The spread of atheism 133

We simply cannot understand how any intelligent and educated person can believe in God or gods.

We are pleased to learn that as more people world-wide become literate, many more are critically examining religious teaching (of any sort) and realizing its absurdity, and are willing to say so.

But as many still won’t “confess” to being atheists for fear of abuse and discrimination, it’s not really possible to set even a ball-park figure to the number of atheists in any particular country or, therefore, in the world generally.

Some attempt at numbering them has, however, been made.

From The Skeptic’s Dictionary, by Dr Robert T. Carroll:

How widespread is atheism? It is difficult to say with precision, since many people are afraid of admitting they are atheists. …

There are indications, however, that atheism is growing and is more widespread than the media and religious leaders would have us believe. A worldwide survey in 2000 by the Gallup polling agency found that 8% do not think there is any spirit, personal God, or life force. Another 17% were not sure. The American Religious Identification Survey of 2001 found growth in that segment of the adult population “identifying with no religion.” In 1990, 14.3 million or roughly 8% identified with this category. Ten years later the non-religious population had grown to 29.4 million, roughly 14.1% of the American community. This may be due in large part to the fact that in the 1990 survey the question asked was loaded: What religion do you identify with? In 2001, if any was added to the question. In 2008, the Pew Foundation published the largest, most comprehensive survey on religious affiliation ever done. About 16% say they are not affiliated with any religion. That translates to about 49 million Americans who don’t identify with any religion. Atheists make up only 1.6% of the adult population; that’s fewer than 5 million atheists in the U.S. and are outnumbered by Christians by about 50 to 1. In 2008, the American Religious Identification Survey found that since the last survey of its kind in 2001, the number of atheists has doubled from 900,000 to 1.6 million. The number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation is now at 15%.

The fact is that more than half the world’s population, and more than 90% of the world’s scientists, do not believe in a personal God … Worldwide, there are about 1.1 billion nonreligious people; only two religions have more numbers: Christianity has about 2.1 billion adherents and Islam has about 1.3 billion.

Dr Carroll writes of his own atheism:

If I had to sum up my own atheism, I think I would have to say that it amounts to this: I have no interest in the supernatural. I also have no interest in what others believe about the supernatural as long as their belief does not involve intolerance of those who disagree with them. Such people are a menace to society, a hindrance to social progress, and are unworthy of our respect. If we care about humanity, we have a duty to stand up to the intolerant of the world, no matter what god they claim commands them to behave inhumanely. We also have a duty to oppose those who claim immunity from the prohibition of abusing children because of their belief in some god. To claim that children should not be educated in science or in the religious beliefs of others — or that they should not receive proper medical care — because their parents believe God forbids it, is unacceptable.

We heartily agree.

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Commentary, Islam, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, June 29, 2010

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