Monday, May 9, 2011

English study finds positive correlation between increase in life expectancy and decrease in interest in the afterlife

And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
Luke 12:19-20

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment: Hebrews 9:27

The findings reported in the following article make sense for early 21st century western society, for a number of reasons. Death is less immediate to us than it was to earlier generations; most of us may go through our entire lives without seeing a dead body, and people are more likely to die in hospital rather than at home. As recently as 1910, half of the families in the United States had suffered the death of at least one child--a figure that has diminished considerably in the last 100 years.

As people live longer, death and eternity seem further away. Sam Nadler, former president of Chosen People Ministries, told an anecdote that nicely illustrates this. I don’t have the exact words, but it goes something like this: Satan called his demons together to try to come up with arguments to prevent people coming to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. One demon said, "Tell them there’s no God." Satan said, "No, people inherently believe that God exists." Another demon said, "Tell them there’s no hell." Satan replied, "No, people believe that there will be a judgment after death." The demon whose suggestion was adopted was the one who said, "Tell them there’s no hurry."

Go here to see the abstract of the original article from International Journal of Social Economics.

As reported by Derek Abma of Postmedia News on April 11, 2011:

Not only are longer life expectancies allowing people to postpone retirement, they feel less rushed to make peace with God, a new study suggests.

Research out of the United Kingdom links the decline in religious participation in developed countries, where life expectancies are high, and the idea that time isn't running out as fast on people's chances to secure a place in heaven.

"Many religions and societies link to some degree the cumulative amount of religious effort to benefits in the afterlife," said Elissaios Papyrakis, an economist at the University of East Anglia and one of the study's authors. "We show that higher life expectancy discounts expected benefits in the afterlife and is therefore likely to lead to postponement of religiosity, without necessarily jeopardizing benefits in the afterlife."

In Canada, the percentage of people aged 15 or older reporting no religious affiliation whatsoever had grown to 16 per cent by 2001 compared to four per cent in 1971, according to Statistics Canada. Data also shows the proportion of people attending religious activities weekly had shrunk to 21 per cent by 2005 from 30 per cent in 1985.

Based on data from between 2005 and 2007, Statistics Canada said the average life expectancy in Canada is 80.7 years of age, up from 78.4 a decade earlier.

The study, published in the online edition of International Journal of Social Economics, noted that religious participation is high in less developed countries where life expectancies are low. For example, it said that 95 per cent of people in Nigeria attend church at least monthly, and that rate is 91 per cent in Pakistan. It said this kind of religious participation is at just 15 per cent in Britain.

From a leader in the apostate United Church of Canada comes a predictable comment:
Rev. Robert Dalgleish, executive director of ministry development for the United Church of Canada, said for him personally, religion has always been more about how to live currently rather than a preoccupation with heaven or hell.

"But I think the Church has not always made that clear to people, so I would agree with the (study) authors' claim...that the Church does need to make the case that religion is about life -it's about this life," Dalgleish said.

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