An intriguing thought, trigger by this Atlantic article, “A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Being Jewish“:
What is religion is now a luxury good?
Consider the following: Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. During an era in which life was brutish, nasty, and short, focusing one’s attention on a glorious afterlife made a lot of sense.
But as standards of living rose, the influence of religion waned in the developed world. Rather than worshiping in temples, people worshiped at the altar of the vast entertainment complex (including sports and the arts).
All this makes sense if religion is an “Inferior Good” (an economic term, not a value judgment) where demand decreases as income increases. In the 20th Century, Jewishness behaved like an inferior good; higher incomes and education were strongly correlated with Reform Judaism.
But perhaps religion is both an inferior *and* a luxury good. As standards of living rise higher and higher (for example, even the poor now carry connected supercomputers in their pockets), the ability of religion to provide unique experiences makes it increasingly attractive to well-off consumers.
One might even consider things like Burning Man or TED as evidence of this theory; these secular events show a lot of religious characteristics, such as community and ritual.
Rather than viewing religion as a relic of the past, we might be wiser to see it as a once and future pillar of the human experience.