Secularism is on the rise, with science providing tools to understand and shape the world. An alternative is to streamline. But ultimately the question of sincerity is a red herring, Singler says: “Whenever someone tells you their worldview, you have to take them at face value”. If you believe your faith has arrived at ultimate truth, you might reject the idea that it will change at all. And arguments over ways to evade the Basilisk’s gaze are every bit as convoluted as the medieval Scholastics’ attempts to square human freedom with divine oversight. We also need to be careful when interpreting what people mean by “no religion”. Growing numbers “say they have no religion at all. Not all are liberally inclined. When we recognise a faith, we treat its teachings and traditions as timeless and sacrosanct. The Future of Religious Freedom addresses these critical questions by assembling in one volume some of the best forward-thinking and empirical research on religious liberty, international legal trends, and societal dynamics. Whether that belief constitutes cause or effect has recently been disputed, but the upshot is that sharing a faith allows people to co-exist (relatively) peacefully. In 1954, Fredric Brown wrote a (very) short story called “Answer”, in which a galaxy-spanning supercomputer is turned on and asked: is there a God? By the year 2050, … The “prosperity gospel” is central to several of America’s megachurches, whose congregations are often dominated by economically insecure congregations. (If this is the first you’ve heard of it: sorry! In the West, one form this takes is for humanists to rework religious motifs: there have been attempts to rewrite the Bible without any supernatural elements, calls for the construction of “atheist temples” dedicated to contemplation. In his bestselling book Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari argues that the foundations of modern civilisation are eroding in the face of an emergent religion he calls “dataism”, which holds that by giving ourselves over to information flows, we can transcend our earthly concerns and ties. Outlandish though it might seem, Roko’s Basilisk caused quite a stir when it was first suggested on LessWrong – enough for discussion of it to be banned by the site’s creator. We can do this in several ways. “The stickiest is religion.”. In these situations, the individuals committing the attacks end up instrumentalizing religious matters for the achievement of other interests. (An exception: Shinto, an ancient animist religion, is still widely practised in hyper-modern Japan.). The knowledge that Big God is watching makes sure we behave ourselves. Scientology was barred from recognition as a religion for many years in the UK because it did not have a Supreme Being – something that could also be said of Buddhism. Then there are those who belong but don’t believe – parents attending church to get a place for their child at a faith school, perhaps. And Extinction Rebellion has striven, with considerable success, to trigger a radical shift in attitudes to the crises in climate change and biodiversity. The Atlantic offers faith-free take on this question: Should Down Syndrome kids be allowed to live? What new forms of religion might these online “congregations” come up with? Some groups are performing or “hacking” religion to win support for transhumanist ideas, says Singler. Before Mohammed, before Jesus, before Buddha, there was Zoroaster. In the book, he argues that humanity is in need of a religious revolution that dispenses with the concept of God and elements of the supernatural, a revolution that expands individual and collective human empowerment by fostering a condition he calls "deep freedom"—a life of creativity, risk, experiment, … And, finally, there are those who believe in something, but don’t belong to any group. One notorious answer comes from Voltaire, the 18th Century French polymath, who wrote: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”Because Voltaire was a trenchant critic of organised religion, this quip is often quoted cynically. The idea of punishment as an imperative to cooperate is reminiscent of Norenzayan’s “Big Gods”. Some 3,500 years ago, in Bronze Age Iran, he had a vision of the one supreme God. Writer Sumit Paul-Choudhury, former editor-in-chief of the New Scientist magazine, notes that religions ebb and flow across eons. One approach is syncretism, the “pick and mix” approach of combining traditions and practices that often results from the mixing of cultures. This week's podcast: It isn't 'fake news' to recognize that America remains a divided land, A news story? Conversely, we might expect similar societies to have similar religions, even if they have developed in isolation. Is there any substance to the claim that belief in gods and deities will die out altogether? Scepticism about practitioners’ motives impedes many new movements from being recognised as genuine religions, whether by officialdom or by the public at large. Tomorrow’s Gods: What is the future of religion? What is the status of religious freedom in the world today? The Parsees’ religion originated with Zarathustra (a.k.a. The future of religion in America is not an easy thing to predict. Their case was not helped by the fact that many Rationalists are strongly committed to other startling ideas about artificial intelligence, ranging from AIs that destroy the world by accident to human-machine hybrids that would transcend all mortal limitations. Perhaps one of the major religions might change its form enough to win back non-believers in significant numbers. Religion asks you to sacrifice your present attachments for a promised future. The acid test, as true for neopagans as for transhumanists, is whether people make significant changes to their lives consistent with their stated faith. The Religion of the Future is a book by the philosopher and politician Roberto Mangabeira Unger. As these examples suggest, Witnesses of Climatology has a parodic feel to it – light-heartedness helps novices get over any initial awkwardness – but Irzak’s underlying intent is quite serious. What Is the Future of Religion? But in fact, he was being perfectly sincere. What’s more, around three-quarters of atheists and nine out of 10 agnostics are open to the existence of supernatural phenomena, including everything from astrology to supernatural beings and life after death. Many modern students of religion agree. One answer, of course, is that we simply get on with our lives. Munificent economies, good government, solid education and effective rule of law can ensure that we rub along happily without any kind of religious framework. Christianity is also increasi… It took three centuries for the Christian church to consolidate around a canon of scriptures – and then in 1054 it split into the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches. But Woodhead thinks the religions that might emerge from the current turmoil will have much deeper roots. But what does it actually mean? The broad idea that a shared faith serves the needs of a society is known as the functionalist view of religion. Join more than one million Future fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter or Instagram. In poorer societies, you might pray for good fortune or a stable job. And there is some evidence for that – although when it comes to religion, there are always exceptions to any rule. Traditional religion is failing to deliver on this, particularly where doctrine clashes with moral convictions that arise from secular society – on gender equality, say. We take it for granted that religions are born, grow and die – but we are also oddly blind to that reality. The future of world religions The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths. That’s most true in rich, stable countries like Sweden and Japan, but also, perhaps more surprisingly, in places like Latin America and the Arab world. Paul-Choudbury seems enthused by trends like syncretism (combining elements of separate religions), stripping faiths of ancient tenets, efforts to revive old paganism in Europe, and the invention of new sects like Way of the Future,  Homo Deus, The Turing Church, Temple of the Jedi Order or Witnesses of Climatology. This is not a normal Thanksgiving, to say the least, but we can still give thanks, Even in 2020, Bobby Ross, Jr., has a reason to give thanks (plus week's top religion reads), Lies, damned lies, statistics: Shifts in religious voting were crucial for Joe Biden — maybe, Religious liberty and foster care: five key numbers as SCOTUS weighs dogma and LGBTQ rights, Asking CNN: When is a hijab not really a hijab? In the secular West, such support is unlikely to be forthcoming, with the possible exception of the US. Powerful intellectual and political currents have driven this proposition since the early 20th Century. The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, some moving to atheism from faith, others to religion from secularism, and many still undecided. Using a model called Future of Religion and Secular Transitions (FOREST), it was theorised that there are four factors in which people tend to secularise: Existential security: It is a state of being secure enough to be taken as granted and you have enough money and food to survive. Predictably, that only made the idea explode across the internet – or at least the geekier parts of it – with references to the Basilisk popping up everywhere from news sites to Doctor Who,  despite protestations from some Rationalists that no-one really took it seriously. “I’d be careful about calling capitalism a religion, but a lot of its institutions have religious elements, as in all spheres of human institutional life,” says Wood. If the town’s Christian churches did not embrace this shift, they concluded, congregations would dwindle into irrelevance while self-guided practices would become the mainstream in a “spiritual revolution”. Nations like Soviet Russia and China “adopted atheism as state policy and frowned on even private religious expression.”. But officials who apparently assumed it was not a genuine census answer did not record it as such. Unbelievers “exhibit significant diversity both within, and between, different countries. That chimes with what we know about the deep-seated psychological and neurological drivers of belief. Modern societies are multicultural where followers of many different faiths live side by side (Credit: Getty Images). One recurring theme is social cohesion: religion brings together a community, who might then form a hunting party, raise a temple or support a political party. When life is tough or disaster strikes, religion seems to provide a bulwark of psychological (and sometimes practical) support. A few years ago, members of the self-declared “Rationalist” community website LessWrong began discussing a thought experiment about an omnipotent, super-intelligent machine – with many of the qualities of a deity and something of the Old Testament God’s vengeful nature. The 2001 UK census found that Jediism, the fictional faith observed by the good guys in Star Wars, was the fourth largest religion: nearly 400,000 people had been inspired to claim it, initially by a tongue-in-cheek online campaign. So to encourage everyone to do everything possible to help to bring into existence, it will perpetually and retroactively torture those who don’t – including anyone who so much as learns of its potential existence. Those faiths that endure are “the long-term products of extraordinarily complex cultural pressures, selection processes, and evolution”, writes Connor Wood of the Center for Mind and Culture in Boston, Massachusetts on the religious reference website Patheos, where he blogs about the scientific study of religion. “We hope people get real value from this and are encouraged to work on climate change,” she says, rather than despairing about the state of the world. In response, people have started constructing faiths of their own. In Iceland, for example, the small but fast-growing Ásatrú faith has no particular doctrine beyond somewhat arch celebrations of Old Norse customs and mythology, but has been active on social and ecological issues. * This story is featured in BBC Future’s “Best of 2019” collection. But over time, they canevolve into more heartfelt and coherent belief systems: Woodhead points to the robust adoption of Rodnovery – an often conservative and patriarchal pagan faith based around the reconstructed beliefs and traditions of the ancient Slavs – in the former Soviet Union as a potential exemplar of things to come. New York Times helps fuel new journalism fires in 2020s, 2020 vote again: Various religion factors still baffle news-media pros and the Democrats. Even today’s dominant religions have continually evolved throughout history. Levandowski, who made a fortune through self-driving cars, hit the headlines in 2017 when it became public knowledge that he had founded a church, Way of the Future, dedicated to bringing about a peaceful transition to a world mostly run by super-intelligent machines. The pattern Pew predicted was of “the secularising West and the rapidly growing rest”. The traditionally religious both belonged and believed; hardcore atheists did neither. For the full report (.pdf here). Pastor John MacArthur and California church closings: Why isn't this a national story? BBC asks: What is the future of religion? Muslims would grow in number to match Christians, while the number unaffiliated with any religion would decline slightly. The psychologist Ara Norenzayan argues it was belief in these “Big Gods” that allowed the formation of societies made up of large numbers of strangers. The psychology of religion attempts to predict consequences of religious belief. Perhaps religions never do really die. What Is the Future of Religion? Pay attention to this sect-run news source. If religions have changed so dramatically in the past, how might they change in the future? There are many functionalist hypotheses, from the idea that religion is the “opium of the masses”, used by the powerful to control the poor, to the proposal that faith supports the abstract intellectualism required for science and law. Seite 2/2: Hier die KI-Religion, dort die Todsünden. “Religions do well, and always have done, when they are subjectively convincing – when you have the sense that God is working for you,” says Woodhead, now professor of sociology of religion at the University of Lancaster in the UK. But if Big Gods and shared faiths are key to social cohesion, what happens without them? He was arguing that belief in God is necessary for society to function, even if he didn’t approve of the monopoly the church held over that belief. So the nones mostly represent not atheists, nor even secularists, but a mixture of “apatheists” – people who simply don’t care about religion – and practitioners of what you might call “disorganised religion”. This time it’s different. Today, many of our societies are huge and multicultural: adherents of many faiths co-exist with each other – and with a growing number of people who say they have no religion at all. Religion News Service put that question to an intellectually and spiritually diverse range of scholars, leaders, activists and experts, asking them to reflect on the past decade and use it as a springboard to conceive the biggest themes likely to materialize in the 2020s.. “Unreligions” seek to dispense with the supposedly unpopular strictures or irrational doctrines of conventional religion, and so might appeal to the irreligious. “What’s a multi-generational social construct that organises people around shared morals?” she asks. Thomas Gaunt, the executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, presented the sisters with data collected through CARA's recent surveys. Continue reading “What is the future of religion? In a landmark study, people directly affected by the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand became significantly more religious than other New Zealanders, who became marginally less religious. Periodically they include rituals, particularly at traditional holidays. Now there is, comes the reply. Hey, New York Times editors: Did painful Thanksgiving dinners really begin in 2016? But perhaps the same could have been said for the small groups of believers who gathered around a sacred flame in ancient Iran, three millennia ago, and whose fledgling belief grew into one of the largest, most powerful and enduring religions the world has ever seen – and which is still inspiring people today. That’s a problem, since that combination has radically transformed the social environment from the one in which the world religions evolved – and has to some extent supplanted them. Clue: This could be a faith-based question. Paganism also often features divinities that are more like diffuse forces than anthropomorphic gods; that allows people to focus on issues they feel sympathetic towards without having to make a leap of faith to supernatural deities. urns out atheists and agnostics are surprisingly open to supernatural phenomena, favor objective moral values, and generally seek to find “meaning in the world and your own life.”, The BBC article contrasts with the estimates for 2050 in the Pew Research Center report “The Future of World Religions.”. The faith  had millions of followers in the Persian Empire’s heyday but today counts only 60,000. These are niche activities at the moment, and might sometimes be more about playing with symbolism than heartfelt spiritual practice. In south America Christianity is undergoing radical change by mixing with native believes and by different protestant groups replacing traditional Catholicism. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Capital, and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday. Currently, Christianity's influence in the western Europa has diminished but is stable, with many countries having a majority of mixed sects of Christianity - the influence of Christianity of eastern Europe's life has been downplayed by years of communist rule in Russia since the twenties and in the rest of eastern Europe since the forties. Given all that, there’s a growing consensus that the future of religion is that it has no future. what it would mean if AI developed a "soul", abstract intellectualism required for science and law, on the religious reference website Patheos, the "light triad" traits that can make you a good person, modelled the future of the world’s great religions. We obey laws made and enforced by governments, not by God. A new guard of travelling fire-and-brimstone preachers successfully reinvigorated the faith, setting the tone for centuries to come – an event called the “Great Awakenings”. One of journalism's oddest assignments: 'Polygamy beat' at Salt Lake Tribune, Believers must face this: All kinds of people (pastors too) wrestle with depression and suicide. Far from a precipitous decline in religiosity, it predicted a modest increase in believers, from 84% of the world’s population today to 87% in 2050. The mechanism may be new, but the message isn’t. The kind of revivals experienced in the 18 th and 19 th century coincided with some of the most important developments in what we might now call secular thinking. Recently, the Witnesses have been looking further afield, including to a ceremony conducted across the Middle East and central Asia just before the spring equinox: purification by throwing something unwanted into a fire – a written wish, or an actual object – and then jumping over it. ), An artificial super-intelligence could have some of the qualities of a deity (Credit: Getty Images). Tagged: BBC, Pew Forum, Soviet Union, China, New Scientist, Karl Marx. The parallels with today are easy to draw, but Woodhead is sceptical that Christianity or other world religions can make up the ground they have lost, in the long term.