The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion

Apr 23, 2016

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You don’t usually think of churches as going out of business, but it happens. In March, driven by parishioner deaths and lack of interest, the U.K. Mennonites held their last collective service.

It might seem easy to predict that plain-dressing Anabaptists—who follow a faith related to the Amish—would become irrelevant in the age of smartphones, but this is part of a larger trend. Around the world, when asked about their feelings on religion, more and more people are responding with a meh.

The religiously unaffiliated, called “nones,” are growing significantly. They’re the second largest religious group in North America and most of Europe. In the United States, nones make up almost a quarter of the population. In the past decade, U.S. nones have overtaken Catholics, mainline protestants, and all followers of non-Christian faiths.

A lack of religious affiliation has profound effects on how people think about death, how they teach their kids, and even how they vote.  (Watch The Story of God With Morgan Freeman for more about how different religions understand God and creation.)

There have long been predictions that religion would fade from relevancy as the world modernizes, but all the recent surveys are finding that it’s happening startlingly fast. France will have a majority secular population soon. So will the Netherlands and New Zealand. The United Kingdom and Australia will soon lose Christian majorities. Religion is rapidly becoming less important than it’s ever been, even to people who live in countries where faith has affected everything from rulers to borders to architecture.

But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)


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5 comments on “The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion

  • @OP – But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)

    Secularism is a feature of the educated, well informed in socially supported societies.
    Religion is a feature of the ignorant bigotry of pseudo-knowledge, backwardness, and poverty.
    Poverty of both mind and body for the majority of the population.



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  • The way this author refers to Dawkins and Harris as misogynists immediately set the tone for me. He lost total credibility. Either he hasn’t read the works of either of these gentlemen, or he is just another puppet for Fox News, pushing a specific agenda now that they have purchased National Geographic.



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  • @OP – link – Some of the humanist movement’s most visible figures aren’t known for their respect toward women. Prominent atheists Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have awful reputations for misogyny, as does the late Christopher Hitchens. Bill Maher, the comedian and outspoken atheist, is no (nonexistent) angel, either.

    The leaders of Atheist Alliance International, Dawkins Foundation, and Center for Inquiry who I talked to were all well aware of the demographic shortcomings, and they’re working on it: All of the leaders I spoke to were women

    The author seems to be parroting rubbish about leading atheists and women. Bullard seems to be unable to mentally connect the pieces I have highlighted in the quoted paragraphs.

    Even people who are white, male, and educated may fear the stigma of being labeled a nonbeliever. A white dentist at the CFI’s Drinking Skeptically event didn’t want to go on the record out of a fear that patients wouldn’t want an atheist working on their teeth.

    Or more accurately, dentists and women with young children – fear malicious attacks on their careers, businesses, and families, by those “all loving” believers!

    “We have this stigma that we’re combative, that we’re arrogant, that we just want to provoke religious people,” Thomas with Black Nonbelievers, Inc. says.

    A repetitively preached stigma concocted as a projection of the combative aggressive evangelism which plays the victim pretends rebuttals of their demands, are personal attacks on themselves, rather than rejection of their domineering demands!

    She’s working on changing that, and increasing the visibility of nonbelievers of color, too.

    Eventually attempts at ostracising non-believers will back-fire on those attempting it, as numbers of humanists and atheists increase to larger proportions of populations.

    The assertive ignorant usually regard the educated who resist their delusion based demands, as arrogant and combative, but as public confrontations progressively lead to their humiliation, they will eventually learn to keep their ignorance to themselves, and may even seek to be educated!



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  • Two quick points:
    First, Bullard mistakes privilege for advantage. Awareness of germ theory is advantageous to a person, whereas the restricted availability of germ theory knowledge to a select group reasonably counts as privilege. Similarly, awareness of reality being free of spirits, jinns and the supernatural is an advantage to a person. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens have fought to share this awareness/advantage with all, the proof of which are the hundreds of books, articles and Youtube videos created by them so that this advantage might be shared by all. One is clearly privileged to live where professions of atheism are not punished and information is more readily available, but that is not at all the point that Bullard makes. Bullard asserts that atheism itself is a privilege. By that standard, every advantageous growth in human awareness would be defined as privilege. Fair arbiters everywhere should see his error.
    The deeper, more important point to make is this: It is objectively false to label Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens as misogynists, especially in the context of atheist thought. The major religions all contain doctrines and dogmas of female subordination. No such subordination is either advocated or countenanced by atheistic humanism or these three persons. Dawkins, Harris et al. are attempting to break the chains of bronze age oppression for half of humanity. They deserve better than Bullard’s baseless charges of misogyny, and members of the National Geographic Society deserve better from National Geographic magazine.
    (Note to the reader: I’ve posted these concerns as well to the staff at National Geographic.)



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  • How can National Geographic editors allow bigoted drivel like this

    “Some of the humanist movement’s most visible figures aren’t known for their respect toward women. Prominent atheists Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have awful reputations for misogyny, as does the late Christopher Hitchens. Bill Maher, the comedian and outspoken atheist, is no (nonexistent) angel, either.”

    I think RDFRS should make a public issue of it and gain publicity.



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