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Austin Cline

Weekly Poll: What Will Happen to Christianity?

By August 2, 2012

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There are strong liberal trends among Christians in the United States and Europe, but the same trends are not repeated everywhere in the world. There are plenty of conservative and fundamentalist churches in America, but the overall trend is towards liberalization and tolerance. This trend is far stronger and even further along in Europe. In most other places, and especially in the southern hemisphere, the growth of Christianity is accompanied by a growth in conservatism, traditionalism, and orthodoxy.

This raises and interesting and difficult question about what the next millennium might bring to Christianity: will it become more liberal or even more conservative over time? The northern hemisphere is generally richer and more powerful, but the southern hemisphere is more populous and growing. Churches in the north are well-established and generally the homes of various denominations, but they are also declining in membership.

It's gotten to the point where southern Christian institutions have begun sending missionaries to the north to "re-Christianize" people. This means not simply opposing secularism and turning people back to religion, but also opposing liberalized Christianity and turning people back to the "true," traditional Christian faith. It's not unreasonable to think that churches in the southern hemisphere might end up having a large influence on Christianity in the north.

Comments
June 26, 2008 at 5:45 pm
(1) Eric O says:

There seems to be a correlation between liberal attitudes and economic development.

http://www.scielo.org.ve/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0378-18442005000600012&lng=pt&nrm=iso

Assuming that the southern hemisphere is gradually getting richer, I think it’s safe to expect a more pluralistic form of Christianity in those regions at some point in the future. Considering the rate of development in the the third world, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a visible trend towards liberalisation before the end of the century.

June 27, 2008 at 2:58 am
(2) The Sojourner says:

I fondly hope that in the future, (if there is one, before these religions kill off the whole world, in the name of whatever god they believe in) that Christianity along with all religions, disappear from this planet.

Religion is the worst thing that ever happened to this planet, period. How much better and how much further would the world have been without it? Before you answer,think of a world run not by fear and guilt from an invisible “sky daddy”. Not arbitrary man-made rules supposedly received from this “sky daddy”, but a truly ethical and humanistic society world wide.

A Utopian ideal, perhaps, but a much better world to live in, In my opinion.

June 27, 2008 at 3:24 pm
(3) Puchiko says:

I believe that the differences between “liberal Christians” (those who allow a loose interpretation of religious texts, are acceptive of homosexuals, and so on-they have no dogmas) and conservative Christians (interpret the Bible literally, hate gays, I think I don’t need to further describe) will grow wider. Fewer people will be “inbetween”, they will be on one of the spectrum’s ends.

Another trend I imagine is more atheists, mostly former Christians. I believe this is also likely to lead to more religious Christians-there will be less people who have never thought about their faith, less of the people who are simply Christians because that’s the way they’ve been brought up.

As for The Sojourner, I’m not sure. I don’t think religion was the worst thing that ever happened to this planet. I believe that it was very beneficial in it’s early phases, but got outdated before the French Revolution, possibly sooner. In former times, religion helped the civilisation advance.

I do not know if this could have happened without religion. Perhaps yes, and in that case religion is indeed the worst thing on this planet. I must say that I am not able to fully imagine the development if religion had never appeared-religion played a pretty key role, and it would have been completely different (though possibly better) without it.

June 27, 2008 at 3:46 pm
(4) John Hanks says:

Religions continue because they are all things to all men. Part of every religion appeals to the lower brain stem. Part appeals to the upper brain.

June 30, 2008 at 11:28 am
(5) Nate says:

What ever happened to the worship of the Babylonian god Marduk? The sands are littered with everlasting tributes to the greatness of long dead gods. My guess is that Christianity in it’s fundamentalist form will not survive it’s own intrinsic polarization. The sea of Christian faithful will seek their own humanistic level- their tenants will be verbally maintained, though in practice lifted to the level of rational and non-judgmental conlusions obvious to most sane people.

This is already happening in the Anglican church.

August 3, 2012 at 8:49 pm
(6) OZAtheist says:

I voted that Christianity will become more conservative, but the answer is more complex than that.

Liberal Christians, who acknowledge the reality of scientific explanations, must find it more and more difficult, to blend this with a watered down version of Christianity.

Belief in evolution, in my opinion, is extremely difficult to accommodate simultaneously with the concept of being made “in the image of God” for example. I know that many liberal Christians will respond to this with the line that evolution was the way God did it, but when you delve into the detail about when man first obtained a soul, and who committed original sin, (a concept that is the very core of Christianity), it gets more and more difficult to explain.

When I listen to Vision Radio I hear a fundamentalist version of Christianity being preached. The Devil, Hell, and Demons are constantly mentioned (“with no degree of intellectual shame”- to quote a favorite verse of mine). When I was young and silly enough to have Christian belief, and attend church, these entities were never mentioned.

I think Atheism will continue to grow in the West, liberal Christianity become less common, and fundamental Christianity the preferred flavor for the majority of adherents.

August 4, 2012 at 2:45 am
(7) Borsia says:

The fastest growing “belief” is non-belief, atheism and agnosticism are taking the Western world more and more.
America is at the tail of the pack but as more and more question religions doctrine, the bible as a true record of history religion will fall into the realm of irrelevance. Something they fear far more than anything else.
Even in their great strongholds like Latin America there more and more skeptics. When I lived in Colombia (90% Catholic) I met ever larger numbers of people who had either stopped believing completely, stopped believing in the Church, or expressed growing doubts.
There will probably always be countries like South Korea, trying to ban the teaching of evolution in schools, but the glass dome is cracking and will shatter given time.
The Christian god will take its place along side the thousands of others who have fallen throughout history.
Will the planet fall before religions do,,,, who knows?

August 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm
(8) Robster says:

The term “southern hemisphere” is a pretty broad canvas. The religious situatuion in secular nations like Australia and New Zealand is very different to those in other “southern hemisphere” nations like those in Africa and South America. happily, in Australia at least, religious belief is in sharp decline with less than 6% of aussies attending a church once a month or more. Six percent! And on the way down from 8% in 2006.

August 7, 2012 at 12:36 am
(9) Cousin Ricky says:

@Borsia – Apparently, the so-called creationist victory in South Korea was nothing of the sort. There were a couple of scientific inaccuracies in the textbooks, the creationists noticed the errors, and the errors were corrected. The lying creationists then touted this as a major victory, and this non-story is what the western press picked up.

Source.

Don’t worry, South Korea has not gone bonkers.

August 7, 2012 at 7:58 am
(10) CWoods says:

I had lived in Brazil many years ago when the country was about 99% Catholic, but I had heard that fundamentalism has been growing over the years. When I visited last year, I noticed that in many large cities there werre small Protestant sects on nearly every block, usually in old storefronts or perhaps single-family homes.

I talked to a few friends about this —some Brazilian and some U.S. ex-pats living there. First, they all said that if churches in Brazil tried to interfere in gov’t the way they do in the U.S., everyone would be appalled. On the other hand, the country is still very Catholic and therefore most gov’t officials are, too, so Catholcism influences legislation more than other religions, albeit covertly.

In general though, no one joins political parties except those looking for gov’t appointments. And, by our standards, Brazil is extremely liberal. What we call a run-of the mill political liberal is extremely conservative by Brazilian standards. So, at least in Brazil, I think it would take quite a while for religious conservatives to have a big influence. Yet, as we have seen throughout history, things change, and when they go too far, they change back.

However, as someone else pointed out, the southern hemisphere is mighty large with a multitude of cultures. In Africa, for example, in some locations there are actual witch hunts going on in some Protestant sects. Anyone can accuse almost anyone else of being a witch and then anyone under suspicion, even children, are tortured or killed.

I look at some religions today and they remind me of past events. Muslims who want to eliminate infidels —similar to the Inquisition. Witch hunts in Africa remind me of Salem. It seems like most religions (unfortunately) have to go through these crazy stages before they can move on to being more humane —-but I’m not sure if the insanity will ever end.

August 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm
(11) Mary says:

I couldn’t answer this one because you stuck I don’t know/I don’t care together, and my answer would be I don’t know but not I don’t care. Many people have dropped out of Christianity, but at the same time, the fundamentalist Christians are becoming more adamant and are trying to take over the government. I don’t know which way it will go.

August 19, 2012 at 2:53 am
(12) Bob Seidensticker says:

My own hope is that Christianity will mature so that “cultural Christianity” is an option. This is already an option within many Jewish communities–you can be an ethnic or cultural Jew without acutally believing the supernatural stuff.

It’d be great where you could belong to a church, enjoy the community and perhaps the singing and architecture, focus your philanthropic efforts through the church, but be open about your atheism.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/

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