Religion for centuries has been a very important aspect in uniting people across different cultures. This is because of the common believes that people in a given culture hold. It has also been very instrumental in enhancing the build up and retention of morals in the society.
In the course of evolution especially during industrialization as well as civilization of many nations in the world, religion has experienced many challenges that have led to changes in many religious aspects. As a result, religion holds different forms and different meanings from one generation to the other.
However, amidst all the changes, there is always a remnant in each religion that truly holds to the initial aspects and meaning of their religion. Despite the dynamism of the world, religion will remain an important social aspect. People only deviate from true religion i.e. the original religious beliefs and aspects in order to suit their lifestyles thus the future of religion. The future of religion is uncertain; however, the possibility of having one world religion is almost a reality in the light of the high rates globalization.
The basis of the future of religion
Before going into the details about the future of religion, it is fundamental to establish the meaning of religion. Religion is a cultural system that establishes powerful significance to natural happenings through a system of beliefs, norms, and values. This equips humanity with the truth about everything that is in existence (Geertz 35).
It helps to understand the origin of human beings as well as their destiny. In addition, it helps people to understand the way things happen in the supernatural. It also gives meaning to the behaviour of different creatures in the world as well as their origin.
A number of religions run deep in different societies across the world. Most of the religions begun during the time when there was no concrete explanation to the origin of all forms of life or the functioning of body systems. During that period, “the nature of heavenly bodies such as the sun, stars and the moon was not clear in normal human understanding and human beings needed something to aid in explaining their existence” (Dennett 9).
This was in an attempt to find the answers to the questions that people had regarding these phenomenon. Each of these religions has its own beliefs among other aspects that differ from one religion to the other. The different religions include Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism among others. It is important to mention that there are different numbers of followers of these religions with Christianity having the greatest percentage of followers in the world. Islam comes next in popularity.
There are basic characteristics of religion. One of these characteristics is the belief in the supernatural. A supernatural being, which can be a god or goddess, stands out as the most supreme feature in religion. On the other hand, there is a means of communication between the people and the supernatural. In most religions, prayers and sacrifices act as the major means of communication. The followers of a given religion observe certain sacred objects and times.
There are also ritual acts associated with the sacred objects and times. Every religion has a moral ethical code that governs the behaviour of all its followers. It is in every religion that a leader must be ordained or rather elected to lead people in observing all the religious practices. Religions are a social organization whereby religious believers come together with the goal of worshipping or even living together. Religious systems and beliefs are not only passed through families but also through the entire community of believers.
It is inevitable to rule out the role of religion in our societies as far as the future of religion is concerned. For decades, religion has been instrumental in instilling good morals to individuals and the society. It helps to build most institutions in the society ensuring that all the members of the society access most of the basics to lead a good life. It also helps to give meaning to some of the issues that are beyond ordinary human understanding such as death.
On the other hand, it is instrumental in enhancing good leadership not only within the religion but also to most governing systems. Religion also teaches people how to handle their feelings such as fear and worries. It also provides a system of values and norms that govern daily contact. When talking about the future of religion, the assumption is that religious institutions and ideas are bound to change with time.
This means that many forms of religion can be formulated depending on the interpretation of the original or rather the existing religious beliefs and systems. Almost all the religions have experienced this in the past and the same can happen in the future. Religious institutions can also change depending on the lifestyle of people in a given locality. Industrialization and civilization are some of the main factors that bring about changes in lifestyle hence changes in belief systems.
Having considered the basics of religion in the globe, the issue of the current state of religion comes in. Today, many people are gradually drifting from religion. The establishment of scientific views to explain natural phenomenon has greatly propagated this change in the society.
Owing to this, several bodies have conducted surveys to establish the magnitude to which science has influenced religious beliefs. For instance, in 2009 the Pew Research Centre in America showed that “only 33% of scientists believed in God…17% of the public did not believe that a supernatural being, God exists and 7% believed in a personal God” (Larson and Witham 313).
Many nations are investing heavily on technological inventions. Since the inventions are so great to many people, their attention on religion has declined significantly. This has transformed most scientists to social icons on the basis that they are able to bring into existence completely new things. This shows that with the current increase of scientific as well as technological inventions, religion may lose its meaning in the society.
Philosophers have tried to establish harmony between scientific and religious beliefs, “…come up with the theory of pragmatism that states that the usefulness of a set of beliefs in helping people cope with a particular context of life indicates the truth of the beliefs” (Larson and Witham 315).
In the same way, religious beliefs are useful in helping people to cope with difficult situations or in making of moral decisions. This shows that both scientific theories and religious beliefs have certain truth that is useful to people. This substantially erodes the value that religion as the only tool that can bring out the meaning and usefulness of nature.
Secularism stands out as another factor that has greatly affected the direction of religion in the society. It advocates for people to be neutral in dealing matters within the society. This makes people not to uphold the religious believes and morals. Secularism aims to separate the government from religious beliefs, practices and religious judgement…”it holds that the basis of human decisions and activities is evidence and facts but not on religious views” (Noah 14).
It is important to mention that many people view secularization as the way to modernization that entails leaving the primitive ways of doing things. In this case, primitive ways refer to the religious practices and beliefs. In most states where secularism is deeply rooted, the government makes decisions without religious basis though it advocates for the protection of religion. This has led to controversies in several issues such as abortion. Other issues include cloning, contraception as well as same-sex marriage.
Criticism is another challenge that is facing religions today. Critics of religion argue that religious facts contradict science. These are the people constantly advocating for acceptance of scientific findings in order to enhance economic development. Other non-religious people argue that, “some rules found in religious books are hard to follow” (Richard 77). In the contemporary world, such rules include those that govern the dressing of the people.
They also go ahead to say that such rules are outdated in comparison with the changing world and do not make sense. In addition, critics argue that the behaviours that the religious books advocate for are not sensible. These criticisms are an obstacle to the establishment of religion in the society. Consequently, it is hard to pass religious rules, beliefs and practices to the coming generations. This means that in future, the society will fail to observe most religious values.
There is yet another problem facing religions today, heresy. This occurs when a particular group of people within a given religion depart from the religion and form their own form of religion. These people cease following the former/traditional beliefs. Once they come together, they form new ideas, rituals and rules that will govern their group.
They even come up with new forms of worship. This leads to the formation of cults and religious sects. Some of them, in their practices, end up violating human rights and that is not the original intention of many religions. If heresy is not controlled it would lead to the development of many cults and religious sects in the future. This in turn will lead to development of conflicts between cults and the original religion.
Bringing together different religions is underway. Religious practitioners are aiming at bringing together the common aspects of faith of the different religions together. This aims at minimising the misunderstanding between members of different religions. The religious practitioners refer this as interfaith cooperation. The holding of interfaith dialogue is instrumental in solving religious, political as well as ethnic conflicts.
Initiatives towards the establishment of interfaith cooperation include ‘A Common Word’, which was launched in 2007 and intended to bring both Christian and Muslim leaders together. The success of interfaith cooperation will give the world a new understanding of religion especially when dealing with issues that affect people in different religions.
Misinterpretation of the contents of religious books such as the Bible, the Torah and Koran is another aspect than can greatly affect the future of religion. When this happens, a very new aspect of the religion is developed. There is a possibility that the newly developed aspect will bring differences and lead to the split of a religion. It is not only the misinterpretation of the contents of religious books but also misinterpretation between the religions.
For instance, Muslims are facing the difficult of misinterpretation by the rest of the world. This happened following the bomb attacks carried on parts of the world by some Muslim faithful. On the contrary, not all Muslims are terrorists. It is also important to mention that misinterpretation of the contents can lead to inappropriate practices of religion. It is therefore important for one to understand the beliefs and values of the religions to prevent misinterpretation.
Though there are many challenges facing religions today, there is continued improvement in the spread of the top most religions in the world. This is due to the technological development around the globe. This development has enhanced the spread of these religions to most part of the world.
As a result, there has been converts from one religion to the other. It is important to note that conversion from one religion to another is a deliberate act. In the same effect, people who previously did not belong to any religion are becoming part of a religious group. This is important since more people will be under the control of a given system of norms and values within the religion that they join.
There are leaders in every religion to ensure people follow the religious beliefs and systems. They help in proper interpretation of the contents of the religious books. This is through the knowledge that they acquire during their training. They also help to solve any conflicts within the members of the religion. New converts get proper guidance from the leaders.
In order to accommodate the changes that are taking place in the world, most people argue that religion and scientific views should carry the same weight in building societies. The idea in this case is that, the two entities should not oppose each other since they both explain things that are not easily understandable under normal circumstances.
Modernization calls for opportunities for sharing the views offered by both scientists and religious leaders. This is mainly for the social field where the two tend to hold quite different grounds. Secularists argue that religion should be socially relevant but not some form of imprisonment especially to the youths.
Religion is the single most important aspect in bringing people together. This is due to the system of norms and values as well as practices within each religion. As aforementioned, many challenges are currently facing almost all the religions around the globe. These challenges include secularism, criticism, heresy as well as the scientific and technological advancements taking place around the globe.
These are deviating people’s attention from true religion to other forms of beliefs and theories. It is of great importance to mention that the contents of the religious books and religious beliefs do not change. There are efforts by different religious practitioners to establish a common faith based on the belief systems of the major religions in the world.
This will help in solving conflicts affecting the religions. Religion remains the fundamental instrument of establishing and retaining cohesion in different cultures. However, it is important to note that religious institutions and ideas are bound to change. The future of religion is very uncertain, more people will become religious and more will become atheists. Nevertheless, the probability of having one world order with one religion seems plausible in the near future.
Dennet, Daniel. Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. New York: Viking Adult, 2006.
Geertz, Clifford. Religion as a Cultural System. New York: Basic books, 1973.
Larson, Edward, and Witham, Larry. “Leading Scientists Still Reject God.” Nature 394.6691(1998):313.
Noah, Fieldman. Divided by God. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.
Richard, Dawkins. The God Delusion. New York: Black Swan, 2007.