The newsletter to fuel — and thrill — your mind. Read for deep dives into the unmissable ideas and topics shaping our world.
Dec 10, 2021
In the past couple of decades, we have seen a terminal decline of some of the world’s oldest religions. That’s not unusual considering how there has always been a “growing conviction that religion had to become as rational as modern science,” as Karen Armstrong observes in her book The Battle for God. Still, there’s a reason ancient faiths have survived, even thrived, in the face of wars, forced conversions and mass persecution over the centuries. In today's Daily Dose, we’ll explore the new era of religion — to understand how the faithful adapt when the times, and personal circumstances, demand it.
— Based on reporting by Pallabi Munsi
Numbers to Know
1 - Disappearing Act
The West has seen a decline in religious affiliations in the last couple of years. Writing recently in The Spectator, Catholic journalist Damian Thompson estimates that “Anglicanism will disappear from Britain in 2033,” citing the British Social Attitudes surveys, which suggest the number of Anglicans in the U.K. “fell from 40% of the population in 1983 to 29% in 2004 to 17% [in 2014]." In the United States, meanwhile, according to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who identify as Christian dropped from 78.4% to 70.6% between 2007 and 2014. "The drop in religious affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults," the Pew study concluded.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation has, over the last five years, seen its Jewish population surge to an estimated 10,000 people. And yet, the community now finds itself caught in a battle between Nigerian security agencies and a revived secessionist movement — the Indigenous People of Biafra — that has gained support from the community. Why is that so? The leader of IPOB — which seeks the creation of Biafra, which existed briefly as a separate nation in the 1960s — is a British-Nigerian political activist who is Jewish and many of his followers and peaceful protesters are Jewish as well. In response, there have been targeted attacks by Nigerian agencies, including raids on synagogues, although government officials insist they are fighting a terrorist organization, not engaging in religious persecution.
2 - Future of Islam
The Islamic State’s dreams of establishing a caliphate in Syria and Iraq might remain just that — a dream. But another Islamic strand, which also believes in a caliphate, is rapidly growing — and it has nothing to do with and could not be more different from the extremist ISIS. The Ahmadiyya sect, which follows a model of international proselytism focused on charitable work, condemns extremist views and subordinates itself to local governments, is expanding faster than Shia and Sunni communities that have dominated the religion for centuries. Could the Ahmadiyyas be the future of Islam?
3 - For Happiness’s Sake
India is where the Buddha gained enlightenment — in turn giving birth to Buddhism. And yet the religion has gained little momentum and traction in a country dominated by Hinduism. In fact, of the 8 million Buddhists in India, most are kin of lower-caste Hindus who converted as recently as the 1950s. But now the religion is staging a comeback — all thanks to Japan. A new wave of Buddhism that’s based on the philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin, a 13th century Japanese monk, is pulling in tens of thousands of people across India with its promise of happiness and a peaceful world. The number of adherents is estimated to have crossed 200,000, and Bharat Soka Gakkai — the Indian arm of the Japanese tradition — has groups in more than 300 Indian cities and towns that meet for regular group chanting sessions.
4 - Catholic Fan Club
It may sound unreal but a 2015 study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University revealed that the number of Catholics in Africa has grown by 238% since 2018. Meanwhile, in Europe, there has only been a 6% rise. And that’s not all. The number of priests in Africa (and Asia) has grown too — it’s more than doubled in the same period. That compares with less than a 3% growth in the Americas and a 23% decline in Europe, which translates to 56,830 fewer priests. We can conclude that the global Catholic population remains surprisingly stable — all thanks to Africa.
1 - The YouTuber Nun
Sister Vassa Larin might look every bit the traditional Russian Orthodox nun. But the polyglot with a Ph.D. and over 50 academic publications to her name is anything but traditional. Also, don’t go looking for her in the abbey — instead click on her YouTube channel. At a time church congregations in several nations are shrinking in size, the 50-year-old is building her own set of faithful followers via social media, where she runs a regular show called Coffee With Sister Vassa.
Iceland might not recognize Judaism as a religion — and perhaps that’s why estimates for the country’s Jewish population range between zero and a couple hundred people. But Rabbi Avi Feldman, a tall, lanky 28-year-old who has become Iceland’s first and only rabbi since World War II, aims to boost the tally. Why does his move from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to Reykjavík matter? It’s a consequence of the rise of anti-Semitism in the U.S., while installing a permanent rabbi in the only European capital without one.
3 - The Driver in Her
A year after she hit the headlines in India in 2018 for being one of the prominent faces among Indian nuns demanding the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal — accused of raping a nun from the Punjab-based Missionaries of Jesus – 56-year-old Lucy Kalapura made the front pages again. On Aug. 5, 2019, the Franscican Clarist Congregation of the Catholic Church in Kerala dismissed Kalapura, who devoted 33 years of her life in service of the church, for “learning to drive, taking a loan to buy a car and publishing a collection of poems.” Kalapura refused to back down, taking on the Vatican. But her final appeal was dismissed by Rome in March 2020.
What to Read:
A History of God, by Karen Armstrong, explores how the three dominant monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — shaped and altered the conception of God.
The Dance of Time, by Michael Judge, provides a fascinating look at how our holidays, clocks and other standards of timekeeping came to be by identifying religious, historical, mythical and astronomical influences on the Western calendar.
What to Watch:
In the Name of God, by Anand Patwardhan, is a documentary that examines how politics juxtaposes with religion and causes chaos.
Going Clear, the 2015 film based on Lawrence Wright’s bestselling book of the same name, offers a thorough history of scientology, a profile of its founder and testimonials from former members about the abuse and exploitation they witnessed.
Have you been paying attention? Let's see! Send your answers to the quiz below to: email@example.com
When is Anglicanism expected to disappear from Britain?
What percentage of Americans described themselves as Christians in 2014?
What is the number of Christians in China as calculated in 2010?
Which Islamic sect believes it can become the future of Islam?
How many Indians are estimated to have taken to Nichiren Buddhism?
The number of Catholics in Africa has grown by ____ percent since 2018.
Why are synagogues being targeted in Nigeria?
The leader of the secessionist movement for the creation of Biafra is Jewish.
There has been a sudden decline in Nigeria’s Jewish population.
They’re thought to be fronts for drug trafficking.
Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, acclaimed astrophysicist, gets real with his Stanford buddy Carlos on how he went from being an unlikely Ph.D. candidate at Stanford struggling with a crack addiction to having Oprah producing his life story. In this special edition of The Carlos Watson Show, Dr. Oluseyi and Carlos hit the court to talk race, addiction, faith, and how to handle life’s darkest moments. To listen to the full, unedited conversation between Carlos and #HakeemOluseyi, subscribe to the podcast version of the show here: http://podcasts.iheartradio.com/s_34Zjdh
OZY is a diverse, global and forward-looking media and entertainment company focused on “the New and the Next.” OZY creates space for fresh perspectives and offers new takes on everything from news and culture to technology, business, learning and entertainment.