Sober Thought religion

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According to Willett's Wager, all terrestrial and extraterrestrial societies will have religion. The avowedly secular state of Sober Thought is no exception, and Martin Willett's bet is safe.

Religious identification

Although no official statistics are gathered, public opinion surveys estimate roughly one quarter of the population attend a house of worship at least once a month, and twice or thrice (depending on the survey and the question asked) as many self-identify as being a member of a specific denomination or general religious tradition.

About two thirds of the actively religious people are Christians, divided more or less evenly into Catholics, Orthodox, Pentecostals and mainstream Protestants. Catholicism forms the largest single religion in Hochelaga, mainland Braunekuste (excluding mainstream Protestant Potato Island) and Capital Province while Orthodoxy forms a plurality in Pastbeshchye province only. The remainder of the provinces have Protestant majorities among religious believers, with the more extreme Pentecostals comprising the largest religious group in Cholmestay only.

Non-Christian worshippers tend to be found mainly in federally chartered municipalities, especially truly large ones like Schweindorf, Mont Royaume and Georgetown. Small communities of Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Floydists and others practice their religions openly in these cities, and are sometimes seen in smaller unchartered towns.

Among unbelievers, there are atheists, agnostics, humanists, former religious and the uninterested. Since many of these categories are not mutually exclusive, it is difficult to make useful demographic statements about the smaller groups. However, taken as a whole, unbelievers form a majority in Central Province, Thuvia, Bristle Island and Jarvet. Generally speaking, these are the most cosmopolitan and religiously mixed provinces, suggesting that an exposure to a large number of competing religions tends to make people unreligious.

State secularism

Unlike many real world countries such as Saudi Arabia, Britain and Sweden, Sober Thought does not have a state endorsed, sponsored or supported religion. There is no reference to god in any federal, provincial or municipal constitution, and the national constitution forbids such an allusion no matter how innocuous it might seem. For instance, testimony given in judicial proceedings is solemnly affirmed, not sworn.

Tax exemptions are a form of subsidy or sponsorship, so religious institutions are taxed and regulated like any other organisation in the country. Many religions choose to incorporate their social service, educational and cultural branches separately to qualify as charitable organisations because the main operations of religions are not tax exempt. Thus, secular and religious voluntary associations operate under the same rules when they help the poor, the displaced and the needy.

Similarly, religious pacifists are treated the same as unreligious pacifists. The Ministry of Community Defence has a place for those who will not bear arms for whatever reasons, and religious people are very active in overseas aid projects and democracy building initiatives.

Religious freedom

Unlike many RL countries such as the People's Republic of China, Vietnam and Pakistan, there is no persecution for those prosetylising for a particular religion or religions in general. Religious freedom is protected under the Sober Thought Charter as a civil right, and any religion which does not advocate illegal acts is free to solicit converts as it likes, subject only to such laws which govern all other public behaviour.

Religious people are welcome to participate in electoral politics and the civil service on the same basis as other citizens. Currently, the Christian Unity Party is the only explicitly religious party, while the Rural Alliance, Conservative Party and Moderate Party are sympathetic to religiously motivated people to varying degrees and depending on the issues. The CUP must carefully couch its policies so that they do not violate the national constitution, prescribing actions rather than beliefs.

Unlike their Christian counterparts, non-Christian believers have embraced the national doctrine of secularism openly because they know that as minority religious they would lose under a theocratic Christian government. The attempts to create multifaith religious parties have ended in abject failure.

Similarly, even the most rabid anti-Christians and anti-religious Liberal Democrats are prohibited from publicly preaching for the persecution of believers. They are, however, quick to ferret out any overt action that Christian Unionists take in violation of the Sober Thought Charter. The Socialist Party is more circumspect in its opposition to religion, but it gives very little recognition to the Christian Socialists among its members.

Studies in comparative religion are an integral part of the state sponsored sector of the Sober Thought education system. However, those who are deeply religious also choose to enroll their children in after hours religious education, often on secular school property rented at market value.

Future trends

The more people are exposed to religion in a non-coercive environment, the more they are likely to turn their backs on religion. It seems very likely that within a generation or two, the number of people attending a house of worship monthly or more frequently with drop by half. However, the number is not likely to drop further.

Instead, more probably, the number of people who are actively religious at any given time is likely to remain stable at about ten percent and the inactively religious at about forty percent. Children and youth will be exposed to religion by their parents, and through lack of interest or perceived necessity they will drift away in their adulthood. However, in their middle and twilight years -- as the body begins to fail and big picture questions become more urgent -- the passively religious become activated once again.

In any event, like James Randi's, Martin Willett's money is safe.