Is the End Near for Religion?

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

“At the heart of every civilization, religious values are asserted.”
— Fernand Braudel

Even at this season that should be about spiritual re-awakening, it is hard to deny that we live in an increasingly post-religious civilization. Virtually everywhere in the high-income world, faith, particularly tied close to institutionalized religion, has been dropping for a decade, and the trend is accelerating with each new generation. Even once bright religious celebrations like Christmas have not only become less spiritual, even here in America, but seems to be inexorably returning to its original pagan roots as essentially a winter solstice holiday.

A simple look at the statistics collected by Pew tells the story. The Christian population in Europe is already shrinking. Between 2015 and 2060, Pew estimates the share of North American and European Christians will drop from 36 percent to barely 23 percent. Indeed in 24 of 42 traditionally Christian countries, many of them in Europe, deaths among Christians already exceeds births. Only in Africa, do Christian births seem likely to continue outnumber births.

Here in the U.S., once considered the last wealthy bastion for religion, church affiliation has been declining with each new generation; only 38 percent of younger millennials who consider faith “important in their lives,” notes Pew, compared to nearly 60 percent of boomers. Nearly half of young people predict that by 2050 the largest religious grouping will be those who are unaffiliated.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, was published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He is executive director of and lives in Orange County, CA.

Photo: Marburg79 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons