One of the most common assumptions is that religiosity is linked to economic and technological underdevelopment. As a society gets more technologically and economically advanced, the thinking goes, religiosity naturally fades away and is replaced by a more secular worldview.
Exhibit A is usually Western Europe, which grew more secular as it grew richer (and much, much more violent) across the 19th and 20th centuries. Exhibit B is the world’s most religious continent — Africa — which happens to be its poorest.
Under this view, the 21st century will be the century in which secularization spreads even further as the rest of the world catches up.
But when you look at the actual trends of religiosity across the world, what becomes apparent is actually the opposite: The 20th century was probably the high point of secularization, while the 21st century will likely be dominated by religion. The famous line by the French intellectual and politician André Malraux — “The 21st century will be religious or it will not be” — is on track to be vindicated.
First, let’s dispense with the notion that there is some necessary causal link between economic and technological advancement and secularization. One need only look at South Korea, which was one of the poorest countries on the planet at the end of World War II, and is now one of the richest and most technologically advanced — indeed, on some metrics, more advanced than Western Europe or the U.S.
At the same time that South Korea experienced this astonishing growth, Christianity in the country grew from less than 1 percent of the population to about 30 percent today.
What about the rest of the world? Is it secularizing? To the contrary, religion is becoming one of the most important forces shaping the fate of most countries in the world.
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