Give Me That Old Anytime Religion

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary According to a study done by the American Physical Society, organized religion will be all but extinct in nine countries. These countries are Australia, Austria, Canada (yes, our neighbor to the north), the Czech Republic, Finland, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland. According to the information disclosed at an American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, Texas, the majority of people in these nine countries see organized religion as a cultural rather than spiritual institution. Many simply do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, nor are they particularly religious.

While organized religion will probably survive in these countries, there will be no strong spiritual belief among most of the people. Having been to the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium I can vouch for that. Religion in these countries is not a personal, spiritual phenomenon. Many of the churches I have seen are empty—even on Sunday when services are usually held. While most people are not outright atheists, they do not have a strong sense of belief either. In this sense the report seems to be accurate.

A whole list of factors have contributed to this. First, these are very democratic, stable countries. They have not experienced war on their soil in decades, nor have they for the most part sent out their armed forces to fight elsewhere. Second, the people of these countries have far more choices so faith is not the only thing to fall back on. Finally, for many people in their individual capacity, religion seems to have little or no real meaning. These factors have indeed made organized religion seem irrelevant in these countries and many more in Europe and in certain individual countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

But not to worry—these countries are more the exception than the general rule. Organized religion in most of the rest of the world is very much alive and kicking. One thing that this report does not entirely go into is that religions from immigrants from other countries around the world who end up in Europe and Canada, Australia and New Zealand in a way may replenish organized religions in these countries. We need only to look at the growth of Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism in these countries as examples that organized religions may be not so relevant to the native-born, but it most certainly has a strong influence on the immigrants.

So the next question is will the organized religions of the immigrants have any real impact in these countries where organized religion has been in decline? Could this influx of other religions from immigrants help to revitalize organize religion among the native-born in these countries? All of this shall remain an open question for a couple of decades. It would be interesting if a similar study is done on these countries a mere five or ten years down the line.

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