Pharyngula

A heartening graph

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Some people like to claim that religion is here to stay and we can never hope to change it.

Yes, we can.

Comments

  1. #1 Dennis N
    October 23, 2008

    The Catholic line fails to take into account all the non-practicing adherents, who really aren’t all that Catholic.

  2. #2 DAvD
    October 23, 2008

    Interesting that our gain seems to have come almost exclusively at the expense of the protestants.

  3. #3 Shaden Freud
    October 23, 2008

    The real demographic trend data I’d like to see are those for fundamentalists – or to a rough approximation, Southern Baptists et al., and other folks celebrating the universe’s birthday today.

  4. #4 Kel
    October 23, 2008

    It is somewhat heartening, though there’s still a long way to go.

  5. #5 Kytescall
    October 23, 2008

    “The Catholic line fails to take into account all the non-practicing adherents, who really aren’t all that Catholic.”

    I agree. There are a lot of people out there who are what my mother (who was raised Catholic) calls “Tribal Catholics” – that is, people who label themselves Catholic pretty much because they feel that it’s part of their family heritage, and not necessarily because they really believe the doctrine.

  6. #6 oldtree
    October 23, 2008

    I wonder how you remove religious makeup? Do you use cold cream or some kind of cracker extract that defoliates or exfoliates, or…. aha. agent orange glow.

  7. #7 Katkinkate
    October 23, 2008

    I wonder what happened in the early 90’s to kick off the up-trend. Any ideas?

  8. #8 mess
    October 23, 2008

    We do have a long way to go, but if the none line can get to about 35%, then I think there will be enough momentum to start making some real changes. At that point, the negative connotations will begin to dissipate. I hope.

  9. #9 Stark
    October 23, 2008

    I feel good to be one of those protestants turned non-belief. :)
    Yay I’m a statistic!

  10. #10 Janet
    October 23, 2008

    That seems to imply that the only religions that count are the Catholic and Protestant branches of Christianity and Atheism, when this country and world are made up of much more than that.

  11. #11 Jadehawk
    October 23, 2008

    well, let’s hope we don’t fall into another Dark Ages before we get anywhere significant… it seems that in history, the most enlightened periods are often followed by being overrun by (militant, and better organized) barbaric, religious hordes :-p

  12. #12 Richard Wolford
    October 23, 2008

    I wonder what happened in the early 90’s to kick off the up-trend. Any ideas?

    The Internet, IMO. When the web first came to light, I was convinced that it would be the fall of religion. I had already seen the power of the Internet itself, but the web really brought it all together. Religion needs to keep people stupid and away from other opinions, which is impossible when other opinions are a click away.

  13. #13 Jeff Milner
    October 23, 2008

    I wonder what happened in the early 90’s to kick off the up-trend. Any ideas?

    The Internet (the world wide web to be specific).

  14. #14 llewelly
    October 23, 2008

    The real demographic trend data I’d like to see are those for fundamentalists – or to a rough approximation, Southern Baptists et al., and other folks celebrating the universe’s birthday today.

    Do they celebrate it on October 23rd?
    They shouldn’t unless they’re still on the Julian Calendar (as they might well be …), which Bishop James Ussher used. On the Gregorian Calendar, I’m not sure what date it should be – the adjustment should be 15 days per 2000 years, thus, 45 days, thus, September 8th. But Wikipedia says September 21. I must be missing some ugly detail.

    Anyway, fine joke, but none of the creationists I’ve known (and I grew up with plenty) ever knew Ussher settled on the 23rd of October. But they were all Mormons, and thus not convinced all those durn begats were translated correctly. Hell, even Ussher was doubtful about the exact number of begats, and the amount of time indicated by each begat.

  15. #15 SteveC
    October 23, 2008

    ^^^ Jeff Milner’s
    >> I wonder what happened in the early 90’s
    >> to kick off the up-trend. Any ideas?
    >
    > The Internet (the world wide web to
    > be specific).

    Exactly right, I came here to say this.

    Prior to this, the believer who was beginning to doubt had no one to turn to no way to find others — or even if there *were* others — who thought similarly.

    In the ’90s, it became a matter of typing a few words into altavista, dogpile, yahoo, google, etc. and it was immediatly obvious that to a doubter that at least they were not entirely alone.

    This ability is unprecedented in history.

    I predict the surviving religions will have invariably declared the internet to be a deadly sin.

    Looking on the bright side of that prediction… good riddance.

  16. #16 BobC
    October 23, 2008

    That graph is going to look a lot different 100 years from now. Another century of scientific progress is going to (almost) completely destroy the God invention.

    As long as there are morons in the world there will be religious people. But a century from now religious people will be ashamed to admit they believe in the magic fairy. They will keep their stupidity in their closet to avoid being ridiculed and laughed at.

  17. #17 Robin
    October 23, 2008

    I welcome any positive news like this, but perhaps I’ve become jaded over time. A lot of people I know are liberal to moderate, but still can’t get away from religious thinking. Many of them are good and wonderful friends who are liberal, open-minded, and not religious… and are still against gay marriage. Sometimes on vaguely religious grounds because they’re used to that way of thinking, sometimes on the basis of ignorance of homosexuality, and nothing to do with religion.

    So a drop in religion doesn’t necessarily equate to a corresponding increase in rationality, liberalism, or whatever you want to call it. The lapsed catholic may not suddenly be in favor of abortion.

    What is needed is a “rationality index” that can assess people’s points of view independent of religion. It can ask questions about social issues, political stances, yes, religion too, and whatever metrics are deemed useful to determine one’s outlook in life. Then as religion falls (which is always good news) we can also assess the changes in people’s attitudes, which is probably changing at a different rate.

  18. #18 Zeno
    October 23, 2008

    I concur on that Catholic angle. There’s an American schism between the increasingly right-wing Church leadership and mainstream Catholics whose opinions are essentially the same as the general populace on abortion, birth control, etc. The former are not quite ready to drive the latter out of the pews and into the streets because the Church would hate to lose half of its paying membership overnight. Instead Catholic bishops and noisy laymen like Bill Donohue prefer to pretend they speak for “all” Catholics. Nope. Not even close.

  19. #19 Kel
    October 23, 2008

    Now that’s change we can believe in

  20. #20 eddie
    October 23, 2008

    I thought we’d sorted this. (I don’t have the link to hand but will in the morning)
    There’s a vast difference between what religious organisations claim; that about 85% of the population are religous, the 40 odd % that self identify as religious and the 15% that actually practice regularly.

    What’s needed is to encourage those who are genuinely non- religious but feel the need to identify (to avoid bullying, etc) to free themselves from intimidation.

  21. #21 Ted Powell
    October 23, 2008

    Janet, #10:

    That seems to imply that the only religions that count are the Catholic and Protestant branches of Christianity and Atheism, when this country and world are made up of much more than that.

    But for any given year the three curves shown add up to about 90-95%. This means that any other curves you might add are all going to be hugging the baseline. So they don’t “count” in terms of numbers of adherents, which is what the graph purports to show. “Counting” in other ways would be the subject of a different graph.

  22. #22 natural cynic
    October 23, 2008

    The relatively steady percentage of Catholics should be attributed to the increase in Latinos. That has compensated with a decrease in non-Latino Catholics. There was almost a doubling of the Latino population between 1990 and 2000.

    The changes in Protestant denominations is very different, with substantial increases in nondenominational [a lot of the megachurches], established evangelical/fundamentalist churches and, oddly, UCC – the most “liberal” of the Protestant denominations. Many of the older Protestant denominations: Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterian, and Baptist have seen little change in their absolute numbers during a time of rapid population growth – so they make up most of the decline in percentages.

    WIKI page

  23. #23 Muzz
    October 23, 2008

    I would like to see the questions for this also. Not to wet blanket the joy or anything but I have heard that people identifying themselves as non-denominational christians are on the rise and are particular enough to file themselves under ‘none’ just to make the point.

  24. #24 Kaydon
    October 23, 2008

    Here’s to the continuing uptick of that last, dark gray line!

  25. #25 maxamillion
    October 23, 2008

    Posted by: Shaden Freud | October 23, 2008 12:59 AM
    .. and other folks celebrating the universe’s birthday today.

    I did, the candles are a bugger though.

  26. #26 John C. Randolph
    October 23, 2008

    Strange that the catholic line is fairly steady. I know that in Ireland, they had a drastic drop-off in church attendance after the Fr. Sean Fortune scandal. I wonder why the pedophile cover-ups didn’t seem to have the same effect here?

    -jcr

  27. #27 cactusren
    October 23, 2008

    While its nice to see a rise in the “unaffiliated” category, its not quite as rosy as that graph makes it look. If you check out the data from the Pew Forum, where the data for that graph was drawn from, (http://religions.pewforum.org/affiliations), the “unaffiliated” category breaks down to:
    Atheist, 1.6%
    Agnostic, 2.4%
    Nothing in particular 12.1%

    While I hope the people identifying as “nothing in particular” are rationalists who simply don’t want to be labelled as atheist or agnostic, this could also include people who attend various churches, or the new agey types, who can be just as crazy as fundies, though in different ways. So while I’m glad to see the overall trend of non religious affiliation rising, it doesn’t actually mean that atheists make up that sizable a portion of the population.

  28. #28 Smitty
    October 23, 2008

    I second #23’s point, and would add that in addition to “non-denominational christians,” I bet a lot of people in the “none” line would call themselves simply “spiritual.” That’s better than being religious (I’d say) because at least they’re not as likely to have ancient dogmas and mega-church preachers determine their political votes, but it’s hardly a shining example of rationality.

  29. #29 Clemens
    October 23, 2008

    Wow, after reading this I just checked the numbers for Germany.

    We’re roughly 30% atheist, 30% catholic and 30% protestants, but to these two xtian denominations I have to add that most members of them are also just “tribal” members.

    Most atheists don’t officially leave church due to two main reasons:

    1.) Still many Germans dream of a classical wedding in a church.

    2.) Most kindergardens/pre-schools are catholic or protestant and they are “members only”. So if you’re a woman and you plan to keep your job after giving birth and not to stay home for six years until primary school kicks in, you better stay with the flock. That’s disgusting…

  30. #30 Reed
    October 23, 2008

    Sadly, I bet a lot of those “none” have gone to new-age woo that just as insidious and irrational as what they left.

    I know quite a number of people who laugh at creationism, and christianity in general, while embracing astrology, homeopathy and the power of crystals.

  31. #31 woodstein
    October 23, 2008

    Here’s a question:
    What happened at around 1993-98 — when the rise in Atheist appears to have started — and how can we make it happen more often?

  32. #32 woodstein312
    October 23, 2008

    …. because all I can think of is the grunge rock era.. and that can’t be it.. Can it?

  33. #33 woodstein312
    October 23, 2008

    oops… sorry.. I mean the rise in the “none” category.

  34. #34 Mrs Tilton
    October 23, 2008

    …change it. Yes, we can

    From your lips to God’s ear, PZ.

  35. #35 SmartLX
    October 23, 2008

    I wonder about the drop in Protestantism. Many of the current crop of evangelicals identify themselves as Baptist, Assembly of God (Palin) or simply non-denominational. I’d feel much better if I saw a graph similar downward trend for “Christian”.

  36. #36 Masks of Eris
    October 23, 2008

    What happened in c. 1993-98?

    Why, Babylon 5, and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if, in addition to all other good things, that show swatted a good swathe of Christians as well! (After all, since the writer is an eeevul atheist, the show must have been insidious, delicious propaganda, right?)

  37. #37 watercat
    October 23, 2008

    There was an interesting discussion on catholics at Bitch PhD a while back. She describes how people can reject every single tenet of catholic dogma–explicitly deny the infallibility of the pope and the bible–yet still call themselves catholics, based on their social activities and such. I guess that’s “tribal catholics”?

    I’ve been talking with a lot of muslims, hoping to find the same attitude–muslims could admit the koran is not the literal word of god, and still call themselves muslims, in the same way the catholics do. The world be better off, but I haven’t had much luck finding such an attitude. It seems to be all or nothing for prots & muzzies. (?)

  38. #38 tzikeh
    October 23, 2008

    So… the National Opinion Research Center excludes every religion excepting Christianity from its research?

    I’m an atheist, but I’m still wondering where the Muslims and Jews and so forth are on this graph.

  39. #39 jmd
    October 23, 2008

    In any case, that Catholic line needs to come down.

  40. #40 Barry Pearson
    October 23, 2008

    From Robin #17: “What is needed is a “rationality index” that can assess people’s points of view independent of religion.”

    I agree, and I have tried to devise the dimensions that this might have. I call this “Dimensions of enlightenment”, and the work-in-progress is at:
    http://www.barrypearson.co.uk/articles/gods/enlightenment.htm

  41. #41 Wowbagger
    October 23, 2008

    I guess we just keep doing what we’re doing – fighting the good fight and keeping the religulous from getting their way on education, morality and the like.

    YouTube has to have played some part. Half of what’s been so successful is simply encouraging them to give themselves away as the irrational loons they are; when you can see, in living colour, the rank stupidity and evil of a frenzied believer, it’s much harder to consider it tolerable to share beliefs with such a person – especially when you’re told possessing that belief makes you a better person.

    They’re their own worst enemies in many ways.

  42. #42 John Knight
    October 23, 2008

    Sure. All we have to do is replace the Christian religious tradition that formed the basis of Western civilization and American republicanism with the new shiny secular religion of progressivism. It worked so well the last time.

  43. #43 pcarini
    October 23, 2008

    Richard Wolford @ #12

    I wonder what happened in the early 90’s to kick off the up-trend. Any ideas?

    The Internet, IMO. When the web first came to light, I was convinced that it would be the fall of religion. I had already seen the power of the Internet itself, but the web really brought it all together. Religion needs to keep people stupid and away from other opinions, which is impossible when other opinions are a click away.

    This. I also think that this apparent worldwide increase in fundamentalism might just be an (ab)reaction to how the internet is affecting their lives. Certainly it’s been a profound change for all of us, and some people just aren’t going to deal with it well. They’re circling their wagons to shield themselves from the scary outsiders.

    Being ever the optimist, I think that their children will, as a necessity, grow up to be more moderate or at least more worldly than their parents. They know that their parents are cultural dinosaurs who will never get a handle on the information world, and hopefully will see their religious beliefs for the truly reactionary force that they are. In the online situations where I interact with people younger than myself, I’m always surprised by how many of them self-identify as atheists, and how many more are critical of religion. There is the occasional VenomFangX or whoever, but I think they’re in the overwhelming minority.

  44. #44 MikeM
    October 23, 2008

    This is the scariest item you’ve posted in the last 72 hours.

    Kidding.

  45. #45 god
    October 23, 2008

    This is 06. Were almost 09 anyone got any more recent info.

  46. #46 CGoldberg
    October 23, 2008

    “I predict the surviving religions will have invariably declared the internet to be a deadly sin.”

    …either that or the Internet will have been so thoroughly changed and regulated that it is no longer a threat. Net Neutrality is very important but there are major, almost inevitable pushes by Telcos that is making it seem that the Internet might not be so free to the public anymore.

  47. #47 Wowbagger
    October 23, 2008

    John Knight wrote:

    Sure. All we have to do is replace the Christian religious tradition that formed the basis of Western civilization and American republicanism with the new shiny secular religion of progressivism. It worked so well the last time.

    Yeah, because it’s the Democratic Party in the US that’s more like the Nazis. How’s your German, John? Can you tell me what Gott Mit Uns means?

  48. #48 Pikemann Urge
    October 23, 2008

    BobC #16: “As long as there are morons in the world there will be religious people.”

    Religion isn’t the problem. Never has been. It’s attachment to religion (and anything) that is the problem. Attachment poisons everything.

  49. #49 Kel
    October 23, 2008

    Sure. All we have to do is replace the Christian religious tradition that formed the basis of Western civilization and American republicanism with the new shiny secular religion of progressivism

    Will you ever say something of note on here John? I know you all think we hate an entity we don’t believe exists, but but it’s no excuse for being constantly insipid.

  50. #50 Clemens
    October 23, 2008

    @John Knight

    Christianity as basis of western civilization is an old one.

    When Christianity faces something new in society or technology, it’s attitude towards it goes through several stages:

    1.) It’s eeeevil and comes directly from Satan (For example, the Vienna Waltz, Rock Music, Right to vote for women)

    2.) Well it doesn’t come directly from Satan but it corrupts society and God doesn’t particularly like it

    3.) Actually, we don’t really care. It seems compatible with Scripture

    4.) No wait, ACTUALLY, we’ve always done it this way and it’s even written in the Bible that way and WE are the foundation of civilization hooray.

    Just look at Christianity’s attitude towards absolute monarchy: First, it was justified by saying it mirrored the heavenly hierarchy: One god with his subordinate angels, saints etc, ergo one king with his subordinates.
    Then, all of a sudden, democracy is what the Bible always told us to do because we’re all equal in God’s eyes.

  51. #51 Joanna
    October 23, 2008

    Looks good! Let’s keep up the good work! :-D

  52. #52 Wowbagger
    October 23, 2008

    John Knight’s a typical authoritarian. He can’t grasp the idea that we can make a religion go away and – here’s the good bit – not replace it with another. But without one he’d have to start to think for himself, and not be able to cry to sky-daddy for forgiveness for lustful thoughts and all those hours of masturbation.

  53. #53 Wowbagger
    October 23, 2008

    Just look at Christianity’s attitude towards absolute monarchy: First, it was justified by saying it mirrored the heavenly hierarchy: One god with his subordinate angels, saints etc, ergo one king with his subordinates. Then, all of a sudden, democracy is what the Bible always told us to do because we’re all equal in God’s eyes.

    What a freakish coincidence that this happens to parallel the shift of the balance of power. Amazing, isn’t it? And that’s how the church – the ultimate re-inventor – manages to keep itself alive.

  54. #54 Kel
    October 23, 2008

    John Knight’s a typical authoritarian. He can’t grasp the idea that we can make a religion go away and – here’s the good bit – not replace it with another.

    John Knight can’t grasp a lot of things.

  55. #55 Owlmirror
    October 23, 2008

    All we have to do is replace the Christian religious tradition that formed the basis of Western civilization and American republicanism with the new shiny secular religion of progressivism.

    You and Piltdown Man should have a fun time debating whether “American republicanism” is properly Christian or rather, as he says “The US has its roots in Enlightenment/Masonic ideology with a dash of Puritanism – both equally facets of the revolution that undermined Christendom.”

    *snicker*

    Copying and pasting from another thread, I note that the very idea of religious freedom is NOT part of the Christian religious tradition… or maybe you think that’s too progressively secular:

    A while back, when I was researching early Colonial American attitudes towards religion and religious freedom, I found an interesting source: The Massachusetts Body of Liberties. Which does indeed prescribe certain rights and liberties to all.

    But it has an… interesting section under “Capital Laws”:

    1. If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.
    2. If any man or woman be a witch, (that is hath consulteth with a familiar spirit,) they shall be put to death.
    3. If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Son or Holy Ghost, with direct, express, presumptuous or high handed blasphemy, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.

    And that’s before the laws that declare murder to be a capital crime. The original also has footnotes that cite the relevant biblical verses that the laws derive from.

  56. #56 gazza
    October 23, 2008

    I suspect that your situation (I’m a Brit) may be better than that graph suggests. I’m sure that a lot of people that would say ‘Catholic’ or Protestant’, or whatever, to a survey are ‘soft believers’ – they’re saying what they were brought up as, and probably don’t make religion a significant part of their life. The softies aren’t the people who are going to screw up your school boards or push congress for breaking the seperation of state and religion.

    I would say the UK is basically non-religious as a whole but most people, in a survey, would say they were christian.

    Again, I really don’t know your situation well but is it possible that it’s the fundies, in ‘Jesusland’ and the noise they make that make things seem worse than they really are?

  57. #57 SEF
    October 23, 2008

    I’m still wondering where the Muslims and Jews and so forth are on this graph.

    Ditto. Were they too intimidated to respond at all, too few to make even a smudge near the axis, deliberately ignored or lumped in with none for refusing to be Christians? Eg “What denomination of Christian are you?” gets the reply “None, I’m a [whatever].” and the form filler says “extra ignored”.

  58. #58 Arnosium Upinarum
    October 23, 2008

    “Underdawg to Victory”

    That’s how it works, right Sarah?

  59. #59 Rey Fox
    October 23, 2008

    Don’t be so hard on John. He’s just afraid of the scary black man, that’s all.

  60. #60 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2008

    I don’t think it matters much what’s behind the “NONE” category.

    It’s important to state that what’s behind the PROTESTANT category is very fragmented and diverse with two dominant groups with very different worldviews, Evangelicals and Mainline protestants.

    What’s significant is that the religious makeup is becoming increasingly fragmented, and is is becoming increasingly difficult for politicians to target one group (ie Bush in 2000/2004 with the Evangelicals) for electoral gains.

    This means that religion is inexhorably losing its political influence. We see it in this election compared wth the two previous ones, and I don’t think they will ever be capable of reversing the trend.

    Didn’t anybody notice that any mention of God, heaven, lord, etc… were conspicuously absent from the 3 presidential debates ?

    If the republican party loses this election and the next one, it will have no choice than to completely reform itself and find a different strategy. By 2016 it will be too late to focus on conservative religious values.

  61. #61 Dag
    October 23, 2008

    I swear I read some statistics earlier this year which presented some pretty different trends except that the atheist population was growing.

    If this is true though: bitchin’.

  62. #62 Bertram Cabot, Jr.
    October 23, 2008

    For 70 years the leaders of the Soviet Union specifically targeted Christianity for destruction.

    They used every means…ridicule, smears, job loss, torture, imprisonment, outright murder.

    The failed and self destructed.

    And many brillian men, geniuses even, tried to destroy Christianity…Voltaire, Paine, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Russell, Lenin, Trotsky, Sartre…and they failed too.

    And you all ain’t no geniuses.

  63. #63 SEF
    October 23, 2008

    @ Bertram #62:

    As well as the rest of the falsehoods and flaws in your post, it doesn’t even seem to have occurred to you that idiots (or IDiots) might succeed where geniuses have failed. One possible mechanism might be by them being so visibly drooling and hateful that even the not-very-intelligent are embarrassed to be seen in the same (religious) company as them and hence start to distance themselves from religion because of the way its brain-rotting effect is now much more obvious to potential employers, partners etc.

    There’s a “good” religious reason why religion (including prayer) should be a private affair rather than an attention-getting public demonstration. Viz. that it’s such evidently brain-dead behaviour when seen in public that other people can form an accurately low opinion of the believer and the religion gets more and more discredited.

  64. #64 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2008

    Bertram Cabot Jr.,

    And many brillian men, geniuses even, tried to destroy Christianity…Voltaire, Paine, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Russell, Lenin, Trotsky, Sartre…and they failed too.

    Please show ONE piece of evidence, a text reference, anything, that any of these men had for ambition to “destroy Chrstianity”.

    Just ONE ?

    Maybe in your nightmares ?

  65. #65 Bernard Bumner
    October 23, 2008

    Discussing religious trends = trying to destroy Christianity?

    Paranoid, much? This isn’t a graph of troop numbers; it is a representation of social trends.

    Not many people here are engaged in any kind of direct anti-religious activity, unless you count education, science, and scientific education as that. In the main, there are personal acts rejecting religion and religiosity, but there is very little organisation.

    You may find it enlightening to read the deconversion stories of many of the ex-religious internet personalities; a majority seem to have rejected religion on the basis of their own experience of religion, reaching their own conclusions. It is simple, naked information – freely sought, and freely accepted – that has changed their minds. Do not assume that the process whereby people reject religion is the same as that by which they find it, it often quite the opposite.

  66. #66 MikeD
    October 23, 2008

    Perhaps with growing numbers the problem discussed in the New York TImes article (For Atheists, Politics Proves to Be a Lonely Endeavor) may end. As the article notes:

    While a bold brand of in-your-face atheism may be enjoying great success in the marketplace — as witness the popular books by Mr. Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, as well as Bill Maher’s new satiric documentary “Religulous” — no similar impact has been evident in politics.

    One problem with turning out the atheist vote is finding it. Atheists do not reside visibly in certain neighborhoods like blacks or Hispanics or gay men and lesbians. They do not turn up on the databases of professional associations like doctors or lawyers. And as nonbelievers, they axiomatically do not come together for worship.

    “It’s harder for them to organize,” said Brian Graves, 27, an organizer for No On 48, “because they don’t have something to congregate around.”

  67. #67 Masks of Eris
    October 23, 2008

    Bertram at #62: Well, of course the Soviets failed. Force fails, reason doesn’t. If you tackle a man, he’ll spring back up bloody angry at you, but if you convince him it’s better to duck and cover, he’ll do so gladly.

    What you’re saying is that since a safe can’t be opened by a hammer, it can’t be opened at all. We, however, do have a lockpick of reason and a key of truth…

  68. #68 negentropyeater
    October 23, 2008

    Bertram Cabot Jr.,

    so, is that too diffcult for you, you can’t find any ?
    Not one shread of evidence ?

    Oh no, don’t tell me you’ve actually never read any of their writings, that you’re just repeating something that you heard from someone else and you have absolutely not the vaguest idea how to substantiate your affrmation.

    Come on, quick, go and look for their bibliographies, search through all their writings (as I sincerely doubt you’ve opened any before), try to find that ONE paragraph, that ONE reference that shows that they tried to destroy Christianity.

    At least you might learn something in the process.

  69. #69 Walton
    October 23, 2008

    It is also the case, as I believe some have pointed out above, that formally identifying with a religious denomination does not necessarily mean active participation or even belief (as with the many “cultural Catholics”, for instance, who are, most often, of Irish or Italian heritage and identify as Catholic because it’s in their family tradition, but are not necessarily active in the Church).

    I can relate to this; I’m formally a member of the Anglican Church, but no longer attend church (and haven’t for some years), and I don’t believe in much of the church’s dogma (as I’ve said elsewhere, my own theological standpoint is very broad and liberal). Yet if someone with a clipboard pressed me to state my religion, I would still have to call myself Anglican, simply because there isn’t any other label that I can use.

  70. #70 brettc
    October 23, 2008

    Here’s a link to the situation 9as of 2001) in Oz religious affiliation .

    While some 15% of us ticked None (not Nun), probably most of the “Not stated” will also be None (and a few woo woos). And like everywhere else, a fair proportion of the Catholics and mainstream churches (C of E, Uniting, etc) will also be traditional or tribal allegiances.

    We are in a fairly unusual position at the moment of having a Labor Prime Minister who has declared himself as a Christian (Catholic, I think). And yes, here that is seen as a demerit, not a requirement for the position.

    Most of the growth in religiosity is through immigration: lots of Muslims from Africa/South East Asia/Pakistan, and Pentecostalism is very big in the Pacific Islander communities, and a lot of the Asian immigrants from Malaysia etc are Christian. But we also have the happy clappy Assembly of God, particularly in Sydney, which has a lot of home growns.

    And, with Melbourne having one of the highest levels per capita of Holocaust survivors, I’m still yet to meet a Jew who does not eat “Kosher” ham sandwiches/prawns, etc so I suspect Aussie secularism takes a hold pretty quickly.

  71. #71 gazza
    October 23, 2008

    The 2001 UK National Census (every 10 years) had a voluntary religion question – “Jedi Knight” was, I think, the 4th largest notified ‘religion’ (internet campaign, of course!). Officially I am one myself, so I guess I count as religious in the statisitcs. I promise to switch to atheist next time and take it seriously.

  72. #72 scooter
    October 23, 2008

    Bertram Cabot, Jr. @62
    For 70 years the leaders of the Soviet Union specifically targeted Christianity for destruction.

    OHHHHH pulleeeze, read a book.

    The Strong Man Stalinist era was quite the blood-bath, and Uncle Joe didn’t target Christards, he went after EVERYBODY.

    Entire language groups were exterminated, he starved populations out, or just shot and buried them all.

    The worst of it was in the Eastern part of of the Empire, tribal revenge on the Mongol descendants, the Turkish tribes (muslims), Chechnians, seen any Cossacks lately?

    Not to mention a few pograms here and there, the Jews are always good for slaughtering, as long as you’re grinding primates.

    In the end, the only ethnic group in the great purges that skated was…..

    GUESS WHO ?

    The CHRISTIANS.

    See, there is a Gawd and he looketh out for yall, and even in Stalin he bequeathed many bullets, and yall had good old time, didn’t you?.

    20 million dead, most likely, before WWII.

    Nice job.

    Stalin was raised to be a Priest in a Georgian Seminary, apparently picked up a few tips there.

    Yall just keep Crusading along, huh?

  73. #73 MH
    October 23, 2008

    CGoldberg #26 wrote “…either that or the Internet will have been so thoroughly changed and regulated that it is no longer a threat. Net Neutrality is very important but there are major, almost inevitable pushes by Telcos that is making it seem that the Internet might not be so free to the public anymore.”

    Net neutrality does need to be defended. Thankfully, it looks like Google CEO Eric Schmidt might be in line to be Obama’s Chief Technology Officer. Both Obama and Schmidt are pro net neutrality.

    If McCain wins, I’ll expect he’ll kowtow to the anti net neutrality crowd, headed by the telcos and supported no doubt by the fundagelicals.

    Yet another reason (as if we needed one) to vote for Obama.

  74. #74 Cath the Canberra Cook
    October 23, 2008

    brettc, Our Kev isn’t a catholic. He’s Anglican, of the lefty christian socialist “feed the hungry & clothe the naked” kind. Not ideal, but not too bad either; at least he’s not in bed with the Exclusive Brethren like little Johnny was.

  75. #75 scooter
    October 23, 2008

    Masks of Eris @ 67: Well, of course the Soviets failed. Force fails, reason doesn’t. If you tackle a man, he’ll spring back up bloody angry at you, but if you convince him it’s better to duck and cover, he’ll do so gladly.

    You’re certainly onto something , but it doesn’t really apply to times of great carnage and conquest. The Native Americans hardly sprang back up, they were too dead after centuries of genocide, and during the dark ages of the Soviet Empire, nobody was tackled, their entire cultures were disappeared, their is no backlash from mass graves.

    The flaw in Bertrand Cabbage @ 62’s argument is that Russian Orthodox Christians were ‘targetted’ for destruction, when in reality, they were simply bombarded with pseudo Marxist propaganda, and ridiculed for being the superstitious idiots that they are.

    I was recently bombarded with Marxist propaganda by RCP attendees at the last Atheist Convention, and guess what?

    I feel just fine.

    Being denigrated by propaganda is the reality of being atheist in the Americas or being Christian in a pseudo Marxist 20th Century State.

    It is not to be confused with being exterminated along with your everybody else of your kith and kin that no longer exist.

  76. #76 andyo
    October 23, 2008

    Regarding the catholics, like any good, self-respecting mafia, they do keep shady books. By their books, I am in that line, since I haven’t been excommunicated (yet?)

    Since I think it’s a poll, I don’t think they are pulling the “official” numbers, but catholics, especially Latin Americans, and probably other non-US, have a strong correlation with catholicism and their base culture, so strong that even if they don’t practice at all, they’ll still say they’re catholic.

  77. #77 brettc
    October 23, 2008

    Cath: thanks for that. Yes, Honest Johnnie’s flirtation with the Exclusive Brethren was a potential game changer, had it succeeded. Similarly Tip’s flirtation with Hillsong.

    I hope that in Australia we’ll always be very sceptical of anyone trying to play the religious card. There’s so much to like about reality.

  78. #78 Masks of Eris
    October 23, 2008

    At Scooter in #75:

    Okay, an amendment:

    If you tackle a man, he’ll spring back up bloody angry at you, but if you convince him it’s better to duck and cover, he’ll do so gladly. But if you shoot ‘im, he’ll go down and stay down, no trouble.

    But yeah, my analogy sort of fails; I blame #62 since there are too many wrongs in his comment for an amateur like me to hit one nice and clean.

    It’s like hitting one specific fish when the whole barrel’s full of them!

  79. #79 Arwen
    October 23, 2008

    I think a great deal depends on who is asking the question and whether it is completely anonymous (such as whether in person or via the internet). As I was growing up in a Secular Humanist home (not supposed to tell that ‘secret’ and NEVER allowed to say the word Atheist because someone will come and fire bomb our house if we tell), I usually answered the question with Catholic because I was baptised Catholic because my grandmother cried and cried everyday that I would go to hell if I weren’t baptised and then finally had a breakdown and heart attack. My mom and dad had me baptised then because they knew it meant nothing to them and everything to her. But I have never practiced. When family (husband’s) and acquaintances ask, I tell them that I am a Buddhist which is acceptable to their sensitivities because it is at least a religion. I do not clarify that I am only a Buddhist in philosophy only because like everything else, the mystical crap is hooey. To strangers and Jehovah’s Witnesses, I still tell them I’m Catholic if they ask face to face or via phone (my parents scared me with the fire bomb crap too well). If I’m taking a survey on the internet (which I’ve taken quite a few), I say that I am an atheist because I’m (mostly) anonymous.

  80. #80 scooter
    October 23, 2008

    #78: What you’re saying is that since a safe can’t be opened by a hammer, it can’t be opened at all. We, however, do have a lockpick of reason and a key of truth…

    Nevertheless, the above statement is poetic and profound, when there’s a semblance of democracy or justice in play.

  81. #81 Evolving Squid
    October 23, 2008

    They will keep their stupidity in their closet to avoid being ridiculed and laughed at.

    Which, unfortunately, is a bad thing. You can’t deal with a problem when people conceal it. Bizarre beliefs that are forced underground have a nasty way of springing to the foreground in unfortunate, explosive ways.

    Better the religiots feel free to speak out so we know where they are and what they’re doing.

  82. #82 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    October 23, 2008

    Sure. All we have to do is replace the Christian religious tradition that formed the basis of Western civilization and American republicanism with the new shiny secular religion of progressivism. It worked so well the last time.

    Oh come on John!?!

    Nazis?

    Everyone knows the proper wingnutty way to try and insinuate a connection with secularists is to use Communism.

    Get with the program and use your false analogies correctly.

  83. #83 Arwen
    October 23, 2008

    OOH! Gazza (#71), I’ve taken a couple of internet polls where I’ve declared myself as a Jedi Knight or said I believe in the (un-midichlorian) Force myself… forgot about those answers. lol I guess I just assumed anyone who voted that way was also an atheist…

  84. #84 Felipe
    October 23, 2008

    What happened with the category “Other”? I doubt none of the other religions make a significant contribution here.

  85. #85 AnthonyK
    October 23, 2008

    You’re all missing something vital. The “none” line pretty much mirrors the “hockey stick” graph of global temperature. So this shows, in short, that unbelief is the real cause of global warming! What a bunch of bastards we are – it’s all our fault. Sorry ice-caps, sorry planet, I’m going to start praying right now and get this sucker cooled right down.
    AnthonyK

  86. #86 Kel
    October 23, 2008

    Get with the program and use your false analogies correctly.

    And this is from the guy who is meant to have a degree in Philosophy. He’s really not good at that whole “constructing an argument” thing.

  87. #87 And-U-Say
    October 23, 2008

    #7

    I wonder what happened in the early 90’s to kick off the up-trend. Any ideas?

    The internet??

  88. #88 Icelander
    October 23, 2008

    This doesn’t say what the “unaffiliated” have become affiliated with. It would not be an improvement if we went from a nation of Christians to a nation of dirt-worshipping, crystal-buying moon children.

    I agree with others that we need to measure rationality, not just religiosity.

  89. #89 Pikemann Urge
    October 23, 2008

    Who wants to destroy Christianity? Golly gee, if there isn’t any enemy around, MAKE ONE UP.

    What I’d like to do is see Christianity it its proper place – within ancient mythology. This is not to denigrate it – no, I think it can be, dare I say, more potent as the myth it actually is.

    Myths and symbols are not ‘merely’ myths and symbols. Well some of you probably know what I mean.

  90. #90 Ubi Dubium
    October 23, 2008

    You’re all missing something vital. The “none” line pretty much mirrors the “hockey stick” graph of global temperature. So this shows, in short, that unbelief is the real cause of global warming! What a bunch of bastards we are – it’s all our fault. Sorry ice-caps, sorry planet, I’m going to start praying right now and get this sucker cooled right down.

    You don’t need to pray! You need to dress like a pirate, and eat pasta, so his Noodliness can take care of it! One of the basic tenets of Pastafarianism is that global warming is directly caused by the decline of piracy. Yarrr!

  91. #91 Nick Gotts
    October 23, 2008

    This tends to confirm stuff I’ve come across before (sorry, no references handy but I’ll look) arguing that the great “religious revival” we’re supposed to be in is a myth, at most a bit of surface froth concealing a continued decline in the proportion of the population strongly influenced by religion. Religion is not, I’d say, in its final throes, but people like John Knight feel the itch to come here and argue because they are at least vaguely aware that they are losing ground – why would they bother otherwise? Piltdown Man, for all his scumbaggery, is at least realist enough to admit this continuing retreat to himself and us; I’m not sure whether Knight is.

  92. #92 Tony Sidaway
    October 23, 2008

    I’ve been saying this for months. All the figures point to a catastrophic decline in organized religion, if not in religious belief itself.

  93. #93 Nerd of Redhead
    October 23, 2008

    And this is from the guy who is meant to have a degree in Philosophy. He’s really not good at that whole “constructing an argument” thing.

    Definitely, he tried the “talk theology to prove god” line in another thread, but hated it when a bunch of us called him out on the need to prove god first. I think he’s here to save us from damnation. Idiotic twit.

    The graphs are trending in the right direction. They just need to accelerate the trend.

  94. #94 Leslie in Canada
    October 23, 2008

    Traditional mainstream churches in Canada are losing parishoners at such a rate that several of them have talked about banding together, much like K-Mart and Sears did. I am sure that with all the scandals, Catholic numbers have dwindled greatly. The graph does not indicate cross-shopping where people switch to other churches. My understanding is that in the US most Protestants are not fire-breathing evangelicals but instead belong to Church Lites which are not very doctrinaire because it scares folks but instead offer babysitting.

    There was a reference by one poster to his creationist friends and he mentioned they were Mormons. Are Mormons generally literalists? I know that their religion gives plagiarism a bad name (as Mark Twain supposedly said)but I do not see them as being YECs. Is this the case? By the way, their religion is apparently one of the fastest-growing in the world but I think most of that growth is outside of North America.

  95. #95 archgoon
    October 23, 2008

    What happened in the Early 90’s? Could be the internet, or it could have been the end of the cold war (anyone remember that?). Getting called a godless commie was less likely to see you investigated by the FBI and CIA.

  96. #96 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 23, 2008

    Interesting that our gain seems to have come almost exclusively at the expense of the protestants.

    As comment 22 says, probably Catholics simply immigrate faster (from Mexico and beyond) than they deconvert.

    For 70 years the leaders of the Soviet Union specifically targeted Christianity for destruction.

    Untrue. They targeted everything except specifically whatever happened to be the currently leading Communist denomination for destruction. And even that only when they thought they could afford it; during WWII, for example, the Communist Party allied itself to the Orthodox Church so it could exploit patriotism to motivate the people to fight — few people even then would have fought for Communism.

    #7

    I wonder what happened in the early 90’s to kick off the up-trend. Any ideas?

    The internet??

    And you stopped reading at number 7 without going on to 12 and 13?

  97. #97 Monado
    October 23, 2008

    Actually, my observation is that once numbers get above 10%, you’re no longer considered an oddball, e.g. girls in my judo club, science class, etc. Scientific American, in an article about domestic cat color genetics, stated that up to 10%, any color variation was considered unusual and thus had survival value when people were picking a kitten to keep. So 10% might be a practical core for the acceptance snowball.

  98. #98 Arwen
    October 23, 2008

    #94, They are the fastest growing religion in numbers because when you join the church, they count every member of your family back as far as they can trace your line back as having “joined the faith” as well. They are renouned for their geneaology searches, in fact, anyone who is seriously into geneaology will have to work with them at some point or other because they have records that other people no longer have access to because of various reasons. (Case in point, a church in my father’s hometown in another country burned down and lost all of it’s records which dated back to around 1600. They have most of those records available still on the internet and/or microfiche. It’s amazing.

  99. #99 Nanahuatzin
    October 23, 2008

    Unfortunately i foudn thegraphic to simplistic. Not being catholic or protestant does not make an atheist.

    Unless given a proper education people can get under the guidance of wackier ideas than the main religion.

    I have found people that claim to be atheist… but actually believe in withcraft or in the “spirits of nature” or some other new age ideas…

    Sometimes I expect they tell of the phrase “thanks god, i am atheist” i heard for a politician. In Mexico, is considered bad that a politician speaks about god or religion, since oficially since 1870 we are a secular country, but we all know they are just pretending…

  100. #100 sjburnt
    October 23, 2008

    Posted by: gazza | @ # 56

    “I suspect that your situation (I’m a Brit) may be better than that graph suggests. ”

    Thanks for the encouraging words, gazza, and I think your points are generally helpful, certainly comforting, and mostly valid.

    However, the saturation of religion in western society never fails to amaze. I recently visited Western Europe and the stark difference in open attitudes was quite a change from my homeland.

  101. #101 Jams
    October 23, 2008

    Ok, here’s my evil plan.

    Promote interracial marriages.

    An interracial marriage is more likely to bring together two oppositional religious traditions. This will require the married couple to adopt more secular positions, and ultimately will produce children who lean toward atheism.

    Interracial marriage practically sells itself. “Exotic” dating services. Interracial Hollywood blockbusters. A sexy multi-racial dance song. Novels, TV shows, comic books, and festivals that reinforce the other as the sexual ideal.

    We can’t breed them out of existence, but we can convince them to breed us into existence.

    # End Evil Thought Transmission #

  102. #102 varlo
    October 23, 2008

    I am convinced that the picture is brighter than most suppose, and that the ranks of unbelievers are far larger than any poll can show. Some 30 years ago I sat talking with two acquaintences, both Catholics, and both deeply involved in the politics of the (unnamed state). At that time it was entirely conceivable that one or even both might someday become governor of that state. Somehow a point of Catholic theory came up and they disagreed upon it. They asked my opinion and I declared myself unqualified as an agnostic. In unison they both replied “So am I.” Hypocritical? Of course, but also understandable. And I believe (and hope) that there are actually thousands or more likely millions like them.

  103. #103 GK4
    October 23, 2008

    Here is why this trend started in the early 1990’s: That was exactly one generation after the Second Wave of Feminism burst onto the national scene.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20071222.wcoessay1222/BNStory/specialComment/home/?pageRequested=all

    After the consciousness-raising of the 1960’s and ’70’s, many women in North America became disenchanted with Christianity and its strictures. They moved on to other ways of life well beyond how the churches wanted them to live, such as higher education, which has further effects of broadening one’s experiences and horizons. Some women even stopped going to church.

    And they had children, including daughters.

    And those children did not go to church, either, and neither did *their* kids. They weren’t brought up in it, so they chose different obligations for their time.

    Meanwhile, many small churches are closing for lack of members and — importantly — the vital volunteer force of women who kept them running.

    And then you have other social trends, such as less deference to institutions, and (unfortunately, yes) the New Religious (and “spiritual”) Movements. Improved post-war wealth for some in North America (and social-democratic Europe) may have even played a role. That was a lot of disruption.

    It took a while for the process to show up in the national statistics, but significant social changes do take time. People rarely just have a text-based conversation with a total stranger on a BBS in 1990 and then see the light. It takes time. I think all of you net-geeks crowing about teh awsum p0w3r of teh Interwebz are missing this point. *That* change is probably having some effect now, but won’t finish shaking through society and the statistics for another five or ten years. And then only to the degree that these new technologies and their attendant social interaction affect people’s self-conceptions.

    Stay tuned.

    Meanwhile, the Catholic numbers in the U.S. are holding steady because of just enough first-generation immigrants from Latin America. As their kids grow up acculturated to a more secular society, that number will drop, too.

    No source for this, just a memory of something I read a while ago.

  104. #104 Jacques
    October 23, 2008

    If any of you think the fundy bullshit brigade are going away any time soon, you’re fucking dreaming. This is a political organization based on insular hatred of outsiders (immigrants, liberals and especially us godless atheists). America has been embroiled in this kind of fundamentalist christian bullshit for over a century, and it ain’t going away any time soon, especially with the global menace of fundamentalist islam hanging over their righteous noggins.

  105. #105 Tulse
    October 23, 2008

    What happened in c. 1993-98?
    Why, Babylon 5, and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if, in addition to all other good things, that show swatted a good swathe of Christians as well!

    [pedantic geek mode]
    B5 was actually very respectful of religion — several of the characters were explicitly religious (and not just made-up alien religions), almost all the religious characters were treated earnestly and sincerely, religious prophecies and texts play important roles in the plots, and several religious services were presented at face value (in one episode, for example, a major plot line is one of the main characters, who had somewhat rejected her Jewish faith, nonetheless sitting shiva for her dead father).

    Regardless of Straczynski’s own personal leanings, B5 is perhaps the sci-fi show that is most accepting of religion and its positive values, far more so than, say, old-school Trek, where “gods” were often shown to be phonies (and even more than Battlestar Galactica, in which religion plays a very explicit role, but so does jihad and fanaticism).
    [/pedantic geek mode]

  106. #106 Matthew
    October 23, 2008

    “But a century from now religious people will be ashamed to admit they believe in the magic fairy. They will keep their stupidity in their closet to avoid being ridiculed and laughed at.”

    I think it will happen sooner than that. What you describe is basically the situation in England *today*. I grew up there (am 30 now) and if you tell anyone you’re actually religious and go to church, you’re kinda looked down upon. It’s considered a little bit weak minded and old fashioned. Very few people actually laugh openly at religious people (live and let live, ya know) but the situation there is the OPPOSITE of the situation here. In the UK, religious people would be more likely to keep their religion to themselves because they wouldn’t want it affecting their job, relationships with friends, etc. Sound familiar, fellow atheists?

    I think we’ll be there in about 25 years…

  107. #107 xebecs
    October 23, 2008

    And you all ain’t no geniuses.

    Bertram,

    You can’t possibly know that. Even had you some way of judging the genius of those who post here, there are untold numbers of lurkers, any one of whom might be an unsung genius destined for Enshrinement in Teh Pantheon a century hence.

    In fact, you are a moron, and could not identify a genius if he or she crawled up your nostril and inserted an extra brain pack into your partially empty skull cavity.

  108. #108 Masks of Eris
    October 23, 2008

    At Tulse in #105:

    (pedant mode, activate!)

    Well, yes, B5 was realistic about religion — and thus portrayed it as rituals, placebo effects and people making myths out of mundane events — the whole “OMG Sheridan is Jesus” thing. Though there were lots of religious tones and ideas in the show, I don’t think it ever really said there was anything really supernatural behind it all — just people (and Centauri) with their wacky rituals, and the occasional manipulative Vorlon. Indeed, I had good time looking for just how much of the supposed “prophecies” and “angels” were just Vorlon/Shadow trickery and aftereffects of the time travel B4 thingumbob thingie — it’s easy to make prophecies if you’re from the future.

    (And the idea that a Vorlon out of his suit looks like an angelic being to everyone makes one wonder about the origins of the B5 universe’s religions!)

    And, oh, of course one shouldn’t forget the honest holy man G’Kar whose religious vision, though noble, was implied to be a bit of psychic trickery from Kosh.

    Uff, pedant mode off.

  109. #109 davidst
    October 23, 2008

    Hmm, that’s a rather sudden decline. Is grunge responsible? I wonder what belief by age group looks like? Perhaps all we need to do is wait.

  110. #110 Natalie
    October 23, 2008

    America has been embroiled in this kind of fundamentalist christian bullshit for over a century, and it ain’t going away any time soon, especially with the global menace of fundamentalist islam hanging over their righteous noggins.

    America has certainly had fundamentalism for quite some time, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’ve been embroiled in it continuously. Like pretty much everything else, the popularity of fundagelicalism has waxed and waned throughout our history.

    And as others have pointed out, the Internet makes a huge difference.

  111. #111 Gem Newman
    October 23, 2008

    :)

  112. #112 Tulse
    October 23, 2008

    Masks, you’re certainly right that B5 was at least sociologically realistic about religion — it was one of the first futuristic shows I know to portray real human religions in any recognizable sense, and not just dabble in made-up silliness. But I think it is undeniable that the portrayal was sympathetic and respectful, and didn’t go out of its way to question the truth of religion. I don’t denigrate B5 for this, as it was way ahead of its time in many respects. But it really did tend to view religion in a positive light, at least in the “ritual as comfort”. (And the whole Shadow plot really was about an almost spiritual war of capital-G Good versus capital-E Evil.)

    Contrast that with Trek, where “gods” were routinely shown to be simply super-powered aliens, and where religion was almost entirely confined to the benighted, and not to our Federation heroes bringing the benefits of the Enlightenment and Jeffersonian democracy to the cosmos. Or compare it to BGS, where the supernatural really does seem to exist in some form, but where religious belief causes genocide and terrorism and suicide bombing and torture and really fracked up personal relationships.

    Don’t get me wrong — I loved B5, in part because it was realistic about human religion and thus made the human characters seem far more real. But I don’t think it can be held up as an atheistic triumph, or that it would have been likely to cause doubts in believers.

    (I think I’ve used up my geek quotient for the day — any more of this and I’ll start talking like Comic Book Guy…)

  113. #113 BJN
    October 23, 2008

    Win over an idiot to “other” and you’re still most likely dealing with an idiot, just an idiot who shares a point of view with you.

  114. #114 Tom
    October 23, 2008

    After 6 years of Bush I can see more people not believing in god. However, the recent economic situation is probably pushing a lot more people to prayer.

  115. #115 Masks of Eris
    October 23, 2008

    To Tulse in #112: Okay, now we can agree. Sociologically true and very respectful. Though (and this irked me a bit) true to the ways religions are today.

    (Err, in America anyway. I remember thinking, once upon a time, that “Wow! First Narns, and now Roman Catholic monks! Is there no end to this cavalcade of exoticism?” That’s Finland for you.)

    But then again a pretty big point about the Good-Evil (Order-Chaos?) Vorlon-Shadow plot was a man, Sheridan, standing up and basically saying “No gods, no masters, we won’t serve, get outta here you both.

    Aah, maybe it’s better we stop this here. Geekout over.

  116. #116 Marsha
    October 23, 2008

    Evolution, germ theory, even the atom and nucleus stuff… it really hasn’t been around for all that long. Recognizing that the Earth isn’t flat was a great discovery but it took a long time to accept – now, except for a few nutcases no one even discusses flat-ness. Once scientific discoveries become “history” and not new concepts that conflict with people’s beliefs things will slowly change. I will not live to see much of it but science will eat away at the myths and fears of humankind… that is, unless we kill ourselves first. ;)

  117. #117 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 23, 2008

    We can’t breed them out of existence, but we can convince them to breed us into existence.

    Wonderful. :-)

    Here is why this trend started in the early 1990’s: That was exactly one generation after the Second Wave of Feminism burst onto the national scene.

    Makes sense, but what about this here?

    (Err, in America anyway. I remember thinking, once upon a time, that “Wow! First Narns, and now Roman Catholic monks! Is there no end to this cavalcade of exoticism?” That’s Finland for you.)

    Yet another one! Why is the Internet so chock full of Finns?!? It’s a conspiracy! HELP! ;-)

  118. #118 eddie
    October 23, 2008

    In my comment above I promised citations, well;

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_rate.htm
    http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/comments/david/2004/11/major-decline-in-church-attendance.html
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/novemberweb-only/145-42.0.html
    atheism.about.com/od/aboutchristianity/a/demographics.htm
    theologica.blogspot.com/2005/06/how-many-americans-really-attend.html
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States#Church_attendance

    These I found while researching for a debate I was involved in on this post;

    scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2008/07/the_best_pz_defense_ive_seen.php

    The liks are to a spread of religious and non-religious sites that spin the data in differnt ways but the underlying message is there – that religious involvement is not as widespread as religious organisations want you to believe and that the way forward is to persuade and encourage those non-practisers to identify as such rather than as lapsed whatever.

  119. #119 Ferrous Patella
    October 23, 2008

    Yep, I am on the graph. Right there in about ’77-’78.

  120. #120 Mathi
    October 23, 2008

    One perspective that was not mentioned but mentioned in the study that accompanies the chart. A friend of mine was part of this study. Part of the rise is the result to the question: “I’m spiritual but not part of a religious faith.” So I would not put hopes up that this is a rise in secularism/atheism. The neutrality in Catholicism is that Catholicism is the fastest growing religious in the U.S. due to the growing Hispanic population and number of those converting. The lack of a increase spike is due to the large number of the WWII generation and now Baby Boomers dying. Not sure the fuller reasons for the Protestant drop.

  121. #121 Desert Son
    October 23, 2008

    Bertram Cabot, Jr. at #62 posted:

    And you all ain’t no geniuses.

    I resemble that remark.

    That said, I had a couple of questions about your post. You noted:

    And many brillian [sic] men, geniuses even, tried to destroy Christianity…Voltaire, Paine, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Russell, Lenin, Trotsky, Sartre…and they failed too.

    That’s interesting. I’d never heard that those individuals had specifically set out, as a goal, to “destroy Christianity,” but then I don’t have my copies of the works of those individuals in front of me (and, sadly, my personal library lacks some of those authors as my desire for more books so often exceeds my purchasing power to procure them).

    By the way, simply as an exercise in thought, would you number Martin Luther and Henry VIII, for example, in the ranks of those who tried to “destroy Christianity?” You might if you are/were Catholic . . . .

    For 70 years the leaders of the Soviet Union specifically targeted Christianity for destruction.

    My understanding was that the leaders of the Soviet Union, over it’s roughly 70 year history, comprised individuals of different political persuasions (however united under the label of “communist”) and opinions, variously intent on a variety of policy pursuits, some of which may have included elimination of Christianity (or other religious beliefs), but were not necessarily unified in anything other than, perhaps, the spread of communism and some sort of leadership of the state. Can you comment further?

    They used every means…ridicule, smears, job loss, torture, imprisonment, outright murder.

    They used such tactics in many contexts, not just persecution of religion and its adherents. Point of note, similar tactics have been used by religions of various stripes against other religions, and against lack of religions, to similar effect. Or was your contention that such tactics are reserved solely for the religiously unaffiliated?

    The [sic] failed and self destructed [sic].

    It happened, but not necessarily because they were opposing a religion (and as my suggestions indicate, opposing a religion certainly wasn’t the only thing they were up to). In the case of the Soviet Union, the ultimate decline and downfall of that state appears to be largely economic (it can’t have helped that they also treated their population, as a whole, pretty lousy). The state became untenable financially on the global economic stage, troubled as they were by production issues, resource management inefficiencies, costly wars of attrition, internal conflict in the pursuit of a unified vision of the state, and problems caused by insularity that limited the state’s long-term ability to compete with other sectors of the world in terms of education, scientific development, exploration, and economic stability.

    No kings,

    Robert

  122. #122 Desert Son
    October 23, 2008

    Sorry about the blockquote failure there toward the end of that post at 121.

    Just before the last paragraph that should have been:

    The [sic] failed and self destructed [sic].

    It’s been a long day . . . typing dexterity declining . . . .

    No kings,

    Robert

  123. #123 Masks of Eris
    October 23, 2008

    At David M. in #117: Why, the internet is full of Finns? That figures given the winters here… once you give up snorting powdered fly agaric and howling hymns to pagan gods, there’s nothing left except internetting.

    It used to be a bit worse before this net thingy was invented.

    I hear that after a few wintry weeks of stir-crazy people began to hear the forests singing “Come dance naked here in the snow.” That explains why there are so few Finns…

    So the presence of Finns on the net is nothing exceptional… just calm down… everything is under control… under our control…

  124. #124 Rohan
    October 24, 2008

    The trend will become even more pronounced if the work these guys are doing comes to fruition…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCzbNkyXO50

  125. #125 Kel
    October 24, 2008

    Why is the Internet so chock full of Finns?!?

    It’s the only thing that stops them from going out and committing massacres. It’s been well established that both major schoolyard massacres in Finland over the last few years were caused when the student in question lost their connection for almost 60 seconds. ;)

    Nah, finland is cool. I expect to see how cool Finland is when I go there in January. Going from 40C heat to -10C, should be fun.

  126. #126 James F
    October 24, 2008

    #125 Kel wrote:

    It’s the only thing that stops them from going out and committing massacres.

    Good thing, too; Finland is dangerous. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  127. #127 Richard01
    October 26, 2008

    Imagine if you were the pope and you realised that religion was being increasingly exposed for the fraud it is. Your problem would be how to find a way of going extinct gracefully without having to admit that you’ve mislead huge numbers of people for so long? The leaders of the main religions are not stupid and must be aware of the mounting evidence against religion…the question is what to do about it…. the popes apology for the pedophiles in his senior ranks will be nothing like the apology that will be needed when the overall fraud perpetrated becomes blatantly obvious to all. Ardent followers may feel a huge emotional vacuum with a severe backlash possibly similar to that felt by ordinary Germans once they realised what Hilter had done to them.

  128. #128 SkepticTim
    October 26, 2008

    Interesting poll, but it would be nice to see a few more details on U.S. religious beliefs: something similar to the following.
    On May 31, 2008, the Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey data were gathered by telephone from just over 1,000 people between May 22 and May 26 and reported that fewer than three-quarters of Canadians believe in a god. The poll found 72 per cent of respondents said they believed in a god, while 23 per cent said they did not believe in any god. Six per cent did not offer an opinion. ( A sample of the same size has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)
    The Harris-Decima poll also indicated:
    -(at) Women (76 per cent) were more likely than men (67 per cent) to say they believed in a god.
    -(at) Canadians over the age of 50 (82 per cent) were far more likely than those under the age of 25 (60 per cent) to say they believed in a god. More than one in three (36 per cent) of those under the age of 25 said they did not believe in any god.
    -(at) English Canadians (73 per cent) were more likely than French Canadians (67 per cent) to say they believed in a god.
    -(at)Belief in a god is higher in rural Canada (76 per cent) than in urban Canada (69 per cent).

    In one Harris Interactive study in the United States, conducted in 2007, the number who said they were non-believers was only eight per cent.

  129. #129 A poster
    October 27, 2008

    I’d guess that the cause of the uptick was the end of the Cold War. The United States is pretty much alone among First World nations in having such a strong degree of religious identification; I’d guess that a lot of that was due to a half-century-long cold war, where the bad guys were socialist and atheist and being prominently religious was a way of demonstrating that one was a good US citizen.

    I’d be expecting the United States to become less religious and move more economically towards socialism (regrettably; I’m a free-market fan myself).

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