I'm really asking the question here. What do you think? I spend a lot of time on Atheist Nexus, mainly to be around like-minded people and ideas, but then I have to return to the outside world. I don't like what I see.
Although I live in southern California I see influences from the bible belt. As a freind's son is recovering from an accident I hear comments about how "someone upstairs was watching out" for him. I have been to events where our evening meeting group was asked if anyone had some reason to pray. I could go on and on here.
The internet is full of statistics going both directions. All of the surveys and such seem bias by whomever conducted them.
I see the Atheist community growing, but are we being out done by religious groups? I understand the mormons have quite a high birth rate, (I also consider them one of the more dangerous groups).
It would seem Europe is experiencing a decline in religion, but U.S. bible belt seems as strong as ever.
It always makes me feel good when I read statistics in favor of the godless, but what is the reality?
In fits and starts, yes, I think it is.
I think the death throes of religion started maybe 400 years ago, when Galileo went up against the church with what he had seen through his crude telescope. He may have recanted with a figurative gun to his head, but that started it. As science and methodology has begun to wrest the mantle of authority from the church and religion in general, religion has begun to fade from the towering position of importance and influence it held at the beginning of the Renaissance.
What we're seeing now in the US is religion's reaction to the progression of its own demise. It acts out against science and reason in a last-ditch attempt to regain what it had. It's made wild claims about the end of the world which have fallen flat, even tried to use science to justify itself ... and because some people have been so conditioned by their total immersion in these millennia-old myths that they continue to subscribe to them, religion persists.
It's worth keeping in mind that religion as an institution is thousands of years old, whereas reason and science are relatively young (with the possible exception of their practice in Ancient Greece). It may be that there is more behind us than there is in front of us regarding this conflict, but I fully expect one or two hundred years or more before this foolishness is relegated to the dust bin of history, or at least loses the pervasive influence that it has, at least in the United States. In places like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, we may be talking about a lot more time, as their saturation in islam is far more thorough than what the US experiences with evangelical christianity.
Still, religion IS dying, a slow, uneven death, perhaps ... but it is dying.
I agree Loren. Science is slowly overcoming religion.
There is one thing that I've been thinking about in the last year that I've not heard anyone else mention. My guess is that science will overcome disease and death in about 100 years. Whenever it happens, I would guess the last of religion would then die quickly when people see that a god is not needed to give us immortality.
I, unfortunately, agree that the signs of religion dying are faint at best.
The perceptual problem is that religious groups are so much more public and their followers feel so very socially free to utter their religious beliefs. Statistically, there appears to be real decline in general theism. It is, however, counterbalanced by, what appears to be, a rising fervor of believers. They may be smaller in number, but louder in volume.
Personally I find it maddening. My wife thinks I am a God hater. In truth, I am more a religion hater. I am writing an anti-religion / anti-god book and I hope it will convince many of their error.
As I am fond of saying, "If there's a god, when I die he's going on trial for fraud, negligence and incompetence. And he's gonna fry, guaranteed."
I can't speak for Mormons or Muslims, but Christianity is on its way out. And good riddance, too.
The mainline churches (Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterian and Lutherans) have liberalized themselves to irrelevance. They're left as community service organizations, nursing home operators, and bridge clubs. Not a lot I concern myself with there.
The evangelicals and fundamentalists (Baptists and many smaller groups) are alienating more of their own members every day. A few the fundie diaspora have joined the "emergent church" movement, but most of them have been content to be absorbed into the secular world. This is the most threatening group, but it's at most 40 million serious adherents in the U.S. They're loud and obnoxious, but not a majority.
Pentacostalism is one of those things that just *barely* counts as xian, due to strong theological differences with other xians, but they seem to be declining, too. They're really not that different in practice from the evangelicals, and I expect that their demise is going to play out about the same.
Catholicism is the one xian group that I believe will continue to rise over the next decade due to hispanic immigration and high birth rates among immigrants. But, seeing as I personally know the accountant of my friendly local diocese, I can tell you without any doubt that the parishes that are largely hispanic are going to bankrupt the Catholic church in America. Mexicans are used to their taxes paying for the church (the horror) and so they don't give. The more that part of the demographic grows, the closer the Catholic church comes to imploding.
I know exactly how you feel. Significant change can't happen soon enough for me either. I started my road to atheism in high school and it was pretty much cemented by the time I left college. Now here I am at age 47 and it's only been in the last couple of years that I've actively become involved in and supported atheist and secular groups and causes. I wish I'd done it a lot sooner but the opportunity never confronted me until the New Atheists craze swept through. I've become fairly active these days and I'm even toying with the idea of attending the Reason Rally this coming spring. I've come to the realization that most of the change I'm fighting for will not be seen by me in my lifetime, but I'm gaining great personal satisfaction knowing that I'm a part of a just and noble cause.
It takes a while to turn an aircraft carrier ... especially when all you have is a rowboat to push it with. By the same token, it's going to take a while to move society from a theist-dominated position to one where both theism and atheism are obsolete concepts. Right now there aren't a lot of us around, but our numbers are growing. As those numbers grow, our "rowboat" becomes a powerboat and from there, a tugboat.
I HOPE that the process is not linear in progression, but that as our numbers grow and we become more vocal and active, the process accelerates. I'm 60 years old, and I doubt I'll see the culmination of these efforts, but to see any positive change at all, to hear Obama mention non-believers in his inauguration speech, or see a meeting at the White House involving atheists, to know that we are OUT of the closet and not likely to return, that we're becoming stronger and more visible ... tell you what, that don't hurt!
Loren I certainly see your point. In the long run I agree with you. Right now I'm looking for more current viewpoints, (sorry I did not specify that to start with).
On a more optimistic note: a carrier is likely the largest moving object you have ever seen, (I spent 22 years on one), but it can turm amazingly quickly when it needs to. I hope we all do our part to turn this carrier around in the best time possible.