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Ethiopia Lifts Her Hands

In a classic book of humor entitled The Experts Speak, we find an impressive collection of failed prophecies and wildly inaccurate predictions: Television would never catch on, nobody needs a personal computer, and so on. I occasionally think there might be a place for a parallel volume of religious forecasts gone stunningly wrong. Such an assemblage of errors would include Thomas Jefferson's belief that America's future was undoubtedly Unitarian and Mark Twain's prediction that, by around 2000, Christian Science would be challenging Roman Catholicism for supremacy in the Christian world. The 1960's produced a singularly rich crop of predictions insisting that liberation theology and theological radicalism would carry the field long before the end of the century. Foretelling the future shape of religion requires, well, a prophet, which most of us are not. All of which is by way of apology for the fact that 1 intend to engage in exactly the kind of activity that I have disparaged. It would take a fool to try to foretell the religious loyalties of the coming century; I am that fool.

My foolishness, at least, has a strong statistical grounding, based on what today seem like undeniable demographic and religious trends. If these developments unfold as predicted, then the world's religious picture by around 2050 is going to have many features that would delight a modern-day conservative: Christianity will be...

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