As a firm proponent of evolution, and natural selection, I’ve started giving some thought to the end of religion. Will we reach a point in time where religion no longer exists? Or when organized religion no longer exists. Thinking about this from a Darwinian point of view, it’s very easy to imagine the possible causes for religions to cease existing. One of the ideas I kept coming back to is the concept of religion being “educated out of” mainstream thought. I’m not suggesting that we actively push the idea that religion is wrong in schools, just give pupils the tools necessary for them to decide for themselves. This currently doesn’t happen, and we’ve seen that certain parties with a vested interest are pushing for religion to be more prominent in schools. Once pupils are educated to a sufficient level, the majority will come to the correct conclusion that religion is built upon a series of lies and tricks.
Looking further at this concept allows us to boil it down into two related variables. Firstly we have education (nurture) and then we have evolution (nature).
It’s possible to easily track the effect education can have on religion by looking at the proportion of religious people by nation. Different nations have different levels of education, and likewise, different nations have different levels of belief. There’s a nifty website called YesNoGod.com that has one purpose, to measure the levels of belief in God by country. At the time of writing there’s a clear tilt towards non-believing from the more educated countries. Dare I say, the more developed countries.
At this point I need to point out that correlation is not the same as causation. Not by any means. However, there is a strong correlation and we can hope, that in this case, a certain degree of causation exists. There’s certainly something there to suggest that as the level of education increases, the level of belief decreases. There are, of course, some conditions that need to be applied. For example, it has to be good, impartial education. Teach facts, not beliefs, basically.
So what about evolution? We need to take a limited view of evolution and natural selection in this context. Natural selection doesn’t work as well in such a developed species as humans as we are in the almost unique position of having the superior members of the species preventing the inferior members from failing. But, suppose we are still evolving mentally. I would suggest the following graph as a fair representation of what we will experience.
So what does this mean? To understand it, we have to look at the labels on the axis. Human Evolution refers to evolution of us as a species. This isn’t necessarily physical or mental evolution, but also represents societal knowledge and awareness. The sum of us as species, something that is steadily increasing. The other axis indicates the amount of faith required to be religious. Many believe this to be fixed, but I would suggest otherwise. To be frank, as scientific knowledge improves, and the stories written about in the various holy books are disproved, it will be harder to believe them. It will require more faith, more devotion. My anecdotal evidence for this is the sharp decrease in the number of people who literally believe the Bible’s description of Genesis as scientific evidence continues to prove it to be factually inaccurate. For example, completely disproving the Bible’s claimed age of the earth.
You’ll note that the graph isn’t smooth. In fact, it has a number of points which see sharp rises. These are events, or discoveries, that make a significant impact on the teachings of the various religious books. Discovering the earth’s true age would be one such discovery.
Unfortunately, this inevitable path brings with it the most hated form of religion. Extremism. As the amount of faith required increases, the type of person who believes changes. Moderately religious people evolve into agnostics, or even atheists, and extremists begin to be considered mainstream. And as you can see from the graph, I don’t for see a complete end to religion at any point. It will just reach the stage where the amount of faith required to believe will mean only the most extreme, the most vulnerable, the least educated and the most suggestible will consider themselves religious.
I’m putting this out there, I’m interested in your opinions. And whether you think my theories, and reasoning, are sound.