A growing number of people in today’s world no longer consider religion as a source of support and meaning in their lives. This new-old thought has prevailed mostly in the inhabitants of affluent and developing countries, who have access to safe environments. Most of this includes the younger generation.
Be that as it may; it comes to a factual fact that this decline in religion happened because of scientific knowledge and modern technology. Scholars like Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim had once also predicted that the spread of scientific knowledge would banish religions for the world.
On the other hand, a good number of states are too adopting many secular approaches but still, scholars argue that it doesn’t happen due to scientific knowledge and enhancement in technology, rather there is another reason behind it. Ronald F. Inglehart argues that the attachment to religion and retreat from religion is because of existential security.
When people feel secure and safe they deviate from religion and when there is a sense of fear and insecurity people move toward religion.
From 1981 to 2007 the world used to be on a more religious track. Especially in countries like Bulgaria and Russia, people remained much closer to religion during this era. This was the result of severe economical, psychological, and physical insecurity that these countries faced. The other developing countries like Mexico, Brazil, China, and South Africa experienced an increase in the intensity of religiousness as well. This overall attachment to religion, as argues F. Inglehart, occurred because of existential insecurity. On the contrary, after 2007 religiousness seemed to be in decline. The United State of America, which was considered to be among the most religious countries before 2007, showed a dramatic decline, after. As, after 2007 the world was in a better position; the cold war ended and great developments took place in technology and economy. People became secured from many diseases, starvation, and violence-in form of slavery and other ways, which had taken many lives before. The sense of insecurity declined and as a result, people deviated from religion and started to consider themselves as “free” entities.
Moreover, the study shows that poorer countries are much attached to religion than prosperous and economically stable countries. Study shows that 26 percent of the US population is not affiliated with any religion. In 2017 the 34th annual British social attitudes survey found 53% of the Britians are non-religious. Russia, one of the economically and militarily stable countries, constitutes 37% of its population as non affiliated with any religion.
On the other hand countries like Congo (3% of its population without any religious affiliation), Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan, Yemen, and other such poor countries are either fully attached to religious beliefs or have a minuscule number of its population with non-affiliation. From this, we can assume that these poor countries do not have better life opportunities, that’s why they move toward religion as a source of motivation for life.
Besides this, history says that religion remained a major force in reducing crimes, creating harmony among people, and obeying laws. Perhaps that was the reason that a prominent European writer Voltaire states that “if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” Religion either it is Islam, Christianity, Buddhism or any other encourages and orders, indeed, to help the poor and avoid illegal activities and crimes. It has remained a source of social cohesion. But the main question here needs to address is that, would decline in religion cause disarray and chaos in our society? Would the perils of lawlessness, corruption, and crimes be experienced?
Surprisingly, the answer is “no”. International organizations reveal that those countries where religion is in decline have also fewer crimes and corruption. Transparency International, which monitors the relative corruption and honesty of state officials publishes an annual report showing a ranking of countries based on public sector corruption. This data makes it evident that more religious countries are mostly ranked as highly corrupt, which include much of the Muslim countries like Bangladesh, Guatemala, Iraq, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. While countries with many secular approaches like New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, Norway, Netherland, and Sweden are ranked among the most non-corrupt countries. In the same manner the number of crimes especially the murder rate is more than ten times higher in orthodox countries. Although it is crystal clear that corruption and high rate of murders are not because of religion but we have to assert that these countries move toward religion because of existential insecurity.
Due to advancements in science and technology the world has now reached in a position where people feel much safer than before. Now, humans are constantly dragging themselves away from religion. Nonetheless, in the occupant time, the COVID-19 pandemic is also a burning issue. It has created a sense of being insecure and if it remains unresolved for a prolonged time then there is a chance that people again may take a reverse move toward religion. But that seems to be much unlikely as the technology and scientific knowledge now appear advanced enough to handle this situation shortly.
However, adopting religion or considering oneself free from its constraints is a personal choice and right of every individual but we can infer from this here that it is a source of hope in hard times and a way of motivation for life when nothing goes well.