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Imagine No Religion: It's Coming True in Nine Countries | The Nation

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Imagine No Religion: It's Coming True in Nine Countries

When John Lennon sang “Imagine there’s no heaven” in 1971, rock critics called the song “utopian.” But forty years later, researchers have found that religion is indeed disappearing in nine countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

The researchers failed to note that the Beatles played live concerts in five of the nine: Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands and New Zealand. And they filmed part of Help! in a sixth, Austria. 

The scientific study, reported by the BBC, was based on historical census figures from countries where citizens were asked about their religious affiliation. The research, published online by Cornell University, does not consider the influence of the lads from Liverpool. Instead, according to the authors, it is based on “perturbation theory.”

"The idea is pretty simple," researcher Richard Wiener of the University of Arizona told the BBC. "It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility.” 

Wiener (no relation), gave as an example the case of languages, where “there can be greater utility or status in speaking Spanish instead of [the dying language] Quechuan in Peru."  Similiarly, he said, “there's some kind of status or utility in being a member of a religion or not."

The researchers found that the country with the highest percentage of non-religious people was the Czech Republic, where 60 percent reported having no religion. Of course Prague is famous for its “Lennon Wall” covered with graffiti—including “Zamisli da nema raja”—“Imagine there’s no heaven.”

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