Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Is Religion Headed For Extinction?

Whether or not religion is headed for extinction is one of those questions adored by both fans and foes of religion alike, and now they have a new study to add fuel to their ongoing debate. But before either group starts popping any Champaign corks, they should take note.

The study, conducted by scholars from the University of Arizona and Northwestern University, and presented at a meeting of the American Physical Society suggests that religion may be dying in nine countries. The study projects the extinction of religion in Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Canada, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

While not studied, the trend line in the United States has been interpreted in similar ways by other scholars, most recently because of polling conducted for the American Religious Identification Survey, in which the fastest growing religious group in America was the “nones” i.e., people indicating that none of the categories offered by the study fit how they would describe themselves when it came to religion.


But before religion foes begin celebrating however, it’s worth noting that these studies make a giant conceptual error – one which confuses the death of religion with the end of religion and religious affiliation as we know them. There is plenty of evidence for the latter two phenomena, but the fact that people are doing religion differently doesn’t mean that religion is going extinct.  In fact, the success of, the millions of people it serves, etc. are all evidence of both religious change and religious vitality.

The trends measured by the new studies may forecast the eventual extinction of the current array of religious options, but do not forecast the extinction of faith, religious practice, and certainly not what might be termed religious sensibility – all three of which already exist for many people independent of typical religious categories. That trend may upset those of us who are attached to particular traditions and institutions because those really might die out, but even in that case, there is reason for us to take heart.


None of our faiths has been here forever, and according to most of them, each is an improvement over what preceded them, so it’s likely that if these traditions should actually die out, they too will be replaced by potentially superior alternatives. It’s not that I believe that whatever comes last is best – I am not quite that Darwinian. I am simply suggesting that if religion as we know it does go extinct, there is reason to believe that it will be replaced by religion as we do not know it yet, and that it may well be an improvement over the versions we currently have.

Of course, even if that process is unfolding, it will be, like most evolutionary processes, quite slow, so nobody reading this is likely to confront the actual death of the tradition to which they are currently attached.


Also worth noting is that while traditional religious affiliation and attachment is declining in some parts of the world – the northern and western regions of the planet, it is clearly on the rise in points south and east, such as Africa and China. Could these shifts be part of a much larger trend?

It may be that in all of these places, both where religion is in decline and where it is on the rise, what’s happening is that people are insisting on the expansion of those options which have defined their spiritual and religious possibilities until now.

The real story emerging here is not the potential extinction of religion, but the explosion of choice which people increasingly feel is their right. This seems to be a trend which affirms human dignity – something which is supposed to be sacred for religionists and non-religionists alike —and therefore worthy of celebration.


As the study’s authors’ observe, “The model predicts that for societies in which the perceived utility of not adhering is greater than the utility of adhering, religion will be driven toward extinction.” Isn’t that how it ought to be?

No faith can succeed if it does not work in the lives of the faithful. This study just reminds us, particularly those of us connected to organized faith traditions, that we must never lose sight of that fact, and if we do, we probably deserve to go extinct anyway.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment romanscapegoat

    the only way religion will end is if a law is passed that says….no one can gain power or make money using religion…only then religion will die…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nam

    In a stunning act of bipartisan moral cowardice, Harry Reid told the world that he’s considering a “probe” into the Florida pastor who burned a copy of the Koran, while Lindsey Graham announced his belief that Americans should give up their First Amendment rights to avoid offending Muslims. The irony that this shameful display happened on a show called “Face the Nation” was lost on the spineless appeasers who lack the dignity to feel ashamed when surrendering to barbarians thousands of miles away. In the wake of savages rioting in Afghanistan, two of our senior lawmakers are advocating the implementation of Shariah-like laws to protect one religious document above all others.

    And what would we get in return? The “good will” of the Muslim street? The same “good will” displayed when Palestinians–who live off U.S. aid–danced in the streets after 9/11?

    The European countries that have kowtowed to these barbarians for decades have experienced the “good will” of the Muslim street through the brutal gang rape epidemic in Northern Europe and the out of control Muslim dominated child sex trafficking rings in England. Is this the “good will” we will receive when we abandon our Western values of liberty and free thought at the behest of a corrupt Afghan politician who is stoking anti-American violence?

    The pusillanimity of the Left in the face of Islamic imperialism is almost understandable. The feckless, morally bankrupt European Left has long traded their children’s future for their own comfort, safety and petty Marxist hatreds. For the American Left, their pathological hatred of the West trumps their own hollow rhetoric about freedom. To see people on the Right, even “moderates” like Lindsey Graham, promoting the punishment of those who offend the uncivilized sensibilities of the Muslim street is is more than disgusting. Our leaders, the media, and a significant number of Americans do not understand the threat of Jihad, Islamic Imperialism and the internal drive unreformed Islam has toward world domination.

    Pastor Terry Jones did not, as Time‘s Joe Klein suggests, cause the Koran riots. Islam did. During Friday sermons, Imams told their sheep-like congregations to murder people. These Islamic scholars rallied Muslims to violence. There are reports that Islamic leaders toured cities in cars with loud speakers telling fellow Muslims to riot. How can any rational person see this evil, this madness and conclude that it is we who must conform to their standards?

    Klein finishes his piece with this disgusting bit of hyperbole:

    Jones’s act was murderous as any suicide bomber’s. If there is a hell, he’s just guaranteed himself an afterlifetime membership.
    Burning a book he owned is as murderous as blowing up innocent people? Is this what the West has become?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment romanscapegoat

    Nam….you are a fool…there is only one reason why the scapegoat terrorist will have his trial at Guantanamo…the trial must not be public…Americans must not hear that George bush and the Jews orchestrated 9/11…you have been programmed by the jewish owned media and the government to hate the Muslims…the American government and the Jews are the true terrorist…GOD BLESS AMERICA?

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