For years, it was assumed, certainly in the West, that, as society developed, religion would wither away. But it hasn’t, and, at the start of a new decade, it is time for policymakers to take religion seriously.

The number of people proclaiming their faith worldwide is growing. This is clearly so in the Islamic world. Whereas Europe’s birthrate is stagnant, the Arab population is set to double in the coming decades, and the population will rise in many Asian Muslim-majority countries. Christianity is also growing—in odd ways and in surprising places.

Religion’s largest growth is in China. Indeed, the religiosity of China is worth reflecting on. There are more Muslims in China than in Europe, more practicing Protestants than in England, and more practicing Catholics than in Italy. In addition, around 100 million Chinese identify themselves as Buddhist. And, of course, Confucianism—a philosophy rather than a religion—is deeply revered.

Those of faith do great work because of it. Around 40 percent of health care in Africa is delivered by faith-based organizations. Muslim, Hindu and Jewish relief groups are active the world over in combating poverty and disease. In any developed nation, you will find selfless care being provided to the disabled, the dying, the destitute and the disadvantaged, by people acting under the impulse of their faith. Common to all great religions is love of neighbors and human equality before God.

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