A charismatic preacher once wrote that to get seriously rich, start your own religion. But academics suggest the world’s major religions, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, emerged as an evolutionary response to the differences in lifestyle between wealthy elites and other, poorer, communities.
The disadvantaged classes needed hope for a better future, and a deity to blame for their misfortunes; a higher order being in which to place their faith.
Now that poverty is retreating globally, education is blossoming, and living standards improving world-wide, religion is taking a back seat. While freedom of religion has never been more protected, it’s equally taboo to enforce faith teaching in schools. Political correctness means anyone is free to abandon religion and mysticism, without social penalty.
Evolutionary scientists say a wealthier population could spell the end of religion; possibly as soon as the next decade. “Affluence and wealthier lifestyles cause humans to be less aggressive, less fearful and competitive, leading more laid-back lives,” says evolutionary psychologist Nick Baumgarten. “They just don’t need a faith to fall back on, it’s that simple.”
Which is not to say that morals have regressed. Highly urbanized, connected communities know how to nurture the collective, and expose deviants and sociopaths. Science and technology are the new crusaders’ gospel, and social harmony the new religion.