Re: [Death To Religion] The Human Beast
- thank you, I am going to steal this and spread it around
From: Clint <cy2600@...>
Sent: Thursday, 21 June 2012, 16:10
Subject: [Death To Religion] The Human Beast
The Human Beast
Why we do what we do.
by Nigel Barber, Ph.D.
Atheism to Defeat Religion by 2038
Will atheists always be nonconformists?
Published on April 25, 2012 by Nigel Barber, Ph.D. in The Human Beast
My blog posts on religion have attracted a lot of controversy. Religious
people are annoyed by my claim that belief in God will go the way of
horse transportation, and for much the same reason, specifically an
improved standard of living.
The view that religious belief will give way to atheism is known as the
secularization thesis. The specific version that I have described is
known as the existential security hypothesis. The basic idea is that as
people become more affluent, they are less worried about lacking for
basic necessities, or dying early from violence or disease. In other
words, they are secure in their own existence. They do not feel the need
to appeal to supernatural entities to calm their fears and insecurities.
The notion that good living conditions are associated with a decline in
religious belief, importance of religion, church attendance, and so
forth, is supported by a mountain of evidence assembled by Pippa Norris
and Ronald Inglehart in their book, Sacred and Secular (1), as well as
numerous more recent works (2).
We can be as sure of the relationship between material security and
declining religious belief as we are of any other such connection in the
social sciences. That does not prevent some serious scholars, like
political scientist Eric Kaufmann (3), from making the opposite case
that religious fundamentalists will outbreed the rest of us. Yet, noisy
as they can be, such groups are tiny minorities of the global population
and they will become even more marginalized as global prosperity
increases and standards of living improve.
Moreover, as religious fundamentalists become economically integrated,
young women go to work and produce smaller families, as is currently
happening for Utah's Mormons.
The most obvious approach to estimating when the world will switch over
to being majority atheist is based on economic growth. This is logical
because economic development is the key factor responsible for
secularization. In deriving this estimate, I used the 9 most godless
countries as my touchstone (excluding Estonia as a formerly communist
country). The countries were Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark,
France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
These 9 countries averaged out at the atheist transition with exactly
half of the populations disbelieving in God according to Zuckerman's
compilation of data on disbelief in God in around 2004. Their gross
domestic product (GDP) averaged $29,822 compared to $10,855 for the
average country in the world. How long will it take before the world
economy has expanded sufficiently that the GDP of the average country
has caught up to the average for the godless countries in 2004?
Using the average global growth rate of GDP for the past 30 years, of
3.33 percent (based on International Monetary Fund data from their
website), the atheist transition would occur in 2035.
Belief in God is not the only relevant measure of religion, of course. A
person might believe in God in a fairly superficial way without religion
affecting their daily lives. One way of assessing the depth of religious
commitment is to ask survey participants whether they think that
religion is important in their daily lives as the Gallup Organization
has done in worldwide nationally-representative surveys.
If fewer than 50 percent of the population agreed that religion was
important to them, then the country has effectively crossed over to a
secular majority. The godless countries by religiosity were Spain, South
Korea, Canada, Switzerland, Uruguay, Germany, and France. At a growth
rate of 3.33 percent per year it would be 2041 before the average
country in the world would be at an equivalent level of affluence as
these godless nations.
If national wealth drives secularization, the global population will
cross an atheist threshold where the majority see religion as
unimportant in their daily lives by 2041.
Averaging across the two measures of atheism, the entire world
population would cross the atheist threshold by about 2038 (average of
2035 and 2041). Although 2038 may seem improbably fast, this requires
only a shift of approximately 1 percent per year whether in religiosity
(0.9 percent) or belief in God (1.2 percent).
Is the loss of religious belief something to fear? Contrary to the
claims of religious leaders, godless countries are highly moral nations
with an unusual level of social trust, economic equality, low crime, and
a high level of civic engagement (4). We could do with some of that.
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