RR Excerpt #14: The Collapse of Religion

This is excerpt #14 from The Reason Revolution: Atheism, Secular Humanism, and the Collapse of Religion, a short, FREE e-book available at Smashwords, Goodreads, and Amazon

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The time will come—perhaps within the next century in North America—when a critical mass of the populace will recognize the folly of religious belief. A national and global consensus will form that religion is bunk. The scale will tip. Atheism will become the common understanding regarding whether deities and afterlives are real. Some isolated contrarians will persist, just as Flat-Earthers persist today, but the paradigm will have shifted. (Recall that the Flat Earth was the prevailing theory before early scientists discovered our planet is a sphere.)

American society will then enter the post-Christian era, which has already begun in parts of Western Europe where the majority of the population of some countries is nonreligious. When the global tipping point is reached, the planet's entire population will enter the post-religion era. From that time forward, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and other superstitions will be viewed as similarly quaint and intellectually primitive as sun-god worship is today. Democratic governments will follow their people—autocratic governments might lag since dictators often use religion to control their subjects.

That paradigm shift might happen surprisingly quickly, at least in Western democracies in which the penalty for apostasy is modest. American public opinion about same-sex marriage changed in only a very few years—over 50% of Americans now (2014) support equal rights for gays. Discriminatory laws began to change quickly once the tipping point was reached.

Similarly, once atheism becomes the majority public opinion, lawmakers will feel sufficiently safe politically to come out of the closet themselves and begin to unwind the accumulated intrusions of religion into American government listed above. Truly secular government can then be achieved, as envisioned by America's Founding Fathers, several of whom were atheists.

Muslim theocracies, however, might take much longer to dismantle the political and societal structures that enforce Islam. After all, in countries like Saudi Arabia where apostasy is punished by death, what official would dare be first to suggest that Allah is a big lie?

My optimism for such a secular future is tempered by the fact that humans have invented tens of thousands of religions during their history as a species, which implies propensity for religiosity. Therefore, we should expect subpopulations of scientifically ignorant believers to persist, led by self-serving demagogues adhering to religious myths despite removal of the governmental and societal supports they now enjoy.

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