The Future: More Religion in Scary Places; Less Religion Everywhere Else

 

shutterstock_340682378When did demographics get so depressing? It really has replaced economics as the “dismal science.” But at least with economics, you get market-based prices and (often) a tax cut. Demographics, as this recent study shows, is pretty much endless bad news:

People who are religiously unaffiliated (including self-identifying atheists and agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular”) made up 16.4% of the world’s population in 2010. Unaffiliated populations have been growing in North America and Europe, leading some to expect that this group will grow as a share of the world’s population. However, such forecasts overlook the impact of demographic factors, such as fertility and the large, aging unaffiliated population in Asia.

Meaning: People in North American and Europe — in other words, us — are gradually becoming less “affiliated” with a religion. People everywhere else — in other words, them — are going in the opposite direction:

By 2050, the unaffiliated share of the world population is projected to decrease because the unaffiliated population has the twin demographic disadvantages of low fertility and an old age structure. Current demographic trends suggest that the religiously affiliated share of the world’s population will increase unless there is significant change in the fertility patterns of the unaffiliated or a major change in switching patterns [i.e., switching from being “religiously affiliated” to “unaffiliated” or vice versa].

In our main scenario, the unaffiliated are projected to increase in absolute numbers by nearly 100 million people (9% growth between 2010 and 2050). However, the world’s overall population is expected to grow much faster (35% between 2010 and 2050), adding 2.4 billion people during the 40-year period. Because that growth is driven disproportionately by births to affiliated women, the unaffiliated share of the world’s population is projected to decline from 16.4% in 2010 to 13.2% in 2050. Even in the scenario with an additional 50% increase in switching patterns favoring the unaffiliated, the unaffiliated share of the world’s population would still decline to 14.3%. If switching patterns favoring the affiliated increase by 50%, the unaffliated share of the world would decline even further, to 12.2%.

That’s, as we say, a whole lotta words. But what they mean, I think, is that the prevailing Judeo-Christian culture — even the essentially secular one — is dying out. And I think we all know what that means, but here it is in fancy language:

Our projections show a growing divergence between highly affiliated, rapidly growing regions (sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East-North Africa) and increasingly unaffiliated regions with more modest population change (Europe and the Americas). The divergence in religious affiliation between these regions may make communication across cultures more difficult and heighten geopolitical tensions as the unaffiliated and affiliated struggle to understand one another’s worldview.

Small ray of hope? China:

These projections do not model any switching in China, where reliable information about switching patterns is unavailable. However, observers such as Fenggang Yang (2015) believe religious groups, including Christians, are growing in China because of switching. China is home to the majority of the world’s unaffiliated population (62% in 2010), so if religious switching enlarges China’s affiliated population in coming decades this could lead to an even greater decline in the unaffiliated share of the world’s population.

There are a lot of Muslim Chinese in the western part of that country, but there are also a lot of newly-converted (again, “switched” in the language of this study) Christians in China.

Possible conclusions: 1) Religious persecution of Christians worldwide is a real problem that is only going to get worse; 2) Childless North American/European couples are contributing to the problem, for whatever reason; and 3) If our part of the world is getting less “affiliated,” we’d better figure out how to “communicate” with the part that’s getting more “affiliated,” either with diplomacy or with military power or with both, combined.

There are 30 comments.

  1. Casey Inactive

    Aren’t we just generally getting less affiliated in everything? The worst thing anyone can be these days is someone who is so closed minded that they affiliate with something.

    That seems like a reversable trend.

    • #1
    • January 21, 2016, at 5:03 AM PDT
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  2. Arahant Member

    Demography is not quite destiny, but it does go a long way. The reason for the success of Western Civilization was that they were the first to conquer childhood diseases and had to spread out somewhere when 3/4 were no longer dying before adulthood. It made a big population boom.

    Now, they’re the first to be dying out.

    • #2
    • January 21, 2016, at 5:30 AM PDT
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  3. Kozak Member

    You need to get Mark Steyn back as a podcast guest.
    He’s the King of Dismal Demographics….

    • #3
    • January 21, 2016, at 5:37 AM PDT
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  4. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    On the bright side, I understand that Israel leads the first world in birthrate….

    • #4
    • January 21, 2016, at 5:57 AM PDT
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  5. Dave of Barsham Member

    I’m curious if “unaffiliated” includes people who no longer claim to be part of specific defined denominations. For instance, I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church but now attend essentially a non-denominational one and would not tell a pollster “I’m Southern Baptist”, even though theologically I’m not really any different.

    • #5
    • January 21, 2016, at 6:01 AM PDT
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  6. Liz Member
    Liz

    Another bright side: there have been some reports by missionary groups that Christianity in Iran is growing by almost 20% a year. Amazing, if true.

    • #6
    • January 21, 2016, at 6:19 AM PDT
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  7. Lazy_Millennial Member

    Yeah I’d question those projections that say the Middle East and North Africa are booming. Spengler’s been arguing the opposite, and for Iran at least, the regime’s pro-fertility policies haven’t been able to nudge the birthrate above replacement level. Putin’s having the same problem in Russia, and the Chinese have at most 30 more years to grow their economy to the point where they can avert demographic disaster (too many old folks, not enough workers). Their easing of the 1-child policy is a good step, but changing the 1-child culture takes time.

    I expect I’ll see much conflict in Europe through my lifetime, between aging Europeans and young Muslims who replace them. America’s avoiding aging into sclerosis depends on immigration, and avoiding conflict depends on integration. If I were European, I’d have reason to despair. As an American, I’m very concerned for the future.

    But as a Christian, I’m VERY optimistic. All the reports I’m hearing out of China indicate a massive resurgence of Christianity. Sub-saharan Africa’s mostly Christian, and there’s reports of a decent revival going on in Latin America. The revival in Asia is even producing Asian missionaries to Muslim countries. I even think the current persecution of Christians in Muslim countries will lead to more converts, as has through the history of Christianity. The west is dying, but the church is vibrant and growing.

    • #7
    • January 21, 2016, at 6:22 AM PDT
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  8. I Walton Member

    This means the west better reduce immigration from Islamic countries or they will cease to exist much sooner. Islamic countries will spill over in spite of restrictions because they will fail to develop flourishing economies and civilizations as long as they take Islam seriously. So quarantine is the approach and they’ll probably become less affiliated themselves over time so they don’t starve to death. Just in case, lets develop energy resources with great haste and persistence. Let’s be clear we do not have to overtly adopt a policy to restrict Islamic immigration. Just insist that we know that there are no ties to political islam, Sharia is political Islam.

    • #8
    • January 21, 2016, at 6:23 AM PDT
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  9. Jim Beck Member

    Morning Rob,

    From “Its Still the Demography Stupid” http://www.steynonline.com/7428/it-still-the-demography-stupid, Steyn writes, “So by the end of 2016 she (Merkel) will have imported a population equivalent to 40 percent of Germany’s existing young male cohort. The future is here now: It”s not about “predictions”. The Western world does not reproduce at a replacement level, let alone expansion level, and will not proclaim or defend its own values (all cultures are equal, of course). Cultures are overrun or eclipsed by those cultures who can sustain larger populations. Dying cultures are defeated physically or in spirit, or they are just crowded out, the Dinka crowded out by the Nuer. There are reasons to think that the Western world is a dying culture. We do have our Ricochet optimists, perhaps they have some ideas in which population demographics does not seem so depressing.

    • #9
    • January 21, 2016, at 6:28 AM PDT
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  10. Songwriter Member

    The message of the Gospel is one of deliverance. People who have nothing, living under the thumb of repression, are often desperate for such a message. But people who are materially comfortable and relatively free can quickly begin to think they have no need of deliverance from anything other than the religion that made them free and prosperous. Sadly, they are mistaken.

    • #10
    • January 21, 2016, at 6:57 AM PDT
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  11. Jim Kearney Contributor

    I, for one, welcome our new unaffiliated overlords.

    • #11
    • January 21, 2016, at 7:12 AM PDT
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  12. Susan Quinn Contributor

    This pattern of the unaffiliated has been going on for a while. What concerns me is not just that people are not engaged with communities that believe in the Jude0-Christian values, but that they are indifferent to them, or even condescending towards them. You only need to look at Europe to see that attitude. I fear that our non-affiliation will follow that downward and cynical pattern. We will be ripe for the imposition of the will of “affiliateds” such as Muslims. Not good.

    • #12
    • January 21, 2016, at 7:27 AM PDT
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  13. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Jim Beck: We do have our Ricochet optimists, perhaps they have some ideas in which population demographics does not seem so depressing.

    The answer, of course, is that the problem is not Syrians or Mexicans or any race or national group. The problem is when those people are not buying what we have to sell.

    The solution is to be loud and proud, to shamelessly sell what makes America great, to explain why our culture is the very best way that mankind has found to date for people to realize their potentials.

    Europe is doomed because they have no pride. America is not yet lost – because our pride is not only substantiated, but because it is also exportable. All of the ideas like Sanctuary Cities worldwide are ways to export the American Dream, to sway hearts and minds. We just have to have the courage to make the sale.

    • #13
    • January 21, 2016, at 7:36 AM PDT
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  14. Aaron Miller Member

    More from the Demographer-in-Chief:

    The population of the developed world – North America, the European Union, Japan, Oz, NZ – is about a billion. Of the remaining six billion people around the planet, is it really so absurd to think that one-sixth of them would “move north” if they could? Or if they chanced to see a YouTube video of “refugees” in Sweden and Germany demonstrating how easy it is?

    He then asks, “Is it remotely likely that 40 per cent of humanity will choose to stay in the most dysfunctional continent on earth…?” — to which I would answer, “Yes.” Dirt-poor, dysfunctional nations used to host smaller populations than they do today. Home is home, even when it’s a dump. Most will remain.

    But he’s right about the incentives of Europe’s current hospitality.

    • #14
    • January 21, 2016, at 8:08 AM PDT
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  15. BThompson Inactive

    Jim obviously doesn’t read. Our overlords will be affiliated and affiliated with something much worse than those tacky, annoying Christians.

    • #15
    • January 21, 2016, at 8:38 AM PDT
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  16. Quake Voter Inactive

    Kozak: You need to get Mark Steyn back as a podcast guest.
    He’s the King of Dismal Demographics….

    Latest from the King of Dismal Demographics:

    http://www.steynonline.com/7428/it-still-the-demography-stupid

    Import 4 million Muslims from a killing field into a population of 80 million. What’s the problem? Only 5% right. But they are 4 million ready to reproduce 18-35 year olds, and ready to reproduce at triple the resident German rate. What does that mean in 20 years?

    Even Germans can’t do algebra these days.

    Steyn is often criticized, even at Ricochet, for having no “new” ideas. When the world keeps (1) spinning and (2) confirming your old ideas, why do you need new ideas?

    Steyn just needs to coin new jokes and wordplay, which he does ceaselessly.

    We have one big advantage over the Romans: Steyn. We get to read and watch our Decline and Fall contemporaneously with its unravelling.

    • #16
    • January 21, 2016, at 10:09 AM PDT
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  17. Douglas Inactive

    So, more confirmation the West has become decadent and selfish and suicidal. We’re becoming a Seinfeld culture. A people about nothing. I don’t like our civilization’s chances long term.

    • #17
    • January 21, 2016, at 10:36 AM PDT
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  18. Jim Beck Member

    Morning iWe,

    If we could sell the benefits of our culture around the world along with jeans, that would be great. I would nominate you to be Czar of Cultural Promotion, perhaps Rob could write modern version of “Rifleman” to promote the justice and fairness of Western culture.

    The problem with the strength of our culture is not just numbers, but the loss of faith in our culture. From “Rule America? Liberal elites ruined Britain as a hyperpower. Could America meet the same fate?” http://www.weeklystandard.com/rule-america/article/7394 Jonathan Last wrote, “In 1933, the Oxford Union-a debating society and one of the stronglholds of liberal elite opinion- held a debate on the resolution “this House will in no circumstances fight for king and country.” The resolution passed. Margot Asquith, one of England’s leading liberal lights, wrote that same year, quite sincerely: “There is only one way of preserving peace in the world, and getting rid of your enemy, and that is to come to some sort of agreement with him…The greatest enemy of mankind today is hate.” Doesn’t this express the feelings of much of our country. Which groups in our country are most likely to defend our culture and our republic? The unaffiliated? If joining the Armed Services represents skin-in-game, then the unaffiliated are not in, and those with religious affiliation are over-represented.

    • #18
    • January 21, 2016, at 10:47 AM PDT
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  19. Rachel Lu Contributor

    David Goldman is confident that Islam is dying too, for similar reasons…

    • #19
    • January 21, 2016, at 1:54 PM PDT
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  20. James Gawron Thatcher

    Rob,

    Hayek brilliantly concluded that the “Fatal Conceit” of Socialism was that a command economy could perform all of the functions of a market economy. The fatal assumption being that there was nothing unique to the market economy.

    Wouldn’t it be unfortunate if we find out the hard way that the “Fatal Conceit” of our secular free society is that a secular culture can perform all of the functions of a faith culture. The fatal assumption being that that there is nothing unique to a faith culture.

    Something to think about.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #20
    • January 21, 2016, at 2:00 PM PDT
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  21. PTomanovich Member

    One of the more interesting trends I heard of lately is the ongoing religious revival of Orthodox Christianity in Russia. For example, I can’t find the link but heard recently that something like 800 monasteries have been built in Russia since the fall of communism (the source was Stephen Cohen on the John Batchelor show so take as you like).

    To me, this sounds like a very big deal. The image I have had of Russian society is one of rampant alcoholism, and little else. I know that is a gross oversimplification (please send any complaints to Rob as he started this thread). However, to continue the metaphor, if Russian society is indeed moving from the British soccer hooligan end of the spectrum to the Utah end of the spectrum, that could have a significant impact on many of these issues.

    • #21
    • January 21, 2016, at 3:56 PM PDT
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  22. MJBubba Inactive

    From the report:

    The religiously unaffiliated include atheists, agnostics, and people who do not identify with any particular religion in surveys and censuses.

    We estimate that 1.1 billion people were religiously unaffiliated in 2010, including more than 700 million in China, home to 62% of the world’s religiously unaffiliated people. Some who state “no religion” in surveys do maintain a mix of religious beliefs and practices (Hout and Fischer 2002, Baker and Smith 2009). Nonetheless, based on the absence of self- identified religious affiliation, we classify them as unaffiliated (Hackett, Grim et al. 2012).

    I am not believing the 16 % statistic. Well over a third of that number are Chinese people who are either unregistered Christians or unregistered Muslims or unregistered Buddhists, who fear the Communist Party could someday revert to their old ways, or else they practice the old Chinese traditional spiritist religions. They are “unaffiliated” but not irreligious.

    • #22
    • January 21, 2016, at 6:02 PM PDT
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  23. Western Chauvinist Member

    Oh, the West isn’t becoming “unaffiliated.” It’s becoming affiliated with the “most dynamic religion in the 21st century– Leftism.” (Dennis Prager)

    I just learned that at least 80% of Catholic kids stop practicing when they go to college. It doesn’t surprise me. It’s what I did when I went to college blurpity blerb years ago. But since then, the universities in this country have only become more leftist and, as Prager also says, they really have become left-wing seminaries. Our kids are immersed in cultural Marxism and are intentionally kept ignorant of their own Judeo-Christian heritage.

    The biggest fight for the West is in the universities.

    • #23
    • January 21, 2016, at 8:57 PM PDT
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  24. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Western Chauvinist: I just learned that at least 80% of Catholic kids stop practicing when they go to college. It doesn’t surprise me. It’s what I did when I went to college blurpity blerb years ago.

    Do you think the churches are figuring out how to turn that around, WC? I’ve heard of many efforts, but they sound (to me) like pandering to the crowd. What are your thoughts on keeping these kids engaged, or is inevitable that they rebel, and then can’t find their way back? (Same happens in Judaism.)

    • #24
    • January 22, 2016, at 6:15 AM PDT
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  25. Kozak Member

    iWe:On the bright side, I understand that Israel leads the first world in birthrate….

    But is it the Israeli Jewish population, or the Muslim Arabs?

    Sorry to bring that up but details, details…

    • #25
    • January 22, 2016, at 6:48 AM PDT
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  26. Western Chauvinist Member

    Susan Quinn:

    Western Chauvinist: I just learned that at least 80% of Catholic kids stop practicing when they go to college. It doesn’t surprise me. It’s what I did when I went to college blurpity blerb years ago.

    Do you think the churches are figuring out how to turn that around, WC? I’ve heard of many efforts, but they sound (to me) like pandering to the crowd. What are your thoughts on keeping these kids engaged, or is inevitable that they rebel, and then can’t find their way back? (Same happens in Judaism.)

    Yes, Susan, there are efforts, and, yes, some of it is pandering. There’s a lot of tension in Catholicism right now between the forces of “liberalization” and those who hew to orthodoxy — or, as I like to call it, truth. Pope Francis’s tenure is intensifying some of it.

    I learned of the 80% stat at the parent class for my daughter’s preparation for Confirmation. The class is using a program called, Chosen, which has been produced by some of the Church’s young leading lights who also developed the Theology of the Body for Teens texts and videos (based on JPII’s life’s work in the area of love and human sexuality). It is powerfully good stuff. These teens would have to have pretty hard hearts not to be affected.

    Locally, I know of a handful of young people intensely committed to the Faith. They’re few, but potent.

    • #26
    • January 22, 2016, at 6:53 AM PDT
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  27. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Western Chauvinist:

    Susan Quinn:

    Western Chauvinist: I just learned that at least 80% of Catholic kids stop practicing when they go to college. It doesn’t surprise me. It’s what I did when I went to college blurpity blerb years ago.

    Do you think the churches are figuring out how to turn that around, WC? I’ve heard of many efforts, but they sound (to me) like pandering to the crowd. What are your thoughts on keeping these kids engaged, or is inevitable that they rebel, and then can’t find their way back? (Same happens in Judaism.)

    Yes, Susan, there are efforts, and, yes, some of it is pandering. There’s a lot of tension in Catholicism right now between the forces of “liberalization” and those who hew to orthodoxy — or, as I like to call it, truth. Pope Francis’s tenure is intensifying some of it.

    I learned of the 80% stat at the parent class for my daughter’s preparation for Confirmation. The class is using a program called, Chosen, which has been produced by some of the Church’s young leading lights who also developed the Theology of the Body for Teens texts and videos (based on JPII’s life’s work in the area of love and human sexuality). It is powerfully good stuff. These teens would have to have pretty hard hearts not to be affected.

    Locally, I know of a handful of young people intensely committed to the Faith. They’re few, but potent.

    That’s so very encouraging!

    • #27
    • January 22, 2016, at 7:00 AM PDT
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  28. James Gawron Thatcher

    Kozak:

    iWe:On the bright side, I understand that Israel leads the first world in birthrate….

    But is it the Israeli Jewish population, or the Muslim Arabs?

    Sorry to bring that up but details, details…

    Both.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #28
    • January 22, 2016, at 7:03 AM PDT
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  29. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Kozak:

    iWe:On the bright side, I understand that Israel leads the first world in birthrate….

    But is it the Israeli Jewish population, or the Muslim Arabs?

    Sorry to bring that up but details, details…

    Not bad.

    The Jewish birth rate which was measured at 2.98 – was the highest it has been since 2.53 recorded in 1995.

    Muslim women in Israel continued to have more children than Jewish women, although the figures showed the birth rate in the Muslim community had fallen to 3.51, down on the 4.71 measured in 2001.

    Israel has the highest birth rate in the developed world, with three children per woman, versus an average of 1.7 children born to mothers from other developed nations.

    If Arab birth rates keep falling as they get wealthier, I don’t see major problems on this score.

    • #29
    • January 22, 2016, at 8:00 AM PDT
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  30. Kozak Member

    iWe:

    Kozak:

    iWe:On the bright side, I understand that Israel leads the first world in birthrate….

    But is it the Israeli Jewish population, or the Muslim Arabs?

    Sorry to bring that up but details, details…

    Not bad.

    The Jewish birth rate which was measured at 2.98 – was the highest it has been since 2.53 recorded in 1995.

    Muslim women in Israel continued to have more children than Jewish women, although the figures showed the birth rate in the Muslim community had fallen to 3.51, down on the 4.71 measured in 2001.

    Israel has the highest birth rate in the developed world, with three children per woman, versus an average of 1.7 children born to mothers from other developed nations.

    If Arab birth rates keep falling as they get wealthier, I don’t see major problems on this score.

    I’m glad to hear that. Nearly parity. I was under the impression the Muslim population in Israel had a much higher birthrate.

    • #30
    • January 22, 2016, at 11:32 AM PDT
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