Is Religion Declining?
Before I was born, there was a consensus among sociologists that religion was declining. As the world became more modern, more scientific, and more educated, they thought the world was also becoming less religious. This was based on the story of Western Europe where indeed secularization had been bred out of modernization.
But in the time between then and now, we’ve seen what’s been referred to as the large-scale empirical falsification of the secularization hypothesis. Not only has the world not become less religious, but the world actually seems to be becoming more religious. So at the moment, if we look at the best projections from now until 2060, we see that Christianity will continue to be the world’s largest global worldview.
Currently, about 31% of the world identifies as Christian and it looks like that will be slightly up to 32%. Islam is set to grow quite dramatically from about 25% to 31% in that time and become a very close competitor with Christianity. Hinduism and Buddhism are set to decline slightly, by 1% or 2%.
When we go back to that initial secularization hypothesis and re-examine it, we realize that not only was it wrong, but it was wrongly founded. . .
The thing that’s really shocking to the secular system is that the proportion of people around the world who will say that they don’t affiliate with any particular religion is set to decline from 16% to 13%. So the question is what’s going on here?
Part of the answer is that people who believe in God seem to have more children than people who don’t. I’m pregnant at the moment with my third child which puts me on the exact average birth rate for Christians globally (2.7%).
Muslims also have a substantially larger number of children, also Jews. But people of no religious belief have a lower birth rate. But that’s not the whole story. China—which is currently the global center of atheism—is experiencing a rate of growth in the church that is unexpected, unprecedented, and looks set to change the world.
So at the moment, America is the country with more Christians than any other country. It looks like by 2030, it may be China. By 2060, one of the leading sociologists of religion for China, a man named Fenggang Yang, anticipates that China could be a majority Christian country.
The global implications of that shift—politically and economically—from a communist-majority country to a Christian-majority country are pretty spectacular. When we go back to that initial secularization hypothesis and re-examine it, we realize that not only was it wrong, but it was wrongly founded on a white western bias which assumed that where Western Europe led, the rest of the world would follow. And those days are gone.
- The Church’s Most Powerful Witness to the World (J. Mack Stiles)