The world is getting more religious, because the poor go for God

Kaaba and catholics

The Kaaba and the Vatican

By Giles Fraser, South London priest. Guardian columnist and Editorial Board. Visiting Professor at the LSE.

Guardian: The so-called “masters of suspicion”, Nietzsche, Marx and Freud, all thought that religion would wither and die in the 20th century. Others enthusiastically backed the secularisation hypothesis. Intellectually, the enlightenment had punctured it below the waterline and it was sinking. Religion was dead. Except, of course, the reverse happened: it flourished. In 1900, the year that Nietzsche died, there were 8 million Christians in Africa. Now there are 335 million. And the growth rate continues to accelerate. God wasn’t dead. God was reborn. Indeed, far from being the century in which religion went away, for both Christianity and Islam, the 20th century was numerically the most successful century since Christ was crucified and Muhammad gave his farewell sermon on Mount Arafat. By 2010, there were 2.2 billion Christians in the world and 1.6 billion Muslims, 31% and 23% of the world population respectively. The secularisation hypothesis is a European myth, a piece of myopic parochialism that shows how narrow our worldview continues to be.

But every now and then the secularisation thesis gets a shot in the arm by some little local news. This week, it emerged in a survey that people with no religion now outnumber Christians in England and Wales. And it’s true, of course. We are getting less religious in the UK. This is not exactly because atheism is having some hipsterish Hitchens-esque revival, but more because we in the west are less and less a society of joiners. And religion begins not with the metaphysics but with the taking part – belonging preceding believing. Which is why the communitarian spirit of religion is declining in places where liberal individualism thrives. And why religion itself thrives in places where liberal individualism fails. That’s the real clash of civilisations: the shopping centre (now moved online) versus the temple, a battle between those who are wealthy enough to think in terms of the first person singular and those forced to think in terms of the plural collective. There are only two globalisations: God and mammon. And they will never fully be reconciled. Imagine no religion, sang the man on a white Steinway with a net worth of $800m. Imagine no possessions he also sang. Though he obviously found that one a little harder.


Suggested Reading

Religion and the 21st Century

A watershed moment for China: Islam or Christianity?

Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran

A Message of Compassion and Love from the Holy Bible

True Fasting: A Message of Compassion and Love from the Old Testament

Dark Germany, Bright Germany: Which Side Will Prevail Under Strain of Refugees?

1 reply

  1. Religion flourished in 1900 due to the extent of ignorance of the subject at the time and still is in abundance today, dangerous due to the blindness in attributing religion to flares resulting in death and destruction. [The Middle East and the West are in the grip of Judaism through the Bible and the Quran].

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