for theological tyranny, the chainless liberty of thought.”
    --Robert G. Ingersoll

  7. Top | #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    New Research Shows the Four Conditions That Lead to a Less Religious Society | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos
    noting
    Post-Supernatural Cultures: There and Back Again in a journal called Secularism and Nonreligion
    One of the models that came out of that colloquium has resulted in a brand new paper, recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Secularism and Nonreligion. The model in question is called the “Future of Religious and Secular Transitions” (FOReST) and the goal was the figure out why and how societies develop that do not embrace the supernatural… and how that process can work in reverse.

    In extremely simplified terms, the researchers pointed to four conditions that led societies to become less religious (“post-supernatural”):
    • Existential security: You’re not worried about war or global annihilation.
    • Formal education: When more people are trained in the sciences and humanities, they can better grapple with not having all the answers to the biggest questions in life.
    • Individual freedom: If there’s no real punishment for not being religious, people are more likely to embrace non-religiosity.
    • Religious options: If multiple religions are vying for your affection, it’s easier to say no to all of them.

    Imagine all four of those conditions as knobs on a panel. If you change the volume, so to speak, on any or all of those, you’re going to see societies that embrace or reject religion.

    ...
    What the researchers found was that it’s rare for a society to have all these conditions working well for a sustained amount of time. However, we have far too many examples of how societies can go wrong due to one or more of those conditions failing.
    I read the paper, and it seemed to me to be a lot of hand-waving.
    In short, if you want to create a less religious world, then trashing religion isn’t the only way to get there. You can work toward peace, economic stability, better access to education, more freedom of thought, etc., and religiosity will eventually decline.
    If you tread back to the roots of 20th century Sociology it's basically a problem of social construction and epistemology.

    Consider a person born into a community; for them to be free from the influence of religion their social inputs need to explain to them what materialism is and how it's a real alternative to religion. This takes - a) actual knowledge of science in their community, b) people who are politically free to spread that knowledge. If they're born into a community where the entirety of their influences are religious, they'll likely be religious too, it's very hard for them not to be.

    Two other factors I can think of are a) many people have an inclination for superstitious thought (they want to believe) and b) the internet, which spreads secular ideas to places where people aren't politically free to express their views.

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