Haven’t we heard this before…?

Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says

“The idea is pretty simple,” said Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the University of Arizona.

“It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility.

“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%.”

The team then applied their nonlinear dynamics model, adjusting parameters for the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership of the “non-religious” category.

They found, in a study published online, that those parameters were similar across all the countries studied, suggesting that similar behaviour drives the mathematics in all of them.

And in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction.

Here’s the punch line…

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.


Secularists horrifed by churches encouraging congregants to vote

Susan Jacoby is a real-life card carrying Secular Humanist. She is program director of the Center for Inquiry-New York City, a rationalist think tank, and a member of the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America.

In her most recent post for the Washington Post’s On Faith blog she decries the efforts of conservative evangelicals to inform their congregants of the issues in the coming mid-term elections. Some of the activities she laments include:

* Planning, advertising and conducting non-partisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives.

* Educating the congregation regarding biblical teaching on civil government, the responsibility for culture engagement, and the importance of being informed by biblical principles when considering current issues, candidates’ positions, etc.

* Mobilizing members of the congregation to vote their values.

Oh, and let the church not forget to provide transportation to the polls for those who need it.

Horrors. People actually voting their values and other people actually driving them to the polls to do it. What is this country coming to?!

Her piece is a rallying cry to her secularist compatriots who seem to be slumbering under the impression that the Religious Right is dead. She informs them that quite to the contrary:

No secular organization is capable of mounting anything like an organized, church-funded campaign to recruit new voters. Churches reach deep into the daily lives of their most devout members in a way that no secular group can (or, for that matter, would want to do).

One wonders if Susan Jacoby has never heard of unions, which for decades have been mobilizing (intimidating?) their memberships to support a most extreme liberal agenda through the election of Democrat candidates.

The Hitchens Brothers Debate

UPDATE: NPRs Religion Correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty was a panelist at the Hitchens Brothers debate. She was my guest on Wednesday, October 12 at 5:05 pm ET.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

. . . . . . . . . .

Yesterday in Washington, DC a lunchtime “debate” (billed as a “conversation”) was held between noted Atheist Christopher Hitchens and his Evangelical Christian brother, Peter. The question on the table was whether or not civilization could survive without God. The debate was sponsored by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Christopher argued,

There used to be a word which could be used unironically. People meant what they said when they said the word Christendom. There was a Christian world. Partly evolved, partly carved out by the sword, partly defended by the sword, giving way and expanding at times. But it was a meaningful name for a community of belief and value that endured for many, many centuries. It had many splendors to its name, but it’s all gone now.

[In] huge parts of what we might call the industrialized modern world, tens of millions of people live in a post-religious society. It’s hard to argue that they lead conspicuously less civilized lives than their predecessor generations. I don’t think it’s really true to say that we live less civilized a life than those of our predecessors, who believed there was a genuine religious authority who spoke with power.

His brother,Peter, responded:

The behavior of human beings towards one another has sunk to levels not far from the Stone Age. How has this decline come about in civilization?

Well I think it has come about, a least partly, and I’m not a single-cause type of person, but at least partly there is no longer in the hearts of the English people the restraints of the Christian religion that used to prevent this type of behavior. I think it would be completely idle to image the two things are not related.

The extraordinary combination which you in this country and I in mine used to enjoy, and may for some time continue, of liberty and order, seem to me to only occur where people take into their hearts the very, very, powerful messages of self-restraint without mutual advantage, which is central to the Christian religion.