Today’s Opinion: Is religion dead?

POSTED: 03/23/11 12:05 PM

Here is some food for thought: religion is dead in the Netherlands and in a number of other western countries. The British broadcaster BBC reported this based on scientific research that was presented at a congress in Dallas, Texas.

A team of scientists examined the census registers of nine countries – The Netherlands, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Australia and New-Zealand.

The researchers found that in many secular democracies there is a trend whereby people consider themselves as not associated with any religion. In the Netherlands that percentage of people feeling this way is 40 percent. The Czech republic has the highest score with 60 percent.

The research shows according to the scientists that the trend has been visible for a long time. They base this conclusion on information that in some cases goes back more than one hundred years. They also used mathematical models about group behavior.

The interesting thing about this trend is of course that it is no guarantee for the future. Because that is the thing about trends. At the very moment something seems crystal clear, such trends may change direction, and it will take a long time before other researchers have collected enough data to prove this.

We do not think for instance that the percentage of non-religious people in any country will ever reach 100 percent. This is because it has always been and will always be a market for the belief in a higher authority. And let’s not forget that there are plenty of modern movements that do not fall in the category religion, but that feel awfully like alternatives for religion.

One such phenomenon is the increased interest in spirituality. There are internet seminars (aptly called webinars these days) about spirituality that attract thousands of participants. The focus of these webinars is on the soul, so it is more of an inwardly directed experience than religion, which focuses outwardly to a divine being.

That the researchers did not include the United States in their project is probably a major mistake because religion plays a major role in American communities, even though the wild life in major cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles might suggest otherwise.
That the research-results must seem alien to the citizens of St. Maarten is a no-brainer, given the fact that many citizens feel strongly about religion. The upcoming census will probably not reveal whether the western trend is taking root here as well because, as far as we know, the list of questions does not include one about people’s religion, and the bureau that coordinates the census was unable to clarify this point.

So, to answer the question in the headline above this piece, it seems a bit too early to declare religion dead, though that the interest in religion is currently on the decline is certain.


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