Religion to Die Out in 9 Nations

Mathematical model points to extinction in Australia, Austria, Ireland

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 22, 2011 3:25 AM CDT | Updated Mar 22, 2011 5:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Religion is bound for extinction in nine nations where it's already in decline, according to researchers using mathematical models. The researchers applied the principle of "nonlinear dynamics" to census data from the countries—Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland—and predicted that religion will die out completely in those countries as religious groups shrink and as becoming a member of a religion offers fewer and fewer social benefits.

"The idea is pretty simple," one of the researchers tells the BBC. "It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility," he explained. "It's interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data, and if those simple ideas are correct, it suggests where this might be going." One member of the research team used a similar mathematical model in earlier research to explain the decline of some languages. (Click to read about something that's already gone extinct.)

An Muslim imam, a Christian priest,and two Jewish rabbis join a prayer calling for rain in the West Bank village of Walajeh near Bethlehem.   (Getty Images)
Head of Roman Catholics in the Czech Republic and Archbishop of Prague Dominik Duka celebrates a re-burial mass of 16th century astronomer Tycho Brahe.   (Getty Images)
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In a large number of modern secular democracies, there's been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion. - Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement

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