What Will The World Look Like With More Atheists?
It’s kind of funny. Pew is reporting the ‘nones’ is the fastest growing religious group, more atheists are taking to blogging, atheism it seems is regularly in the news. People are talking about it so this indicates that the number of atheists must be growing. It’s hard to get good statistics when a lot of people are not willing to come ‘out of the religion closet’ so to speak.
I’m not a sociologist so you probably shouldn’t take this post as ‘etched in stone’ or something like that. We can look at the recent past and see how other social changes, big and small, have arrived and the shape that acceptance of these changes took. A gentle change was women in the work place. More or less, up till WWII there were not that many women in the work place compared to today in the USA. The war effort required more workers than were available so they started working and doing jobs that were traditionally only for men.
This change half way reversed itself after the war, but the idea of women doing what were men’s jobs became real and slowly the changes began happening. Women’s rights and equal pay for equal work have done a lot. This change is not yet complete, so we know that some change can take a very long time.
Another small change that took awhile is that crazy rock-n-roll music. It burst into the public conscience and paved the way for other genres of music. It never became ubiquitous. That is to say that while we see it everywhere, it did not replace anything. It merely fought for and won a place at the table. By having a place at the table we no longer have to pretend that those ‘hippies’ are bad or that rock-n-roll is from the devil. A really big Thank You to Frank Zappa for that. There were others of course, but go watch some video clips of him going to congress. Now, there are death metal bands in places where it can get you killed. I’ve posted about this before. From this we can see that some change will not cause replacement but simply add new dimensions to society at large.
And those new dimensions will lead to sparks of change elsewhere, sometimes all over the world.
We can examine the causes of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and the winding path of civil rights in the USA to see where that has gone. It is a change that is also not complete. Sometimes, it seems that you get 80% of the work done quickly but the other 20% seems to take forever to complete. That is just me trying to wedge the 80/20 rule into this and is not reflective of the actual values one might assign for these things.
So what will this look like for atheism and religion? I can only guess. It’s that time of year when people like predict events for the coming year. To that end I think that:
- The nones and religion will continue to be in the news.
- It will continue to be easier to talk about not believing
- Religious folk will continue to make religion look bigoted and hateful
- Religious folk will continue to demonstrate that being religious does not make you a good person
- A handful of non-believers will find clever ways to make religion look as stupid as it really is
- William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument will be refuted in a bright public light (Piers Morgan perhaps)
- Those folk who were counting on the end of the world this year will invent some new disaster to bring the end times
- The SCOTUS will finally begin moving to rule on the issue of ‘teaching the controversy’ in science class
- As the wars wind down in the middle east, there will be Muslim groups that try their hand at shooting 15 year old girls in the head or something similar to it.
- The Dali Llama will embarrass himeself – again
- The Pope will issue more apologies for the church being wrong over the years
- (I hope) The RCC will recant on their stance against birth control, specifically condoms and other means of protection during sexual intercourse
- The people of Ireland will find a voice for atheism
- It’s hard to say how many more priests and pastors will be highlighted for sex crimes
- (I hope) The IRS will move to remove tax exempt status from churches which flagrantly violate the law
- Mainline evangelical apologists and pastors will begin to be seen as the other side of the coin that is the WBC
Those are not really predictions as much as they are what I think will happen as the volume of ‘nones’ grows and they begin finding their voice in the public square. I could be totally wrong but I think this change will be one of those slow 80/20 things and we’ll have to witness it in slow motion. I think that the Internet will continue to be the crucible for these changes.
A long time ago, the world was big and society was small. There were small tribes and lots of land. Religion got a foothold back then. It made sense and seemed to have explanatory power. Then societies/tribe grew and the world shrank. We could bomb our neighbors and fight to take their resources and religion kept hold, trying to control the world as though it was big with small societies still. Now the world is small and societies are big. The Internet is slowly changing all cultures into one big melting pot. As America was 200 years ago, the Internet is today. Instead of moving to a land with the society you want to live in, the Internet brings that society to your living room where ever you live. Social change is happening on a global scale now, no longer constrained to the geography of newspaper circulations or political boundaries. This will color and shape the changes being brought by the ‘nones’ as we move through 2013.
We have seen the past few years called ‘The Information Age’ but it is only just now truly beginning. The ‘cloud’ that has been touted for the last few years is now becoming reality. Sharing information and meta-information about information is just getting started. Many of the fears that previous generations had about science and technology will come to fruition and wash over society in ways that were not envisioned. Sure, some will not be good ways, but most will be. The bad stuff is already happening – using technology for war and oppression is the first wave of implementation and always has been. The telescope was not offered up by Galileo as a tool for searching the heavens but as a tool for finding enemy soldiers. Looking at the heavens would have got him killed. Society continues to misuse tools as they are invented and will continue to do so. The US TSA has millions of dollars worth of scanners which are sitting idle while they could be used for new medical scanning techniques. I sincerely hope that in the coming year more of us come to our senses and demand that all this hardware and technology be used for good, and be removed from service as tools of conspiracy, spying, and oppression.
We are so close to having medical tricorders that it makes me giddy some days. I want to see medical equipment cheap and cheerful so that we can avoid medical catastrophes in the third world and reduce costs for medical treatment everywhere.
To achieve any of that we need to get rid of religion’s grip on governments and the public square. I hope that in 2013 we loosen that grip or remove it altogether.
Happy New Year