Of course, I already know many of the data and arguments put forth in this Edge essay. Religiosity on a national scale is correlated with high income inequality, financial/health insecurity, poor education, high birth rates, etc. Nevertheless, the authors made an argument that I never really thought of before, but its implications should have been obvious to me:
Even though liberal, pro-evolution religions are not at fault for unacceptable social policies, organized faith cannot reform itself by supporting successful secular social arrangements because these actions inadvertently suppress popular religiosity. They are caught in a classic Catch-22. And liberal churches are even less able to thrive in advanced democracies than are their more conservative counterparts, so if churches, temples and mosques become matriarchal by socio-politically liberalizing they risk secularizing themselves into further insignificance.
Liberal religionists are really in a bind. If they continue to liberalize — meaning increasing the well-being of people in “material” ways such as welfare states, social justice, etc. — then they will lead to their own undoing. Welfare states and social justice are the main sociological factors that lead to nations becoming non-religious. I don’t have any problem with that, but if they want to see their traditions continue beyond just textbooks, then they might have an issue with it.
And then their mere existence gives aid and comfort to fundamentalists. As Sam Harris has argued, the fact that liberal religionists think that faith is a virtue is all the vindication that fundamentalists need to argue their points and validate their existence.
So the liberal versions of religion have two options: Become more radical by way of denying the establishment of programs that promote the welfare state and/or social justice causes (e.g. birth control, as rampant pregnancy is one way to stabilize or increase the religious population) so that nations stay religious, or continue supporting social justice and/or things like universal healthcare which would eventually lead to their religions becoming a minority if not worse.