There’s quite a bit of pants-shitting among advocates of “organized” religion:
The graph of this index tells the story of the rise and fall of religious activity. During the post-war, baby-booming 1950s, there was a revival of religion. Indeed, some at the time considered it a third great awakening. Then came the societal changes of the 1960s, which included a questioning of religious institutions. The resulting decline in religion stopped by the end of the 1970s, when religiosity remained steady. Over the past fifteen years, however, religion has once again declined. But this decline is much sharper than the decline of 1960s and 1970s. Church attendance and prayer is less frequent. The number of people with no religion is growing. Fewer people say that religion is an important part of their lives. All measures point to the same drop in religion: If the 1950s were another Great Awakening, this is the Great Decline.
Geek note: Because the index is a combination of different measures with different scales, the index produced by the algorithm does not have a specific scale. In this graph, the average level for the time period is indicated. The top of the graph is two standard deviations above the average; the bottom is three standard deviations below the mean. Differences between two points can be compared with differences between two other points, e.g., the difference between the 1960s and 1980s is a decline of about 1.5 standard deviations, but the difference between the late 1990s and 2012 is nearly three standard deviations.
More of the same happening in Europe:
The thing is….this has been coming for centuries.
“Christianity” hasn’t been unified in any meaningful sense of the term, during its entire history.
Sure, Constantine (and his gaggle of thugs) managed to “Christianize” Europe (at sword-point), but this was never complete (especially in Northern Europe — including the British Isles).
So, yeah….they had basically tortured/slaughtered their way to hegemony across Europe by 500 AD. The thing is — they managed to fuck that up by 1054 AD:
(Fun-fact: the “Body of Christ” was essentially cut in two when the East/West “leaders” excommunicated one another).
THEN Gutenberg’s printing-press left the “Body of Christ” even more theologically bullet-ridden than before:
So, yeah: torture/slaughter your way to (near-total) hegemony, and then methodically piss it away.
Quite frankly, the seeds of Christianity’s (self-inflicted) socio-political suicide go all the way back to Constantine. NOTHING which is initially enforced “by the sword” (IE: through torture/slaughter/oppression) can effectively survive intact when deprived of the ability to torture/slaughter/terrorize.
When they could no longer torture/slaughter their way to hegemony, there were only two options left open to church “leaders”:
1. Attempt to convince adults (“Apologetics”)
2. Attempt to indoctrinate children (“Sunday School”, etc.)
The problem with the above is two-fold:
1. At least SOME adults will THINK (rather than merely “believe”).
2. Brainwashing children only “works”, if the captive population never come into contact with “foreigners”.
Think about it: retaining “power” was (relatively) easy when the vast majority of your victims were illiterates, most of whom never ventured more than a few miles from their birthplace.
Literacy and increased mobility guarantee at least some level of exposure to (potentially) subversive information — “Church” history, the myriad (conflicting) dogmas of the 38,000+ Denominational/Nondenominational cliques self-identifying as “Christian”, etc.
The Internet in general, and Amazon.com in particular make it trivial for almost anyone to circumvent any attempt at an “index of prohibited books”:
Now, this is not to imply that either “Organized religion” as such, or “Christianity” will inevitably go extinct — let alone that it will stay extinct, even if it does.
It is entirely possible — hell, even likely — that at some point, some sort of “reconsructionist” thing will (somewhat) revitalize Christianity — IN SOME FORM:
Just look at what is happening with “polytheistic reconstructionism”:
Religions which have been “dead” for centuries (or, at least garbled parodies of such religions), are actively being ‘reconstructed”. I’m not sure how historically-accurate any of it is, let alone how “seriously” the various adherents actually take any of it — but that’s not the point.
For whatever reason, I can totally see something like that happening with regard to Christianity, at some point.