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The End of Days for Religion

Way back on June 6th of 2008 I mentioned in a MySpace blog that one of the atheist organizations that I am a member of hosted a lecture by Jan Meshon from an organization called FreethoughtAction.org. In that lecture, Meshon talked about how we (the secular community) are actually winning in the marketplace of ideas. While religion still controls over 80 percent of America and it seems like we are fighting a hopeless battle, it isn’t as hopeless as it seems. Meshon talked about the “Tipping Point” at which religion starts to make a rapid decline. He thought that we were making progress toward that tipping point.

Since that lecture and that June 6th blog, I have posted a number of blogs talking about new polls, surveys, and studies, which show religion on the decline and atheism on the raise. But still the long fight seemed so hopeless. Religion is still everywhere and if you told people that in 20 years religion would be a thing of the past, they would laugh at you.

The bad news is that it may take more than 20 years, but the good news is that it may not take that much longer than 20 years. We are actually approaching that tipping point. The other day, I wrote a blog on the Examiner about another recent survey. This survey showed that 20 years ago less than 5 to 10 percent of young people did not attend church and now roughly 30 to 40 percent of young people don’t attend church. Not only that, but the trend is continuing. In the next 20 years, that number could more than double. Professor Robert Putnam of Harvard, the person conducting this survey, was however quick to point out that those young people who don’t attend church are not necessarily atheists. Still these numbers are very encouraging. This trend combined with the polls, surveys, and studies that have been talked about all year show that the end is quickly approaching for religion.

If young people start to reject religion, then religion only has a few generations left before it is phased out. Putnam also attributed young people’s decline in church attendance to the fundamentalist beliefs of the Religious Right. He claimed that young people associate church with the “source of intolerance and rigidity and doctrinaire political views.” Other surveys and polls have shown that while belief in religion, as a whole is on the decline, fundamentalist belief is actually slightly on the rise. It seems that belief is becoming polarized with a small rise in fundamentalists belief and a large rise in non-belief. Since fundamentalism seems to lead to non-belief in the long run, this seems like good news to me.

I also think that more and more people are rejecting ancient superstitions because they are seeing more reasonable alternatives. Within the last decade or so, atheism has been much more vocal and people like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett have really opened people’s eyes. More and more celebrities like Jon Stewart from the Daily Show and Bill Maher from Real Time are coming out of the atheist closet. As more and more atheists become visible, people will see that non-believers are not evil agents of Satan or hedonistic communists who eat babies. You laugh, but I actually had a Christian tell me just yesterday that atheists are hedonists and implied that we have no morality.

Sometimes when talking to a very sweet elderly person they will say something religious with the belief that everyone believes in God. And sometimes I get the feeling that if I pointed out to them that I don’t actually believe in God, that they wouldn’t even comprehend that idea and may actually get highly offended, so I just let the comment go. I think most atheists have had that experience where we just don’t want to offend the sweet elderly person who has never even thought that someone could lack belief in a deity. The thing is that the next generation of elderly people won’t be like that. They will live in a world in which atheism has been vocal and on the rise. The generation after that might even see atheism as a valid alternative to belief and the generation of elderly people after that might even live in a world where there are more atheists than theists.

As more and more young people begin to question belief and reject church and organized religion, that tipping point will begin to get much closer. The more vocal and visible atheists are and the more we are able to criticize religious beliefs and place those ancient superstitions next to modern science, reason, and common sense, the closer religion will be to the end. The End of Days for religion won’t be a final battle between God and the Devil, but will instead be the fading away of antiquated myth in favor of the more practical science and modernity.

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