Are the worlds religions running out of gass?

Are the modern religions (Christianity, Judism, Islam, Hinduism/Buddism) running out of steam or going strong as ever. Would we even be able to see the collapse coming (like classical or pre-historic era religions) or only know from history years from now?

This might be better in IMHO, but thought I’d give it a shot here and see if anyone is interested in debating this.

I remember years ago a professor telling me that a sign of ‘end times’ for a religion (historically speaking) was an upsurge in fundamentalism just before a collapse. It seems to me that is what we are seeing these days.

I’m a lapsed catholic myself, and what I see in the church are two kinds of people…those going through the motions, and those that are nearly fanatical in their religious ferver. It seems like many of the modern religions are going through an upsurge in fundamentalism atm. Is this also coupled with a growth in apathy?

I know several people in my circle of friends that are lapsed catholics of various stripes, lapsed Muslims (the no longer go along with the dietary restrictions)…same with some Jewish friends (several of whom seem even more lapse than me :)). Many of them still go through the motions, but seem very apathetic about it. Maybe its just the people I associate with though…not exactly a sound scientific basis or representitive sample. :slight_smile:

It seems to me that human history is a progression…civilizations and religions rise and fall…change, while slow, is constant. I just wonder if our current ‘modern’ religions are nearly out of gass at this point (maybe they are no longer as relevant today?)…or if its just my perception, based on my own bias and the people I associate with. I also wonder, if the modern religions collapse, what will we get next…

Anyone care to comment, speculate or cite anything on this? I’m hoping for a nice clean debate and am VERY interested in the religious point of view on all this.


p.s. I love this board!! But for the constant wrangling about politics, I find most of the people utterly facinating. :slight_smile:

Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism have been around for a while. Judaism’s expecting the King of the Jews, Christianity’s expecting the Second Coming, I don’t know about Islam or Hinduism, and Buddhism’s essentially a philosophy. I think Judaism and Christianity are too widespread to die out anytime soon, I don’t know about Islam or Hinduism. Buddhism, as I said, is a philosophy, and probably will never die, unless science finds a way to debunk reincarnation by figuring out what happens after we die.

Can you explain why there would be an upsurge of fundamentalism before the end of a religion?

FudgeNugget, I could speculate on why I think that might be the case…my prof never gave an explaination as to why, just made a statement that happened to stick in my mind.

My (simplistic) speculation would be that, as a religion ages, it becomes less relevant to a person’s every day life…and possibly to a SOCIETIES every day life as well. Its scary though for people, when the foundation of their lives (from a religious standpoint) seems to be becoming irrevelant. The backlash of this is fundamentalism.

Basically, it allows you to shut off your brain and work on pure faith, stemming the tide of thoughts and ideas that are contrary to the root of your religious world view. My GUESS is, that the next phase is when a contradiction so great comes up between a fundamentalist world view taken on pure faith and reality that can’t be denied, this is were religions end. Oh, they still go on…even today there are all kinds of remnants of past religions. But they are no longer main stream. I don’t know if our ‘modern’ religions have gotten to this phase yet (or even if this is what happens…this could all be BS, thats why I asked the question :))…I very much doubt it. I would say that, if we ARE at an ‘end time’ for the modern religions, then we are only at the first stages.

Yes, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism HAVE been around for a long time. But then, those classical religions (Greek, Egyption, Messopotamian, Summarian, etc) were around for a long time too, as well as possible pre-historic type religions (I’m thinking Earth Mother cults and the like). Yet, at some point, they simply collapsed…


If you think that the classical religions just collapsed, you need to go back and study some history. It took hundreds of years of proselytizing and violent oppression for Christianity to stamp out paganism in just the Roman empire, let alone the realms outside of the Roman empire (Slavic and Germanic tribes). Religions almost never just collapse, it usually needs to be deliberately and methodically destroyed. And even then it’s difficult.

And many times, what will happen is that the old religion will fuse with the imported religion (or whatever’s taking its place) and you get a hybrid like in some parts of Africa and the Caribbean.

As for your professor’s assertion that increased fundamentalism reflects that a religion is about to die is just silly. Religions go through bouts of increased fundamentalism all the time in various regions of the world. Witness the Great Revivals in the Americas several hundred years ago, yet religion is still quite strong in the US. Islam has gone through various bouts of fundamentalism depending on what was going on at the time. Same with Judaism.

Fundamentalism comes about when a religious society feels threatened by outside forces or when things aren’t going well (natural disasters or whatnot). Sometimes those outside forces cause a distruction of the religion (like the pressure Christianity had on Roman paganism) but a lot of times the religion comes through just fine.

Religion changes, but not the value of it.

I believe people will eventually become less religious and more spiritual. As time goes by, more will discover their spiritual nature, and religion will no longer be needed.

Spirituality is a personal awakening, one no longer needs the outward discipline of religious doctrine, it has been traded for the inward discipline of love, compassion and truth.

Probably I won’t live to see this happen, but think it is beginning to show around the edges.


[hijack] That’s a very un-Buddhist thing to say. :wink: [/hijack]

Appart from Islam, I do not think you can make a solid case that the major world religions are going through a period of fundamentalism.

I, too, would like to see a relevant cite for this. From a journal of religious history or the like.

The Antique Pagan religions around the Mediterranean didn’t so much as collapse as were legislated out of existence, tho many of their practices survive, either by being incorporated into Christianity or thru folklore. The same with northern European Paganism, the temples of Uppsala were destroyed in 1100 C.E, yet many practices continue, mainly as folklore.

Exactly how organized these religions were, compared to Christianity, is also another point. From what I’ve read, there was no central heirarchy comparable to Christianity of the time, so “collapse” wouldn’t be an applicable term.

Hinduism will probably never die out. It has a marvelous way of saying, “Whatever your beliefs, it’s all a part of the great mystical architecture, so go ahead and believe it.” Buddhism I don’t know enough about to say.

As for the big, monotheistic three: They are “heavenly father” religions which were reactions against the “earth mother” “pagan” rituals. They are designed to meet the needs of an unsophisticated agricultural society.

That is why, in my opinion, many people find them more or less irrelevant to their lives, some ignoring it, some going through the motions out of a sense of tradition. We’re not an agricultural society any more. the “fundamentalists”, in my opinion, are trying to return to an unsophisticated world-view to make the religion more relevant

Many church leaders hope that religion would end and be not needed. By then people would achieve Nirvana or other forms of full spiritual enlightenment.

Um jovan, have you seen the Christian Broadcasting Network lately?

Hmm. A new big world religion would be quite cool.

Who’s to say that one of the tiny cults currently facing derision and minority support today won’t be tomorrow’s Next Big Thing?

Well, I don’t have a tv, and I don’t think they broadcast in Japan. (Thank God?) But still, relatively speaking, the current rashes of fundamentalism that Christian religions are currently facing are not quite of the order of what happened in the past, or what Islam is struggling with right now. IMO.

As for the Next Big Thing, IMVHO I strongly believe that within the next fifty years Baha’i, Tenri and Jain religions will rule the world. Well maybe not, but it would be cool.

If, by “running out of gas” you mean “growing in size, some of them growing faster than the population” then yes, they are definately “running out of gas.”

My theory is that most regular folks are fundamentally irreligious. They just believe in what they believe in because they think it’s what they’re sposedta do, so they do it. If they understood that religion was unnecessary, they’d drop it without a second thought. It’s mostly superstitious fear that brings in the old ones (gonna die now, what’ll I do?) and social pressure that brings in the young ones.

The Church of St. Mattress will ultimately prevail, but it’ll take a long, long time.

Evil Captor, are you aware of something called neurotheology? There are serious researchers who argue the exact opposite of what you claim, namely that humans are fundamentally and biologically religious.

This field of study looks into what Maslow calls “peak experiences” and the associated neurology.

More info here.

To claim that religion is unnecessary is, in my opinion, a shallow assessment. Religion, or more accurately spirituality, is still the best way humans have found to cope with suffering, with the fear of death.

I am not claiming that many people aren’t being drawn to religion by peer pressure, or social habit or whatnot. Nor would I be claiming that religion hasn’t been harmful. However you cannot, from there, argue that it is merely “unnecessary”.

istara, I invite you to check out

The Baha’i faith is over 150 years old, is a world religion, and, best of all IMO, do not think we’re the only ones who ain’t gonna burn!

I’m not familiar with it. Smells a lot like Scientific Creationism if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

No it does not. If you want the sceptic lowdown on the research read here:

From Andrew Newberg, one of the leading “proponents” of this field of study (source):

Neurotheology doesn’t seek to prove the truth of religion, or to accumulate evidence of the existence of God. It is a serious field of enquiry into the cognitive processes associated with religious experiences.

I am myself not a theist but the fact remains that you just simply cannot deny the importance of religion for the human race. Whether there are underlying truths or not is irrelevent to the actual role that religions have and will play.