For most of four decades, Southern Baptists could boast of rising membership even as more moderate and liberal Protestant denominations lost members in droves.
But with membership slightly down last year, and flat for the past five, Southern Baptists face a growing anxiety about their future as they gather for their annual meeting Tuesday in Indianapolis.
“We have peaked,” Southern Baptist statistician Ed Stetzer wrote in an online commentary on the latest statistics from 2007. “…For now, Southern Baptists are a denomination in decline.”
I blame the dancing, or lack thereof. This trend will generally continue in the modern world because of two things.
1) This is the Information Age and many (most) dogmatic religions require a good bit of ignorance to be considered accurate descriptions of the (unknown) world. With more information available, it is more likely people will be exposed to a world their religion does a poor job of explaining/describing.
And…2) People are getting smarter…
Professor Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, said many more members of the “intellectual elite” considered themselves atheists than the national average.
A decline in religious observance over the last century was directly linked to a rise in average intelligence, he claimed.
But the conclusions – in a paper for the academic journal Intelligence – have been branded “simplistic” by critics.
He said religious belief had declined across 137 developed nations in the 20th century at the same time as people became more intelligent.
“Linking religious belief and intelligence in this way could reflect a dangerous trend, developing a simplistic characterisation of religion as primitive, which – while we are trying to deal with very complex issues of religious and cultural pluralism – is perhaps not the most helpful response,” [Professor Gordon Lynch] said.
Quite the contrary, in fact. Looking at it as primitive is precisely what the world needs. There are primitive things that are useful, but they are not dominant…anymore. That’s why we call them “primitive”. We have better answers now.