Remember people, the influential thinkers of the next generation will be the religious ones…whether you like it or not.But is that true? Not that you or I or anyone else knows, but what are the odds?
One of my fears about parenting was that my children, raised with no religion, might have some kind of crisis and become born again or join cults. But so far as I can tell my children are almost completely indifferent to religion. They have a vague hostility to Christianity, as they do to any entity that makes them feel nagged (the school system, social justice warriors), but this is pathetically weak compared to their feelings about music, video games, and cats.
So I find it hard to see how or why an increasingly non-religious society would reverse course. Obviously some people raised by agnostics do end up returning to faith, but so far they are greatly outnumbered by people moving in the opposite direction.
Sometimes I wonder what will become of a world with no religion, and I imagine more and more people feeling purposeless and escaping into drugs and virtual reality until there is a mass movement back toward faith.
But then I think that a solution via more drugs and more virtual reality is at least as likely.
I believe that compared to past societies, contemporary religion is in a very weak position. There is no good account that reconciles up-to-date science with any religious faith except the weakest deism. We have no particular reverence for old knowledge or for prophetic revelation. There is of course much that we do not know, but our knowledge grows every year, pointing toward a time when we may understand the deep secrets of the cosmos. I am no great optimist about this myself, but I certainly think understanding the universe is more likely through science than by pondering the pronouncements of Iron Age prophets.
We live in a vast and diverse world and are constantly exposed to different sorts of belief, which I believe makes it harder to take any particular form seriously. My kids seem to put Christianity in the same category as Islam, Hinduism, and Norse paganism, with no one any more likely to be true than the others. My eldest son has listened to a bunch of Alan Watts' lectures on eastern spirituality, and he regards the Judeo-Christian conception of God as "primitive."
Powerful religious experiences, it seems to me, happen mainly among small groups of people who shut out the world and focus intensely on their teachings. That still happens for millions of people, but I can't see it remaking our society.
Nor can I see how religious thinkers will offer analyses of our world that will make much deep sense to my children and the rest of their generation.