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Thread: Modeling the Decline of Religion

  1. Top | #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post

    I don't think those "replacements" are at all equivalent to religion. Yes, people want a better world and seek various mechanisms for doing so. However, sports teams actually exist as does sexism, unlike god and the afterlife. Thus, wanting to push those levers of real things to maximize well being is not at all psychologically similar to imagining a non-existent lever and being committed to pushing it will improve the world. Also, I seriously doubt that more than a tiny fraction of clinically insane sportsfans actually believe their team winning will make the world better, any more than people who love the experience of eating chocolate think doing so will make the world better. It is a form of entertainment, which is many ways is the very opposite of religion and theism in which what should be treated as escapist entertainment via fiction is perverted into non-fiction, which is a delusion that requires the levels existential panic, fear, and authoritarian oppression that the OP is talking about as factors that promote religion.
    The patriarchy as formulated by militant Swedish feminists is a figment of their imagination.
    Over-emphasizing the importance of something that does exist (sexism and the patriarchy) isn't remotely the same as giving massive importance to a complete and total fiction. Also, you're talking about a tiny fraction of society that accounts for very few of the people who used to be Christians. It seems you are guilty of irrationally over-emphasizing the social importance of those feminists as much as they are of over-emphasizing the patriarchy.

    Sports is a hamster wheel. Winning the world cup makes no difference for anyone. It doesn't matter who wins, it's a non-event.
    And almost no sports fans believe it does make a difference. They are aware that it is nothing but entertainment, unlike theists who think God makes a difference and is not just fictional entertainment. People get really into and emotionally engaged with movies too, but almost no hard core fans of Star Wars shape their voting and everyday actions and how they treat others based upon the belief that Star Wars is real and matters for the world.

    Everybody is deluded. We all have a story in our heads where we're somehow important to the world. If you don't have existential panic you are deluded.
    Personal, idiosyncratic delusions are completely different, psychologically and sociologically, than an organized belief system centered around a non-existent all powerful entity, which required enforced of a particular dogma to ensure everyone maintains the same delusion. Also, it isn't necessary to have a delusion that you are important or that your life "matters" to anyone or anything but yourself. People can and do just accept that their subjective enjoyment of life is all that gives life meaning. That's partly why one of the variables in the OP model is "existential security", b/c enjoyment of daily life reduces the need to delude oneself that "there is something more". Also, the minor kinds of delusions you are talking about are not more prevalent in low religion societies. I mean the US is more obsessed with sports than most modern democracies while also being the most religious.

    I don't think authoritarian oppression is necessary for religion to spread. When Christianity spread in the Roman empire it did so from below.
    . From about 300 AD Christianity had the protection and backing of the Roman government via Constantine. And prior to and after that it spread in a highly religious world where most people were illiterate, uneducated, and science did not exist to expose it's absurdity. Freedom from oppression leads to less religion b/c a specific religion cannot spread via rational thought. But when there is no competition from competing ideas and when people lack the knowledge and intellectual training to understand reason about the absurdities of religion, then the religion can spread more "naturally" with less overt force of oppression. But in the modern world those conditions don't exist, so a given religion will die w/o the use of coercion. Also, there was still plenty of oppression. Christian parents used force to ensure their children were Christian and as soon as Christianity had the reigns of power they used force to ensure everyone became Christian and that everyone adhered to a narrow dogma which is how religions are maintained over time.


    The first converts were slaves. The masters in power were the last to convert, in spite of their best efforts to stamp out Christianity.
    Yes, the powerless and destitute unable to enjoy life are highest in existential insecurity, thus most likely to seek out a religion that promises reward for the oppressed in a aflerlife. Also, the masters and authorities were religious and theistic (just not mono) and enforced religious belief in general. A major reason that Christianity gained popularity is that it was a spin-off of Judaism which was tolerated and protected by Rome under diplomatic treaties. Christianity had appeal within the context of an oppressive society b/c it promised "justice" in a non-reality to those who had no chance of justice in reality. Oppression breeds religion in two ways, the oppressors can push a particular religious narrative AND the environment of oppression makes the oppressed seek the comfort of non-reality whether in the form of a religion not endorsed by the oppressors (Ancient Rome) or adopted the oppressors own religion (as with US slaves).
    If the slate were wiped clean of religion in world of modern scientific knowledge and education, and western democracy and personal rights, it would never reach a fraction of it's influence of today. There would just be piecemeal personal "spiritual" like notions, believed with minimal confidence, without any organized religious dogma able to dominate gain or maintain a

  2. Top | #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    Yes, the powerless and destitute unable to enjoy life are highest in existential insecurity, thus most likely to seek out a religion that promises reward for the oppressed in a aflerlife. Also, the masters and authorities were religious and theistic (just not mono) and enforced religious belief in general. A major reason that Christianity gained popularity is that it was a spin-off of Judaism which was tolerated and protected by Rome under diplomatic treaties. Christianity had appeal within the context of an oppressive society b/c it promised "justice" in a non-reality to those who had no chance of justice in reality. Oppression breeds religion in two ways, the oppressors can push a particular religious narrative AND the environment of oppression makes the oppressed seek the comfort of non-reality whether in the form of a religion not endorsed by the oppressors (Ancient Rome) or adopted the oppressors own religion (as with US slaves).
    If the slate were wiped clean of religion in world of modern scientific knowledge and education, and western democracy and personal rights, it would never reach a fraction of it's influence of today. There would just be piecemeal personal "spiritual" like notions, believed with minimal confidence, without any organized religious dogma able to dominate gain or maintain a
    You may be giving humanity too much intelligence and forgetting about human emotions. I will agree that if everyone didn't have to worry about being fed and having a place to live or needing medical care the world would have the potential to be a much better place. But that hardly means people are going to suddenly start acting with more intelligence than emotion. Actually I think the opposite happens as evidenced by the political situation in many countries today including the U.S. When people are raised out of poverty they now have the ability to act out their stupidity. The key, as Jefferson said, is education, not simply freedom.

    When uneducated, free people are empowered to vote what they think is in their best interests they can be pretty stupid in those decisions. Just because a person is free doesn't mean that person is going to make rational, forward-looking decisions. Freedom without education is dangerous.

  3. Top | #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    Yes, the powerless and destitute unable to enjoy life are highest in existential insecurity, thus most likely to seek out a religion that promises reward for the oppressed in a aflerlife. Also, the masters and authorities were religious and theistic (just not mono) and enforced religious belief in general. A major reason that Christianity gained popularity is that it was a spin-off of Judaism which was tolerated and protected by Rome under diplomatic treaties. Christianity had appeal within the context of an oppressive society b/c it promised "justice" in a non-reality to those who had no chance of justice in reality. Oppression breeds religion in two ways, the oppressors can push a particular religious narrative AND the environment of oppression makes the oppressed seek the comfort of non-reality whether in the form of a religion not endorsed by the oppressors (Ancient Rome) or adopted the oppressors own religion (as with US slaves).
    If the slate were wiped clean of religion in world of modern scientific knowledge and education, and western democracy and personal rights, it would never reach a fraction of it's influence of today. There would just be piecemeal personal "spiritual" like notions, believed with minimal confidence, without any organized religious dogma able to dominate gain or maintain a
    You may be giving humanity too much intelligence and forgetting about human emotions. I will agree that if everyone didn't have to worry about being fed and having a place to live or needing medical care the world would have the potential to be a much better place. But that hardly means people are going to suddenly start acting with more intelligence than emotion. Actually I think the opposite happens as evidenced by the political situation in many countries today including the U.S. When people are raised out of poverty they now have the ability to act out their stupidity. The key, as Jefferson said, is education, not simply freedom.

    When uneducated, free people are empowered to vote what they think is in their best interests they can be pretty stupid in those decisions. Just because a person is free doesn't mean that person is going to make rational, forward-looking decisions. Freedom without education is dangerous.
    You're ignoring the context of my prior post where I explicitly mention how education and knowledge of science are also critical factors (which the OP model also acknowledges these along with "existential security" . The first part you quoted was specifically in reply to the fact that it was slaves in ancient Rome who were the early champions of Christianity. Which is for reasons similar to why black Americans were quick to adopt Christianity and have become it's biggest champions within the US. Daily suffering, struggles and injustices, whether from poverty, war, illness, etc. are strong predictors of increases religiosity and irrationality. The last paragraph was summative of all my posts in the thread and of the implications of the OP.

  4. Top | #14
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    Watching Religion Die | Adam Lee
    notes
    The Global Decline of Religion by Ronald F. Inglehart

    In the 1990's and 2000's, it seemed as if the religion business was having a resurgence. The Opium of the People having a comeback in ex-Communist countries, evangelicalism in the US, political Islam in the Islamic world. With the help of Pippa Norris, he looked at 49 countries and subnational territories like Northern Ireland: "We did not find a universal resurgence of religion, despite claims to that effect—most high-income countries became less religious—but we did find that in 33 of the 49 countries we studied, people became more religious during those years. This was true in most former communist countries, in most developing countries, and even in a number of high-income countries."

    "But since 2007, things have changed with surprising speed. From about 2007 to 2019, the overwhelming majority of the countries we studied—43 out of 49—became less religious. The decline in belief was not confined to high-income countries and appeared across most of the world."

    "As unexpected as it may seem, countries that are less religious actually tend to be less corrupt and have lower murder rates than more religious ones."

    RI speculates that "And as this level of security rises, people tend to become less religious." I think that there may be other reasons, like it seeming superfluous as anything more than some hobby interest.

    The Decline of Religion, 2007-2019 - the US had the biggest decline, 3.7 on a scale of 10. The next largest were Chile at 2.2, and Australia at 1.6.

    As a consequence, "By this measure, the United States now ranks as the 11th least religious country for which we have data."
    India is the most important exception to the general pattern of declining religiosity. The period of the study coincides roughly with the return to power of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, whose brand of politics seeks to conflate national identity with religious identity. The BJP government has advocated policies that discriminate against the followers of other religions, particularly India’s large Muslim minority, polarizing communities and whipping up religious sentiments.
    After speculating about lack of religion being related to overall personal security, he notes that secularization has been occurring in the most advanced societies of Western Europe and North America, and then gradually spreading to more and more of the rest of the world.
    Although secularization normally occurs at the pace of intergenerational population replacement, it can reach a tipping point when the dominant opinion shifts and, swayed by the forces of conformism and social desirability, people start to favor the outlook they once opposed—producing exceptionally rapid cultural change. Younger and better-educated groups in high-income countries have recently reached this threshold.
    I recall commentator Ana Kasparian saying that when she was growing up, she was called "the religious girl", as if her churchgoing back then was something unusual. She is now an agnostic / atheist.

  5. Top | #15
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    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.

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    ... in fact, religious countries actually tend to be more corrupt than secular ones. The highly secular Nordic states have some of the world’s lowest levels of corruption, and highly religious countries, such as Bangladesh, Guatemala, Iraq, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, have some of the highest.

    ... The people of religious countries are slightly more likely to condemn corruption than the people of less religious countries, but the impact of religion on behavior ends there. Religion may make people more punitive, but it does not make them less corrupt.

    This pattern also applies to other crimes, such as murder. As surprising as it may seem, the murder rate is more than ten times as high in the most religious countries as it is in the least religious countries. Some relatively poor countries have low murder rates, but overall, prosperous countries that provide their residents with material and legal security are much safer than poor countries.
    I've seen the argument that advanced societies are coasting on religion-generated social capital. But that is rather unconvincing, because the religious good old days were not so good.
    As traditional religiosity declines, an equally strong set of moral norms seems to be emerging to fill the void. 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.

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    Back to "Watching Religion Die", contributed by John Haught.

    "Almost two-thirds of teens who grow up in a church drop out of religion in their twenties, according to both Barna and LifeWay surveys." -- they are also not often returning when they have children.

    US church membership has fallen 20% over the last two decades, from Gallup's surveys, and "tall steeple" mainline Protestants have suffered the biggest losses.
    • United Methodists -- 1969: 11 M to now: 7 M
    • Evangelical Lutherans -- 1987: 5.3 M to now: 3.4 M
    • Presbyterian Church USA -- 1982: 3.2 M to now: 1.3 M
    • Episcopal Church -- 1960's: 3.4 M to now: 1.7 M

    These highbrow mainline faiths with seminary-educated ministers once drew public respect. But religion is shifting to lowbrow, emotional worship that is less admirable. One-fourth of the world’s Christians now “speak in tongues,” researchers say. Christianity is moving from advanced, prosperous, northern nations to the less-developed tropics. It’s going from respected to pathetic.

    Retreat of churchgoing in America may undercut the Republican Party, which depends on white evangelicals as the heart of its base. In contrast, godless Americans tend to be compassionate progressives who have become the largest faith segment in the Democratic Party. The loss of religion may shift national political values to the left.
    I wouldn't be too confident in that, because there are plenty of atheist and agnostic and secular right-wingers. But they tend to be right-libertarians or nationalists rather than some secular approximation of the Religious Right.

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    It seems to me that Ayn Rand is a prototypical example of a right-libertarian, pro-capitalist atheist.
    Last edited by lpetrich; 09-16-2020 at 12:09 AM. Reason: Dup

  9. Top | #19
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    Religious association has for all of recorded human history been the cultural norm and necessity because religion and state were synonymous. People today have discovered that they are fine without any religious association. True, that old business hobby isn't going to die overnight but it is certainly dying as fewer and fewer people find it neither interesting nor necessary.

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    Good news: Religion is fast going down the tubes in America | Barry Duke
    ONE of the world’s leading social scientists – Ronald Inglehart, above, of the University of Michigan – claims in a book soon to be published that the United States is experiencing a more dramatic shift away from religion than any other nation.
    The book: "Religion's Sudden Decline: What's Causing it, and What Comes Next?"
    Due to be released on 2021 Jan 2.

    Religion's Sudden Decline - Paperback - Ronald F. Inglehart - Oxford University Press - the book's publisher page
    Overview:
    • Provides evidence of a major decline in religion in most of the world, based on surveys of over 100 countries containing 90 percent of the world's population, carried out from 1981 to 2020--the largest base of empirical evidence ever assembled to analyse mass acceptance or rejection of religion
    • Presents a theory of why religion spreads or declines and tests it against a massive base of evidence
    • Presents evidence that humans need a coherent belief system but that its nature reflects the society's environment
    Description:
    Mass attachment to religion is rapidly declining in most of the world; Why, and What comes next?

    The world is becoming less religious. Since 2007, there has been a pervasive decline in religious belief and most of the world's people now say that God is less important in their lives than they said He was in the quarter century before 2007. The American public showed the most dramatic shift of all. The United States, which for many years stood as a highly religious outlier among the world's high-income countries, now ranks as the 12th least religious country for which data are available. Many factors contributed to this dramatic worldwide shift, but as Inglehart shows, certain ones stand out. For centuries, virtually all major religions encouraged women to stay home and produce as many children as possible; and they sternly discouraged divorce, abortion, homosexuality, contraception, and any other form of sexual behavior not linked with reproduction. These norms were necessary for societies to survive when facing high infant mortality and low life expectancy: societies that didn't instill them tended to die out. Recent technological advances have greatly increased life expectancy and cut infant mortality to a tiny fraction of its historic levels, making these norms no longer necessary for societal survival. These norms require repressing strong natural urges, but, since they present traditional norms as absolute values, most religions strongly resist change. The resulting tension, together with the fact that rising existential security has made people less dependent on religion, opened the way for an exodus from religion. Utilizing a massive global data base, Inglehart analyzes the conditions under which religiosity collapses, and explores its implications for the future.
    Table of Contents:
    Chapter 1. The Shift from Pro-fertility norms to Individual-choice norms.
    Chapter 2. Religion matters.
    Chapter 3. The Secularization debate.
    Chapter 4. Evolutionary Modernization theory and secularization.
    Chapter 5. What's causing it? The rise of Individual-choice norms.
    Chapter 6. What's causing it? Insecurity.
    Chapter 7. Secularization accelerates in high-income countries.
    Chapter 8. What comes next: People need a clear belief system-- What is replacing religion?
    Chapter 9. What comes next: At what point does even Sweden get a xenophobic authoritarian party?
    Chapter 10. What Comes Next?

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