07 January 2020

A last look back at 2019

Mainstream media coverage may not have reflected it, but the most important story of 2019 was the Amazon synod and the way it forced the divisions and conflicts within the Catholic Church to the surface.  Yes, there were other big stories -- the pro-independence election landslide in Britain, the Trump impeachment in the US, the Hong Kong protests and the Uighur persecution in China, the Kashmir crackdown and the new citizenship law (and protests) in India -- but each of these was basically a matter of the internal politics of just one country, and except for the British election, none of them seems likely to have much effect on the course of events even within its country.  A major upheaval and division within the Catholic Church, which now looks inevitable, will have a substantial impact on dozens of countries.

I posted about the synod's potential to trigger a schism, traditional Catholics' furious response to the Vatican's apparent embrace of paganism, and the hardening battle lines between the true believers and the leadership.  It's an unprecedented fracture within the largest, oldest, and most powerful religious organization in the world -- one which remains a dominant cultural force in Latin America, Poland, and the Philippines, and has substantial influence in sub-Saharan Africa and our own country.  Not even the Protestant Reformation offered such a stark challenge to such fundamental dogmas and taboos -- and this time the attack on orthodoxy is coming from the hierarchy itself, not lesser figures like Martin Luther.  Conservative Catholics find themselves in the bizarre position of rebelling against their traditional authorities to defend doctrines rooted in authoritarian tradition.

The decline of the Catholic Church has been under way for centuries and still has a long way to go.  But I suspect future historians will note 2019 as the pivotal year, the true beginning of the end.

Another recurring theme that struck me as significant was the massive investment in solar power in India, China, and several Arab countries.  Even with the Trump administration idiotically AWOL from the fight against global warming, the 96% of humanity that lives outside the US is taking serious action on the problem.  As the developing countries of the "Third World" catch up economically and technologically over the next couple of decades, their electricity consumption will dwarf that of the West (due to population size), so their commitment to meeting their needs from renewable energy is of huge significance.

Finally, the most important changes in the world are often ongoing trends, not sudden events -- such as the decline of religion as societies become more educated and more open to new information.  This graphic on the Arab world is particularly arresting (click to enlarge):
I've posted before about the secularization of Muslim populations in Europe, refuting the wingnut "Eurabia" fantasies that Islam will eventually overwhelm and dominate Europe.  But as Ibn Warraq predicted 25 years ago, in the face of inexorable modernity, Islam cannot even hold the ground where it has been most deeply entrenched the longest -- the Arab world itself.  The figures above show the same pattern as in the US -- the non-religious minority is growing fast, and is largest among the younger generation.  If religion is losing in these lands, in the long run it's doomed everywhere.  Know hope.


Blogger RO said...

This is fascinating info, and I thank you. Always learn so much here. Hugs and Happy New Year! RO

07 January, 2020 06:44  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

The whole Pachamama incident does not represent the Vatican personally "embracing paganism" so much as it is a small acknowledgement of tolerance for other people's religions and spiritualities -- i.e. it's a tiny inroad into the Catholic dogma of absolute "Christian Supremacy" (there is no other valid religion or "road to salvation" except Christianity). Like all such supremacist ideologies, that dogma has done irreparable harm around the world for centuries (not least, the cultural genocide among indigenous populations and the literal genocide of European Jews). That dogma desperately needs to be completely dismantled.

07 January, 2020 08:31  
Blogger Mike said...

This will harden the Muslim right-wing even more.

07 January, 2020 12:11  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RO: Thanks! I try.....

Debra: And yet any such compromise is anathema to absolutist religion. It's an actual dogma of the Catholic Church that they are the only road to salvation, and anything else is heresy, demonic, etc. That's part of what makes such religions so dangerous.

Mike: Yes, as I've been saying for years, the rise of Islamic extremism is a reaction against modernization and secularization in the Middle East, much as the rise of militant Christian fundamentalism in the US is a reaction against similar trends here.

08 January, 2020 01:57  
Blogger WILLIE...! =(^..^)= said...

Decline of the Catholic Church...???
Lets not forget...
Christianity (2.3 billion followers)
Islam (1.8 billion followers) ...
Hinduism (1.1 billion followers) ...
Buddhism (500 million followers) ...
Shintoism (104 million followers) ...
Sikhism (25 million followers) ...
Judaism (14 million followers) ...

Catholics comprise 50 percent of all Christians
worldwide and 16 percent of the world's total population...

AND..YES..I am a Catholic..NOT a practising Catholic....
NO! I'm very good at it..HeHe!
At the age of ten, l changed my opinion of the church..
I now believe in what l choose to believe in..ALL religions
are much the same..it's only 'mans' interference that changes
it's belief and it's faith....
Catholics embrace the belief that God, the one Supreme Being,
is made up of three persons...God the Father, God the Son, and
God the Holy Spirit....Amen..!

08 January, 2020 03:02  
Blogger WILLIE...! =(^..^)= said...

Just browsing through a few things..
With a mug of lemon tea..And..picked
up on this...

What will be the largest religion in 2050?
And according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, within the next four decades, Christians will remain the world's largest religion; if current trends continue, by 2050 the number of Christians will reach 2.9 billion (or 31.4%). By 2050, the Christian population is expected to exceed 3 billion...

08 January, 2020 04:23  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Rubbish. The numbers are high, but not that high. The only way they can claim such figures is by counting almost all the population of Europe and the Americas as Christian, and almost all that of the Middle East and other majority-Islamic regions as Muslim. That might have been true decades ago, but not now. And all the hard data show the numbers dropping, not increasing -- it's the numbers of non-religious people that are increasing, and remarkably fast. If Islam is imploding even in the Arab world, religion is doomed everywhere.

It's true that all religions are the same on a certain level, though -- they're all similarly made up of lies and superstition. And as the world gets more educated, more and more people can see that.

08 January, 2020 05:38  
Blogger WILLIE...! =(^..^)= said...

Thankyou for the word 'rubbish'..
Shows your mental point of view..
In not accepting another's point of view..
Your also quite aggressive in your remarks..
Shan't bother you again..! And obviously you
won't display this...!
Have a nice day...! Thankyou..!

08 January, 2020 05:50  
Anonymous Tengrain said...

Thanks for this note of encouragement, Infidel. I long for the day when I don’t have to worry and an End-Timer getting his (always a HE) hands on the football.



08 January, 2020 10:03  
Blogger jenny_o said...

Those numbers are encouraging.

08 January, 2020 14:58  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Willie: OK. You're right, "rubbish" was uncalled for and I shouldn't have said that. I apologize.

Chalk it up to my being on edge sometimes due to all the trolls I have to deal with.

That being said, data are not "points of view". My information about declining levels of religiosity in so many countries is accurate. I've linked to sources numerous times in the link round-ups and in other posts.

08 January, 2020 17:09  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Tengrain: It's scary that apocalyptic nutjobs (Christian and Muslim) exist in the same time period as nuclear weapons. An example of the mental development of some subcultures lagging behind technological progress. But they definitely are declining.

Jenny_o: There are plenty of encouraging numbers on that topic, luckily.

08 January, 2020 17:11  
Blogger Mary said...

Great post!
Good thing I looked at an old post or I would have not seen all your latest...still not getting them in my email or junk mail.😢

Lots of various statistics on religion, but I do believe the trend is overall downward. We are just seeing a temporary upswing in the US. Hope it ends soon, as it is very dangerous.

10 January, 2020 12:36  
Blogger Mary said...

I found something entirely different from Pew Research than Willie


10 January, 2020 12:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mary: I think that Blogger e-mail notification system is just not working. It has a history of being kind of glitchy. I usually only post three or four times a week, so if you just check the blog every couple of days you shouldn't miss anything.

Those figures on Islam and the other religions suffer from the same flaws as those I pointed out about Willie's -- they assume that most countries which were historically Muslim or Christian are still overwhelmingly adherent to those religions, whereas in fact many of them are rapidly secularizing. I don't believe Christianity or Islam will have as many adherents in 2060 as they do now -- probably not even close -- much less grow at all. Think how much economic development (and thus secularization) will progress around the world in the next 40 years.

Sub-Saharan Africa is probably the only area with real growth, as opposed to decline, of religion, due to its very high birth rates and being the least economically developed large region of the world. But if it does start developing economically and technologically as the rest of the world is doing, its birth rates will fall and numbers of non-religious people there will start growing quickly, just as is already happening everywhere else. And if it doesn't start developing economically and technologically, its population growth will become unsustainable and will hit a wall of famine and disease.

As for that temporary upswing of religion in the US, it's an upswing of fervor and of political power (due to our weird electoral system) -- not an upswing in numbers, which are still declining.

10 January, 2020 16:51  

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