Saturday, October 27, 2012

2012: Non-Belief Reaches New Highs in the U.S. and Internationally

We've seen many demographic changes in both religious belief in the U.S. and globally and the composition of those who attend services across all faiths.  Based on the available data, I conclude that we are living in a time where the trend line is moving towards detachment from organized faith. While, at the same time, we're seeing more people come out as non-believers.  Individuals are calling themselves atheists, agnostics, humanists, non-theists, secularists - there are as many names for non-belief as there are perspectives on what it means to live godless.

The 2012 WIN-Gallup Poll shows just how changes in the acceptance of faith and personal identity have impacted not only the secular world by organized religion as well.  Perhaps the most important aspect of the global trend in non-belief is that the numbers show non-believers are young.  So while atheism is a movement for everyone, in actuality it is a youth movement!  Hence, groups like American Atheists, CFI, SCA, FFRF, AAI and the Student Secular Alliance are groups bursting with youthful energy, not unlike that of other past and present secular human and civil rights movements. This is from the report:

"(While) 59% of the world said that they think of themselves as religious person, 23% think of themselves as not religious whereas 13% think of themselves as convinced atheists.  However, when we compare this to the Irish population, only 47% consider themselves religious, placing Ireland low on the index of being religious coming in at position 43 out of 57 countries."

We're seeing a global rejection of the supernatural in our lives without losing our humanity. For centuries, the idea that morality required belief in a personal god was shared by not only the Abrahamic traditions, but in many non-Western religious philosophies as well.  However, with the rise of non-belief comes a game change not just in philosophy, which is firmly connected to rationality, but also in moral and humanistic action to change and heal the world without the need for god or guidance from any religious order or doctrine.

I would argue that the changes we're seeing in how individuals view faith around the world is part of a natural progression from rejecting religious dogma to acceptance of concrete rationality. Basically, we know that as science and technology improves lives around the globe that it answers questions which we've asked since before antiquity. It also creates a more inter-connected populous reliant on each other for survival than the supernatural. In essence, science and technology has and will continue to replace religious spirituality.

We've also well documented the stages of how humans have interacted with the sacred since before our current species ever created the first City-States. As a group over the last 175,000 years, we've gone from animism, the oldest form of spirituality, to polytheism and then finally to monotheism. This last theistic way of being in the world only became popular within the last 5,000 years. In my opinion, as we've gone from gods everywhere to multiple specific gods, to only one god, the next and final phase will be no god at all.  This, while remembering that atheist philosophy isn't new. Indeed, the world is catching up to it and this rejection of faith is growing and changing society in big ways around the planet.

So if the global atheist and secular humanist movements are truly each a paradigm shift not only in personal philosophy, but of global youth, technology, education and income, then each trend will lend itself to building the movement for the future for all of humanity. This is something that non-believers, regardless of what we may call ourselves, should take much positive pride in creating and watch happen. While those of faith will  become only more socially detached, radical and louder as their numbers shrink and their message falls on fewer ears.

We've seen this religious radicalization grow in many parts of the world and certainly in the United States and the Middle-East. In the U.S., the Evangelical movement is actually small but they are sincere in accepting the bible as literal truth. They are politically connected and well organized, radicalizing and manipulating the agenda of the Republican party for the last 40 years. In the Middle-East, the rise of radicalism post 9/11 has been rejected by those who protested non-violently in the Arab Spring. Sadly, this movement seems to have been co-opted by more conservative elements of the Muslim community in their native lands. But we also must remember that although Islam is the fastest growing religion, it has earned that title because of birth-rates and not necessarily converts to the faith.

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