Heaven Or Hell

While Atheism Gains Popularity, Religion Holds Fast to its Majority

Heaven Or Hell

Atheism is becoming more popular all over the world, but that does not necessarily translate to the end of spirituality and religion.

As greater numbers of people from all lifestyles have begun to believe that gods and the afterlife do not exist, atheism is being acknowledged more openly.  While this increase in popularity is occurring for atheism, the number of those who identify as religious fell by nearly 10% between the years of 2005 and 2011, leading some to speculate about the end of the age of religion.

Scholars have found that the populations in countries that suffer little inequality and have a good distribution of wealth and high educational standards tend to become more secular and have a higher percentage of atheists.  They believe this is because those populations are less frightened about the future.  Religious decline is happening across much of the world, including areas which still exhibit a high degree of religiosity, such as Ireland, Jamaica and Brazil, but such statistics do not necessarily spell the end of religion, nor even its diminution to minority status.

It is not clear that religion will ever disappear, says social psychologist Ara Norenzayan, author of the book Big Gods.  Because “religion seems to give meaning to suffering,” says Norenzayan, the problems spawned by climate change may cause a spike in religious belief.  This is a common phenomenon in large and small tragedies, with spikes of religiosity following natural disasters and wars.  For this reason, as well as others, it is unlikely religion will become extinct anytime soon.  The growth of atheism has been spurred by a lessening in worldwide suffering, and religious decline may stop as suddenly as it began, especially in light of new and growing climate catastrophes.

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6 comments

  • Alison Lesley
    3:51 pm

    While I don’t disagree with much of the article, there’s one big factor involved that (other than an entire technological collapse) will shape religiosity, or rather, the lack of it.
    The internet, since its birth, seems to have caused the biggest over all decline in religiosity. It’s religion’s kryptonite. Information has been democratized, and is acceptable to most of us. People can now research about their own, as well as other religions, and unlike in the past, religious organizations haven’t been able to control this new flow of information. They’re no longer the sole source, or even the main source that people now turn to for answers. Google has taken “god’s” place in many respects. Or rather, the cleric’s since they’re the ones who claim to have a direct line to the divine. Religious people are also confronted with people in their lives, and online with different, and no religious persuasions. Something quite rare, not so long ago, when only people who travel led often, came into contact with people of different cultures and religions. This in itself exposes the fact that religious beliefs are subjective. There’s no obvious answer out there in some book. Since no one religious group is the majority. Christianity, the largest religion, only has 32% success rate. And that figure’s starting to fall, and islam will follow soon enough, once majority Muslim countries try to compete with other nations, the only way to compete economically, is to give women the freedom to be ‘career mums, as well as their husbands’.

  • Alison Lesley
    3:51 pm

    Agreed. There will always be people for whom reality is hard to understand, or frustrating to accept, without it being placed into an ultrasimplistic narrative that assures them that they don’t need to think about anything as long as they repeat platitudes and slogans when confronted by reality.

  • Alison Lesley
    3:51 pm

    False hope!

  • Alison Lesley
    3:51 pm

    It seems rather grim to rely on “climate catastrophes” to prop up religion. The problem has become that many religious perspectives are dogmatic and inflexible. This is most apparent in the conservative arms of the Abrahamic faiths.

    Religion is fading due to cultural apathy. Even in very religious countries like Brazil the number of people reporting “unaffiliated” has risen from 1% to 9% in a decade. This change is not the result of some atheist epiphany. Instead, people are seeing less room in their lives for religion. It makes less sense to many people to make the investment in terms of time and commitment. If any religious movement figures out how to address rising apathy, this group will stop the decline. Communities were much more church focused in the past. I saw this as a kid. As an adult approaching middle age, I have seen a dramatic decline in the US. It does not appear than any particular christian denomination has figured out how to become more relevant to the folks who are walking away.

  • Alison Lesley
    3:51 pm

    Religion is definitely on the decline. It will just take longer to dwindle down to almost nothing, that’s all.
    The more we get educated, the less we care about imaginary friends.

  • Alison Lesley
    3:51 pm

    Ahhh, now I understand the strategy: deny climate change until disaster happens, then people will come back to religion!

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