Saturday, 16 June 2018

Your Sons and Your Daughters are Beyond Your Command

The Age Gap in Religion Around the World | Pew Research Center

A major new Pew Research Center report on Religion and Public life has confirmed that in very many countries, young people are less religious that their parents, often by a wide margin. This confirms the finding of other surveys that show younger people in the USA are now far less likely to identify with any religion, believe in God or to take part in religious activities.

This gap is seen regardless of the social or economic context of the country, showing that even where religiosity is high due to poverty and in countries that are overall highly religious. This is also true regardless of the predominant religion. This is not to say that there is a gap in all countries - in 63 countries there is no statistically significant difference - however, where there is a difference it is almost always true that young people are the less religious group. In only two countries were younger people found to be more religious that their parents - Chad (Muslim) and Ghana (Christian).

The definition of 'young' in the context of this report is a person between the ages of 18 to 39 and this is the very populations religions need to be winning over if they are to prevent an irreversible decline. This is the parent generation of the next generation of potential supporters and other studies have shown that people rarely change their religious commitment beyond the age of about 30. Although there are some indications that regular attendance at church services tends to increase with age, the movement is only by a few percentage points. There is also nothing to suggest that the generation gap revealed in this report would tend to close with age. The next generation of 40+ people is likely to be less religious that their parents had been.

If this trend is repeated in the next generation (and there seems to be no reason it will not be), the next generation will be even less religious than this one. Iterated through several more generations and religious interest all but disappears as a significant social phenomenon and the society become de facto secular and non-religious save perhaps for a few insignificant groups seen very much as wack-a-doodle cults.

Although some way to go compared to its neighbour, Canada, with a 28% gap, the USA has the joint seventh highest gap at 17%, confirming other recently detected trends in declining religiosity amongst America's younger generation and beating even the UK (15%) where Christian religions are very much minorities compared to 'nones' which regularly poll over 50%. It needs to be remembered that these measure the gap between older and younger people, not the absolute level of religiosity, so that, as in the UK where affiliation, attendance in church and daily praying are already low across all generations, the gap would be expected to be lower. Consider a population where no-one was religious, the gap between old and young would be zero.

This Pew report was compiled from data collected in 13 different surveys including annual Global Attitudes Surveys as well as studies on religion in countries and parts of the world with both large Muslin and large Christian populations. The reports warns that this trend does not necessarily mean the world is becoming less religious overall. The most religious countries are also the poorest and have the highest birthrates which will probably keep the population poor, hence any effect from increased prosperity and security, which tends to be associated with reduced religiosity would be minimised.

High birthrate and poverty, which tends to result from depriving women of the means to control their own fertility and family size, is also associated with lower life-expectancy. This in turn tends to increase religiosity since bereavements are more common. Poverty and deprivation also result in low government tax revenue which results in poor heath, poor welfare and particularity poor education. All these tend to increase religiosity in a population as this report shows. Together, these factor may lead to an increase in the religious population of the world, offsetting any loss due to reduced religiosity in the developed and developing countries.

It is a measure of their inhumanity that religious leaders actually derive comfort from the fact that by keeping people poor, by keeping women subjugated and deprived of control over their own bodies, by keeping life expectancy low due to poverty and ill health and by keeping people under-educated, they can keep them religious and thus providing work and income for the churches and the clerics they employ. The Catholic Church, like Islamic imams and ayatollahs, is actively promoting measure to ensure people stay that way in places where they still have any influence.

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