And some people, like AI entrepreneur Anthony Levandowski, think their holy objective is to build a super-machine that will one day answer just as Brown’s fictional machine did. Their case was not helped by the fact that many Rationalists are strongly committed to other startling ideas about artificial intelligence, ranging from AIs that destroy the world by accident to human-machine hybrids that would transcend all mortal limitations. If the town’s Christian churches did not embrace this shift, they concluded, congregations would dwindle into irrelevance while self-guided practices would become the mainstream in a “spiritual revolution”. In his bestselling book Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari argues that the foundations of modern civilisation are eroding in the face of an emergent religion he calls “dataism”, which holds that by giving ourselves over to information flows, we can transcend our earthly concerns and ties. Germany Debating the future of women in religion and diplomacy . Official status is irrelevant if you can win thousands or even millions of followers to your cause. urns out atheists and agnostics are surprisingly open to supernatural phenomena, favor objective moral values, and generally seek to find “meaning in the world and your own life.”, The BBC article contrasts with the estimates for 2050 in the Pew Research Center report “The Future of World Religions.”. A few years ago, members of the self-declared “Rationalist” community website LessWrong began discussing a thought experiment about an omnipotent, super-intelligent machine – with many of the qualities of a deity and something of the Old Testament God’s vengeful nature. That’s a problem, since that combination has radically transformed the social environment from the one in which the world religions evolved – and has to some extent supplanted them. Since then, Christianity has continued both to grow and to splinter into ever more disparate groups, from silent Quakers to snake-handling Pentecostalists. Early Christianity, for example, was a truly broad church: ancient documents include yarns about Jesus’ family life and testaments to the nobility of Judas. What is the status of religious freedom in the world today? “Religions do well, and always have done, when they are subjectively convincing – when you have the sense that God is working for you,” says Woodhead, now professor of sociology of religion at the University of Lancaster in the UK. When life is tough or disaster strikes, religion seems to provide a bulwark of psychological (and sometimes practical) support. The Turing Church, founded in 2011, has a range of cosmic tenets – “We will go to the stars and find Gods, build Gods, become Gods, and resurrect the dead” – but no hierarchy, rituals or proscribed activities and only one ethical maxim: “Try to act with love and compassion toward other sentient beings.”. Global COVID-19 parables: What responsibility do faith groups have to the larger society? And as our civilisation and its technologies become increasingly complex, could entirely new forms of worship emerge? A new guard of travelling fire-and-brimstone preachers successfully reinvigorated the faith, setting the tone for centuries to come – an event called the “Great Awakenings”. The 17th-Century French mathematician suggested non-believers should nonetheless go through the motions of religious observance, just in case a vengeful God does turn out to exist. 2. A church service in Berlin uses Star Wars to engage the congregation (Credit: Getty Images), Are these movements for real? In the book, he argues that humanity is in need of a religious revolution that dispenses with the concept of God and elements of the supernatural, a revolution that expands individual and collective human empowerment by fostering a condition he calls "deep freedom"—a life of creativity, risk, experiment, … Pay attention to this sect-run news source. “Unreligions” seek to dispense with the supposedly unpopular strictures or irrational doctrines of conventional religion, and so might appeal to the irreligious. Even in the US, long a conspicuous exception to the axiom that richer countries are more secular, the number of “nones” has been rising sharply. The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, some moving to atheism from faith, others to religion from secularism, and many still undecided. Traditional religion is failing to deliver on this, particularly where doctrine clashes with moral convictions that arise from secular society – on gender equality, say. Tagged: BBC, Pew Forum, Soviet Union, China, New Scientist, Karl Marx. Another 1,500 years later – today – Zoroastrianism is a dying faith, its sacred flames tended by ever fewer worshippers. The psychology of religion attempts to predict consequences of religious belief. What are the realistic prospects for improvement, and why does this matter? But Woodhead thinks the religions that might emerge from the current turmoil will have much deeper roots. New religious movements often seek to preserve the central tenets of an older religion while stripping it of trappings that may have become stifling or old-fashioned. The Understanding Unbelief project at the University of Kent in the UK is conducting a three-year, six-nation survey of attitudes among those who say they don’t believe God exists (“atheists”) and those who don’t think it’s possible to know if God exists (“agnostics”). This time you will be able to talk to God, literally, and know that it’s listening.”. How ought the philosophy of religion to interact with religious studies and theology to make for fruitful interdisciplinary engagement? Where do those who identify with no religion fit in this future. Festivals like Christmas and Easter, for example, have archaic pagan elements, while daily practice for many people in China involves a mixture of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Their grandchildren, however, are growing up in a world of geopolitical stresses and socioeconomic angst; they are more likely to hark back to supposedly simpler times. At Reverse Christmas, the Witnesses plant a tree rather than cutting one down; on Glacier Memorial Day, they watch blocks of ice melt in the California sun. Perhaps the religions that span the world today are less durable than we think. Zoroaster) in roughly the era of the ancient Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. In 1994, the sociologist Grace Davie classified people according to whether they belonged to a religious group and/or believed in a religious position. We obey laws made and enforced by governments, not by God. In Iceland, for example, the small but fast-growing Ásatrú faith has no particular doctrine beyond somewhat arch celebrations of Old Norse customs and mythology, but has been active on social and ecological issues. “A lot is measured against the Western Anglophone tradition of religion,” says Singler. The pseudo-religious social order might work well when times are good. We obey laws made and enforced by governments, not by God. Periodically they include rituals, particularly at traditional holidays. Gorsuch sees psychology of religion's future as being no brighter than it is now, unless we take control. His successors are emboldened by surveys showing that in many countries, increasing numbers of people are saying they have no religion. Hey, New York Times editors: Did painful Thanksgiving dinners really begin in 2016? “Historically, what makes religions rise or fall is political support,” she says, “and all religions are transient unless they get imperial support.” Zoroastrianism benefited from its adoption by the successive Persian dynasties; the turning point for Christianity came when it was adopted by the Roman Empire. In Russia, by contrast, the nationalistic overtones of both Rodnovery and the Orthodox church wins them tacit political backing. This week's podcast: It isn't 'fake news' to recognize that America remains a divided land, A news story? Writer Sumit Paul-Choudhury, former editor-in-chief of the New Scientist magazine, notes that religions ebb and flow across eons. What remains debatable, however, is whether they can afford to be irreligious because they have strong secular institutions – or whether being secular has helped them achieve social stability. And perhaps the next great faith is just getting started. (Find out what it would mean if AI developed a "soul". The pattern Pew predicted was of “the secularising West and the rapidly growing rest”. The Religion of the Future is a book by the philosopher and politician Roberto Mangabeira Unger. The kind of revivals experienced in the 18 th and 19 th century coincided with some of the most important developments in what we might now call secular thinking. At the other end of the spectrum, the teeming societies of the West are at least nominally faithful to religions in which a single watchful, all-powerful god lays down, and sometimes enforces, moral instructions: Yahweh, Christ and Allah. US megachurches bring in thousands of worshippers (Credit: Getty Images). And indeed, some of the societies with the highest proportions of non-believers are among the most secure and harmonious on Earth. The idea of punishment as an imperative to cooperate is reminiscent of Norenzayan’s “Big Gods”. It took three centuries for the Christian church to consolidate around a canon of scriptures – and then in 1054 it split into the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches. Conversely, we might expect similar societies to have similar religions, even if they have developed in isolation. Whenever religion is invoked as the cause for terrorist attacks, it is simply a mere excuse to what the actual real motivations behind those really are: economic interests and politic control, which are in no way related to the purpose of religion. In south America Christianity is undergoing radical change by mixing with native believes and by different protestant groups replacing traditional Catholicism. #MeToo started out as a hashtag expressing anger and solidarity but now stands for real changes to long-standing social norms. Today, many of our societies are huge and multicultural: adherents of many faiths co-exist with each other – and with a growing number of people who say they have no religion at all. And Extinction Rebellion has striven, with considerable success, to trigger a radical shift in attitudes to the crises in climate change and biodiversity. The faith  had millions of followers in the Persian Empire’s heyday but today counts only 60,000. In Russia alone, 50 percent of the population now declare themselves to be Orthodox, and millions are adherents of other religions. Christianity is also increasi… One notorious answer comes from Voltaire, the 18th Century French polymath, who wrote: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”Because Voltaire was a trenchant critic of organised religion, this quip is often quoted cynically. Some have confessional and sacrificial elements, too. This might have been expected, because it’s been practised for thousands of years as part of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year – whose origins lie in part with the Zoroastrians. But today, there’s another possible source of support: the internet. “The stickiest is religion.”. Predictably, that only made the idea explode across the internet – or at least the geekier parts of it – with references to the Basilisk popping up everywhere from news sites to Doctor Who,  despite protestations from some Rationalists that no-one really took it seriously. Though coming from different and distinct intellectual traditions, Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo are united in their criticism of the metaphysical tradition. Whether that belief constitutes cause or effect has recently been disputed, but the upshot is that sharing a faith allows people to co-exist (relatively) peacefully. New religious movements are born all the time, but most don’t survive long. In the secular West, such support is unlikely to be forthcoming, with the possible exception of the US. What Is the Future of Religion? And the “Sunday Assembly” aims to recreate the atmosphere of a lively church service without reference to God. The Basilisk argumentis in much the same spirit as Pascal’s Wager. Why the Future of Religion Is Bleak Religious institutions have survived by controlling what their adherents know, argues Tufts Prof. Daniel C. Dennett, but today that is next to impossible The likes of the New Atheists, on the other hand, argue that religion amounts to little more than superstition, and abandoning it will enable societies to improve their lot more effectively. Still others ally themselves with older faiths, notably Mormonism. Religion asks you to sacrifice your present attachments for a promised future. The research suggests that the last two groups are significant. “I think it’s pretty clear that we’re entering into a period of non-linear change in social systems,” he says. Not all are liberally inclined. The mechanism may be new, but the message isn’t. The congregation numbers a few hundred, but Irzak, as a good engineer, is committed to testing out ways to grow that number. Religionists say even secular institutions have religious roots: civil legal systems, for example, codify ideas about justice based on social norms established by religions. Continue reading “What is the future of religion? Does organized religion have a future? Clue: This could be a faith-based question. Woodhead and her co-author found that people were rapidly turning away from organised religion, with its emphasis on fitting into an established order of things, towards practices designed to accentuate and foster individuals’ own sense of who they are. Finally, the leadership team considered the future of religious life with new data illustrating the makeup of religious life. “This is the human animal looking around and saying we don’t agree how we should behave,” Wood says. Does it even have a future?”, by Richard Ostling. These must be understood and respected; human morality generally doesn’t figure significantly. The parallels with today are easy to draw, but Woodhead is sceptical that Christianity or other world religions can make up the ground they have lost, in the long term. Recently, the Witnesses have been looking further afield, including to a ceremony conducted across the Middle East and central Asia just before the spring equinox: purification by throwing something unwanted into a fire – a written wish, or an actual object – and then jumping over it. One of journalism's oddest assignments: 'Polygamy beat' at Salt Lake Tribune, Believers must face this: All kinds of people (pastors too) wrestle with depression and suicide. But when the social contract becomes stressed – through identity politics, culture wars or economic instability – Wood suggests the consequence is what we see today: the rise of authoritarians in country after country. In 2005, Linda Woodhead wrote The Spiritual Revolution, in which she described an intensive study of belief in the British town of Kendal. Way of the Future: Man kann Kirche nicht ohne KI schreiben. Given all that, there’s a growing consensus that the future of religion is that it has no future. Question: What is the world's worst government on religious liberty? Through exploring these questions and more, the authors’ goal is not that of meeting the philosophical future, but of forging it. Communist Vietnam, for example, is officially atheist and often cited as one of the world’s most irreligious countries – but sceptics say this is really because official surveys don’t capture the huge proportion of the population who practice folk religion. The People's Climate March in New York City made history this month as the largest protest on climate change in the world. Modern disbelief is complicated, he notes, as shown in research on the U.S., U.K., and four other nations that University of Kent scholars presented to a May confab at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. What Is the Future of Religion? Accordingly, there are very many ways of being an unbeliever”, the report concluded – including, notably, the dating-website cliche “spiritual, but not religious”. The joins are easier to see in relatively young religions, such as Vodoun or Rastafarianism. Even the technological trappings aren’t new. This is not a normal Thanksgiving, to say the least, but we can still give thanks, Even in 2020, Bobby Ross, Jr., has a reason to give thanks (plus week's top religion reads), Lies, damned lies, statistics: Shifts in religious voting were crucial for Joe Biden — maybe, Religious liberty and foster care: five key numbers as SCOTUS weighs dogma and LGBTQ rights, Asking CNN: When is a hijab not really a hijab? Then there are those who belong but don’t believe – parents attending church to get a place for their child at a faith school, perhaps. There is precedent for this: in the 1700s, Christianity was ailing in the US, having become dull and formal even as the Age of Reason saw secular rationalism in the ascendant. The first generation of spiritual revolutionaries, coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s, were optimistic and universalist in outlook, happy to take inspiration from faiths around the world. Organised religion is waning in the UK, with no real end in sight. The future of religion in America is not an easy thing to predict. By 2050 there will still be more Christians than any other religious group The global Christian population will remain stable over the next 35 years, despite Muslims being the fastest-growing religious group. Powerful intellectual and political currents have driven this proposition since the early 20th Century. A woman dances as druids, pagans and revellers gather at Stonehenge (Credit: Getty Images). And, finally, there are those who believe in something, but don’t belong to any group. Tales of the Egyptian, Greek and Norse pantheons are now considered legends, not holy writ. Online movements gain followers at rates unimaginable in the past. That’s an odd verb to depict Communist regimes’ mass-scale murder, torture, imprisonment, persecution, petty harassment, propaganda, property theft and destruction of institutions. Outlandish though it might seem, Roko’s Basilisk caused quite a stir when it was first suggested on LessWrong – enough for discussion of it to be banned by the site’s creator. He contends that a strong, stable society like Sweden’s is both extremely complex and very expensive to run in terms of labour, money and energy – and that might not be sustainable even in the short term. Like many cliches, it’s rooted in truth. A Roman Catholic priest officiates mass on the first day of trading at the Philippine Stock Exchange in Manila (Credit: Getty Images). Belief in “Big Gods” allowed the formation of societies made up of strangers (Credit: Getty Images), Hunter-gatherers, for example, tend to believe that all objects – whether animal, vegetable or mineral – have supernatural aspects (animism) and that the world is imbued with supernatural forces (animatism). They didn’t see any need to bring God into it – Irzak was brought up an atheist – but did start running regular “services”, including introductions, a sermon eulogising the awesomeness of nature and education on aspects of environmentalism. Over the next four decades, the Pew Research Center predicts that Christians will remain the largest religious group on the planet but Islam will grow faster than any other major world religion. But if history is any guide, no matter how deeply held our beliefs may be today, they are likely in time to be transformed or transferred as they pass to our descendants – or simply to fade away. What barriers does it face? Ten years later, it had dropped to seventh place, leading many to dismiss it as a prank. The “prosperity gospel” is central to several of America’s megachurches, whose congregations are often dominated by economically insecure congregations. By the year 2050, … New York Times helps fuel new journalism fires in 2020s, 2020 vote again: Various religion factors still baffle news-media pros and the Democrats. Spirituality is the true essence, and the true origin , of every religious movement. “We hope people get real value from this and are encouraged to work on climate change,” she says, rather than despairing about the state of the world. To answer these questions, a good starting point is to ask: why do we have religion in the first place? Under this argument, any religion that does endure has to offer its adherents tangible benefits. Religious diversity has brought vitality in the forms of conflict and competiton, socio-cultural changes are re-shaping the forms that religion takes, while the changing social location of religion alters the competitive framework for services provided. One approach is syncretism, the “pick and mix” approach of combining traditions and practices that often results from the mixing of cultures. If you believe your faith has arrived at ultimate truth, you might reject the idea that it will change at all. These are niche activities at the moment, and might sometimes be more about playing with symbolism than heartfelt spiritual practice. Islam is forecast to be the world's largest religion by 2070, if current trends continue. You might also like:• How and why did religion evolve?• Do humans have a religion instinct?• How long can civilisation survive? The knowledge that Big God is watching makes sure we behave ourselves. Join more than one million Future fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter or Instagram. That’s a potent combination for believers and an unsettling one for secularists: can anything bridge the gap between them? Some branches of Jediism remain jokey, but others take themselves more seriously: the Temple of the Jedi Order claims its members are “real people that live or lived their lives according to the principles of Jediism” – inspired by the fiction, but based on the real-life philosophies that informed it. In interim results released in May 2019, the researchers found that few unbelievers actually identify themselves by these labels, with significant minorities opting for a religious identity. In 2015, the Pew Research Center modelled the future of the world’s great religions based on demographics, migration and conversion. Discover more of our picks. Thinking about Thanksgiving and beyond: Always coronavirus winter, but never Christmas? Christians began as a tiny Jewish sect, spread through the Roman Empire, and today are found  most everywhere and practice the world’s largest religion. In the 2018 General Social Survey of US attitudes, “no religion” became the single largest group, edging out evangelical Christians. But as missionary religions know, what begins as a mere flirtation or idle curiosity – perhaps piqued by a resonant statement or appealing ceremony – can end in a sincere search for truth. As these examples suggest, Witnesses of Climatology has a parodic feel to it – light-heartedness helps novices get over any initial awkwardness – but Irzak’s underlying intent is quite serious. ), A flame burns in a Zoroastrian Fire Temple, possibly for more than a millennium (Credit: Getty Images). Growing numbers “say they have no religion at all. New research provides insights … Is there any substance to the claim that belief in gods and deities will die out altogether? (If this is the first you’ve heard of it: sorry! But over time, they canevolve into more heartfelt and coherent belief systems: Woodhead points to the robust adoption of Rodnovery – an often conservative and patriarchal pagan faith based around the reconstructed beliefs and traditions of the ancient Slavs – in the former Soviet Union as a potential exemplar of things to come. In a landmark study, people directly affected by the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand became significantly more religious than other New Zealanders, who became marginally less religious. BBC asks: What is the future of religion? So to encourage everyone to do everything possible to help to bring into existence, it will perpetually and retroactively torture those who don’t – including anyone who so much as learns of its potential existence. * This story is featured in BBC Future’s “Best of 2019” collection. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Capital, and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday. He cites research showing that people ignore authoritarian pitches until they sense a deterioration of social norms. Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism are among the long-established ones, and Jehovah’s Witnesses also have a long history there. The Parsees’ religion originated with Zarathustra (a.k.a. Scientology was barred from recognition as a religion for many years in the UK because it did not have a Supreme Being – something that could also be said of Buddhism. So three years ago, Irzak and some friends set about building one. What do these self-directed religions look like? Again, Woodhead is sceptical. Today, Woodhead says that revolution has taken place – and not just in Kendal. In these situations, the individuals committing the attacks end up instrumentalizing religious matters for the achievement of other interests. In its early history the BBC (born in 1927, the year of the U.S. Radio Act) was nicknamed “Auntie” for its comforting, old-style tone. There are many functionalist hypotheses, from the idea that religion is the “opium of the masses”, used by the powerful to control the poor, to the proposal that faith supports the abstract intellectualism required for science and law. Richard Rorty and Others $22.99; $22.99; Publisher Description. Connor Wood is not so sure. But without the deep roots of traditional religions, these can struggle: the Sunday Assembly, after initial rapid expansion, is now reportedly struggling to keep up its momentum. Secularism is on the rise, with science providing tools to understand and shape the world. what it would mean if AI developed a "soul", abstract intellectualism required for science and law, on the religious reference website Patheos, the "light triad" traits that can make you a good person, modelled the future of the world’s great religions. Some groups are performing or “hacking” religion to win support for transhumanist ideas, says Singler. If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “The Essential List”. One recurring theme is social cohesion: religion brings together a community, who might then form a hunting party, raise a temple or support a political party. Nations like Soviet Russia and China “adopted atheism as state policy and frowned on even private religious expression.”. Before Mohammed, before Jesus, before Buddha, there was Zoroaster. Secularism is on the rise, with science providing tools to understand and shape the world.