I just read the Huffington Post's piece Atheism to Defeat Religion by 2038, and thought it was worth commenting on. The author, Nigel Barber, has his Ph.D. in Biopsychology and writes the Psychology Today's blog The Human Beast. The fact that he writes for Psychology Today does give me pause, but the basic premise of the article is well known in godless circles. In fact, I have referenced Tomas Rees of the blog Ephiphenom (specifically the post Why some countries are more religious than others) a number of times here and on other sites when commenting on this topic.
Oh, what's the premise I speak of? It's the secularization thesis.
The view that religious belief will give way to atheism is known as the secularization thesis. The specific version that I favor (1) 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. (from the HuffPo article)To boil it down into one sentence: The closer your society is to the Iron Age, the higher chance it is going cleave to Iron Age beliefs.
Epiphenom states the same hypothesis.
I pulled together data on frequency of prayer from over 50 countries, and found that countries where people prayed more frequently had lower life expectancy and scored lower on the Peace Index. They also had higher infant mortality, homicide rates, and levels of corruption, and had more AIDS and more abortion. That's pretty conclusive.
What's more, countries with worse societal health also had more income inequality. In fact, the relationship between income inequality and societal health was similar to that between religiosity and societal health. Income inequality can indeed serve as a 'barometer' of overall societal health, as it relates to religiosity.This, of course, offers some insight into why America is so crazy about Yahweh when you compare it to other industrialized countries like Japan, Britain, Germany, France, etc. They have a good social safety net while states like Texas have 30% of its population without insurance. (Many of Purgatory's regular readers will notice a few of my comedic bits revolve around the joke that God and his followers want us all to be miserable because it's good for business.)
Dr. Barber gets to the year of atheist victory by using two methods. The first is based on nine majority-atheist countries. He then extrapolated the tipping point for their turn to atheism relative to wealth and exactly 50% of the population disbelieving in God . Using this method the year of "atheist victory" (the more I write that term the more I hate it, BTW) globally is 2035. The second method uses the metric of wealth against the point when 50% of the population state that religion is no longer important to them. This method brings us to 2041. Dr Barber averages the two numbers and he gets 2038.
I'm going to use that crass, but funny scene from Pulp Fiction to sum up my thoughts on this topic. Note the last words said in this clip.
And, yes, Abraham Lincoln's quote of "The chicken is the smartest of all animals because she does not cackle until all the eggs have hatched," is more poetic than "Well, let's not start sucking each other's dicks quite yet!" The principle is the same.
I squirm when thinking about the the hyperbolic title of Dr Barber's post of atheist victory. Atheist victory by 2038 assumes that there are no Black Swan events (really, really bad things, like 9/11 the Black Death, the Great Depression, etc) which could cause the march of so-called progress to turn into the death of reason and another Age of Faith. Atheist victory by 2038 also neglects to notice that God and his followers play dirty. How many authoritarian regimes are held together by force and a small but dedicated elite (ahem, all of them). Global warming is going to bring about a smaller portion of the planet's surface capable of being farmed and less habitable areas. This sort of chaos amongst poorer countries, which are less capable of dealing with environmental disasters, offer a petridish where the fanatical God meme can grow.
Let's not start sucking each other's dicks quite yet.
Enlightenment values are in a knife fight with Iron Age ones.
The outcome is far from certain.
This is Purgatory.