Are we becoming more secular?

According to secular evangelists, religion and Christianity is shrinking in the world and secularization is growing. I also hear this all the time from militant anti-theists, as if it were true. Recently, a Huffington Post article by secularist professor, Phil Zuckerman titled, “Religion Declining, Secularization Surging” was mentioned.

I found it to be an interesting example of cherry-picking data to fit the desired conclusion. For instance, Zuckerman gleefully reports the following:

“Finally, the sheer number of secular men and women on planet earth is unprecedented — according to the Pew Research Center’s latest estimates, there were over 1.1 billion non-religious people in the world in 2010, and that number is expected to increase to over 1.2 billion by the year 2020.”

While it’s true what Pew Research said about the projection of non-religious people by 2050 (he misquoted the study by saying 2020), that’s not the whole story. Here’s what the same research also said:

“In 2010, censuses and surveys indicate, there were about 1.1 billion atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion. By 2050, the unaffiliated population is expected to exceed 1.2 billion. But, as a share of all the people in the world, those with no religious affiliation are projected to decline from 16% in 2010 to 13% by the middle of this century.” *

Between 2010 and 2050, the non-affiliated (which includes atheists, humanists, agnostics, and the non-religious none’s) will grow a total of about 9% (1.1 to 1.2 billion), but will actually drop 3% as a percentage of global population (16% to 13%).

But then the report goes on to say the following:

“If current demographic trends continue, however, Islam will nearly catch up [to Christianity] by the middle of the 21st century. Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35% increase. Over that same period, Muslims – a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates – are projected to increase by 73%. The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate (35%) as the global population overall.” *

So, while secularization will drop 3% with respect to world population, Islam will double in percentage (mostly from high birthrate) and Christianity will keep pace with the world population growth (35%).

So, I’m honestly puzzled why Zuckerman is so giddy about these reports. Not exactly a secular tidal wave.

Of course, it’s not debatable that there has been a decline in overall Christian adherents over the last few decades. But we must ask where this decline is coming from. If we dig deeper into the data a pattern seems to immerge, at least in the US.

For instance, in a USA TODAY article titled, Survey Fail: Christianity isn’t Dying“, Ed Stetzer points out that while the total number of those affiliated with Christianity declined, Evangelical Christianity is growing in America. From 2007 to 2014 the number of evangelicals in America rose from 59.8 million to 62.2 million, according to Pew.

So, where is the exodus coming from?

According to Pew, unaffiliated Americans grew from 16 to nearly 23% in the last seven years. That increase largely came from the ranks of Catholics and Mainline Protestants, religious traditions with high numbers of nominals. Among adults who claim no religious affiliation, 28% were raised Catholics, while 21% grew up Mainline. *

Stetzer summarizes the reason for the decline:

“Many of these who have been labeling themselves as Christians are starting to feel free to be honest about their religious affiliation, or lack thereof. “

In other words, the nominal, cultural “Christians,” who aren’t much different than practicing atheists, are coming out of the closet, so to speak. But those who hold a vibrant faith are going strong.

“So, the number of people who are practicing a vibrant faith is not fading away, quite the contrary. Christianity and the church are not dying, but they are being more clearly defined. Both the recent Pew and GSS data affirm this clarification should only continue.” *

Stetzer ends with what I believe is a more accurate summation of what’s going on:

“Nominal Christians are becoming the nones and convictional Christians remain committed. It is fair to say we are now experiencing a collapse, but it’s not of Christianity. Instead, the free fall we find is within nominalism.” *

Furthermore, a new Harvard Study also challenges the idea that Christianity is fading away in the U.S. According to Glenn Stanton of The Federalist (“New Harvard Research Says U.S. Christianity Is Not Shrinking, But Growing Stronger“):

“The percentage of Americans who attend church more than once a week, pray daily, and accept the Bible as wholly reliable and deeply instructive to their lives has remained absolutely, steel-bar constant for the last 50 years or more, right up to today. These authors describe this continuity as “patently persistent.” *

To sum up, what we’re seeing is not an actual decline in the vibrant and genuine Christian faith but mainly an exodus of the nominal, cultural Christians who no longer want to continue their façade of being a “Christian.”  Despite this temporary trend as Christianity becomes more clearly defined, the growth of believers around the world will continue to outpace secularists by a wide margin.

So, the next time you hear this kind of popular secularist/atheist propaganda, be skeptical. Question everything. Research it yourself. And remember that “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isa.9:7)

* All emphasis mine.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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68 Responses to Are we becoming more secular?

  1. John Branyan says:

    This is really interesting stuff, Mel.

    In my opinion, the research is skewed by semantics. Specifically, we don’t agree on what it means to be “secular”. The anti-theists think religion can be removed from life by decree. If they just say “there is no God” – POOF – they’re secular. It doesn’t work that way.

    Despite their protests to the contrary, atheists are deeply religious people. Sam Harris advocates for meditation. Our beloved Pastor Mike insists he believes in something it’s just “not the God of the Bible”. Try suggesting to John Zande that atheists can’t be “spiritual” because they don’t believe in spirits and watch him go bananas. He insists that Buddhism is spiritual atheism.

    Human beings are wired to believe in God. The god-deniers are just old-fashioned idolaters worshiping at the alter of secularism. The worst part is they don’t even realize it.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Despite their protests to the contrary, atheists are deeply religious people. Sam Harris advocates for meditation.

      I’ve also thought that was rather ironic. It seems you can take God out of school but you can’t take God out of the atheist. 🙂

      Another thing about the “unaffiliated” category from Pew Research. Atheists, while growing, only make up a small percentage of the total. This was from a 2015 Pew study of U.S. unaffiliated:

      “Self-declared atheists or agnostics still make up a minority of all religious “nones.” But both atheists and agnostics are growing as a share of all religiously unaffiliated people, and together they now make up 7% of all U.S. adults (up from 4% in 2007).”

      And like you said, even some of these atheists (like Harris) smuggle in spirituality in other ways.

      May the force be with you. 🙂

    • john zande says:

      He insists that Buddhism is spiritual atheism

      Please name the god Buddhists worship.

      • Mel Wild says:

        Please name the god Buddhists worship.

        That wasn’t the point. They do not deny “theism” so they are not atheists. They are also not naturalists, they believe in the afterlife. This is from an official Buddhist site:

        (3) Some Buddhist schools have many Gods, others have none. But it would be wrong to say that Buddhism itself teaches atheism, pantheism, or any other position on gods and deities.

        (6) Buddhism teaches that in an interconnected world, all actions have consequences (karma). The consequences of acts undertaken in this and earlier lifetimes will be felt in a next one, in a process known as reincarnation.
        http://www.buddhismbeliefs.org/

        • john zande says:

          Theism: noun, belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in one god as creator of the universe, intervening in it and sustaining a personal relation to his creatures.

          Atheism: noun, disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

          So, please answer the question: Name the god Buddhists worship…

        • John Branyan says:

          Spiritual: adjective, relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

          Please explain how a person can be “spiritual” while professing a “lack of belief in God or gods”.

        • john zande says:

          Theism: noun, belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in one god as creator of the universe, intervening in it and sustaining a personal relation to his creatures.

          Atheism: noun, disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

          So, please answer the question without your typical diversionary song and dance routine: Name the god Buddhists worship…

        • John Branyan says:

          Please stop demanding answers to incoherent questions in your typical diversionary song and dance routine.

          Buddhists are atheists. They don’t worship any gods.

          Atheists are not spiritual. They do not believe in spirits.

        • john zande says:

          A-theism concerns one thing. To repeat:

          Atheism: noun, disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

          But as we can all see, you can’t defend your statement.

          In the future, if it’s not asking too much, do try to think before you type.

        • John Branyan says:

          If A-theism is concerned with just one thing, why do you care so deeply about making sure we define the term exactly as you do?

          Nobody has denied your “lack of belief in God”. I’ve merely pointed out that your claim to “spiritualism” is incoherent.

          In the future, if it’s not asking too much, to try to think before you type.

        • Mel Wild says:

          John B, I would also like to add, why is JZ so religious? Perhaps he’s hedging his bets so he doesn’t come back as a common house fly for being such a bad atheist in this life (bad karma)? That would at least make sense.

        • John Branyan says:

          He’s admitted to being a theist in the past.
          He will deny that now because he’s also a compulsive liar.

          Speaking of liars, Scotty showed up on my blog to affirm that it isn’t always immoral to kill people because they’re gay.

          There is no question that atheists are religious. Atheists are the only people who insist otherwise.

  2. David Robertson says:

    Though I have no data to back this up, my view is that secularism will decline at some point (not just relative to faiths but absolutely), because it fails to fill the hole in our selves that religion fills. Moreover, as more come to realise that religions can be intellectually defended, which seems tk slowly be happening, more people will be willing to embrace faith once again. This is all just speculation though 😜

    • Mel Wild says:

      I think your speculations aren’t too far from the truth, David. I don’t think Dawkins’s ontology that postulates “no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind, pitiless, indifference” is very appealing, do you?

      I also agree about some embracing faith again. If Christianity is being pruned from its pretenders, then the genuine can finally come forth. The version that changed the ancient world through the lives of people transformed by following Christ.

      • jim- says:

        “Blind, pitiless, indifference”is not how I feel at all. It may “seem” to be a hard pill to swallow for a believer, but reality is much easier to live with once I eliminated the massive conjecture and guesswork of god. And Dawkins speaks for himself. Dying doesn’t seem that appealing either, but it is the reality we live with and life is still grand. There are a lot of absolutes projected by Christians about what atheists believe. Most are unfounded based on statements of one person or another. I have never read it followed Dawkins or any other. I feel very fine as a matter of fact. Good morning Mel.

        • Mel Wild says:

          “Blind, pitiless, indifference” is not how I feel at all. It may “seem” to be a hard pill to swallow for a believer, but reality is much easier to live with once I eliminated the massive conjecture and guesswork of god.

          So, you don’t believe in Evolution, which according to your atheist friends, is totally random, accidental, and unguided? Dawkins is just taking that view to its logical conclusion.

          And why would you say it must be a hard pill for us to swallow? Is this a contest to see who has it easier?

        • jim- says:

          Of course the most difficult point must be pointed out, but not only survival of the fittest, but survival of the most adaptable in many cases, which would include cooperation which is also visible in most every species, which is probably why many lived peacefully societies prior to Christianity, and some even held on in spite of it.

        • Mel Wild says:

          That’s pretty much a myth (only superficially true in rare cases, historically) but thanks for parroting that talking point again.

        • jim- says:

          Who am I parroting? My initial thought is my own observation. I see it all around. I’ve never read an atheist book Mel, I come to my own conclusions on observation. Yes I agree with most of evolution, because I understand it. And aren’t those superficially true rare cases of peace noteworthy? Someone got it right and it wasn’t til religion popped in and took it away from them. If you’d like I can quote an entire first hand narrative, but I think you probably already know. I know you believe one person, Jesus got it right and you’re willing to look at that, so this is not a stretch by any standard to follow a lead of someone else that did.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Who am I parroting?

          Well, it’s quite coincidental then. Your leaders are constantly trying to figure out a way to not only discredit Christianity in any way possible, but also dismiss its influence on society in history.

          And aren’t those superficially true rare cases of peace noteworthy?

          Yes, of course. And that doesn’t bother me in the least bit.

          Someone got it right and it wasn’t til religion popped in and took it away from them.

          THAT is a popular myth propagated by Christian detractor’s pseudo-history. Christianity didn’t take freedom away from pagan societies, unless you’re talking about certain cases where the government version under the Roman Empire did this, which was more political than theological. I do know this for a fact.

        • jim- says:

          What you’re calling pseudo historyis a first hand account written in 1506 by a Christian man who fought for justice for the natives? I think not! He was also instrumental in deslaverizing the Caribs.

        • Mel Wild says:

          And I would agree with you on this particular account. As I said below, my point is about the general notion that Christianity took away pagan culture’s freedom. The opposite was often the case in the early centuries, at least.

        • jim- says:

          This isn’t really superficial. One of your own reporting first hand. It appears they didn’t even know violence til gods people stepped in. Bartolome De Las Casas sailed to the “New World” in 1502 and recorded many of the things he saw in his book, “The Devastation of the Indies”:
          “With my own eyes I saw Spaniards cut off the nose, hands and ears of Indians, male and female, without provocation, merely because it pleased them to do it … Likewise, I saw how they summoned the caciques and the chief rulers to come, assuring them safety, and when they peacefully came, they were taken captive and burned … (The Spaniards) took babies from their mothers’ breasts, grabbing them by the feet and smashing their heads against rocks … They built a long gibbet, low enough for the toes to touch the ground and prevent strangling, and hanged thirteen at a time in honor of Christ Our Savior and the twelve Apostles … There’s a lot more written about their entirely peaceful nature and they didn’t grasp the concept of evil. It was cooperation at its best. It sure interests me how they managed.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Bartolome De Las Casas sailed to the “New World” in 1502 and recorded many of the things he saw in his book, “The Devastation of the Indies”:

          Yes, of course. Those are well-known atrocities and a horrific part of Church history. And, keep in mind, it was an actual Christian who was appalled by what he saw. But I don’t think we could call those Spaniards who did this Christians. They were criminals. Christendom was a state-run institution that often did things under the pretense of Christ’s kingdom in total contradiction to His teachings. Yet, even this poor example did many good things, which anti-Christians selectively ignore in their diatribes against Christianity.

          So, should we blame science for the disastrous experiments in eugenics and the creation of weapons of mass destruction in the 20th century? Probably not, right? And since we’re talking about history, more people were killed and others tortured in secular wars in the 20th century than all of human history put together. I think what you’re addressing is a HUMAN problem.

        • jim- says:

          We may find some common ground yet. Well said. Look at my post today if you get a chance. It explains very briefly what I see as a bridge that should be crossed, but may never be. Good chatting with you. Hope you and yours are well.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I agree that common ground can be found if we’re both open to honest dialogue. I will try to look at your post when I get a chance.

        • jim- says:

          It is hard to separate colonialism from Christianity which may need further investigation.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Understood. This is the legacy of State-run religion (Christendom), unfortunately. It’s like trying to separate American Christians from Republicans. 🙂

        • jim- says:

          Lol. Ain’t that the truth!

    • John Branyan says:

      To piggyback on Mel’s comment, Dawkins is on record confessing that a purely naturalistic worldview is “unlivable”. That he is still revered as an atheist oracle says something about the discernment of his disciples.

      • Mel Wild says:

        Good point, John. Dawkins is also on record saying that natural selection does not necessarily lead one to the truth. And he’s not the only one…

        Sam Harris says:

        “Our logical, mathematical, and physical intuitions have not been designed by natural selection to track truth.”

        Atheist philosopher, John Gray insists:

        “Modern humanism is the faith that through science humankind can know the truth and so be free. But if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true this is impossible. The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.”

        He also saith:

        “The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. To think otherwise is to resurrect the pre-Darwinian error that humans are different from all other animals. Darwinian theory tells us that an interest in truth is not needed for survival or reproduction….
        Truth has no systematical advantage over error.”

        So, according to their own philosophy, naturalists have no logical reason to trust their cognitive faculties.

  3. David Robertson says:

    That’s quite similar to how some hard determinists have responded on how to live life knowing that there is no free will. You simply can’t, or if you do, it could lead to chaos

  4. Pastor Randy says:

    My experiences with the “Dones”, and many “Nones” is their love for Jesus and the Kingdom are strong but they have a great distaste and disgust with institutional church. Non-institutional churches, those with that Kingdom of God mentality, are the only ones experiencing growth. Mainline churches remain in decline, and have the audacity to wonder why. Just my thoughts! Blessings, Brother!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Good points, Pastor Randy. I have also seen this. Many “unaffiliated” are just not affiliated with an organized church but they still follow Jesus. What we’re seeing is a slow-moving, but steady transition from the Christianity of “Christendom” (State sponsored, then culturally sponsored) church to a more organic variety. People are increasingly identified as “Christians” by their conscious choice, not because it was the religion of their parents or family. This pruning process, if you will, is actually a very good thing! Blessing to you as well. 🙂

  5. Nan says:

    I found it to be an interesting example of cherry-picking data to fit the desired conclusion.
    Really? Hmmm. Takes one to know one.

    I totally agree with Jim — “There are a lot of absolutes projected by Christians about what atheists believe. Most are unfounded based on statements of one person or another.” And much of that is evident on this very blog.

    But when push comes to shove, why does it matter whether or not Christianity is “fading away?” So long as YOU believe and you have a church full of individuals with similar convictions, why be concerned about statistics and/or articles such as those you mentioned?

    • Mel Wild says:

      But when push comes to shove, why does it matter whether or not Christianity is “fading away?”

      Well, Nan, I wasn’t the one promoting this myth; I was merely correcting it. And I would ask then, why do your atheist/humanist friends gleefully promote this stuff all the time? I’m being told by some of these evangelists how Christianity and religion will eventually become extinct, etc. Professor Taboo mentioned this particular Huffington Post article twice in his comments from my last post.

      So, I think you’re asking the wrong person. It would be more appropriate for me to ask you (all) why does it matter to you that Christianity is not actually shrinking (35% growth from 2010-2050), and arguably getting healthier by being more clearly defined, and secularism is not keeping pace with global growth over the same period? Why be concerned about statistics as your group gets comparatively smaller over the next 30 years, as long as you have each other on the Internet?

      • Nan says:

        Why be concerned about statistics as your group gets comparatively smaller over the next 30 years, as long as you have each other on the Internet?

        Oh, that’s really cute and clever. I must keep that in mind … I’ll always have the internet when I need to converse with my non-believing friends. SMH

        BTW, I could care less about statistics. What I do care about is the vast number of people who are taken in by the fairy-tale aspects of Christianity and spend their entire lives focused on pleasing an entity that doesn’t exist instead of taking in all the wonders of this magnificent universe and simply enjoying what it … and life … has to offer.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Oh, that’s really cute and clever.

          Just like your comment to me. 🙂

          BTW, I could care less about statistics. What I do care about is the vast number of people who are taken in by the fairy-tale aspects of Christianity….

          Good, I don’t really care about statistics either. I think it was Mark Twain who said there’s three levels of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. And I just don’t like people taken in by anti-Christian myths promoted on my site that are treated like facts.

          And so we’re in agreement then. We can both point out each others fairy tales. 🙂

        • John Branyan says:

          Hey Mel,

          You were featured on Nan’s blog but she didn’t want to “give publicity” to you.
          Instead, she hosted a group hug for Scotty to help him recover from the horrid abuse that you and I heaped upon him in the comment section of your earlier post.

          I would have called her out on her blog but she’s too scared of me to allow my comments in her space.

          Nan (and company) are all about civility and respect until they’re talking to a Christian. They can say whatever nasty thing pops into their heads when they’re talking to (or about) you and me. Then, when I push back, they lecture me about how I’m not displaying the love of Jesus.

          Cowards each and every one.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks for pointing this out, John. I went over there. Quite cowardly indeed.

          The self-congratulatory misrepresentation of my position in that echo chamber was actually quite sickening so I didn’t bother to comment. I don’t have time for more of this nonsense after 200+ comments. But it was also quite hypocritical since “the blogger” pretends to be gracious with me. Haha…right.

          Of course, the funny thing is, they still have not answered my simple question where their standard of morality comes from. I guess it’s easier to mock and dismiss and stereotype than to think.

        • John Branyan says:

          I posted a screen shot of some of the dialogue on my blog today. I referenced “the blogger” and I linked to your blog as well. http://johnbranyan.com/the-best-thing-ive-read-this-week/

          This post has been the 2nd most read post of the month. Lots of comments on Facebook. None of them are supportive of the atheists…

        • Nan and Mel,

          I know I’m probably stating the obvious to you both, but statistics, polls, graphs, tables, etc, are not an exact sub-atomic science nor do they represent errorless data — margins of error should always be accounted for.

          That said, they CAN indeed provide a general, broad-stroked picture of what has happened, is happening, and probably/possibly will happen. That information I presented from National Geographic and the Pew Research Center was a lens — albeit incomplete due to incredibly complex data-sets and relative geographical parameters over many years — to a religiously changing global landscape, at the very least a SHIFTING global landscape due to other coefficients. It was not a reference nor an implication of 100% sub-atomic precision of a fluid landscape. LOL 😄 Just a lens into a valid, GENERAL, trend that should be considered when examining belief-systems.

        • Mel Wild says:

          That information I presented from National Geographic and the Pew Research Center was a lens — albeit incomplete due to incredibly complex data-sets and relative geographical parameters over many years — to a religiously changing global landscape, at the very least a SHIFTING global landscape due to other coefficients.

          I DO agree that there has been a definite shift in the landscape that actually started with the Enlightenment. Now, formerly Christianized countries (“Christendom”) are becoming more pluralistic, both in religious and secular ways. The former homogeneous “Christian” culture of these nations is a thing of the past, so we have to evaluate what that means, and what it means to be a “Christian” in a new (more biblical) light. I personally believe it’s a good thing. We have a more accurate picture of true Christian faith.

  6. John Branyan says:

    “What I do care about is the vast number of people who are taken in by the fairy-tale aspects of Christianity and spend their entire lives focused on pleasing an entity that doesn’t exist instead of taking in all the wonders of this magnificent universe and simply enjoying what it … and life … has to offer.”

    Blocking those people is a funny way show you care…

  7. “What I do care about is the vast number of people who are taken in by the fairy-tale aspects of Christianity….”

    What I care about is making sure everyone I meet in the world is given the opportunity and the support they need in order to know it’s okay to believe in “fairy tales” once again. CS Lewis once said it far better than I ever could.

    Something that is actually a well established fact, we are soon approaching what is called the “tipping point,” a time when there will be more Christians alive on earth than the total number of Christians who have ever lived. I have no idea what we’re “tipping,” but it’s kind of an interesting factoid to take note of.

    • Something that is actually a well established fact, we are soon approaching what is called the “tipping point,” a time when there will be more Christians alive on earth than the total number of Christians who have ever lived.

      Whether it is “well established fact” or not, depends on how the data and evidence is manipulated InsanityBytes. Your personal manipulation (or that of C.S. Lewis’ for that matter) doesn’t tell the entire story. Below I offer comments of one compelling logical explanation of what/how you framed and stated your “tipping point.” As more cumulative stats and data from the Pew Research Ctr shows below or on their extensive website…

      Does more [broader, scientific, accessible] education equal less religion?
      Factually and according to the PRC and OECD data-sets, yes it does.

      Does less and poorer education [naivety, under-educated] equal more fervent religion?
      Factually and according to the PRC and OECD data-sets, yes it does, as well as the scientific studies of the Placebo-effect, Peer-pressure/assimilation, and “group” theatrical performances.

      In other words IB, “tipping points” is vague and relative to locale and culture. In the future, trends are showing that Christians will NOT outnumber non-Christians as long as there is high-quality, broad curriculum education available and accessible to all the world or the majority of the world. The opposite conditions have historically shown and will show that religion thrives in regions of no-education, under-education, and socioeconomically poverty and more so under totalitarian/authoritarian regimes.

      To me, all this indicates a human-centric cultural core of “beliefs” or non-beliefs, not any divine entity or intervention.

      Have a good weekend IB. 🙂

      • “Below I offer comments of one compelling logical explanation……”

        Okay, and below I offer you a hearty belly laugh in response to your attempt to portray
        your own argument as either “logical” or “compelling.”

        Thanks for the chuckle. 🙂

        • Often we all get chuckles and gutteral laughs with the content or naive dimissals here. Part and parcel here 😉 Happy you could laugh IB.

          Have an even funnier weekend.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks for the chuckle. 🙂

          LOL! We seem to be having a feeding frenzy here, IB. This is getting counter-productive so I may have to close comments on this post.

          It’s amusing seeing all this self-gratulatory high-fiving going on here. Reminds me of the Oscars. 🙂 It also reminds me of the basketball team at my son’s high school.They were really good one year and were beating a particularly obnoxious team by about 40 points. The fans kept trying to mock us and my son just shouted out, “But you’re losing!” He was always good at addressing the elephant in the room. 🙂

  8. So, the next time you hear this kind of popular secularist/atheist propaganda, be skeptical. Question everything. Research it yourself.

    This is great advice Mel. And as you already know and have implied in this post, there are always several ways to manipulate (“cherry-pick“) data, evidence, surveys, historical events, and human reactions to events, questions and how the questions are framed. Political campaigns and used car salesmen on their lots are notorious for distorting value and truth, right? 😉

    So in the spirit of your sound advice, there are direct correlations to education levels attained, the broad curriculum of that education, its availability and accessibility for a populace… to the religious or “faith” affiliations of the same populace, particularly in the scientific fields. This is a significant coefficient (oversight?) that this Pew Research Center study Zuckerman referenced did NOT utilize. Perhaps doing so would’ve made the study and report overly complicated and too long for many readers. Understandable.

    FYI, this comment and its content will of course be truncated given the amounts of relative data and its complexity.

    Nevertheless, here is another important lens to view the declining numbers of Christians in the U.S. as well as in the Western Hemisphere in nations where higher quality, broad education is most prevalent and accessible. A May 2017 Pew Research Center poll, In America, Does More Education Equal Less Religion? says:

    Looking at the U.S. public as a whole, however, the answer to the question of whether more education is correlated with less religion appears to be yes. Among all U.S. adults, college graduates are considerably less likely than those who have less education to say religion is “very important” in their lives: Fewer than half of college graduates (46%) say this, compared with nearly six-in-ten of those with no more than a high school education (58%).

    Highly educated Americans are also less inclined than others to say they believe in God with absolute certainty and to pray on a daily basis. And, when asked about their religious identity, college graduates are more likely than others to describe themselves as atheists or agnostics (11% of college grads vs. 4% of U.S. adults with a high school education or less).

    According to OECD data and individual nation-stats, the most highly educated nations in the world, here are some of their recent Christian/Muslim/Secular percentages. These Christian percentages in these 20 nations have been steadily declining the last 4 decades:

    1. Canada — 66% / 3% / 24% *
    2. Japan — 2% / – / 52%
    3. Israel — 2% / 18% / 4%
    4. Korea — 28% / – / 57%
    5. United Kingdom — 60% / 4% / 34% *
    6. United States — 69% / 1% / 28% *
    7. Australia — 52% / 3% / 40%
    8. Finland — 71% / 1% / 23% *
    9. Norway — 75% / 3% / 17% *
    10. Luxembourg — 73% / 3% / 21% *
    11. Swizterland — 66% / 5% / 28% *
    12. Sweden — 69% / 1% / 28% *
    13. Iceland — 82% / – / 19% *
    14. Lithuania — 81% / – / 16% *
    15. Estonia — 28% / – / 71% *
    16. Denmark — 78% / 1% / 21% *
    17. Belgium — 61% / 5% / 33% *
    18. New Zealand — 48% / 1% / 47% *
    19. Netherlands — 40% / 5% / 56% *
    20. Spain — 69% / – / 28% *

    * – a higher percentage identified as “non-theist”

    The next 9 nations (21-29) in the tables are all in Europe as well. Here’s the very significant data. Following is the Pew Research Center’s projected 2060 percentages in the 3 primary religious regions (Christian, Muslim, Secular) of the world:

    Christian regions:
    • Sub-Saharan Africa– 26% up to 42%
    • Middle East-North Africa– 1% to 1%
    • Asia-Pacific– 13% to 13%
    • Latin America– 25% down to 22%
    • North America– 12% down to 9%
    • Europe– 24% down to 14%

    Muslim regions:
    • Sub-Saharan Africa– 16% up to 27%
    • Middle East-North Africa– 20% to 20%
    • Asia-Pacific– 61% down to 50%
    • Latin America– 0% to 0%
    • North America– 3% to 3%
    • Europe– 3% to 3%

    Secular regions:
    • Sub-Saharan Africa– 2% up to 5%
    • Middle East-North Africa– 0% to 0%
    • Asia-Pacific– 75% down to 66%
    • Latin America– 4% up to 5%
    • North America– 6% up to 10%
    • Europe– 12% up to 14%

    Notice that the poorest educated regions (primarily Sub-Saharan Africa) are the ones rising religiously and are regions with the HIGHEST offspring and fertility factors. This is where Christianity and Islam are seeing their most noticeable growth; not because of any truths or divine intervention. Parents, family, and immediate community/culture play a HUGE role in a person’s belief-system. Notice also that the highest educated regions, Europe and N. America, the Christian and Muslim numbers are steadily dropping. This decline can be contributed to smaller families/offspring and lower fertility rates.

    All these above correlations cannot be ignored when examining global trends of religion.

    To close, you made an interesting distinction between nominal (luke-warm or cold?) Christians… and active, outspoken Christians or evangelical(?) or spirit-filled, truly BORN-AGAIN(?) Christians. I suspect these numbers will be extremely difficult to quantify than the numbers that Zuckerman, the OECD & Pew Research Ctr, and you and I Mel, have already mentioned. Regarding outspoken, unconventionally active religious fervor, many many scientific studies show compelling neurological and physiological explanations — e.g. the Placebo-effect and Peer-pressure/assimilation — for these emotionally charged Faith-believers. These results show that the unconventional behavior and circumstances are much more an individual HUMAN creation and/or identified “group” (influenced by peers and performances) than unproven attributions to a divine entity or doctrines of divinity. In other words, no one human religious group has any compelling evidence of superiority or jurisdiction over another religious group. This makes religion/belief very culturally localized, NOT monistic truth.

    I wrote a Dec. 2016 blog-post about this topic of Placebo-effect, Peer-pressure/assimilation, and Religious fervor that covers semi-adequately WHY orthodoxy is mistakenly perceived as “one divine truth.” My post also has a Bibliography accompanying. I’ll be happy to provide the web-link if requested, given that URL’s go into Moderation or Spam folders.

    Thanks Mel for your version and interpretation of our changing global religious landscape. Hope you are having a good Friday sir.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Of course, we can interpret your data on level of education in more than one way, too. Either way, I don’t think it changes where the Pew Research says that actual decline is coming from in these heavily Christianized nations that were previously major players historically in Euro-American Christendom. It also doesn’t change the Pew data that the secular population is projected to decline with regard to total population in the next 30 years.

      Thanks Mel for your version and interpretation of our changing global religious landscape.

      Thank you for your version and interpretation as well. 🙂

      • It wasn’t MY data Mel, it was the OECD’s, individual nation’s data, and other Pew Research Ctr data.

        Either way, I don’t think it changes where the Pew Research says that actual decline is coming from in these heavily Christianized nations that were previously major players historically in Euro-American Christendom.

        Umm, debateable for sure when one examines closely this additional OECD, Pew Research Ctr, and each individual nation’s religious stats. The Pew Research Ctr graph/table “Growing shares of Christians and Muslims expected to live in sub-Saharan Africa” paints a clear picture of where and WHY Christian and Muslim numbers will grow — and very plausibly suggests it is NOT from any divine intervention or truth or even orthodoxy. It’s a very logical birth-rate/education human explanation. 😉

        Let everyone and anyone go read the data and information and draw their own conclusions. As the PRC stated (not me):

        …the answer to the question of whether more education is correlated with less religion appears to be yes.

        And THAT is where Christianity and Islam are finding their biggest growth…
        in the uneducated or naive, under-educated, and in economically poor regions where severe desparation for change exists. Those severe conditions are RIPE for paranormal or divine inspirations or “rescues” as they perceive them with their (highly?) limited educations, particularly in the sciences. In regions where high quality, broad curriculum is available and accessible, religion is declining.

        I see the real question being… What would the religious/secular trends be or become if all types and levels of quality broad education (with sciences) were easily available and accessible to ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD? 😉

        • jim- says:

          Maybe poverty to religion to secularism and educational/socioeconomic progress is a natural, evolutionary process. Seeing there are few exceptions to what I’m seeing or have seen. Religion could be a means to an end, but with a larger degree of integrity they could certainly use their prowess to promote growth and freedom instead of hanging on to power over the people at all cost.

        • Jim, those are interesting points if I’m understanding your intent correctly. I understand and agree about historically known religious and non-religious corruption in positions of power. However, from your earlier sentences I have in my mind an evolutionary dot-connecting process, BUT I’m not sure it fits YOUR intended evolutionary dot-connecting. LOL 😛 Can you clarify a bit more please?

        • jim- says:

          Certainly. Whether intentional or not, (apparently not )it appears to be a pattern of evolutionary process. Religion has a way of quickly uniting vast segments of people. Then when they begin to prosper in the system and develop systemized learning of philosophies and arts and science, they become more secular until the religion is debunked and then progress to the next level. What that next phase will be I don’t know, but I see a pattern that crossed many cultures and time frames. What do you think? I hope this was more clear than my last comment. Travel day so everything is on the phone :/

        • Mel Wild says:

          Again, as I’ve said before, you can make whatever thesis you want from the data, but your speculations don’t take into account the many brilliant people, including scientists, who were atheists became Christians, like Francis Collins, and other brilliant and highly educated men and women I’ve featured on this blog. Also Antony Flew was a famous atheist who become deist before he died. I just don’t think you can conclude that science and education automatically turn someone into an atheist or humanist, unless you think we worship a “god of the gaps” rather than the one we actually believe in. It’s not a question of intelligence, it’s a question of whether one is dogmatic about their worldview or not. Of course, a dogmatic materialist or naturalist will not consider anything outside the natural realm.

        • jim- says:

          It seems to fit as each step is a painful and growing phase. From Animism to Polytheism to Henothism to Monotheism to Atheism. Each one has fewer gods then the prior. And I’m sure each time is a phase of pain and growth. Including this one. All the other forms of religion I think you could agree with. One more to go.

        • john zande says:

          And let’s not forget, since Kenneth Arnold’s famed 1947 spotting of “flying disks” over the Cascade Mountains, virtually every new religion registered on earth has been a UFO religion.

          Armageddon Time Ark Base Operation, Planetary Activation Organisation, Star Light Fellowship, Guardian Activation International, Aetherius Society, Ashtar Galactic Command, The Seekers (Brotherhood of the Seven Rays), Chen Tao, Aetherius Society, Cosmic Circle of Fellowship, Fiat Lux, Ground Crew Project, Heaven’s Gate, Industrial Church of the New World Comforter, Universe People, Mark-Age, Scientology, Raëlism, Order of the Solar Temple, Nuwaubianism, Unarius, Training centre for release of the Atma-energy, Church of the SubGenius, Urantia movement, to name just a few.

          It all reflects the time. Bears and Lions and Huge Ancestors for Paleolithic man, Magical Sky Dads for Iron Age folk, Gaianism for the searching souls of the Enlightenment, and Wise Aliens for us in the 20th/21st century.

        • jim- says:

          Nice add on there. Yes. This is just getting better and better. Thanks. It’s hard to believe people fall in line for it, but they continue to amaze

        • john zande says:

          Speaks to a common human anxiety stemming from Mortality Salience.

        • Hahahaha!!! 😄 Good addition JZ.

        • …[the] speculations don’t take into account the many brilliant people, including scientists, who were atheists became Christians…

          Actually Mel, the various PRC and OECD data-tables and articles DO INDEED take into account the scientific Christians and give reasonable explanations of why they identify as theists, or nominal Christian. You should further research it. 🙂

        • Ahh, yes! That is a good abstration of my comment Jim. Well done. What do I think?

          Not too long ago I read (somewhere) that religions, especially the three Abrahamic, have many unfalsifiable assertions — if one completely ignores their Holy Scriptures — which allows Faith-followers to constantly morph over time (which they have done repeatedly!) as well as have Carte Blanche to move their goal-posts in virtually any manner! However, if the antagonist addresses their Special Revelations, specifically individual miracles and/or Scripture, the goal-posts are much much harder to freely move (impossible?) because of advanced technological instruments available and the closed/FIXED canons of Scripture — thus, for both falsifiable, improbable, or unreliable.

          Addressing their General Revelations (or the domain of Nature and the Cosmos; the non-human) and to your further clarification: the social anthropaleological sciences, the observable evidence, disciplines of study, our knowledge, evolving theories and results… can be a vastly larger, sometimes trickier monster to tackle! Many are too lazy to go the necessary distances.

          Nonetheless, you have a valid point about “Religion has a way of quickly uniting vast segments of people.” This claim can be argued from a religious/divine POV and equally or more a non-religious POV. And perhaps that’s where my above comment and your synopsis can pickup the arguement further. So far and by all statistical indications over the last 4 decades, “developing systemized learning of philosophies and arts and science, [generally populations] become more secular until the religion is debunked” suggests that is indeed the case. And I personally feel the biggest reason WHY it is the case is that the Abrahamic religions, particularly Christianity, poorly operates in a CLOSED-system of claims (e.g. the Canonical bibles) which is not at all equipped to evolve or give answers of 100% certainty about its tenets, characters, or exegesis/hermeneutics within the arena of General Revelation, much less Special Revelations.

          Does that make sense Jim? Sorry, now I have been frequently interrupted and simultaneously managing various tasks AND this topic here! LOL 😛

        • I believe there is a new scientific methodology of testing which deserves mentioning here too. It explores human psychology and cognitive-behavioral activity.

          In regard also to “always questioning everything,” scrutinizing the data and their sources… no paradigm, belief-system, historical records, scientific theory or laws, Natural or unnatural/extraordinary phenomena or event(s) should ever be above thorough scrutiny or exist in perpetual impunity. This CERTAINLY includes religious or non-religious ideologies. This is why I find the fairly new field of Agnotology extremely beneficial to further perfecting methodologies as to what is known, unknown, and in between (i.e. to be determined) and how those three are obtained, manufactured, and/or distorted/hidden. Agnotology, in my opinion, should (must) accompany ALL fields of inquiry, no exceptions… and old antiquated “closed” belief-systems especially!

  9. Ron says:

    Secularism is the principle of seperation of religion and the state. Even the religious can appreciate the benefits of government policies that refrain from endorsing religious beliefs, or favoring one religion over another, or even favoring religion over non-religion. If anything, they have the most to gain from supporting secularism.

    • Very well stated Ron. 👍

    • Mel Wild says:

      Ron, the way you define it, I would agree. I don’t want state-run religion or government endorsement of religion either.

      But the research mentioned was talking about personal beliefs in culture, so I’m using secular on a personal level, a group of people unaffiliated with a particular religion or atheist.

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