A recent article by BBC News reporter Jason Palmer suggests that religion may become a thing of the past in nine Western nations. The independent research—conducted by several American social researchers—presents data to support the hypothesis that adherence to religion is dying out in Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland ("Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says," Jason Palmer, BBC News).
Though these countries have all been traditionally considered as Christian nations, an ardent secularism has become the calling card of many. Consider the Czech Republic, of which 60 percent of the population identifies itself as "non-affiliated" with religion. Strong secularism is a predominant trait even in Muslim-majority Turkey.
"Worldwide religious resurgence"
However, in spite of these findings and rampant hardline secularism, even a casual observer will note that religion is alive and well in much of the world. Even amid scandals and accusations of priestly corruption the Catholic Church has experienced significant growth in the U.S. in the last few years, and Islam—of both the moderate and radical varieties—continues to be the world's fastest-growing religion.
The U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, recently affirmed the growing relevancy of religion in the world when he cited a "worldwide religious resurgence." Diaz' comment was in reference to his assertion that political and religious leaders need to work together more closely than ever to address issues of concern for the entire world.
Clearly, though many countries may be experiencing a time of religious poverty, the overall world trend is quite different.
A famine of the word
Surprisingly however, predictions of a time of ignorance of God do not contradict Scripture—they do, in fact, agree with a prophecy recorded in the Old Testament. The prophet Amos wrote, "'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord God, 'That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord'" (Amos 8:11 Amos 8:11Behold, the days come, said the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
American King James Version×).
By examining the context of this scripture, we can see the timing of this famine of the word of God. Verse 9 says, "It shall come to pass in that day," that God will "make the sun go down at noon," and "darken the earth in broad daylight." These prophecies are echoed in Jesus Christ's words, where He describes the heavenly signs that will accompany the end-times: "The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light" (Matthew 24:29 Matthew 24:29Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
American King James Version×). Likewise, the prophet Joel foresaw that these days would be "a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness" (Joel 2:2 Joel 2:2A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread on the mountains: a great people and a strong; there has not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
American King James Version×).
Thus we see that the prophesied famine of the word is yet to come and will occur prior to Christ's return.
A famine of truth—not religion
Religion in one form or another is pervasive in society—even in places in which strong secularism has taken hold. The World Christian Encyclopedia estimates that there are 270 large religious groups in the world, not counting small sects and animist tribal religions. In a world in which religion is so ubiquitous, how will a famine of God's word come to pass?
God prophesied a time when His word would not be understood by much of mankind and when the world would turn its back on His true way of life. The apostle Paul warned of false teachers who would turn people away from the true words of God to "another Jesus," "another spirit" and "another gospel" (2 Corinthians 11:4 2 Corinthians 11:4For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him.
American King James Version×). Jesus Himself cautioned His followers to not be deceived by false prophets: "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24 Matthew 24:24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
American King James Version×). This suggests that, while true knowledge of God and His way will be lost, religious teaching itself will still abound.
The apostle John understood this, and he warned both first century and 21st century Christians to be wary of false teachers and false religion: "Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour" (1 John 2:18 1 John 2:18Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
American King James Version×). John here points out that many in the last days will profess beliefs and ideologies that are against Christ and His gospel of truth.
From famine to feast
Despite a famine of truth and righteousness, God promises that true religion will not only prevail over false teaching—it will fill the earth. After the period of darkness, tribulation and famine of God's word at the end of this age, God promises through the prophet Isaiah that, "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." At that time mankind will not suffer from spiritual starvation, but will feast upon the healing words of the Almighty God.
If you would like to gain a better understanding of God's true word and His true religion, please read our booklets, How to Understand the Bible and The Church Jesus Built.