The gazette(from Montreal) published an interesting article as follows.
Religion may be on the road to extinction in Canada — mathematically speaking, that is.
Travelling with us are Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.
A study presented Tuesday at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas noted a steady rise in the percentage of those countries' residents who claim no religious affiliation, and explained how social factors could help push religion toward the dustbin of history.
Richard Weiner, a University of Arizona researcher and one of the study's authors, explained the formula's conclusions.
"There'll be a continuing loss of membership among people that identify themselves as belonging to a religion. Over time, we could reach a time where society is dominated by people who claim religious non-affiliation," he said.
The study attempted to link these countries' religious identities with the social motives behind belonging to particular groups. Researchers said that as the masses who claim religious non-affiliation swell, it becomes more appealing to join the ranks of that group.
"The model predicts that for societies in which the perceived utility of not adhering is greater than the utility of adhering, religion will be driven toward extinction," the study said.
"We tried to quantify . . . that the perceived utility of non-affiliation is greater than the perceived utility of belonging to a religion," added Weiner. "That effect is enough to start driving people to the group that's non-affiliated, and then as more people become non-affiliated, that makes the group more attractive."
Weiner speculated that social pressures are contributing to the decline in religious identification in these countries. "People no longer see the slate of benefits as being as great as they probably did 100 years ago. It's become less socially useful."
Daniel Abrams, one of the study's co-authors, used a similar model in 2003 to predict the decline of the world's lesser-spoken languages.
A 2006 Statistics Canada report noted that 16 per cent of Canadians reported no religious affiliation in 2001, up from four per cent 30 years earlier. However, young Canadians are even less religious, with close to half of 15-29 year olds claiming no religious identity in 2004.
In the Netherlands, where close to 50 per cent of the population identifies as not belonging to a religion, Weiner said they found that by mid-century close to 70 per cent of the country will be made up of non-believers.
"That's very substantial growth over four decades," Weiner said. "It's not saying that religion will not exist, but it will very strongly change the makeup of society. Maybe in 100 years in some of these countries if this trend continues, there will be a very small percentage of people that still identify themselves as belonging to a religion."
However, University of Ottawa sociologist Diane Pacom cautioned against writing off religion as a part of Canada's culture.
"Even if Canadians say (their affiliation) to their friends, publicly they won't say it because it's not cool," she said.
Pacom added that religion's role in society is hard to capture, as traditionally religious activities like weddings are still commonly practised — even without the religious meaning it once had.
"Religion may not be seen as a practice, but as a way of living it's still very present. No mathematical formula can catch that," she said.
I tried looking for a link between Confucius and religion and it seems he was agnostic. I remember one TV program about him saying: "solve the problems of the world first, then we will have time to think about religion", but it can't find any links and I'm sure I'm misquoting him. I'd say most Japanese don't believe in God but they do go to temples and shrines every year more out of tradition rather then belief.
"Religion may not be seen as a practice, but as a way of living it's still very present. No mathematical formula can catch that,"
I disagree with this comment, but I think the formula needs to be more subtle than that applied in this analysis. The system drivers have been glossed over using some fairly blunt assumptions.
Religion is in decline in the nations studied. I knew that already. All this study does is establish some predictions about the rate. I suspect these predictions will not hold up because the model, which might work well for binary state decisions with easily defined costs and benefits, doesn't fit the needs of the analysis.
Link to the PDF.
Thanks for the link.
But because I haven't done maths for about 20 years, and I only did two semesters of maths at uni, I hope somebody can help put the formula into layman's terms, step by step.
dx/dt= yPyx(x;ux) - xPxy(x;ux).
Would the basic formula in layman's terms be:
The change in the non-religious population over time equals
the number of religious people multiplied by the probability people convert from religious to non-religious minus
the number of non-religious people multiplied by the probability people convert from non-religious to religious