A friend once shared his unease about the bloodshed in the Middle East. Drawing on disturbing news dispatches, he exclaimed, “Catastrophe is increasing all around us.” The world, he was convinced, was growing worse.
He’s not alone with this anxiety. Many are convinced the earth is in free-fall and it’s only a matter of time before everything falls apart.
Are evil forces rapidly expanding? Is the world descending into greater chaos and destruction?
Contradicting the widespread fears, things aren’t growing worse. By many measurable standards, life is improving. Darkness is fading and the goodness of God’s Kingdom is taking root. Let’s consider a few examples.
War And Violence?
One sign of improvement is the decrease in violence. Contrary to what shows up on social media and evening news broadcasts, war-related deaths are at the lowest point ever recorded.
Before World War II, the world was entangled constant conflict. Wars were ever present. However, since the peak of the Cold War, genocide, civil war, and military attacks have plummeted.[i]
There has not only been a reduction in warfare and civil conflict but also violent crimes. Harvard researcher Steven Pinker points out, “England, Canada, and most other industrialized countries have seen homicide rates fall.”[ii]
In previous centuries, 15% of people died horrific deaths. By the Twentieth Century, the number declined to 3%. Now, less than 1% of society has been buried because of war or other acts of bloodshed.[iii]
Pinker acknowledges, “Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species.”[iv]
Economic progress is another surprising indicator. There has never been a generation where more have escaped clutches of poverty.
In the past, virtually everyone was destitute. As late as 1820, 94% of the globe lived in poverty. By 2010, only 21% encountered the same conditions.[v] In 2019, less than 10% are in extreme poverty. Max Roser declares, “Before modern economic growth, the huge majority lived in extreme poverty and only a tiny elite enjoyed a better living standard.”[vi]
Poverty’s fierce hold is lessening, and the world is becoming more prosperous.
Health And Life Expectancy?
Other promising indicators are that people are now living longer and experiencing better health.
In 1720, the average Englishman lived only thirty years. Currently, most live to eighty. In one century, the average American’s life expectancy has gone from forty to seventy-five.
Child mortality is also declining. In the Eighteenth Century, one-third of all babies died. A century later, families still lost around one out of four. Today, less than 1% of the children in Industrialized nations are dying prematurely.
Diseases are also losing their grip. Smallpox and polio are being eradicated and other scourges are fading. The earth in the twenty-first century is far a healthier place.
The world is improving. There‘s more prosperity, peace, and good health than ever in recorded history. It comes down to this: The Kingdom of God is advancing and transforming the entire cosmos. We cannot lose hope because Jesus is bringing His goodness to a world ravaged by darkness. Most do not know it, but there has never been a better time to be alive.
J.D. King is a pastor and author of the new book, Why You’ve Been Duped Into Believing That The World is Getting Worse. His book is available on Amazon.
[i] Steven Pinker and Andrew Mack, “The World Is Not Falling Apart: Never mind the headlines. We’ve never lived in such peaceful times.” Slate, December 2014.
[iii] Steven Pinker, “Violence Vanquished: We believe our world is riddled with terror and war, but we may be living in the most peaceable era in human existence. Why brutality is declining and empathy is on the rise,” The Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2011.
[v] Max Roser, “It’s a cold, hard fact: our world is becoming a better place,” Oxford Martin School, October 20, 2014.