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Atheism on the upswing in America

by Greg Paul

Some years back Washington Post Magazine ran a then-rare story on a strange and scarce species. A kind of person most Americans are so bigoted against that they refuse to vote for them, marry them, or even allow them into the Boy Scouts. These unusual creatures are American atheists, which the old joke said could all fit into a Manhattan phone booth. That was then, this is now.

As the survey results come in, as the irreligious best-sellers sell, and as the scientific analysis gets published, it is increasingly clear that Western atheism has evolved into a forward-looking movement that has the wind at its back, is behind the success of the best run societies yet seen in human history, and is challenging religion as the better basis of morality. Even in the U.S., a religious anomaly in the Western world, atheists are making major gains while Christianity withers, already having lost the mainstream culture to secularism. The least religious regions of the nation are enjoying superior societal conditions.

Religious conservatives commonly contend that only a transcendent supernatural intelligent designer can provide the absolute and perfect morality and the wisdom necessary to run successful societies – it’s become the de facto position of the GOP. Many religious liberals and atheists agree that both theism and atheism are sufficiently moral and practical to generate similarly successful cultures. This series will show that both views are errant. The science-based evidence leaves no doubt that, although very human in its flaws, democratic atheism is proving superior to faith-based mythical doctrines in practical societal and moral terms.

Before we proceed further, we need to take a look at where the planet is concerning the changing status of popular opinion on the reality or non-reality of the gods. According to the tabulations of the World Christian Encyclopedia, the globe was fairly consistently religious circa 1900. It no longer is. The WCE concludes that atheists from committed to agnostic currently number about a billion. Pew calculates that some 1st world countries are only a quarter or a third as religious as are the most pious 2nd and 3rd world nations. In some of the secularized democracies large pluralities and even strong majorities qualify at atheists--including agnostics, while the devoutly religious are small minorities, and those churches that are not nearly empty on most Sundays have been converted to other uses.

Read the rest on the Washington Post.

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