Recently, I came across two interesting articles about the causes and possible future of religion and atheism…
One from Salon.com about how the Christian Right in the US may be the cause of the rise of atheism (LINK).
The other article, by Nigel Barber, was from the Huffington Post, arguing that in 2041, religious belief is a minority in the US and elsewhere, whereas secularism is the majority (LINK).
Now, first of all, I don’t believe Barber’s “thesis” is unconditionally true. It may hold true for Western countries, but in Africa and many other parts of the world, religion is still a major force and there are no signs that religion will decline in those areas any way soon. Moreover, I don’t think that secularism will ever really win. One sees in Western countries that even though institutionalized religion is on the decline, but alternative spiritualities are more popular than ever – and especially among the well-educated!
However, both articles are interesting in that they point us to the source of secularism: religion itself. Religion itself is a driving force for secularism, and especially conservative, right-wing or “orthodox” or dogmatic forms of religion. This is an interesting idea, and actually not completely unfamiliar among philosophers of religion. It is something to think about, since it has many aspects. E.g. religion can be a cause of secularism (in that those who cut themselves loose from dogmatic forms of religion tend to “convert” to dogmatic forms of secularism), but also because religion in itself has an “atheistic dynamic” (e.g. negative theology that is extremely critical towards more positive forms of religion).
Another question that fascinates me is this: what will happen to atheism when institutionalized religion is gone? Does not atheism or secularism have a dialectic relationship to religion? Will atheism disappear when religion does? And can we even think such a possibility?
I hope to come back to this idea soon…