I was more than a little amused when I read a piece in the Daily Mail last week entitled: ‘Religion could disappear by 2041 because people will have replaced God with possessions, claims leading psychologist’.
The article focuses on the controversial conclusions of Irish biopsychologist, Dr Nigel Barber, in his book, ‘Why Atheism Will Replace religion’. Dr Barbour studied the beliefs of people in 137 different countries and concluded that there was a correlation between development and religious belief. His key conclusion is that atheism increases in more developed countries as their citizens become materially wealthy.
Writing in the journal ‘Psychology Today’, Dr Barber explained that in studies of countries which presently have secular majorities, there was a developmental timeline. The key point in the timeline is when a society reaches a stage where only a minority of the population believed in a god, or a minority considered that a god was important to their lives.
Astonishingly, Dr Barber has concluded that the average country will transform into a secular society in 2041. He has arrived at this date by measuring a country’s GDP and Human Development Index and comparing this data with countries where atheists are already a majority.
According to the Daily Mail article, Dr Barber asserts: 'Religion evolved to help our ancestors cope with anxiety and insecurity. ............supernatural belief is in decline everywhere that ordinary people enjoy a decent standard of living and are secure in their health and finances. The market for formal religion is also being squeezed by modern substitutes such as sports and entertainment.’
As a born again Christian who is also a professional historian I beg to differ with Dr Barber. While Christianity is currently declining in Britain, looked at historically, there is very clear evidence that belief in society goes in cycles. The historian Callum Brown argues that there is clear evidence for cycles of belief: "Between 1945 and 1958 there were surges of British church membership, Sunday school enrolment, Church of England Easter Day communicants, baptisms and religious solemnisation of marriage, accompanied by immense popularity for evangelical ‘revivalist' crusades."
The Bible records that Jesus himself said that in the last days before his return there would be a falling away and deception amongst Christians. The Gospel of Matthew in Chapter 24 clearly records Jesus’ description of what will happen.
‘As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’
So am I worried that Christians might be in a tiny minority in the future? Certainly not, because God is in control and has a plan for His Church across the world. I am therefore sure that faith in Christ will be at least as strong, if not much stronger in 2041 than it is now.