Will This Computer Teach Us About The Future Of Religion?

New Program Looks At Secularism, Assassination, And Government

Ever play Sim City? The video game allowed you to plan a city and try to deal with every problem that normally occurs. The game would generate disasters like hurricanes, volcanoes, even an alien invasion. But what about a religious riot? A new computer modeling called the Modeling Religion Project looks at the influence of religion in society to create more effective policy.

The project has been running for three years. It has been done in conjunction with Boston’s Center for Mind and Culture, the Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center, and the University of Agder. The computer model uses data from surveys from over two dozen countries to predict what changes would occur to a society when policies or actions are taken that would affect the religious makeup of said country.

The predictions have already been used to make several explanations about the status quo. The model has offered reasoning on why America falls behind other Western, industrialized nations regarding secularism. The MRP found four factors that predict the spread of religion: pluralism, education, existential security, and personal freedom. Because the United States has a weaker education system that is done through state and local governments, rather than centralized at a federal level, this curtails the spread of non-religious attitudes. Also, the recent increase in hostility towards pluralism only adds to the comparative slowness of American society becoming less religious.

While the MRP has been designed to create a more secure society, it may be having the opposite effect. One of the differences noted was what made a religious extremist group effective. The MRP identified having a charismatic leader allowed an organization to flourish. The members of the MRP believe that this information can and has been used to justify a targeted assassination program by governments.

Some critics of the program believe the conclusions reached are overstated. Real life is much more complicated than a computer program. Critics warn that governments should take the data from the MRP with a grain of salt. It is unclear how much governments are considering this information. The MRP is planning on changing the model to make it accessible to those with no background in statistics or coding.

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