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Is God Dying?

The decline of religion and the rise of the “nones”
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Since the early 20th century, with the rise of mass secular education and the diffusion of scientific knowledge through popular media, predictions of the deity’s demise have fallen short, and in some cases—such as in that of the U.S.—religiosity has actually increased. This ratio is changing. According to a 2013 survey of 14,000 people in 13 nations (Germany, France, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Canada, Brazil, India, South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S.) that was conducted by the German Bertelsmann Foundation for its Religion Monitor, there is both widespread approval for the separation of church and state, as well as a decline in religiosity over time and across generations.

In response to the statements “Only politicians who believe in God are suitable for public office” and “Leading religious figures should exercise an influence on government decisions,” even in über-religious America only 25 percent agreed with the former and 28 percent with the latter. All other countries reported lower figures (with Spain at or near the bottom at 8 and 13 percent and Germany in the middle at 10 and 21 percent, respectively). Moreover, most of the countries in the survey showed a declining trend in religiosity, especially among the youth. In Spain, for example, 85 percent of respondents older than 45 reported being moderately to very religious, but only 58 percent of those younger than 29 said they were. In Europe in general, only 30 to 50 percent said that religion is important in their own lives. (continue reading…)

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Democracy’s Laboratory

Mixing science and politics is tricky but necessary for a functioning polity
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DO YOU BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION? I do. But when I say “I believe in evolution,” I mean something rather different than when I say “I believe in liberal democracy.” Evolutionary theory is a science. Liberal democracy is a political philosophy that most of us think has little to do with science.

That science and politics are nonoverlapping magisteria (vide Stephen Jay Gould’s model separating science and religion) was long my position until I read Timothy Ferris’s new book The Science of Liberty (HarperCollins, 2010). Ferris, the best-selling author of such science classics as Coming of Age in the Milky Way and The Whole Shebang, has bravely ventured across the magisterial divide to argue that the scienti!c values of reason, empiricism and antiauthoritarianism are not the product of liberal democracy but the producers of it. (continue reading…)

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