(Forbes) Is The 21st Century The Century Of Religion?

As a Western European I have seen the dramatic drop in the influence of organized religion in society. Having spent part of my childhood in Spain, churches on Sunday were packed and priests and nuns in habits prominent features of the social landscape. Even though to a lesser extent, this was also the case in secular France. Today churches across Western Europe are empty, the average age in many congregations is well over 60, while priests need to be recruited from Latin America, Africa and Asia as their numbers among Western Europeans have dwindled dramatically ”“ a sort-of “reverse missionary” phenomenon. Thus, even though many Western Europeans like Pope Francis, there seems very little chance that they will return in droves to church. Western Europe would seem to have entered a post-religion era.

From a Western European prism it could be assumed that this would be a global trend. The assumption however could not have been more wrong. Religion is clearly a case where Western Europe is definitely the abnorm and not the norm. In the post-Cold War era, with the collapse of Marxist-Leninist ideologies, it is (to me, anyway) quite astonishing the degree to which religion has “returned” as a major driving force and prominent feature of the 21st century.

In speaking of Europe, I have stressed Western Europe, as this would not be true in Eastern Europe where the Orthodox Churches have seen a considerable revival. In post-Soviet Russia an estimated 47% of the population (67 million) are practicing. Similarly one could not claim, by any means, that “the West” has entered a post-religion era given the overwhelming importance and prominence of religion in the US.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Globalization, History, Religion & Culture