March 23rd, 2011
10:56 AM ET

Organized religion 'will be driven toward extinction' in 9 countries, experts predict

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

Organized religion will all but vanish eventually from nine Western-style democracies, a team of mathematicians predict in a new paper based on census data stretching back 100 years.

It won't die out completely, but "religion will be driven toward extinction" in countries including Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, they say.

It will also wither away in Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland and Switzerland, they anticipate.

They can't make a prediction about the United States because the U.S. census doesn't ask about religion, lead author Daniel Abrams told CNN.

But nine other countries provide enough data for detailed mathematical modeling, he said.

"If you look at the data, 'unaffiliated' is the fastest-growing group" in those countries, he said.

"We start with two big assumptions based on sociology," he explained.

The first is that it's more attractive to be part of the majority than the minority, so as religious affiliation declines, it becomes more popular not to be a churchgoer than to be one, he said - what Abrams calls the majority effect.

"People are more likely to switch to groups with more members," he said.

Social networks can have a powerful influence, he said.

"Just a few connections to people who are (religiously) unaffiliated is enough to drive the effect," he said.

The other assumption underlying the prediction is that there are social, economic and political advantages to being unaffiliated with a religion in the countries where it's in decline - what Abrams calls the utility effect.

"The utility of being unaffiliated seems to be higher than affiliated in Western democracies," he said.

Abrams and his co-authors are not passing any judgment on religion, he's quick to say - they're just modeling a prediction based on trends.

"We're not trying to make any commentary about religion or whether people should be religious or not," he said.

"I became interested in this because I saw survey data results for the U.S. and was surprised by how large the unaffiliated group was," he said, referring to a number of studies done by universities and think tanks on trends in religion.

Studies suggest that "unaffiliated" is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, with about 15% of the population falling into a category experts call the "nones."

They're not necessarily atheists or non-believers, experts say, just people who do not associate themselves with a particular religion or house of worship at the time of the survey.

Abrams had done an earlier study looking into the extinction of languages spoken by small numbers of people.

When he saw the religion data, his co-author "Richard Wiener suggested we try to apply a similar technique to religious affiliation," Abrams said.

The paper, by Abrams, Wiener and Haley A. Yaple, is called "A mathematical model of social group competition with application to the growth of religious non-affiliation." They presented it this week at the Dallas meeting of the American Physical Society.

Only the Czech Republic already has a majority of people who are unaffiliated with religion, but the Netherlands, for example, will go from about 40% unaffiliated today to more than 70% by 2050, they expect.

Even deeply Catholic Ireland will see religion die out, the model predicts.

"They've gone from 0.04% unaffiliated in 1961 to 4.2% in 2006, our most recent data point," Abrams says.

He admits that the increase in Muslim immigration to Europe may throw off the model, but he thinks the trend is robust enough to withstand some challenges.

"Netherlands data goes back to 1860," he pointed out. "Every single data that we were able to find shows that people are moving from the affiliated to unaffiliated. I can't imagine that will change, but that's personal opinion, not what the data shows."

But Barry Kosmin, a demographer of religion at Trinity College in Connecticut, is doubtful.

"Religion relies on human beings. They aren't rational or predictable according to the laws of physics. Religious fervor waxes and wanes in unpredictable ways," he said.

"The Jewish tradition that says prophecy is for fools and children is probably wise," he added.

And Abrams, Wiener and Yaple are not the first to predict the end of religion.

Peter Berger, a former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, once said that, "People will become so bored with what religious groups have to offer that they will look elsewhere."

He said Protestantism "has reached the strange state of self-liquidation," that Catholicism was in severe crisis, and anticipated that "religions are likely to survive in small enclaves and pockets" in the United States.

He made those predictions in February 1968.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Atheism • Austria • Ireland

soundoff (3,551 Responses)
  1. Nodack

    Religion = man made cults. All of them.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  2. Rob

    Christianity began with 11 men in a second floor room, and the powers of the entire world could not stamp it out. Islam began with one man claiming to have received a revelation from God. Look how widely that has spread and shows no sign of dying anytime soon. One need not even speak of the trials and tribulations the Jewish people have overcome to, and yet they and their religion thrive. While religion may indeed be fading in some parts of the world, it (especially Christianity) is exploding across the southern hemishpere (Australia & New Zealand excepted)! Those who predict or desire the end of religion will have a long time to wait!
    As for the driving factors for the decline in some quarters, it's no mystery that as man achieves more and more material success, he believes he needs God less and less. And he wants autonomy more and more. He comes to feel that God not only is unecessary but a hindrance. But, with all the success is he truly happier? Those in the southern hemisphere would say "No." I know, I've been there.
    P.S.: It still puzzles me why a non-believer would waste his or her time on a blog talking about something he/she believes not only nonexistent but ridiculous. I wouldn't waste a minute on a blog dealing with the existence of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the tooth fairy.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "P.S.: It still puzzles me why a non-believer would waste his or her time on a blog talking about something he/she believes not only nonexistent but ridiculous. I wouldn't waste a minute on a blog dealing with the existence of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the tooth fairy."
      It's because other people do believe He exists. If your representative in congress actually believed in the Easter Bunny and passed laws prohibiting hunting rabbits, you might be in a similar situation.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • VoipOfReason

      If you found out that Congressional memebers, or the President truly believed that Santa Clause & the Easter Bunny were real things, would you want them making decisions that effect your life?

      March 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Jeck

      The Easter Bunner, Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fair never delcared a jihad so they could murder people who believed different things than they did. They never wiped out entire cities just because they had different myths. They don't try to pass legislation forcing people to pray to or believe in them.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Magic

      " I wouldn't waste a minute on a blog dealing with the existence of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the tooth fairy."

      If Santa Clausism affected your life by the passing of laws and public policies, and the levying and spending of your taxes according to it, I'll just bet you would have a thing or two to say about it. If you were shunned, yea damned, for not dressing up like an elf every day, you would speak up.

      p.s. It's Santa Claus, not Clause.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Ahhhhhh

      Well said, Magic, Jeck, and VoipOfReason.

      And to Rob, it's not about achieving material things leading to the decline in some quarters, it's about learning more and more about our universe in many quarters. We didn't know jack about the universe 2,000 years ago compared to what we know now, so looking back on the religions we created at that time and before, they are seeming more and more ridiculous. If people want to have faith in something other than themselves and nature, then they are going to have to throw out that old crap and start over, adapting as we go along, rather than steadfastly trying to affirm and fit the original to the modern world. Oh, and also they'll have to stop claiming they are right and everyone else is wrong and must die, or scare the crap out of their kids by saying they'll go to hell and making them feel guilty for simply existing.

      March 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • derp

      "I wouldn't waste a minute on a blog dealing with the existence of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the tooth fairy."

      Why not, they are just as believeable as your god.

      March 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Nonimus

      No respect, sheesh : )

      March 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Craig

      Santa Claus: A magical being who brings you gifts if you're good and believe in him.
      God: A magical being who brings you gifts if you're good and believe in him.


      March 23, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  3. Sybaris

    Kudo's to Canada!!!

    March 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  4. andrei

    Finally. You don't have to be religious to be a good person.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Rabbi Feinstein

      Define good? good to yourself? Feelin good? good that it was someone else not you? Very objective statement- what you feel is good, others may feel sorry for you.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  5. VoipOfReason

    Please let this happen in my lifetime. While there are many supporters for religions, stating all of the "good" that they do. More people have been murdered in the names of religion & God, than for any other motovation. Religon breeds intolerance, in which we as humans need more of, not less.

    @William, As FYI, The Orgin of the word "Day", – Old English Daeg (pronounced dag). Cf. German Tag. Both come from a Primitive Indo-European root dhegh, as did the Latin word Dies (pronounced dee-ayz). - Thx Answers.com; In historical times, it was used to desribe the time between sunrise & sunset. More recently, its described as the time for Earth to make a complete rotation on its axis.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • William

      Maybe I should be more specific. The word in the original language that was revealed in the Holy Books (Hebrew, Arabic). The word and its context takes on different meanings however applied to various situations.

      March 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  6. Bible Clown

    Never happen here; the christers will start a civil war first and sacrifice us to their dead god.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  7. Michelle

    I don't buy that. I've been to Ireland where there are Catholic Churchs on almost every block. They are filled with people at almost every Mass. People may not come out and admit it when asked, but I think people are more religious and have more FAITH than we realize. I also don't think you need to be affiliated with a particular religion to believe in God. If these researchers are getting their information based off of just a "no affiliation" than they are not getting the whole story. I can mark "no affiliation" and still believe. It just means I don't consider myself to be a part of a particular church. Big difference.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Joseph

      And that's why the study says religion will go extinct and not faith. They are not the same thing.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Ahhhhhh

      Article: "They're not necessarily atheists or non-believers, experts say, just people who do not associate themselves with a particular religion or house of worship at the time of the survey."

      Michelle: "If these researchers are getting their information based off of just a "no affiliation" than they are not getting the whole story. I can mark "no affiliation" and still believe. It just means I don't consider myself to be a part of a particular church. Big difference."

      Yeah, that's what they said in the article, they weren't making any assertions.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  8. Rational


    March 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Excellent site!

      March 23, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  9. Dan Carolan

    Thank God. Nothing like believing in something that does not exist. Amazing to me that so many could believe in nothiing. Amazing.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  10. rick

    ditto, Allen

    March 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  11. Buddha

    I'm going to go worship Mithras or something myself.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  12. WIll

    If so, good riddance. God may be real. God may not be real. But religion was wholly invented by men whom dared purport to know the mind of God. It's deeply offensive if you think about it...

    March 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  13. Tim

    It's depressing that it's 2011 and this is a headline. The majority of people should have been smart enough to do this years ago.

    Hey everybody, we have science now! We don't need to make up stories to explain things anymore! We are born, then we die, and then it's OVER. It's scary to think about and I wish I was dopey enough to believe that I was going to live for eternity with my friends & family in a different dimension, but that's not reality.

    Just do your best to make the REAL world a better place while you're here, and stop focusing on what's going to happen to you after you die...because literally nothing is going to happen.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • BForce

      Kind of sad to think that after this life, there is absolutely nothing at all. Just eternal nothingness? I so hope you are mistaken. And if you are...?

      March 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Rob

      Prove it. Wait . . . you can't.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • WIll

      It's our right to be mistaken. Non-believers have no problem with Christians believing what they want to believe. Live and let live. We have a problem with you people getting in our faces and telling us (or even forcing us) that WE need to believe it too. That's the fundamental problem: you people don't play nicely in the sandbox.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Scott

      I am a scientist and I believe in God. The bottom line is this: you have a choice in this life, and that is to place your faith in yourself/science/other means or to place your faith in God. You have this choice right now, and when you die you will stand before God's holy throne and you must give an account for your life. My faith is in Jesus' blood, for John 14:6 says, "Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

      March 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Ahhhhhh

      Same goes to you, Rob, so stop claiming to know the truth.

      March 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Rob

      I made no such claim! I have beliefs, but they are just that. The problem is that atheists state as fact that which, by its nature, CANNOT be proven. And then they ridicule others for not agreeing with them.

      March 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Magic

      ""Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

      That's what John (or others writing under that name) *said* that Jesus said. Jesus did not leave one single live recording of his words... very poor doc.umentation from a purported "God".

      March 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  14. Ignatius Loyola

    This article is so silly. It just show how High IQs are no protection against stupidity. Past trends do not predict future performance. Otherwise, Christianity would have disappeared with past attempts at extermination from Nero, Decius, Diocletian, Muhammad, all the way to the modern atheist tyrants Robespierre, Stalin, Hitler, and even the new atheists with their very old ideas. Christianity has grown through all centuries. Opposition to the truth is futile!

    March 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • WIll

      ou're a tool...

      March 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Jeck

      Hitler was Catholic.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Ahhhhhh

      "It just show how High IQs are no protection against stupidity. Past trends do not predict future performance."

      People with high IQs understand statistics, I'm sorry you're not one of them. And if past trends do not predict future performance, then you can't assert that Christianity will always grow simply because it has tended too.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • HereWeGoAgaain

      Hitler was Catholic, not an atheist. In Mein Kempf, "I have always been and will always be a Catholic".

      March 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Cajun Herb

      You are speaking of attempts to suppress religion. That is a far different phenomenon than the organic growth of atheism and agnosticism that has taken place across Europe and parts of Asia. People are less afraid to see mythology for what it is. I am not talking about fear of government retribution. The subtle but powerful social pressures are even more potent, but knowlege can gives us the courage to be honest with ourselves.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • jens

      It is quite obvious that Hitler was trying to do a 'Christian deed' by persecuting Jewish people.

      March 23, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Ignatius Loyola

      Jeck and HereWeGoAgain think Hitler was a Catholic based on his birth and his deceptive political posture (the devil will quote scripture for his own purposes). However, in his own words, speaking to his inner circle (see the great book Hitler's Table Talk, when he was at the height of his power) he expounded on his true beliefs. Here are some qoutes:

      "In the long run, National Socialism and Religion will no longer be able to exist together" p6
      "The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity" p7
      "Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew" p7
      "Let's seek inspiration in these principles, and in the long run we'll triumphover religion" p38
      "National Socialism's one ambition must be scientifically to construct a doctrine that is nothing more than a homage to reason" p39
      "Christianity is a rebellion against natural law" p51
      Every priest is an abortion
      "So it is not opportune to hurl ourselves now into a struggle with the churches"
      "There is something very unhealthy about Christianity" p339

      So Hitler was was no more Catholic than Stalin was Orthodox or Marx a Jew or even Dawkins an Episcopalian. Catholics believe in free will, something most atheists doubt.

      Re Ahhhhhh's comments on statistics, I use stats for a living so I am not as easily fooled by garbage-in garbage out claims.

      March 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  15. BADGUY

    If you want religion, pickup a bible, or a Koran and read it. The idea you've got to pay money for someone else to "interpret" what's in these books is questionable. There are plenty of free interpretations if you don't trust your own judgement. But.."Organized" religion is seldom, very seldom, used to pass the "word". More than not, religion serves to put money in someones pocket or promote a political point of view. My personal feeling is the concept of "God" is so far beyond the capability of any human mind to understand that selling oneself or one's "religion" as an arbitar of a supreme being should not believed.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  16. JF84

    Praise the lord! Oh, wait...

    March 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  17. H2



    March 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • VoipOfReason

      Well said.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Hippitty Hippo

      I tip my hat at you, good sir.

      Man created god(s) to explain natural phenomena and later to manipulate and control one another. Ignorance and fear of the unknown has further propagated supernatural religion.

      It will be a good day when it dies out once and for all. Is it not enough of a gift to be alive, breathing, and self-aware? Nature (i.e., the whole of the Universe of what is) is what god(s) refer(s) to. Just replace the word 'God' with 'Nature' when dealing with philosophical quandries of existence, and you will see that the gap between the two is quickly closing with our modern, scientific understanding of Nature.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  18. Chad

    YEAH YEAH YEAH This is such exciting news!!!! I can't wait for an intelligent, rational society. The world for our children has a chance to be a better place, finally.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  19. Reality

    The following statistics verify the topic predictions???:


    Religion <<<<<<<<<<<Adherents

    Christianity<<<<<<<<<<<< 2.1 billion

    Islam<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 1.5 billion

    Irreligious/agnostic/atheism 1.1 billion

    Hinduism 900 million

    Chinese traditional religion 394 million

    Buddhism 376 million
    Animist religions 300 million
    African traditional/diasporic religions 100 million
    Sikhism 23 million
    Juche 19 million
    Spiritism 15 million
    Judaism 14 million
    Baha'i 7 million
    Jainism 4.2 million
    Shinto 4 million
    Cao Dai 4 million
    Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
    Tenrikyo 2 million
    Neo-Paganism 1 million
    Unitarian Universalism 800,000
    Rastafari Movement 600,000

    March 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Blaqb0x

      You forgot the Pastafarians.

      March 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Trollzilla

      solipsthiest = 1

      March 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  20. David

    i'm a religious person. The study makes complete sense to me. More and more people are proud to say they are atheist or unaffiliated. The bible foretells this. In the last days before Christ's return, very few will believe in Him and/or God.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • BForce

      ...Lovers of themselves more than lovers of God...

      March 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Buddha

      But do they believe in me?

      March 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Rick

      david: how long have people been predicting this return?

      March 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • goat

      The bible says a lot of things to keep you from losing it as your religion. It's only natural you should feel obliged to resist anything other than it. You were raised to think so by your parents.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • WIll

      It is fine for you to take comfort in your own beliefs. The problem comes when Christians like yourself feel compelled to foist your (what other consider to be) garbage on other people. I know you feel like you possess a great spiritual truth that must be shared with others at all costs, but keep it between you and God. Or maybe set up a website and let those who seek come to you. I feel as though I possess deep universal truths as well, but you know what? I keep them to myself because I know delusional people like you don't want to hear them and won't believe them anyway. It would be nice if you would afford me the same courtesy. Yes, let me go to hell unsaved. That's my right. Leave everyone else the hell alone....

      March 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Reality


      "Failed end of the earth prophecies:

      About 30 CE: The Christian Scriptures (New Testament), when interpreted literally, appear to record many predictions by Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) that God's Kingdom would arrive within a very short period, or was actually in the process of arriving. For example, Jesus is recorded as saying in Matthew 16:28: "...there shall be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." In Matthew 24:34, Yeshua is recorded as saying: "...This generation shall not pa-ss, till all these things be fulfilled." Since the life expectancy in those days was little over 30 years, Jesus appears to have predicted his second coming sometime during the 1st century CE. It didn't happen. More details.

      About 60 CE: Interpreting the Epistles of Paul of Tarsus literally, his writings seem to imply that Jesus would return and usher in a rapture during the lifetime of persons who were living in the middle of the 1st century. More details.

      About 90 CE: Saint Clement 1 predicted that the world end would occur at any moment.

      2nd Century CE: Prophets and Prophetesses of the Montanist movement predicted that Jesus would return sometime during their lifetime and establish the New Jerusalem in the city of Pepuza in Asia Minor.

      365 CE: A man by the name of Hilary of Poitiers, announced that the end would happen that year. It didn't.

      375 to 400 CE: Saint Martin of Tours, a student of Hilary, was convinced that the end would happen sometime before 400 CE.

      500 CE: This was the first year-with-a-nice-round-number-panic. The antipope Hippolytus and an earlier Christian academic Se-xtus Julius Africanus had predicted Armageddon at about this year.

      968 CE: An eclipse was interpreted as a prelude to the end of the world by the army of the German emperor Otto III.

      992: Good Friday coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation; this had long been believed to be the event that would bring forth the Antichrist, and thus the end-times events foretold in the book of Revelation. Records from Germany report that a new sun rose in the north and that as many as 3 suns and 3 moons were fighting. There does not appear to be independent verification of this remarkable event.

      1000-JAN-1: Many Christians in Europe had predicted the end of the world on this date. As the date approached, Christian armies waged war against some of the Pagan countries in Northern Europe. The motivation was to convert them all to Christianity, by force if necessary, before Christ returned in the year 1000. Meanwhile, some Christians had given their possessions to the Church in anticipation of the end. Fortunately, the level of education was so low that many citizens were unaware of the year. They did not know enough to be afraid. Otherwise, the panic might have been far worse than it was. Unfortunately, when Jesus did not appear, the church did not return the gifts. Serious criticism of the Church followed. The Church reacted by exterminating some heretics. Agitation settled down quickly, as it later did in the year 2000.

      1000-MAY: The body of Charlemagne was disinterred on Pentecost. A legend had arisen that an emperor would rise from his sleep to fight the Antichrist.

      1005-1006: A terrible famine throughout Europe was seen as a sign of the nearness of the end.

      1033: Some believed this to be the 1000th anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus. His second coming was anticipated. Jesus' actual date of execution is unknown, but is believed to be in the range of 27 to 33 CE.

      1147: Gerard of Poehlde decided that the millennium had actually started in 306 CE during Constantine's reign. Thus, the world end was expected in 1306 CE.

      1179: John of Toledo predicted the end of the world during 1186. This estimate was based on the alignment of many planets.

      1205: Joachim of Fiore predicted in 1190 that the Antichrist was already in the world, and that King Richard of England would defeat him. The Millennium would then begin, sometime before 1205.

      1284: Pope Innocent III computed this date by adding 666 years onto the date the Islam was founded.

      1346 and later: The black plague spread across Europe, killing one third of the population. This was seen as the prelude to an immediate end of the world. Unfortunately, the Christians had previously killed a many of the cats, fearing that they might be familiars of Witches. The fewer the cats, the more the rats. It was the rat fleas that spread the black plague.

      1496: This was approximately 1500 years after the birth of Jesus. Some mystics in the 15th century predicted that the millennium would begin during this year.

      1524: Many astrologers predicted the imminent end of the world due to a world wide flood. They obviously had not read the Genesis story of the rainbow.

      1533: Melchior Hoffman predicted that Jesus' return would happen a millennium and a half after the nominal date of his execution, in 1533. The New Jerusalem was expected to be established in Strasbourg, Germany. He was arrested and died in a Strasbourg jail.

      1669: The Old Believers in Russia believed that the end of the world would occur in this year. 20 thousand burned themselves to death between 1669 and 1690 to protect themselves from the Antichrist.

      1689: Benjamin Keach, a 17th century Baptist, predicted the end of the world for this year.

      1736: British theologian and mathematician William Whitson predicted a great flood similar to Noah's for OCT-13 of this year.

      1792: This was the date of the end of the world calculated by some believers in the Shaker movement.

      1794: Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, thought Doomsday would be in this year.

      1830: Margaret McDonald, a Christian prophetess, predicted that Robert Owen would be the Antichrist. Owen helped found New Harmony, IN.

      1832?: Joseph Smith (1805-1844) was the founder of the Church of Christ, which became the Restorationist movement after many schisms. It now includes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - a.k.a. the Mormons, and about a hundred other denominations and sects. He heard a voice while praying. He wrote, in Doctrines and Covenants section 130:

      14: "I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:"

      15: "Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter."

      16: "I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face."

      17: "I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time." 14
      The year in which this event occurred is not recorded. However, one commentator suggested 1832 or earlier. 16 Smith is later recorded as having said:
      "I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written–the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old." 17

      Smith would have reached the age of 85 during 1890. Unfortunately, by that year, Smith had been dead for almost a half century, having been as-sa-ssinated by a mob. Note that his prophecy is ambiguous. It can be interpreted that:

      Jesus would return during 1890 (which did not materialize) or that
      1890 would pa-ss without Jesus' return (which did come to p-a-ss).

      Some anti-Mormon sources quote only verses 14 and 15, and draw the former conclusion - that Smith's prophecy failed."

      March 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • DK

      Let me ask you: is it OK that "God" killed pregnant women during the story of Noah and the Ark? I guess since God wanted to restart humanity, and wipe out any woman and her fetus, that this would make abortion ok!

      March 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Eric

      Little bit of a catch 22 don't you think? the end of religion will be when people stop loving a wizard and instead love their fellow humans.

      March 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Steve

      Jesus told his disciples he would come within their lifetime. Well, it has been 2,000yrs and he is not back. Don't you think it is about time to let go of an old myth?

      March 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.