Religion May Become "Extinct"?
On March 22, bbc.com released a story that has set the blogosphere abuzz. The headline reads: “Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12811197). Before examining that list of nine countries, here’s the logic behind that conclusion. The American Physical Society (APS), meeting in Dallas recently, released research based on non-linear dynamics, a mathematical model used to analyze data. Examining religious affiliation census data extending back a century for numerous countries, and then correlating that data with known social motives behind being religious or not, the APS concluded that for these nine nations the trends indicate that eventually social motivation for joining a religion will diminish until (mathematically speaking) no one in the country will be religious. “‘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 . . . 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.’” The reality that more and more people in these particular nations “are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion,” Wiener pointed out, led to this study’s conclusion. In what nine countries is religion predicted to become extinct? Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland. In the Netherlands 40% of those surveyed declare themselves non-affiliated with religion—in the Czech Republic that figure climbs to 60%. And what about the United States? Commenting on the BBC report, theblaze.com indicates that nationwide 15% of Americans now claim no religion, making them the only religious group “growing in all 50 states.” Obviously, no mathematical formula or theory exists that can accurately predict the spiritual realities of the collective human heart. And yet two millennia ago Jesus himself wondered about the spiritual state of humanity just before he returned to earth: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Will he? Though Dylan Thomas was not decrying the loss of faith on the earth, his fiery admonition might serve the friends of Christ well, we who must yet move into the gathering darkness to share the promise of light:
Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
“Rage” is hardly an irenic term—but it can depict the fiery passion of the Spirit against the gathering nightfall of faith, can’t it? Yes, the numbers of the non-affiliated are on the rise in nations once considered Christian. But No, the friends of the Son of Man need not “go gentle” into the approaching night. Rather, let the Radicals, this new generation of missionaries, rise up with the fervor of Christ himself and move into these nine nations (and many more) with the faith of the Savior bright in our own hearts and fresh on our own lips. Rather than simply raging “against the dying of the light,” is it not better to light a candle in the dark instead? After all the night belongs to Christ. And it may yet be that with our candles high the Son of Man will find faith on the earth when he comes.