There are undeniable trends in the world of faith today, each leading to places that we may or may not appreciate. As one who makes his living in the field of religion, participates in two different religious traditions on a regular basis, and passionately studies what's happening among the spiritually mindful, I have an abiding interest in what follows. Wading hip-deep into these waters, the following are my opinions of where we may find ourselves nearly two years from now, as we look back on the year 2012.
1. The only American-born world religion will have its first resident in the West Wing, as the American people will send a Republican administration to the White House that includes the country's first Mormon President or Vice-President.
2. The Book of Mormon will be on the New York Times Bestsellers list throughout the Fall '12 campaign.
3. The Chinese government will completely de-criminalize being Christian, seeing this as a necessary step towards their goal of overtaking the USA as the world's top economic superpower.
4. Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims will begin to agree on at least one thing: that the Antichrist is living among us -- as a prominent, deceptive, spiritual man who pretends to bring hope for all of humankind.
5. As Pope Benedict XVI is about to turn 85 years old, there will be rampant speculation within the Catholic Church as to his future, his effectiveness, and whether or not he may retire. Pundits will continue to compare him to Celestine V, the Pope who quit in the 13th century.
6. If a papal election happens by the end of 2012, we may see for the first time a supreme pontiff whose first language is Spanish. The Honduran cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga is a strong possibility.
7. Church and synagogue attendance will drop by a full 10 percent in 2012, after holding steady or seeing slight increases over the previous two years.
8. People will begin to distinguish between attending "brick and mortar" religious services from "virtual" attendance.
9. Ministers, priests and rabbis will begin to embrace virtual ritual and observance. You can always make a minyan on-line.
10. More than 30 million residents of the USA, on average, will attend virtual religious services at least once a week by the end of 2012. Christians will take Communion. Jews will say Kaddish.
11. The spirituality of food will burgeon, just as food shortages begin to spark regional wars and conflicts in parts of the two-thirds world. Articles, books, blogs and conferences will be held by Christians seeking to develop traditions similar to Islam's halal and Judaism's kashrut.
12. One of the world's most popular evangelical Christian preachers will launch a virtual religious service as a new aspect of his weekly electronic ministry.
13. The winter solstice -- Dec, 21, 2012 -- will come and go and the world will not end, despite weeks of intense tabloid speculation that the Mayan calendar, constructed a millennium ago, foretells the apocalypse for that day.
14. The Mayan discussion will be seen as silly by most of us, but will nevertheless fuel a desire in millions of people to re-examine the meaning of life as the Gregorian calendar turns to 2013.
And that at least -- the renewed human desire for meaning -- never changes.