why atheism continues its steady rise

June 20, 2012 — 7 Comments

There’s a reason why you should never, never try to tackle complicated questions in bullet point format. You’re going to skip over the really deep and important arguments and reduce a very complex issue into a few quick stereotypes, usually the most pervasive ones you see flying around. That’s exactly what happened here, as a discussion about the complexities of leaving traditional religion are reduced to their most simplistic and often quoted versions. Sure, the list is not complete and these are supposed to be the three top reasons why more and more younger people are leaving their faith or feel safer coming out as atheists, but they’re missing what should’ve been the main reason for doubt of traditional religious narratives and one of the included points is a downright combative "onward Christian soldiers" plea to defend the faith. Were articles about the reasons for atheism’s growing popularity commonplace and often featured elaborate discussions of the points involved, I would skip this completely, but unfortunately, it’s these sorts of regurgitated oversimplifications that tend to be the norm when discussing the rise in non-believers and religious skeptics, especially in the United States.

Now, just because the points are oversimplified, it doesn’t mean that they’re wrong and the first given reason actually does have an effect on the more liberal and open minded faithful. Aggressive fundamentalism is one of the biggest menaces of the modern world, and angry zealots’ demands that laws reflect their unforgiving, black and white personal opinions as well as their hounding of anyone who disagrees with them as heretics doomed to burn in the fires of Hell with all the pretentious drama it entails, are definitely making more liberal religious followers question their membership in the faith. In fact, younger generations tend to associate the most vocal Christian organizations with homophobia and are turned off by the idea that they’ll be very quickly pigeonholed into following Republican politics. Why should they have to join a movement which espouses an attitude they find bigoted and is becoming synonymous with politics they find objectionable? But that in and of itself only explains why fewer younger generations are attending church services, not why there are more and more atheists. That’s credited to atheist intellectuals like Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, who are persuading the formerly faithful to join atheists, and existing atheists to stand up and be counted.

Certainly there are more outspoken atheists out there today and they can speak for the moral side of atheism as a school of thought. But what about the most important point behind doubt of religious doctrine, a scientific body of work showing that specific religious claims are either false or downright impossible? The holy books say we were created by a deity. The evidence says that we gradually evolved and developed over millions and millions of years, that we didn’t simply appear just as we are. One can of course ignore this evidence or try to abuse it with rampant quote mining and lies as Young Earth creationists do for a living, or take what looks like the high road and cram religious beliefs into a scientific framework with pseudoscientific buzzwords, but at the end of the day, there’s still a mountain of studies that show traditional religions’ versions of history to be flawed and their knowledge of the basic laws of our universe as virtually nonexistent. Why would someone who wants to sum up the reasons for an uptick in non-believers not even mention that we now know for a fact that many religious dogmas are just plain, objectively wrong? In that light, younger generations’ association of religious organizations with bigotry, homophobia, and political partisanship are even more important because they not only disagree with what these organizations espouse, but they know that these stances are based on erroneous beliefs, one of which is that atheists and liberals are undermining their faith out of hatred.

Christianity is the one religion left that can be hated without running afoul of political correctness, says Drew Belsky. In an era when the federal government is forcing religious institutions, contrary to their religious beliefs to give people insurance coverage for contraception, says Bishop Edward Burns at The Southeast Alaska Catholic Online, it’s pretty undeniable that religion, and religious freedom, are under siege. Most Americans still believe in God, but they have to defend their faith or the attacks will take a toll.

Just as the old joke goes, Jesus was probably a great guy, it’s his fan club that’s gotten out of hand. You see, religious institutions are used to getting their way by threatening us with fire and brimstone, so when all these threats have lost their bite thanks to a much more secular public and better scientific education, they can’t just force their beliefs on others anymore and play victim. It’s kind of like a bully who was put in his place crying to his parents that the principal won’t let him take the other kids’ lunch money anymore and gave him a detention for giving a wedgee on the playground. To the likes of Belsky and Burns, being told to abide by the rules which are not set up to favor their religion is a sign of hatred and bigotry because they’re not used to equal treatment but to preferential treatment. Modern societies are more multicultural, politically diverse, pluralistic, and more likely to be secular, trying to empower individuals to make their own decisions rather than allowing a religious organization to dictate morality and law via an edict. Fundamentalists can’t handle that because in their minds and guts, they’re absolutely, 115% sure they have been given the divine and infallible word of God and anyone who disagrees is a damned heretic. How dare the modern world take them less and less seriously? So they lash out against the secular public, picking a fight with reality, a fight they’re very unlikely to win…

[ illustration by Koren Shadmi ]

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  • TOM

    I’d like to note another thing, while i’m not the religious type, i wouldnt like to call myself atheist.

    “Christianity is the one religion left that can be hated without running afoul of political correctness”

    Because of reasons like that… I think overstressing so called “political correctness” isnt anything better then fundamentalist rule, in fact i think, they are the new fundamentalists, who try to infect schools with their agenda, i could say an exact example from my country. :(

    Luckily its a place dont bow to them anytime soon. :)

    Otherwise, i have to admit, catholicism and similar religions are giving to much bad answers, like the refusal of contraception, (male) priests cant have sexual life with woman, a precursory to pedophilia… :(

    In other regions, other religions hold their ground. While saud Arabia is a fanatic oppressing place, in Iran for example lots of girls are going to university.

    Things are changing, maybe not in a year, not in a decade, but they change, we can see many things already happening. I think the time will come, when the East will say, the West is backward…

  • Randy Salvador N. Ugay

    Atheism pervades our society because men by nature, don’t want personal accountability; that they can do anything in this world without fear nor remorse of the consequences; that it pains them to give up the caprices of the flesh, disguising the latter with declaration of found logic and enlightenment which are usually boorish, not encompassing and equally ignorant of absolute truth.

    Atheists are worst than religious hypocrites! They pretend to know the truth when even science can not declare the absolute. Human science is relative, inferring only from what men can observe and understand at “present time” and then declaring the observed fact as final authority. Scientists if honest, should accept that human methods are as imperfect as human mind and should not be the only basis of truth. There are more truths in Gandhi than in Einstein’s fallacious timespace continuum and yet many self-proclaimed geniuses ignore the fact that timespace is a hogwash, a mere math hack that doesnt represent a real physical phenomena. Physics should be all about physical changes in our physical world and not about the ability to maneuver math on the chalkboard! Scientists should find out the real physical cause of gravity and not postulate an unending equation of theoretical nonsense!

  • Greg Fish

    Randy, the notion that atheists think they can do whatever they want with no remorse or without facing any real consequences is utterly asinine. It’s not as if we don’t have jails or courts, and unlike theists, they have no one to ask for “eternal forgiveness,” so a life behind bars is essentially their one shot at existence wasted by hurting others. Being accountable to an entire society for your actions and having no excuse to an afterlife in some way, shape and form is hardly an immoral, remorseless existence and it would be great if you thought about that before regurgitating this tired old canard.

    Atheists are worst than religious hypocrites! They pretend to know the truth when even science can not declare the absolute.

    Science can declare something with 99.99% certainty. We can’t say that we know every last gravitational anomaly in the universe but I doubt that this level of uncertainty would make you question whether you can safely float down after jumping off a building or try to launch yourself into space with a trampoline. Science can tell you how unlikely holy text’s descriptions of the world and how it was created are and the answer is very. But hey, you found a way to feel superior to both religious fundamentalists and atheists so little things like taking a survey of the facts probably aren’t all that necessary to you.

    Scientists if honest, should accept that human methods are as imperfect as human mind and should not be the only basis of truth.

    Our methods are certainly imperfect but what is religion but a human attempt to make peace with the world as it is in absence of concrete evidence? If anything, it’s far more flawed than science because it doesn’t have falsifiability or peer review on its side. It’s called faith for a reason. And if all we have are our faith, hopes, and dreams, how can we form an objective, testable basis for establishing truth from them?

    There are more truths in Gandhi than in Einstein’s fallacious timespace continuum…

    This statement makes no logical sense. Gandhi was a social activist and philosopher who specialized in politics. Einstein was a physicist who studied cosmology. Trying to compare their spheres of expertise would be like equating the work of Turing with the prose of J.R. Tolkien. It’s like comparing apples to PVC pipes. And if you really do think that Einstein was wrong in his theories even after 70 years of experiments showing he was indeed right about the overwhelming majority of his work, please go on, publish a scientific rebuttal and wait until you’re called by the Nobel Committee. Though I should warn you that you may be waiting for quite a while, especially when we consider you’re ignorant of the fact that all the fancy math is tested in real world experiments, hence we still use telescopes and build particle colliders like the LHC.

  • Randy Salvador N. Ugay

    //Randy, the notion that atheists think they can do whatever they want with no remorse or without facing any real consequences is utterly asinine. It’s not as if we don’t have jails or courts, and unlike theists, they have no one to ask for “eternal forgiveness,” so a life behind bars is essentially their one shot at existence wasted by hurting others. Being accountable to an entire society for your actions and having no excuse to an afterlife in some way, shape and form is hardly an immoral, remorseless existence and it would be great if you thought about that before regurgitating this tired old canard.//

    Exactly, they have no one to ask for eternal forgiveness hence they can always try new things or even go beyond what is acceptable. An afterlife thinking is not an excuse for believers. Rather, they do better in this life because the know they should be responsible enough and ready when they face their forgiver. To think about this life only is safe yes, but sentience suggests this earth life is but a part of an existence atheists ignore because they are afraid to believe. Pathetic indeed!

    //Science can declare something with 99.99% certainty. We can’t say that we know every last gravitational anomaly in the universe but I doubt that this level of uncertainty would make you question whether you can safely float down after jumping off a building or try to launch yourself into space with a trampoline. Science can tell you how unlikely holy text’s descriptions of the world and how it was created are and the answer is very. But hey, you found a way to feel superior to both religious fundamentalists and atheists so little things like taking a survey of the facts probably aren’t all that necessary to you.//

    No. Science can not infer a direct 99.99% certainty. Have you seen all three sides of a coin at one time? Scientific facts are inferred indirectly by what we observe. Last time I checked, humans can not observe all 3 dimensions at a time. So you see, you love the facts so much and you forget that you’re a human being inferring an imperfect or indirect observation of things. Science..er, human science, is never absolute so don’t play like you guys know better. True religion uses science as a tool too. The creation argument is still an argument and your relative view of who’s winning is not really important.

    //Our methods are certainly imperfect but what is religion but a human attempt to make peace with the world as it is in absence of concrete evidence? If anything, it’s far more flawed than science because it doesn’t have falsifiability or peer review on its side. It’s called faith for a reason. And if all we have are our faith, hopes, and dreams, how can we form an objective, testable basis for establishing truth from them?//

    True religion does not ignore evidences but use it to further strengthen its claims. You guys are the ones alienating the two and not believers like me. Reason is not faith. Reason alone will never arrive to a full understanding of the truth because human reason, the phrase per se is made arrogant but always lacking by people like of you. Human reason is imperfect hence you got an imperfect tool, and here you are acting like you have a better answer. Have you heard all theists proclaiming they don’t need science though lacking as it seems?

    //his statement makes no logical sense. Gandhi was a social activist and philosopher who specialized in politics. Einstein was a physicist who studied cosmology. Trying to compare their spheres of expertise would be like equating the work of Turing with the prose of J.R. Tolkien. It’s like comparing apples to PVC pipes. And if you really do think that Einstein was wrong in his theories even after 70 years of experiments showing he was indeed right about the overwhelming majority of his work, please go on, publish a scientific rebuttal and wait until you’re called by the Nobel Committee. Though I should warn you that you may be waiting for quite a while, especially when we consider you’re ignorant of the fact that all the fancy math is tested in real world experiments, hence we still use telescopes and build particle colliders like the LHC.//

    Logical sense to you means the sun’s corona is hotter than its surface? Highly illogical but we accept it because we can’t come up with an explanation. How many unsolved mysteries in physics do we have and yet you and maybe Einstein are acting like you have it all figured out? This is what I call arrogance, its not even an intellectual one. Einstein’s spacetime baby is fallacious but he deliberately believed that it’s not. He knew that time as the fourth dimension would produce a frozen world line, similar to Parmenide’s cube universe where nothing moves. Yet he chose to ignore it or the scientific peer review would shelve his works. Study the equation of velocity if you have time and you’ll see that time there is self-referential, meaning, a mere math parameter because in the real world, there is no space, there is no time. Only particles, their interactions and properties in the fundamental level- the rest, hogwash being fed by these self-proclaimed guardians of science, charlatans in the high places who waste millions of dollars of tax money for their narcissistic math hack!

    Physics is not math. Math is asking for physical explanations of a phenomena. There is a real physical cause behind gravity that honest scientists should seek and not to resort merely on geometry and afterward canonizing it.

  • Greg Fish

    Exactly, they have no one to ask for eternal forgiveness hence they can always try new things or even go beyond what is acceptable.

    That’s a non-sequtur and an arbitrary one at that. Remember that believers used their faith to justify owning other human beings and it was considered acceptable and even proper to subjugate others based on the color of their skin or their socioeconomic background. Islamic fundamentalists think its proper to menace those who disagree with them and threaten them with torture and death. They did not ask forgiveness for this, they simply did it.

    Last time I checked, humans can not observe all 3 dimensions at a time.

    So you can only see objects head on and if they turn to the side of you, they disappear? Can you not see objects moving through space and changing over time? Actually you can see four dimensions at the same time. This is pretty rudimentary physics and geometry.

    Logical sense to you means the sun’s corona is hotter than its surface?

    It’s not hotter, it has a higher temperature because the ions in the corona move much, much faster than the ions on the surface. However, in the corona, they’re far, far less dense, therefore, they can’t transfer their energy in the form of heat. Considering your alarming lack of grasp on very basic science, I don’t think you’re in a position to judge who is and who isn’t on the right track with their theories.

  • AB5445

    Good, we have the athiest and the thiest vs. One believe he was created from something(God) the other believe he was created by nothing (Big bang,,,). Whatever are between nothing and something makes you to defend your overcrowded mind in order to proclaim yourself better and a winner over the other. In the end, (whatever that is or whenever that will be) you are both losser cause

  • Greg Fish

    Well, AB5445, as long as you get to feel superior to both of us…