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Hopeful Predictions (following the collapse of religion):
1. The first openly atheist U.S. president will be elected.
2. Political candidates and incumbents will no longer find it necessary to pretend to be Christians (or Jews or Muslims—anything but atheists) to be elected. Faith-professing candidates will be dismissed as oddly uninformed and therefore unqualified to hold public office, as a Flat-Earther seeking election would be regarded today.
3. The U.S. Congress will rescind or modify laws that encode religious ideology.
4. Religion will disappear as a source of polarization between political parties, which then will be able to debate the relative merits of conservative and liberal fiscal policies and other complex issues rationally, free of the disruptive noise of irrelevant religion-based biases. Compromise in the interest of the common good will become politically acceptable once the show-stopping claim that "God is on our side" is no longer asserted.
5. The nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will openly acknowledge their atheism, and the era of unconstitutional religious intrusion into law will come to a close.
6. Marriage, a religious rite, will no longer be recognized by government, and will be replaced by the civil union, a secular agreement between adult partners for tax and legal purposes. Civil ceremonies of commitment to partners' social bonds will continue, but without reference to religion.
7. God-believers in large numbers will disavow their beliefs, just as the number of Flat-Earth-believers declined precipitously following the first moon landing in 1969. Pockets of god worshipers will remain in isolated anti-intellectual communities, just as some Flat-Earthers persist today in conspiracy-minded cults.
8. The final Pope will resign and the Vatican will be repurposed as a magnificent art and history museum.
9. Radical Islamic terrorism, Christian militarism, execution of apostates, persecution of gays, and other forms of religion-inspired violence will cease.
10. Forced marriage, genital mutilation, honor killing, and other forms of violence toward women will cease as the religious basis for gender discrimination is debunked.
11. Evidence that religion is man-made and has no basis in reality will become overwhelmingly obvious once the governmental and civil structures that perpetuate supernatural myths are dismantled. In reflective moments, formerly religious people will exclaim, "How could I have believed that silly myth!"
12. People will recognize that social ethics and morality are unrelated to religious belief, particularly to the reward-punishment inducements of believing in heaven and hell. The notion that people cannot be good without god will be unveiled as an absurdity. Secular humanists will be recognized as among the most ethical and socially responsible members of society.
13. Religious holdouts will be regarded with indulgent bemusement, as is an immature 10-year-old child today who insists Santa Claus is real.
These changes will be achieved without governmental coercion—freedom of religion and freedom from religion will be preserved. Rather, the power of reason will win greater support among the electorate, which will choose secular leaders rather than religious ideologues. Universal science education in schools and in public media will strengthen the ability of citizens to consider public policy issues free of the distorting lens of religious belief.
To be sure, religion is not the only cause of human malaise. Dictators, despots, and demagogues will continue to rise to power, with or without using religion to underpin their regimes. Nationalism, economic greed, and revenge for past atrocities are secular motives that will survive the demise of religion and will continue to cause suffering. However, I expect that science-based education will accelerate the decline and eventual collapse of religion and other forms of magical thinking, which will serve humanitarian interests.
We sandal-clad, unarmed foot soldiers of the Reason Revolution anticipate that in due time, albeit long after our deaths, religion will collapse under the weight of its own illogic. For the first time in human history, the world will be largely rid of the blight of religion and the intolerance, sectarian hatred, and violence it so often spawns.
That can only happen when secular education (Islamic madrassas, Jewish yeshivas, and Christian bible colleges do not qualify) and science education, in particular, is accessible worldwide. Not everyone must be a professional scientist, but everyone should have a science-based understanding of the natural world and its inhabitants, and how to make reliable decisions based on critical evaluation of observational evidence.
The Reason Revolution is among the longest revolutions in history. Galileo's challenge to Pope Urban in the early 17th century might be considered the opening skirmish, and the decisive global collapse of religion might be a century or two in the future. Based on that prediction, the Revolution is only two-thirds complete. The present generation's patient persistence in promulgating Reason will benefit our descendants, who will enjoy living in secular, humanistic, humanitarian societies governed by political leaders who serve the natural needs of citizens during their lifetimes, not collude with their religious counterparts in promising heavenly rewards hereafter.
The era when people were bamboozled into worshiping and sacrificing to nonexistent deities, expecting to be rewarded in nonexistent afterlives, will be studied in future history books. Those books will contain chapters on animism, shamanism, polytheism, and the monotheistic Abrahamic religions. The final chapter will describe the collapse of supernaturalism in general and theism in particular. Future students will be dumbfounded that people of our time made grand advancements in science yet held primitive, anti-science beliefs. That paradoxical irony will be studied in their psychology class.