Sunday, December 20, 2020

is religion dying out? part 2

Last time I raised the fair certainty that religion will cease to be a major influence on society within the space of this century.[1] In this essay I will do two things: (1) I will discuss my own ideas about the cause of the great falling away, (2) Play the historian's "what if...?" game using the worst case scenario. By "worst case" I mean realistically worst.

I ended last time talking about how the religious right in America has poisoned the well for young minds. That only applies to America [2] and while it means that a possible revival is short circuited it still assumes a larger world wide source of apostasy so the issue moves beyond America.

Twenty percent of American adults claimed no religious preference in 2012, compared to 7 percent twenty-five years earlier. Previous research identified a political backlash against the religious right and generational change as major factors in explaining the trend. That research found that religious beliefs had not changed, ruling out secularization as a cause. In this paper we employ new data and more powerful analytical tools to: (1) update the time series, (2) present further evidence of correlations between political backlash, generational succession, and religious identification, (3) show how valuing personal autonomy generally and autonomy in the sphere of sex and drugs specifically explain generational differences, and (4) use GSS panel data to show that the causal direction in the rise of the “Nones” likely runs from political identity as a liberal or conservative to religious identity, reversing a long-standing convention in social science research. Our new analysis joins the threads of earlier explanations into a general account of how political conflict over cultural issues spurred an increase in non-affiliation.

This tells us the decline is not due to loss of faith. Religious beliefs had not changed, it also tells us it only pertains to America, We still have this larger secularization looming over the world. I put oiut a dew ideas in the last issues. Here is what I said in last issue: ...economic growth brings freedom from traditional ways of life. Mass communication brings exposure to new ideas,physical security reduces the need for for spiritual consolation.[3] "An assumption lay at the core of the social sciences, either presuming or sometimes predicting that all cultures would eventually converge on something roughly approximating secular, Western, liberal democracy."[4] Thus there is an assumption that humanity is just outgrowing outmoded belief. I think there is a better explanation. At least in term of the US the religious right is to blame.[5]

There is the modern background of "modernity" but given the fact that people have come to some kind of terms Bernstein ancient and modern over the last 500 years, that does not explain the decline. I think the overall decline tied to modernity is explained by Herert Marcuse's idea ofd one-dimensional man,

Herbert Marcuse (July 19, 1898 – July 29, 1979) was a German academic who fled to America to avoid the Nazis in the 30s. He worked for the OAS during the war and latter become the major intellectual powerhouse behind the New Left of the 1960s. He was based in San Diego where the taught, Ronald Reagan tried to have his Doctorate revoked to silence his criticisms of the war and the establishment. He was a Marxist, some say Neo-Marxist he was critical of Stalin and called a revisionist by Stalinists. Marcuse was best known for his seminal work One-Dimensional Man (1964), one of the greatest books of the era and one of primary importance for the century. In One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse argues that affluent capitalist society has been good at providing primary needs to a mass population (despite continuing poverty for some) and it has created a bourgeois society that perpetuates false needs. The American worker has bought into his place in the capitalist order as a cog in the machine, or a bit of overhead for the owners of the means of production, because in exchange will continue to supply the false needs upon which he has become admitted; that is the material trammels of an affluent society.

...The irresistible output of the entertainment and information industry carry with them prescribed attitudes and habits...The products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against falsehood. And as these beneficial products have become available to more individuals, in more social classes, the indoctrination they carry ceases to be publicity; it becomes a way of life. It is a good way of life' much better than before and as a good way of life, it militates against qualitative change. Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior, in which ideas, aspirations, and objectives that, by their content, transcend the established universe of discourse and action are either repelled or reduced to terms of this [social-political] universe. They are re-defined by the rationality of the given system and of its quantitative extension.[6]

The prognosis for one-dimensional man doesn’t end with just supporting capitalism as the basis of false needs. The whole concept of being a thinking person who lives in a society in which thinking people can determine their own lives is called into question and in fact done away with because the concept of freedom is illusory and not scientific. The scientistic crowd is telling us that freedom is a trick. The issues of one-dimensional man don’t stop Marxism because there is more to power than just capital vs labor, or capitalism vs. Marxism. Lurking behind the accumulation of false needs (technological version of bread and circuses) is operational thinking. This is what Marcuse means by "quantitative extension of the given system" (quotation above). " The trend [one-dimensional consumer society] may be related to a development in scientific method: operationalism in the physical, behaviorism in the social sciences. The common feature is a total empiricism in the treatment of concepts; their meaning is restricted to the representation of particular operations and behavior...In general, we mean by a concept nothing more than a set of operations...a positivism which, in its denial of the transcending elements of reason, forms the academic counterpart to the socially required behavior."[7] The positivist and reductionist tendencies of contemporary scientific thought, which props up the techno structure and furnishes it with "empirical proof," works to eliminate all concepts that cannot be quantified, and therefore, eventually ”commodified.”

This 1DM weighs on the sense of religious belief in that modern one-dimensional society sells the sensations sexuality like popcorn, It trades in sexiness and sensitivities designs it into most advertising appeals, We learn to measure selfhood by the sense of personal power and consumerism. One cannot bottle the spirit and sell sanctification like one can sell sensuality in perfume. Our consumerist society bottles personal power and sensuality and sells it in a thousand ways but we forget what spirituality is and we can;t sell that to our kids. A kid can find a cigarette butt and smoke it in secret and have her first taste of sin but she can't sneak her first communion. Not to say that I chalk it all up to a battle between holiness and sexuality. Which would go down better for a pack of streaming teens, an episode of the bachelor or a Bible study? All amide the back drop of scientific pundits telling us we have the answers in science and religion has no place in such a world..

I don't suppose that religion will cease to exist, It will probably lose social clout and then be relegated to the private realm. Religious doctrine will suffer with no institutional teaching mechanism. If the organisational structures decline the support for scholarship will wither away. Theology will become more diverse, more speculative, more absurd. Religious belief will become like philosophical ideas that are not popular but people still hold them like idealism.

On the other hand there is an upside. With no competing social stricture. with the disappearance of the older competitor that once held science back (supposedly--according to enlightenment propaganda)[8] Science will have no need to attack religion. Over time religious ideas more palatable to science will take the field. But it is likely that the theological support stricture will not wither away, although it may take a hit.After all even though some predict religion will disappear in England [9] it will probably only decline to 2/3 of pop in America.[10]

Be that as it may there are two basic reasons why religion will survive, at least as a private practice and philosophical idea, and probably with some social structure: (1) Mystical Experience (2) God on the Brain. Mystical experience is real, it is scientifically proven to be real, it is good for you it wont go away, it is also at the basis of all organized religion.[11]There is no Gene for religion but there does not have to be; it does have an adaptation that makes it hard wired. aside from a gene it could be espadrilles.But it's part of our genetic structure and it's mot going away[12]


[1]Joseph Hinman, "Is Religion Dyig out part 1," Metacrock's Blog, ( FEBRUARY 17, 2019)

[2] Michael Hout, Claude S. Fischer, "Explaining Why More Americans Have No Religious Preference: Political Backlash and Generational Succession, 1987-2012." Sociological Science, October 13, 2014 DOI 10.15195/v1.a24 (access 2/19/19)

[3] Peter Harrison, "Why Religion is Not Going Away and Science Will Not Destroy It," Aeon,no page nimber [accessed 2/17/19]


[5] Pew Research Center: Religion and Public Life, "The Future of Worlds Religions: Population growth projections, 2910-2050"(April 2, 2015) [accessed 2/16/19]

[6] Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Soceity. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964, 12.

[7] Ibid

[8] James Hannam, Genesis of science: How The Christian Middle Ages Launched The Scientific Revolution. New York. Ny: Regnery Publsihinf In.,2011,4.

[9] David Voas, "Hard evidence: is Christianity dying in Britain?" The Conversation, US inc.(November 27, 2013 1) [accessed 2/16/19]

[10] Pew Research Center: Religion and Public Life, "The Future of Worlds Religions: Population growth projections, 2910-2050"(April 2, 2015) [accessed 2/16/19]

[11] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God:Rational Warramt for Belief. Colorado Springs: Grand viaduct. 2014.

[12] Ibid

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