Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Where Has Religiosity Gone?

In my previous posts, I found evidence of the decline in anti-secularism in the Middle East, together with decline in egalitarian sentiments and continued support for capitalism -- as my previous research had shown and predicted.

Sicence vs. Religion

In the meantime, there is a question of where religiosity has gone. My hypothesis is that the religious energies of Egyptians (and similar people of the Middle East) would migrate to "other-worldly" dimensions. The first variable to check elicits level of agreement that "whenever science and religion conflict, religion is always right." Here, again, I am comparing my native Egypt to the U.S. 
The U.S. continues to exhibit an alarming tendency for respondents to put religion before science, which has caused serious problems in education and most recently in our response to the covid-19, albeit fortunately moving in the right direction. 

In Egypt, by contrast, we see a remarkable jump in "religion above science" sentiments, consistent with my hypothesis that religiosity has not declined, but has migrated to other-worldly dimensions. Fortunately, WVS also has a question about worldly vs. other-worldly dimensions of religion, so, let's examine that:

Which World?

OK. This hypothesis is not borne out in the data. Attitudes in both U.S. and Egypt are about the same, with a majority, albeit small, shifting to the view that religion is about this world, rather than life after death.

Algorithmic Religion

Another interesting WVS question asks whether the meaning of religion is found in following religious norms and rituals or doing good to other people. Here, we see a bad trend in both U.S. and Egypt, with the majority switching to viewing religion more in algorithmic terms of norms and ceremonies, and less about helping other people, but the trend is much more pronounced in Egypt... Again, this confirms the decline in egalitarian "social gospel-like" sentiments, and religious energy migrating to other-worldly aspects of religion. 
How does one reconcile this with the previous plot showing more religious focus on this world than the next? Perhaps Egyptians are increasingly using religion as an escape mechanism to accept things in this world that they cannot change (a la Niebuhr's famous serenity prayer), which is a popular use of religion at the hears of both Salafi and Sufi traditions. 

The combination can be very harmful: religiosity remaining extremely high, religion explaining this world, focusing on ritualistic mechanics (and silly stratagems like Islamic finance, etc.), and shunning science!

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