Opinion: Is God on the way out?

POSTED: 04/19/12 12:22 PM

One way or the other, most people believe that there is more to this world than death and taxes. Whether they are members of a regular church, a creepy sect or some other woolly concept, the idea of an afterlife is alive and kicking on many levels.

But the regular god-thing seems to be on the way out. A research by the University of Chicago shows that the belief in God has declined slowly over the past twenty years in most countries. The study looked at thirty countries, including the Netherlands.  The researchers collected data for their study in 1991, 1998, and 2008.

Remarkably, the belief in God increases with age. One researcher suspects that this is because older people see their death nearing.

Among people of 68 years and older, 43 percent is certain that God exists. Among people younger than 27, this percentage is a paltry 23 percent.

But it is not all bad news for the religion industry. In three countries the belief in God increased in the past twenty years. The researchers mention Slovenia, Russia and Israel.

The belief in God is the highest in predominantly Roman Catholic countries like the Philippines. In western European countries the belief in God is the lowest

Academically speaking the question whether God exists is a tricky one. After all, there is no proof for God’s existence, the way one is able to proof that a kilo of lead weighs a kilo. It’s the main argument for some atheists to ridicule the God-concept.

History has shown that the God-concept is hard to break. That’s because believing is an entirely personal experience, and a personal choice. If you believe, nothing and nobody will make you see things otherwise.

And besides: the Chicago-study mentions percentages, not absolute figures. It is therefore entirely possible that the number of people who believe in God is actually larger now than it was twenty years ago.

Who knows? In St. Maarten religion seems to be doing very well and we’re not even a predominant Roman Catholic country – Protestants, Methodists and Seventh Day Adventists have the upper hand. The Catholics are mostly found on the other side of the border.

One would think that, given the ageing of the population in many countries that the decline will one day stop and turn into an increase. As more people cross the 68-year mark, the belief in God ought to increase. The question is whether this will make any difference in the everyday life of ordinary citizens or in the quality of the decisions our politicians take. We wonder.

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