Celebrated intellectuals have long predicted the demise of religion in modern scientific society, and a new, headline-grabbing study presented at a Dallas meeting of the American Physical Society claims to demonstrate mathematically that organized religion will be “driven toward extinction” in at least nine Western-style democracies.

One of the study’s authors, Daniel Abrams, had developed a mathematical model to account for the extinction of languages spoken by small numbers of people. Another of the authors, Richard Wiener, noted that similar data was available for religious affiliation in some developed nations, and suggested they apply the same model to the waning of religious affiliation.

Of the nations studied, only the Czech Republic already has a majority of its citizens who are unaffiliated with a religion, at 60 percent. But the authors predict that the Netherlands, which currently stands at 40 percent unaffiliated, will reach 70 percent by 2050. Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, and Switzerland will also, claim the authors, see organized religion all but vanish.

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