It’s an interesting time to be a Christian and a person of faith; we live in tumultuous times. Faith is declining but also resurgent. Disappearing yet also bursting into life.
Some non-believers are sufficiently emboldened to ask the question, ‘what comes after religion?’ Although not every atheist is convinced that the current crop of evangelical atheists are on the right track.
So is it true that religion is disappearing? Well, it does very much depend on where you look. John Gray writes,
There is no sign anywhere of religion fading away, but by no means all atheists have thought the disappearance of religion possible or desirable.
But is that true? By one measure, yes it is. George Weigel offers up some interesting statistics on the current state of global faith and reckons that 89% of the 7 billion people are religious believers, 9% are agnostics and 1.8% are atheists. Faith clearly isn’t going anywhere soon.
But even though it is true of the world as a whole it does not necessarily follow that it is true for everywhere in the world. The quote in the main image argues that religion could disappear from Europe and there it may have a case.
This chart clearly shows how Britain is becoming a more secular place (London, excepted). When it comes to Christianity in Europe, Weigel has nothing to comfort. While Christianity grew remarkably in the last century in Europe it barely grew at all (0.16% over 100 years!). The share of Christians living in Europe fell from 66% in 1900 to 23% today and if trends continue, that will fall still further. Most worryingly as Weigel says,
Only 14 percent of non-Christians today know a Christian
I’d be surprised if the figure was anywhere close to being that high in Sweden. Yet even in secular Scandinavia, faith is refusing to go quietly. In Iceland they are building it’s first temple to the Norse gods for a 1000 years and followers of the old Norse religions have tripled in the last ten years. While they may not be going to church, the need to believe still runs deep.
I’ve written a series of articles on the challenge for the church in Europe. It has become something it hasn’t really been for a thousand years. A mission field. It’s good to see then groups of churches put Europe at the heart of their church planting efforts.