Human civilization has staggered and lunged through many phases and subphases.
Some of these have been overlapping and some haven’t: Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, hunter-gatherers, early agriculture, kings and empires, city-states, widespread slavery, early science in Ancient Greece, Dark Ages, the Age of Faith, Renaissance, seafaring and exploration, Enlightenment, democracy, colonialism, perpetual warfare, Industrial Revolution, aviation age, electronic age, population explosion, scientific age, decolonization, space travel, human rights, computer age and internet, black equality, female equality, gay equality, decline of warfare, Information Age.
Now, anthropologists have hatched a new label, the Anthropocene Epoch, for the latest period when mushrooming humanity and fossil fuel burning have altered the planet’s biosphere and climate.
Amid all this chaos of history, another growing phase of civilization can be detected. It’s the Secular Age: the death of religion — the disappearance of supernatural gods, devils, heavens, hells and the like. Miracles and prophecies no longer are treated seriously in Western democracies. Instead, they’re ignored with amusement.
Look at the news. Does any part of society seriously expect divine magic to cure human problems? A few people give lip service to such a fantasy, but most know it’s just a fantasy.
In the West, including the United States of America, churchgoing has fallen spectacularly in the 21st century. It’s becoming a province for dwindling elders. Soon, supernatural beliefs may be an odd fringe.
When I was born in 1932 (in an Appalachian farm town with no electricity or paved streets), the world had 2 billion people. Now it has 8 billion. Civilization has changed greatly in my lifetime, and the pace of change seems to accelerate. It’s fun to guess what’s next.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I predict that the Secular Age is taking shape under our noses.