Rolling out the Red Carpet

I welcome you to my blog and hope that you will like the tour. Please leave your footmarks with comments and feedback. This will through and through enhance my knowledge and profundity of thought. Enjoy! Asif J. Mir

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Religions

Researchers project the growth of Islam to roughly 2 billion adherents by 2025. That is out of a projected world population of 8 billion. Among world religions, Islam ranks as the fastest growing faith. Worldwide, the number of Muslims has doubled since 1970 to 1.2 billion adherents. A plausible future is one in which Islam makes unprecedented inroads into the Western world. It is assumed that 1 percent of the Christians in Europe, North America, and Oceania defect to Islam every twenty-five years. As such Christians lose 0.9 percent of the world's population (dropping from 37.9 to 37.0 percent while Muslims gain from 22.6 to 23.5 percent) over the 175-year period 2025-2200.

Islam increases from 17.7 percent in 1990 to 22.6 percent by 2200. Nonreligious persons and atheists, on the other hand, grew rapidly over the period 1900-1990, then decrease from a combined percentage of 20.5 percent in 1990 to 16.1 percent by A.D. 2000.

Fundamentalism is a complicated phenomenon, combining political and religious themes, and may not, of itself, lead to increased piety. Rulers and politicians may continue to pay lip service to Islam, while in fact manipulating faith for purely political purposes. As Martin Marty and Scott Applebee note in their five-volume Fundamentalism Project, religious fundamentalism is on the rise, not just within Islam or Christianity, but is also being felt among Buddhism and Judaism.

The last century has witnessed the shift of Christianity from a white to a majority position of non-white followers. Today more than 60% of all Christians come from non-white races outside Europe and America.

This shift in the center of Christian gravity southward into the Third World has come about from evangelical Protestant church growth in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This produces all kinds of interesting facts, such as the largest Presbyterian church in the world is not found in Scotland, but in Seoul, Korea, or the statistical mean follower of Christ today is under 20 years old, living in Asia, with a per capita income of less than $600 a year.

While much has been said about the decline of the mainline in the US, the resurgence of Pentecostal Christianity has more than made up for it. Estimates put the number of new non-denominational churches in this country at 100,000 since 1980.

The 20th century will no doubt be remembered as a Pentecostal century, given the birth of the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic movement and its dramatic growth. In less than three generations, this movement in the West, Africa and Asia has grown to an amazing 520 million making it the second largest expression of faith within the Christian movement, second only to Roman Catholics.

Till 2000, the tribal religions had shrunk from 6.5% in 1900 to 1.6% of world population. There are still some 5,000 ethno, folk or tribal religions among indigenous people of Africa and Asia number. By mid-century many western religionists thought that these ethno-religionists would disappear by 2000. And despite large numbers converting to Islam or Christianity in Africa, the world's ethno-religions remain stable at about 100 million. But in terms of keeping pace with world population, they have shrunk from 6.5% to 1.6% of world population.

While the growth rate of Islam is increasing, the worldwide growth of persons professing no religion, whether agnostics, freethinkers, atheists or non-religious humanists appears to have plateaued since the collapse of communism. Statistically speaking, the non-religious population of the world is holding its own at 15% of the world's population, and will continue in early 21st century.

Another trend, which religionists encounter is growing pluralism. This is particularly so within the West. Driven by multi-culturalism and internationalization of the West, increasing diversity in society is both an opportunity and a challenge for religions. Increasing cultural diversity and interfaith contact can offer opportunities for mutual understanding, growth and dialogue. On the other hand, the challenge of modernity, with its relativism and individualism continues to undermine traditional beliefs that once informed shaped various common creeds, producing culture wars between traditionalists and progressives.

Although there is still resistance to women in pastoral roles, the basic trend of women in church and pastoral leadership continues to grow and appears irreversible. Some suggest the impact of increasing numbers of women in the pastorate will bring more emphasis on nurture and growth, with more holistic models of communities and congregations.

What humans will do in the years just immediately ahead is begin to dissect their religions, looking at them closely, exploring them piece by piece, examining them doctrine by doctrine, to see what makes sense and what doesn't make sense, what is functional and what is dysfunctional, what works and what doesn't work in tomorrow's world.

And alongside religion will stand a new form of human expression of the impulse toward the Divine, an expression that will not be rooted in codified texts and teachings, but in the moment-to-moment experience of each person sincerely seeking God.

While there is no way of knowing the details, it is safe to predict that qualitative secularization will still exist in the near future. Religion will remain important both in society and in the media, but most crucial cultural and political decisions will not be determined by it. In Islamic countries there is no qualitative (nor, of course, quantitative) secularization.

Many non-Muslims and quite a few Muslims, based on what their physical senses dictate, ascribe to the idea that religion is on its way out. The ‘moral decay’ is nearing its peak and they think that soon there is to be a religious revival.

The future trends in Islam breathe about most people who will find it easy to absorb novelty in religion (bidat). Thus they will (unjustly) discover shortcuts in winning the blessings of God. This implies that corruption will become the daily norm. The Bible will be transformed further to suit the needs of some. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation