The biggest problem of all with Dennett’s op-ed is the fact that it purports to use a new Pew poll to make a claim about the coming decline of “religion” as such, and yet that very poll directly contradicts the claim. Yes, the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated are growing modestly in the United States (and France). But the poll also includes the following top-line prediction about the religious profile of the planet as a whole in 2050: “Atheists, agnostics, and other people who do not affiliate with any religion…will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.”
That’s right: The “bleak” future of religion likely includes the proportional decline of the religiously unaffiliated relative to the religious, with the number of unaffiliated growing slightly (from 1.13 billion to 1.23 billion), but their share of the global population falling from 16.4 percent to 13.2 percent. That decline will largely be the result of substantial growth in the number of Christians (from 2.17 billion to 2.92 billion) and Muslims (from 1.6 billion to 2.76 billion).
If that’s a decline in religion, what would a boom look like?