People often say that we should never discuss religion or politics. But I see nothing but religion and politics on social media. So tonight, as I once again cannot sleep, and as yet another live Muslim terror attack appears on my screen, I thought I would try to get a perspective on religion. Sorry it’s not a funny blog post, but I hope it’s not too serious, opinionated or lecturing; it’s just me, as a bloke having a think out loud, really. Hope you like it, or get something from it. Anyway, here goes.
I wanted to know if the UK was religious, and I found the following on-line quotation that sums up all the sites I read:
One single fact can be found in all of the statistics: Britons are mostly non-religious and are increasingly both innocent and ignorant of religion.
Numbers are available for this, for example:
Those who do profess religion in the UK are largely inactive.
A 2007 poll commissioned by the British Library found that 50% of religious folk “do not practice religion very much, if at all”, with Christians being the most inactive.
A 2014 poll found similar results, with 50% of British Jews saying that they are not at all religious Muslims were most religious, with only 7% saying they’re not.
|Christianity||33 200 000||59.3%|
|No Religion||14 100 000||25.1%|
|Islam||2 700 000||4.8%|
|Jedi Knights||176 632||0.3%|
So it seems that Christianity is the biggest, but also pretty inactive, when you add that to those who see themselves as having No Religion (and perhaps Jedi Knights too), then it strongly suggests to me that the UK is overwhelmingly not a religious place.
Islam is the most practised religion, but there are very few Muslims in Britain – just 4.8%, 2.7 million, and of these, (the news media suggests) there are a few extremists – and only some of these are the ones doing the terror attacks. So although the numbers are very small, the impact is very large in terms of media coverage and the effect on us all – in terms of searches and security at airports, fear and suspicion and more.
It seems to be the same in the USA, despite the success of Bible Belt fundamental Christian media, religion in general is in serious decline there too.
Religiosity in the United States is in the midst of what might be called ‘The Great Decline.’ Previous declines in religion pale in comparison. Over the past fifteen years, the drop in religiosity has been twice as great as the decline of the 1960s and 1970s.
Last year brought a continuation of this decline. 2013 was a new low for the level of religiosity in the country.
The Source has a very good graph of 61 years of decline in religiosity for you to check out if you feel like it.
I looked around various search engine results, changed the search wording a bit, and it seems plain now to me that religion has been dying for decades in the UK, the USA and Europe. That is the trend.
It can be taken as the trend for the “West” or the “Developed” nations or “First world”. I needed to find some information about what’s happening everywhere else.
How do things stand across the world?
|Chinese traditional religion||394 million||5.50%|
|Ethnic religions excluding some in separate categories||300 million||4.19%|
|African traditional religions||100 million||1.40%|
OK, now this shows that all the Catholic and Protestant Christian faiths when taken all together, beat Islam. But it could be that many may be inactive – in the same way that I found in the UK study earlier.
And of course, religion, except Islam and a few others, is in decline – so at the present time the world is mostly Christian/ No religion and Islam.
The next question is – what about the future?
…the total number of religiously unaffiliated people (which includes atheists, agnostics and those who say they have no particular religion on censuses and surveys) is expected to rise, from 1.1 billion in 2010 to 1.2 billion in 2050. But this growth is projected to occur at the same time that other religious groups – and the global population overall – are growing faster.
A Daily Mail / New Scientist article suggests that affluence makes the elite, rich switch to a slower lifestyle, having fewer children and having them later in life too – putting them at risk evolutionarily when compared with the live-fast, die-young, poor – and this, they suggest, is why moralising religions were devised – to level the playing field.
It seems then that historically, the most religious countries have been the most primitive or undeveloped economically, and as this changes, their people have moved away from religion. The question is whether that will still be the case for the third world.
However, recent studies indicate that Hindus and Muslims are not following that route, and seem to hold onto their religions despite development.
This suggests that the future will be polarised between a growing Muslim population across the world, and a non religious/inert Christianity.
This has economic impact because Islam forbids banks to charge interest under Sharia law. So banks make money by lending money to business and taking a share of the profits.
Now, this may seem like a great idea because the banks share the risk – but it also means that banks would evaluate business more stringently, and lend much less, creating a stagnant economic model.
There is another consideration here too – that of culture. It is rarely mentioned, but people in the UK are culturally Christian. God is on the money along with the Queen – who is head of the Church of England and Defender of The Faith. Christmas and Easter are celebrated, and people marry in church. Children learn about Noah’s Ark, the Nativity, and other Bible Stories. The UK has cathedrals and a long history of religious wars, mainly between Catholic Christians and Protestants – but also the Crusades against Islam. The Industrial Revolution was the result of a strange combination of the Enlightenment and something called the Protestant Work Ethic.
So while there may be a decline in Christianity as a religion, as a culture, it seems more robust. This may be where Muslims and Christians clash the most just now in the UK. However, as the table of numbers showed, they are far too small a population to be a real concern regarding dominance in terms of religion or of culture.
Globally is a different case. There are terrorist groups, such as Islamic State, who seem to have real issues with people who do not follow their particular flavour of Islam. The extremists tend to target other Muslims, but they are better known for those occasions when they attack non-Muslims, or when they attack “the West”.
At one time, it would have been thought that prosperity for middle eastern countries would solve the problems, but as oil has enriched some of these countries, matters have got worse instead of better, and as I just found out, Islam seems to buck the trend for religious adherence falling away as people get affluent.
My little trip round the internet has been more interesting than worrying. Donald Trump’s calls for a ban on Muslims being allowed into the USA – or racists in the UK voting for Brexit in order to control Muslim entry seem more about fears of losing cultural identity than stopping terrorism.
The number of suicidal western-hating Muslim terrorists is too small for any country to manage an effective pre-emption or defence strategy; you cannot legislate for random acts by a few crazy people.
That’s a rubbish conclusion, isn’t it? We cannot do anything. And it’s annoying to me that these few idiots can have such a disproportionate effect. Sometimes I wonder if the real aim of the terrorists is to get us spending resources on security and making everyone’s lives that bit more of a drag.
The politicians seem to feel the need to show voters that this is serious, and that we need to have vigilance and security measures that put our basic freedoms at risk.
I suppose we can share intelligence, have secret services monitor social media and generally keep an eye on who’s buying bombs and plane tickets. But is it worth losing freedoms and privacy rights? Is it worth xrays and removing shoes and belts in airports?
There are other, less obvious, ways to undermine Islamic terrorism, the developed world needs to switch away from oil toward renewables, to take a different view on recreational drugs, to fundamentally change the banking and investment sector, and to allow China to rise to take over the role of World Police. The end of Pax Britannica led to Pax Americana. I don’t know what to call it when it goes to China!
These measures seem to be what is going on, so I feel somewhat re-assured for the future.