Sunday, March 27, 2011

The end of religion?

I recently read an article about a study which concluded that in nine countries (Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland) the likelihood of someone identifying themselves as religious was very low, and it's likely that fewer and fewer people will identify as religious in the future until there none at all.

Curiously, this was not an anthropological study, instead the research team was led by a physicist and a mathematician. They created a mathematical model based on the idea that the larger a social group is, the more attractive it is to join and the more social utility there is for being associated with that group. To me, that idea seems similar to way we talked about dialects earlier in the course, and how there is less prestige to be gained with a regional accent than if you can make your speech into a more neutral American style, like that of a T.V. news anchor.

Do you think the conclusions of this study might have been different if the research team had an anthropologist on board? What other factors of human behavior complicate the way we identify ourselves, other than a desire to be a member of the majority group?

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