Religions on the Rise?

A recent contribution to the ESSSAT discussion forum on Linkedin offers some interesting numbers on religion.  Brian Grim, author of The Price of Freedom Denied (amongst other publications), posted a link to his summary of the Yearbook of International Religious Demography. To offer just one figure out of his list:

Religionists account for 88.4% of the world’s population in 2013, up from 80.8% in 1970, according to the book.

You can read more in the ESSSAT discussion forum here, where you can also participate in the discussion.

My first thought was: exactly what Ara Norenzayan seems to fear in the conclusion of his Big Gods book: 

Quote from A. Noenzayan, Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, Kindle edition, location 3800, p. 192.
Quote from A. Noenzayan, Big Gods:
How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, Kindle edition, location 3800, p. 192.

My second thought was: the significance of these numbers lies not in their importance for a supposed competition between atheism and religiosity, as Norenzayan seems to suggest, but in the fact that they confront us, western scholars of religion, working in a secular context, with a broader perspective in which religion is not relegated to the margins of culture. Numbers like these make it all the more important to understand religion, its origin, its (evolutionary) history, its present role in human culture, etc. This is, to be fair, also Norenzayan’s point in his concluding remarks, but I would not be a theologian if I were to agree with him that we need to go beyond religion. On the contrary, I hope a dialogue between religious studies scholars and theologians of different religious traditions will lead to a form of consilience, enriching both secular and religious people’s understanding of religion. 

– Tom Uytterhoeven –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s