Monday, 29 July 2013

Religion to Disappear By 2038

Nigel Barber: Atheism to Defeat Religion By 2038

In a recent book, "Why atheism will replace religion: The triumph of earthly pleasures over pie in the sky", Nigel Barber makes a very strong case for thinking atheism will have replaced religion across the world as a whole by 2038, in other words within the next generation.

Accepting the evidence showing a very strong correlation between the wealth of a country, measured by per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - a measure of average wealth generation - he arrives at this by taking two measures of Atheism:
  1. The projected date by which the average country will reach the 2004 GDP of the nine most godless countries - Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom (proud to see the UK up there!) who transitioned to Atheism in that year. The International Monetary Fund gives an average annual increase in GDP of 3.33%.
  2. Relative religiosity - that is, how important people think religion is in their lives. When they regard it as unimportant they become functionally atheist - in other words, they behave like perfectly normal atheists do - and a country in which more than 50% of the population regard religion as unimportant has effectively become a secular society. On this measure, taking Gallop Organization data, the most godless countries are Spain, South Korea, Canada, Switzerland, Uruguay, Germany and France. This has been increasing at a rate of 1% per annum.

Incidentally, that figure of 1% is exactly the figure reported for the USA between 2004 and 2013 by YouGov poll a few days ago, although the rate of increase appears to be increasing there, being 1.2% for the five years from 2008 to 2013.

Projecting these two measures forward gives, on the first measure, a date of 2041 as the world transition point. The second measure gives 2035. Averaging these gives the most likely date at around 2038.

Barber dismisses the minority view of political scientist, Eric Kaufmann, who has projected differential birth rates forward and has concluded that religious people will out-breed atheists, pointing out that as religious people become more prosperous, not only do they become less religious, but their birth-rate falls. Kaufmann's prediction also seems to me to have ignored the fact that most atheists either were formerly religious and have de-converted, or were born to religious parents. Kaufmann seems to be treating religion as an incurable congenital condition rather than a treatable memetic infection.

I wish I could say I was completely convinced by Barber's prediction but there are of course a lot of assumptions underpinning it.

Firstly, it assumes that per capita GDP will continue to rise at the previous 30 year's rate and that this will be more-or-less uniform throughout the world.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you - then you win.

Mohandas K Gandhi
Secondly, that there will not be increased resistance to losing faith when people realise they are losing a irreplaceable source of excuses for not taking responsibility for their own actions and behaviour, and something to blame for their personality defects.

Thirdly, those who earn a living from or otherwise depend on other people being superstitious are not going to stand idly by and watch their way of life disappear. What will these people, the conmen who parasitise the gullible and vulnerable, the predatory priests who go into the priesthood to gain trusted access to children and other vulnerable people, the racists, misogynists, homophobes, flag-wrapped nationalist and scoundrel politicians, use if waving a Bible or Qur'an causes derision and contempt?

Maybe a glimpse of their panic can already be seen on Twitter and other social media where they are attempting mob rule and suppression having lost the rational argument to science and reason. We are certainly seeing regular whinging by right-wing nut-jobs who think Atheists should be stopped from making them think - If we're cracking down on Twitter abuse, can we include Richard Dawkins and the atheist trolls?

I would expect them to become increasingly shrill, desperate and violent. Don't get complacent. We have much still to do. The struggle is by no means won - yet.

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  1. I agree the rhetoric online especially has become very un-religious from the theists. Its as if they are in their final battle, but this battle still has a long way to go unfortunately.

  2. This study has real life examples to back up this theory. Right now this has already happened in Scandinavian. It took centuries for Christianity to take hold in that area. It took just one generation for religion to become irrelevant to people lives there 85% consider themselves non religious and those nations are PROSPERING with the lowest crime rates and highest standards of living in the world.


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