The Inevitable Growth of Atheism: Six Predictions

Aug 25, 2015


By Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola

Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Faith in America: Humanism. Read other perspectives here.

Given the obvious and continued decline of religion in the U.S., as reported in the recentPew Study, the question is not if religion is declining but what shape the decline is taking and how it will play out. We offer six trends to watch — and a final proviso.

1) The internet will continue to influence falling way from religion, and it will snowball, since the new transparency penetrates almost all firewalls. For instance, the Mormons are confronted by DNA evidence challenging their 19th-century claims of the lost tribes of Israel being American Indians and the Roman Catholic Church can no longer bury its secrets. The internet also enables new institutions, such as The Clergy Project, offering a private meeting place for non-believing clergy no matter where they live. (In 2007 we couldn’t find anything on the internet about non-believing clergy and now Google shows 844,000 results.)

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5 comments on “The Inevitable Growth of Atheism: Six Predictions

  • The readily available information on the internet and modern high speed availability of news, makes refuting false claims and exposing charlatans, much easier.

    The increase in science education with the teaching of reasoning and scientific methodology, provides many tools for separating evidence based history from mythology and fanciful claims.

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  • The video by John Oliver was terrific !! These “fakes” need to be exposed in every way possible. We have a TV station here in the mountains of Virginia which features several of them. They constantly invoke the “planting a seed” in their programs and brag about their jet planes which we know were paid for with money they have extorted from poor widows living on social security and coal miners pensions. It’s A DAMM SHAME! G. Lee Hearl

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  • The Proviso, at end of article, provides food for thought.

    To wit – it puts forth that a global disaster of any kind, causing panic and fright, could reverse the non-religious trend – clutching at straws for comfort. A reboot, loop-de-loop, of a dark age, again struggling to enlightenment.

    The “nones” and other stepping stones to frank atheism will grow as the stigma of not belonging to religious institutions decline.


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  • Could anything turn the declining curve of religion around? Yes,
    unfortunately. A global plague, a world war fought over water or oil,
    the collapse of the internet and power grid, or some as yet unimagined

    Far more likely, I would say, would be the subversion of education. Those too stupid even to know that they are stupid are in many ways ascendent in the US voting public. Of course, in most cases this results from a lack not of intelligence but of education. All those poor Republicans, persuaded to vote against their own interests through emotionally charged, intuitional arguments bereft of logic, factual support or even internal consistency. They do not know how to learn.

    The efficacy of the internet may be overestimated here. The assumption being that convinced Mormons or Roman Catholics will recognise the primacy of scientific evidence or even brute fact over their churches’ mythos or casuist arguments; over bluster and whine.

    What passes for education in small or isolated communities is often concerned with structuring rather than instructing children and, as we know, such cognitive dissonance is extremely difficult to escape later on. This will influence people’s behaviour in searches and the threads they follow. Having no criteria for rationality, logic or proper ethical judgement and little to no understanding of scientific method many will remain insular but in the context of world insularities rather than local physical ones. QED (quite easily demonstrated :o) cf., the www.

    Secular and integrated education of children is the essential factor in the maintenance of civilisation. The internet makes that more easy but not necessarily more likely until the autonomy of children and their right to a good education unimpeded by parental preferences is recognised in law.

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