People in various countries were asked in 2005 and seven years later in 2012: Are you religious?
The decrease in the number of "believers" over the seven years span is dramatic. In Germany their percentage fell from 60 to 51%, in France, la fille ainée de l'Eglise (the adult daughter of the Roman Church), from 57 to 37%. Most Europeans regard the people in the States as very religious, i.e., a "people of God", but even in the US although starting out at a high figure of 74% in 2005 the believers dropped to 57% in 2012.
Red Baron noticed with astonishment the numbers for Ireland. Irish monks brought Christianity to Central Europe and Eire has remained a Catholic stronghold for nearly 2000 years. Within seven years the percentage of religious people dropped from 69% to 46%. There are a few exceptions to the general downtrend. In the Netherlands, traditionally critical on religious issues, the number of Dutch believers increased between 2005 and 2012 from 42 to 43%.
|Nearly empty basilica of St. Blasien. Award winning photo ©Sebastian Morlock, Wikipedia|
People experiencing security and wealth, as for example the Scandinavian countries, do no longer pray: Aus tieffer not schrey ich zu dir, Herr Gott (Out of the depth I cry to you, o Lord) a text taken from Psalm 130 and set into a cantata by Bach. We, the 21st century bourgeois, no longer feel the need to follow Christ's invitation: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
Modern over-consuming societies are no longer searching God but rather adore golden calves and dance around as described in Exodus Chapter 32: And the people said to Aaron: Make us a god, which shall go before us ... And he received all their gold, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it a molten calf; and the people said: "This is thy god, O Israel" ... And the LORD said unto Moses: "I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people" ... And it came to pass, as soon as Moses came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing ...
I remember a classmate who said that in times of examination stress he tended to become religious, a fact that Lawton describes as the Christchurch phenomenon where the natural disaster of the New Zealand earthquake in 2011 caused a resurgence of religion.
There remains the argument that religions holds societies together, a statement that most people will buy. However, a survey has shown that on just about every measure of societal health, the more secular a country or a state, the better it does including the States in the US. Lawton quotes Professor Zuckerman: I now believe there are aspects of the secular world view that contribute to healthy societies. First, if you believe that this is the only world and there is no afterlife, that's going to motivate you to make it as good a place as possible. Number two is the emphasis on science, education, and rational problem-solving that seems to come with the secular orientation - for example, are we going to pray to end crime in our city or are we going to look at the root causes?
However, it seems that for people in a secular society dancing around golden calves is not sufficient. The longing for some sort of belief even drives enlightened people into all sorts of spiritualism, astrology, karma, voodoo, you name it, proving that there is a human need for religion or some sort of ersatz religion.