For the longest time, religion has been one of the driving forces of Western politics — and in some countries, like the United States, it’s still a prominent driver.
But the last few decades have shown a sharp decline in the number of people who follow a religion. And I think I might have an idea as to why.
Consider Canada, our neighbor to the north. Recently, Canadians revealed in a survey that a full 80% of them would be willing to elect an atheist to the position of prime minister. And while that’s part of a much larger trend towards support for diversity, it’s worth noting by itself in face of other evidence — in particular, that 44% of Canadians feel religion is harmful (that number kicks up to 62% when people from Quebec were polled).
The Czech Republic may not be the fairest representation — it’s always had the lowest percentage of believers, as a former Eastern Bloc country — but only 29% of the population would agree with the idea of a God. Now, that’s compared to 86% in the neighboring countries (save Hungary, which is at 59%), but it’s still a remarkable anomaly in tune with what we see in Western Europe, where the number expressing belief in a God hovers between 20-30%.
And then there’s Australia. According to a 2016 census, the “Nones” are now a dominant minority, at almost 30% of the population. This comes even in the face of right-wing groups running a scare campaign trying to dissuade people from checking the “none” box. That’s also on par with what we see in the United States, where 35% of the population are “Nones.”
So what’s the deal? Is religion dying off?
Well . . . yes and no. It is declining, and I think I know one of the reasons why — at least, in the United States.
Take a look at this chart:
This is a chart of the political position taken by various religious leaders for different denominations, so it strikes me as safe to suggest this is the outlook of the congregations, as well. If you thought social media was politically divisive, clearly you haven’t set foot in a church. It appears as if — at least, in the case of the Republican Party — Christianity has tied itself to the idea of “Republican” rather strongly.
The United States isn’t the only place where the church has attempted to tie itself to a political party. The problem, of course, is that political parties change over time, where religion seems to resist change. The outcome of this need to change versus resistance to change benefits nobody.
So while religion may not be completely dying off in the West, what we’re seeing in action is the old saying, “when religion gets involved with the state, it’s often to the detriment of both.”