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Will Atheists Ever Be A Majority? How It Might Happen...


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Since I parted ways with faith and deities, I have been thinking about what kind of world I would like to see. I feel sure that a world without theistic religions would be a better place, but I have no illusions that this could actually ever happen. I do wonder though if it is reasonable to think that belief in a god might one day become a minority, even a fringe, position. In other words, could atheists someday be a majority?

When I say ‘atheists’ here, I mean all those who consciously do not believe – those who are familiar with god-beliefs but who have rejected them. They may or may not call themselves atheists. They may or may not be 'spiritual’ in a godless way. For the purposes of this discussion, anybody who rejects belief in gods is an atheist.

I’m not foolish enough to think that Christians and Muslims are going to de-convert en-masse anytime soon. We ex-Christians in this forum are the exception, I know. Faith is a difficult wall to break through. But I don’t think an atheist future requires true-believers to deconvert; what it does take is for the many ‘nominal’ theists to come off the fence and choose reason over faith.

So who are these ‘nominal theists’? I think it helps to look at attitudes to religion in North America in the early 21st century. It seems to me that maybe 10% of the population is positively atheist, in the way I described above. Maybe 25% are serious, committed believers – mostly Christian. Then there is the ‘mushy middle’, the majority who profess some belief in God but whose commitment is half-hearted at best. To better understand this majority group, let me introduce you to Ken…

Ken is a single man in his twenties or early thirties. He may or may not have been raised in a religious home. If asked in a survey, Ken might identify as Christian or Catholic or a believer in God or maybe agnostic. Other than the occasional Christmas, wedding or funeral, Ken never darkens the door of a church. For him, a good Sunday morning sees him waking up beside his date from last night and not regretting it. When Ken's beloved grandma died, he felt deep down that he would never see her again, as much as he would want to.

Ken’s philosophy of life is ‘do-unto-others’, more or less. He can’t remember the last time he prayed (maybe it was the time of his Mom’s health scare, he’s not sure) and none of his best buddies go to church but he doesn’t know any actual atheists. He figures he might start going to church when he has a family, so his kids can learn right from wrong. Even better, maybe he could just send the kids to church with their Mom while he cooks bacon and eggs for them to come home to! So Ken, while professing some kind of theistic belief, lives more like an atheist than a believer. He doesn't think about God (although he says 'Jesus!' a lot). He doesn’t worship. His morality is what works for him and his conscience. It took him a while to come around to accepting the idea of gay marriage, but he figures that sooner or later he’ll be there to see his cousin Steven (who’s surely gotta be gay) tie the knot. Regardless of what the Pope or the Bible says about it.

Ken could go either way (religiously, not sexually, haha!) Although he’s never thought long and hard about what he does believe, some personal crisis or a girlfriend who discovered Jesus might lead him into the church. Or he might just allow his kids to be indoctrinated into faith at Sunday School and VBS because, well, right and wrong and all that. So although Ken is not a believer in any meaningful way, the bad news is that he is not immune to the faith virus, and if he doesn't succumb himself he could act as a 'carrier', passing it on to his offspring. The good news though is that, now more so than in times past, Ken could actually decide to adjust his religious belief to match how he sees the world and how he lives his life, a life where God may as well be dead.

What would it take for Ken to break the cycle and decide he doesn't believe in God and that's OK? Maybe finding out that his buddy Mike, while never religious, now calls himself an agnostic atheist. And Mike is no flaming liberal. Or that Paul at work (the Dallas Cowboys fan) sends his kids to Camp Quest instead of VBS. Or maybe another act of Islamist terror leads him to read up on Islam and to the conclusion that millions of believers CAN be dead wrong - and if the Koran is BS then maybe...

So I think the Kens of the world are the key to a future where reason has the upper hand over faith. In the West, at least. To some extent, all Ken really needs is some cover: if Mike has 'come out' it makes it easier for Ken, and if Paul's kids have so much fun at Camp Quest - and sure as hell don't come back begging their dad to start going to Church! - shoot, that's where Ken wants his kids to go some day. It may be a small thing for one guy to change his survey answer to 'no religious belief' or even 'atheist', but I think the path to a better world involves helping the Kens of the world to come off the fence, especially when they are facing our direction already. Ken doesn't have to be talked out of a dearly-held belief. He just needs to give himself permission to discard the vestige of faith that he's been hanging on to. And most of us here know that that is an irreversible step, and a victory for reason and light, and really, just a better and more honest life.

 

 

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This is too simplistic. While the religious may be breeding more, the polls are showing that the religious are also loosing their children over to unaffiliated status and non-belief. One of the things

I agree with the sentiment in the last two posts.   Religion answers everything and doesn't require a person to seriously think about major issues - the answer is provided.   Howev

Brilliant article Thereandbackagain.   Certainly any future where atheists have significant numbers and influence requires the fence sitters to side with reason.   I also think that's where effo

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I've been watching the polls on this subject for a while now. Here's a passing article: 

 

http://www.hngn.com/articles/56100/20141231/atheism-rise-america-belief-god-down-ufos-up-study.htm

 

 

 

Disbelief in God is on the rise in America, according to a recent Harris poll. Seventy-four percent of Americans say they still believe in the birth of Jesus as a divine being, but that has dropped from 82 percent in previous polls.

Poll numbers show that beliefs in ideas such as miracles, that Jesus was the son of God, resurrection and life after death have gone down. Belief in astrology, UFOs, ghosts and reincarnation increased slightly.

Younger generations tend to have lower God-belief numbers. Only 64 percent of Americans under the age of 36 believe in God, according to the Harris poll, which asked adults to complete an online survey...

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Brilliant article Thereandbackagain.

 

Certainly any future where atheists have significant numbers and influence requires the fence sitters to side with reason.

 

I also think that's where effort should be spent in reasoning with the fence sitters, rather than attacking the fundamentalists. The fundies on the most part are much less inclined to listen to reason than other Christians.

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I've been watching the polls on this subject for a while now. Here's a passing article:

 

http://www.hngn.com/articles/56100/20141231/atheism-rise-america-belief-god-down-ufos-up-study.htm

 

Disbelief in God is on the rise in America, according to a recent Harris poll. Seventy-four percent of Americans say they still believe in the birth of Jesus as a divine being, but that has dropped from 82 percent in previous polls.

Poll numbers show that beliefs in ideas such as miracles, that Jesus was the son of God, resurrection and life after death have gone down. Belief in astrology, UFOs, ghosts and reincarnation increased slightly.

Younger generations tend to have lower God-belief numbers. Only 64 percent of Americans under the age of 36 believe in God, according to the Harris poll, which asked adults to complete an online survey...

So ... "beliefs in ideas such as miracles, that Jesus was the son of God, resurrection and life after death have gone down. Belief in astrology, UFOs, ghosts and reincarnation increased slightly".

 

Not sure if the net effect of all that is an improvement or not...

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Well, the point is that the movement is away from christianity in various directions. The numbers are decreasing while non-belief is on the rise. I understand the UFO's, astrology and ghosts slight increase. Look at TV programming. People are watching the shit out of ancient aliens theories (which explain the bible as extraterrestrial intervention misinterpreted as gods), ghost hunters and the astrology is probably just part of the rebellious effect of leaving christianity and looking at other things.

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Well, the point is that the movement is away from christianity in various directions. The numbers are decreasing while non-belief is on the rise. I understand the UFO's, astrology and ghosts slight increase. Look at TV programming. People are watching the shit out of ancient aliens theories (which explain the bible as extraterrestrial intervention misinterpreted as gods), ghost hunters and the astrology is probably just part of the rebellious effect of leaving christianity and looking at other things.

Indeed - and the main point is a welcome one. Plus those other beliefs are likely potentially less harmful than the Christian ones anyway. I just had to shake my head at that particular sentence!

 

And thanks for sharing the article!

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Brilliant article Thereandbackagain.

 

Certainly any future where atheists have significant numbers and influence requires the fence sitters to side with reason.

 

I also think that's where effort should be spent in reasoning with the fence sitters, rather than attacking the fundamentalists. The fundies on the most part are much less inclined to listen to reason than other Christians.

 

LF, I'm savage at times with fundies. There's good reason to be. You are correct about the fence sitters but also consider what those fence sitters are witnessing all the time on the internet. They witness fundies and various apologists getting their asses handed to them by mentally superior freethinkers. It's like fight night. And the domain of freethinking reveals who the real weak link is. It's always the christians. It's a weak system which can not hold it's own without political force and coercion. Now that the political force has long since peaked and is now in decline there's no muscle. It can't bluff anyone anymore. And that's revealed everyday on countless forums across the web before the eyes of witnessing people. 

 

It's not about convincing fundies and bringing them over to another side. It's about using them as examples of how not to think, and how not to act if you don't want to end up on the loosing side of sound reason in the witness of everyone else.   

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Brilliant article Thereandbackagain.

 

Certainly any future where atheists have significant numbers and influence requires the fence sitters to side with reason.

 

I also think that's where effort should be spent in reasoning with the fence sitters, rather than attacking the fundamentalists. The fundies on the most part are much less inclined to listen to reason than other Christians.

Thanks, LF! Yeah the fundamentalists will always be with us, I'm sure. But if Christianity could eventually be reduced to a rump of fundies while the rest defected to atheism, that's probably the best we can hope for - an annoying minority (like the Westboro Baptist gang) but a minority nonethess that can't threaten our civil society. Even then, the continued existence of the Bible (and Koran) pose a great threat, I fear. Humans are funny creatures, prone to hysteria and cults, especially in times of upheaval, and who knows what monsters may yet crawl out of those scriptural basements. Of course we're seeing that in the Muslim world on a continuing basis in our time. I'm just glad that you and I didn't pop our heads out in Afghanistan or some other theocratic dive.

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23 hours ago, ThereAndBackAgain said:

 

23 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

Well, the point is that the movement is away from christianity in various directions. The numbers are decreasing while non-belief is on the rise. I understand the UFO's, astrology and ghosts slight increase. Look at TV programming. People are watching the shit out of ancient aliens theories (which explain the bible as extraterrestrial intervention misinterpreted as gods), ghost hunters and the astrology is probably just part of the rebellious effect of leaving christianity and looking at other things.

Indeed - and the main point is a welcome one. Plus those other beliefs are likely potentially less harmful than the Christian ones anyway. I just had to shake my head at that particular sentence!

 

And thanks for sharing the article!

 

 

Here's another: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-1101-zuckerman-violence-secularism-20151101-story.html

 

 

 

Quote
The theory is simple: If people become less religious, then society will decay. Crime will skyrocket, violence will rise, and once-civilized life will degenerate into immorality and depravity. It's an old, widespread notion. And it's demonstrably false.

 

 

 

Quote
If it were true that when belief in God weakens, societal well-being diminishes, then we should see abundant evidence for this. But we don't. In fact, we find just the opposite: Those societies today that are the most religious — where faith in God is strong and religious participation is high — tend to have the highest violent crime rates, while those societies in which faith and church attendance are the weakest — the most secular societies — tend to have the lowest.

 I see the US as evolving in the same direction as the more sophisticated and older secular nations. We're growing out of a national infancy stage and I hope that what we see in the polls is a reflection of our maturing as a nation...

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I hope those of you who predict the decline of religion are right. But I'm not that optimistic. I think that if Christianity declines, it will be replaced by something else. I believe that people are inherently fearful (perhaps something that evolved into us from life in the jungle) and that religion is a means of dealing with fear. I just don't see that fear going away in large masses of people, particularly when I see people capitalizing on that fear to pass their agendas — politicians, salesmen, shamans, preachers, and others. They all have something to gain by encouraging that fear.

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That may be true as far as christianity giving rise to something else. But the polls also show what that something else is. And it's between atheism and unaffiliated status. They rise, belief in terms of the status quo falls. To the fundies this is simply evidence for end times. "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be..." But the times never end. Those who subscribe to the fallacy of Israel as a prophetic time marker, will continue to see their ideas fade away into history as time continues further and further away from that fallacious interpretation of the bible. And I don't see any other outcome than further souring the minds of people who've subscribed to those views. More people crossing over to non-belief and unaffiliated. And the drop outs usually find lesser evils in terms of switching beliefs. Buddhists, New Age folk, Ancient Alien and Atlantian theoriest, whatever. None of these things compare to jewish, christian or muslim fundamentalism. 

 

I watched an interesting video a while back about how the recent rise in terror is the natural outcome of global secularization. It's like a final breath of outburst by those lesser evolved minds stuck in ancient times protesting the inevitable changes that are taking place and will continue to take place as time goes on. I believe this was coming from Dr. Robert Price. It's different way of looking at it. And I think he's right. We see similar issues from the fundies here in the states. The creationist push is thus. It's a final cry before drowning into obscurity.

 

So what about all of these rising atheists and unaffiliated people that keep growing in number?

 

Aren't they afraid of death? If so, why leave religion?

 

Why un-affiliate themselves or cross over to not knowing and non-belief? 

 

It seems that as we're evolving we're loosing that primitive fear of death. I know I have. I could care less what happens after I die. And I think many others are starting to feel the same. I accept life and existence with open arms, on it's own terms, as it is without trying to project something that I wish it would be. We're growing up as a species. This is happening all around.

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I offer this link to myself in dialogue with a christian apologist on booktalk as a real time working example of the mental inferiority I'm speaking of: http://www.booktalk.org/post160228.html#p160228

 

People are seeing this. It's really quite pathetic watching apologists try and maneuver these days. They're confused. They're supposed to be superior to everyone, having the only real truth in the world. But their truth never quite comes out as true. What are young people going to think when they see this type of nonsense as the only method of defending of their beliefs? 

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Excellent discussion! I hope to see Christianity (and religion in general) lose its influence in society. I live in Nashville, where there are many fundamentalists about, and would love to their numbers diminish.

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I think that the default respect and honor given to church and pastors/priests is beginning to fade. People are starting to see that it isn't what it claims to be, and that the love they preach is just bait to convert the unwary. The more that the public talks about the icky found in Christian (and other) belief, as we share our own experiences openly, and openly say the emperor has no clothes, the less the public will default to considering churches as things to be honored and will see them more like cults.

 

All of the good that comes from churches comes from people choosing to do good. They simply need to realize that they are doing it without the spooky help of an imaginary friend, and that this is perfectly fine. On the flip side, we may see more fundamentalist Christian cults arise as a response. The weird thing I see even now are those that claim to be believers, tout wearing crosses and bible tattoos and building large buildings, but ignore the teachings about what really matters at the seat of judgment. I've never understood that whole approach to life except as a cherrypicking kind of belief that suits them so they don't have to do any of the hard parts of dying to self. They are the kind that saw Obama being president as persecution of believers.

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The vast majority of Christians I know are such in name only. They indulge in drinking, premarital sex, foul language and so forth. Most don't ever even see the inside of a church. The identity as a Christian seems to have little to do with beliefs or behavior. Perhaps they will eventually drop the label, but these days most Americans feel the need to differentiate themselves from the dreaded Muslims and Atheists who are ruining our country. GONZ9729CustomImage1539775.gif

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It's happened in some countries but I think that as long as Islam is the religion of majority of terrorists, folks will feel the need to battle the false religion with their true one.

Gak.

 

I wish it would happen but then Americans seem dead set on being religious in their fervor about their political party so... I'll be dead before Star Trek world happens

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The vast majority of Christians I know are such in name only. They indulge in drinking, premarital sex, foul language and so forth. Most don't ever even see the inside of a church. The identity as a Christian seems to have little to do with beliefs or behavior. Perhaps they will eventually drop the label, but these days most Americans feel the need to differentiate themselves from the dreaded Muslims and Atheists who are ruining our country. GONZ9729CustomImage1539775.gif

 

"Ken" in my OP could be one of these "Christians".  I fear that many on the left antagonize the likes of Ken by pushing too far: make that baker bake that cake!  This pisses off Ken and makes him dig his heels in and maybe even leads to him being drawn back to his "Christian" identity, as a mark of defiance.  And when the feminist left gushes over hijab-wearers while ridiculing conservative Christians, again Ken - who should be our natural ally - takes a step back.  Identity politics is reaping what it sowed.

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"I feel sure that a world without theistic religions would be a better place."

...............

Perhaps, perhaps not. I think people might have less anxiety to deal with if they did not worry about what a deity thought of their behaviors, thoughts or actions.

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On 21/02/2017 at 4:40 PM, Jeff said:

It's happened in some countries but I think that as long as Islam is the religion of majority of terrorists, folks will feel the need to battle the false religion with their true one.

Gak.

 

I wish it would happen but then Americans seem dead set on being religious in their fervor about their political party so... I'll be dead before Star Trek world happens

It seems to me like it is all a matter of perspective.  To the average Syrian child or the average Iraqi child, the 'Christian' Americans with their bombs probably look like far worse terrorists.  The fact that the bomb that killed their mother was intended for someone else, and that she was 'collateral damage' is unlikely to make them feel any kinder towards the Americans.  The propaganda about Christian crusaders thus has another receptive child.  And so the cycle of violence continues.

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Atheists could become a majority. The real question is will that make most people also critical thinkers?

I often find that some people who are..."below a certain threshold"...can often be better off believing in spiritual nonsense. It's arrogant to say that, but it's true.

 

 

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On 2/26/2017 at 4:54 AM, Jedah said:

Atheists could become a majority. The real question is will that make most people also critical thinkers?

I often find that some people who are..."below a certain threshold"...can often be better off believing in spiritual nonsense. It's arrogant to say that, but it's true.

 

 

It is true, and I don't think it's arrogant. Critical thinking can be hard work, and most people don't want to do it.  We all have our faults, but one thing we can say about the members of this forum is that we have exercised critical thinking in rejecting a belief system that had a powerful hold over us. 

Socrates supposedly said that the unexamined life is not worth living.   Most lives go unexamined, I think. Those who are raised in religion typically stay religious, or at least don't reject religion. Those raised without religion generally don't become believers.  The people I respect most are those who know why they believe or don't believe. They will always be a minority. In religion and in politics, people find it easier to repeat platitudes than to work out their own positions. This makes it possible for demagogues and populists to arise. Is it possible that most humans could be rallied to rise above intellectual laziness and embrace reason?  It seems possible, but it's a high mountain for us to climb.

 

 

 

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I agree with the sentiment in the last two posts.

 

Religion answers everything and doesn't require a person to seriously think about major issues - the answer is provided.

 

However society and the world is reaching the point where religions, written 1,000's of years ago for people of its time are no longer answering the big issues of our time. Society has changed too much, but the religion hasn't been re-written for the modern society. Reinterpreted yes, re-written, no.

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4 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

...

 

Religion answers everything and doesn't require a person to seriously think about major issues - the answer is provided.

...

 

There is a certain look on the faces of these people. Hard to describe but there is a grin that you have probably seen, sort of a self-satisfied look that you might expect to see on the face of someone who just got whacked on the back of the head with a 2 x 12.

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6 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

I agree with the sentiment in the last two posts.

 

Religion answers everything and doesn't require a person to seriously think about major issues - the answer is provided.

 

However society and the world is reaching the point where religions, written 1,000's of years ago for people of its time are no longer answering the big issues of our time. Society has changed too much, but the religion hasn't been re-written for the modern society. Reinterpreted yes, re-written, no.

 

A good example is Christian (also Jewish and Muslim) teaching on sex.  Sex is permitted only within a monogamous heterosexual marriage, all other occasions being sinful. Yet God presumably created us with this urge to want sex beginning at adolescence and continuing for decades, and also made us less than strictly monogamous, and many not heterosexual.  In truth the rule likely came, not from a deity, but from a prudent desire to limit the number of offspring and avoid diseases.  But now in modern times, birth control and medicine have caught up with our libido, allowing us to copulate rather safely with as many partners as we wish. But of course theism doesn't adapt to changing conditions, so it tries to keep human sexuality in an unnatural and unnecessary straitjacket.  For me at least, this was all strong evidence that morality does not come from religion but that religion came from morality.  And then of course there's the separate vexing question of why a loving God would create us with a strong sex drive that, unless continually suppressed, led to certain sin or possible death.

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22 hours ago, ThereAndBackAgain said:

It is true, and I don't think it's arrogant. Critical thinking can be hard work, and most people don't want to do it.  We all have our faults, but one thing we can say about the members of this forum is that we have exercised critical thinking in rejecting a belief system that had a powerful hold over us. 

Socrates supposedly said that the unexamined life is not worth living.   Most lives go unexamined, I think. Those who are raised in religion typically stay religious, or at least don't reject religion. Those raised without religion generally don't become believers.  The people I respect most are those who know why they believe or don't believe. They will always be a minority. In religion and in politics, people find it easier to repeat platitudes than to work out their own positions. This makes it possible for demagogues and populists to arise. Is it possible that most humans could be rallied to rise above intellectual laziness and embrace reason?  It seems possible, but it's a high mountain for us to climb.

 

 

 

 

I have something going on at the moment with an old friend from high school. We were raised SDA and she's still very much in it, a librarian at one of the colleges. She recently reached out to me on messenger and expressed some doubt with the institution. She seemed to be headed in the direction of self examination, so I sent her a picture of book off my book shelf which is a strong discourse against SDAism exposing the foundation and roots of the belief system - just to she her reaction. She got herself a copy and starting reading and she completely gets it. She's going through the roller coaster of emotions that comes from learning how absolutely deceptive the church has been all this time. And how corrupt it really is. I told her that I'm interested in hearing her thoughts as she reads along. I'm trying to be responsible about giving her sensitive information and helping her through the digestion process.  

 

I'm not sure where this will lead, but I told her that I've shown her the tip of a very deep ice burg. If she's interested in knowing more I'll refer her to more reading. I don't know if we'll end up all the way down to atheism or not, but it's a likely outcome. I try not to give people more than I think they can handle at the time. My interest went from leaving the church and not giving a shit about knowing the details, to later learning the details of the folly of my denomination, to going further down to the roots of christianity itself, to going further to pagan religions and mythology that preceded judaism and christianity and influenced both. And also delving into science for a better understanding and learning about atheism, agnosticism and the pantheism's. If she's interested I'll take her step by step down the entire rabbit hole.  

 

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