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Phil Zuckerman

Claremont, CA.

Professor of Sociology, Pitzer College in

Posted: February 14, 2011 02:42 PM

The Top Mistakes Atheists Make
Read More: Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheists, Christopher Hitchens, New Atheists, Religion, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Science, Secularism, Religion News

I've been studying atheists, agnostics, XTC fans, and various other types of secular folk out there for quite some time. I've also read most of the anti-religious books that have been published ever since Sam Harris kicked things off with The End of Faith. And I must say, I've got a few criticisms for my God-denying brothers and sisters out there. Or perhaps, more specifically, some pointers. For if you really think that a secular worldview is superior to - or at least more rational than -- a religious one, and if you really think that the world would be a better place if people didn't believe in supernatural deities, nasty demons, or chubby cherubs, I would suggest a little self-examination. A lot of you out there are making some serious mistakes. Here they are: 1. Insisting that science can, or will, answer everything. When Bill O'Reilly or your Baptist in-laws ask you pointed questions like: "How did the universe get here?" or "What caused the Big Bang?" or "Why is there something instead of nothing?" don't insist that science has the answer. It may not -- ever. It is far better to simply say that we don't know everything, and may in fact never know everything. There will always be some mysteries out there. Just say: "Yeah -- it is quite a profound puzzle. No one knows the answer. But just because we don't know the answers to everything, doesn't mean we then automatically accept some made-up possibility." :1:

2. Condemning all religion, rather then just the bad aspects thereof. Religion is man-made. It is socially constructed. It grows out of human culture. As such, religion inevitably contains, reflects, and reveals all that is within the realm of humanity: the good and the bad. It is like any other facet of human civilization: some of it is noble and inspirational, much of it is nonsensical and even dangerous. But to condemn it all as poisonous is to be in serious denial. 3. Condemning the Bible as a wretched, silly book, rather than seeing it as a work full of good and insightful things as well. The Bible was written by humans. It has no other source. The evidence is clear on that front. And similar to point two above, given that it is a human creation means that it isn't all good or all bad -- but contains both. Its contents can be downright absurd, flagrantly unscientific, embarrassingly racist and sexist -- not to mention painfully boring. But it also contains brilliant insights into the human condition, fun stories to entertain kids, and heady poetry. It even has solemn stretches of unbridled skepticism and existential angst. Check out Ecclesiastes. 4. Failing to understand and appreciate "cultural religion." There are tens of millions of people out there who are part of a religious tradition, but don't actually believe in the theological teachings thereof. They go to church, they get bar-mitzvahed, they identify with a religious tradition, and yet they are basically atheists, agnostics, or skeptics at heart. Why do they stay religious? They like it. They enjoy the traditions, the songs, the rituals, the community. These people should be seen as allies, not enemies. And every time we condemn their religion as idiocy or wickedness, we simply turn them off. Religion is not a black or white thing. Neither is secularity. There is a lot of gray out there. Deal with it. Appreciate it. 5. Critiquing God as nasty, wicked, and immoral. There is no point in critiquing a deity that doesn't exist. There is no need to catalogue the horrors, hypocrisies, or genocidal tendencies of a god that is imaginary. The reason we don't believe in God is simple: lack of evidence. That's it. Stay focused people. 6. Focusing on arguments against the existence of God, rather than working to make the world a better, more just place. People who :2:

well. or logical arguments against the existence of God. :3: . End of discussion. employment. Rather. the world-over. they say. It is so "Old Testament. What really lowers levels of religiosity. and the most secular nations have among the lowest. corrupt. Nine is divisible by 3. 7. When people have enough to eat. healthcare." Let's start going with top nine lists instead. scientific. just insist that morality is ultimately revealed and shown through human action and deed. peaceful. 8. Arguing about morality in the abstract. Always making top ten lists. The sociological evidence is clear: religious parents tend to have religious kids and secular parents tend to have secular kids. is living in a society where life is decent and secure. is a magic number. and humane. But only rarely.that's when religion really starts to lose its grip. more moral.believe in irrational things will rarely change their minds by listening to rational arguments. Not having more kids. 9. Think this will change people's minds? Perhaps. and socially troubled. peacefulness. And yet atheists expel so much sweat constructing philosophical. with religious fundamentalists having the most kids of all. democracy -. Don't get sucked into arguments about "Can we be good without God?" Don't try to convince theists that secular morality is actually more rational and. The demographic data is unambiguous: religious people have far more kids than secular people. So if you really want a godless world. while the most religious countries and states are the most crime-ridden. And 3. And we can plainly see that the least religious countries and states are generally the most moral. And the highly religious societies on earth tend to have the highest birthrates. elder-care. better get busy. shelter. child-care.

rendering nonbelievers intrinsically suspect and second-class citizens. murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States. A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists. this stunning antiatheist discrimination is egged on by Christian conservatives who stridently — and uncivilly — declare that the lack of godly faith is detrimental to society. the death penalty. there is still a group that lots of Americans just don’t like much: atheists .Why do Americans still dislike atheists? By Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman. racism. They can’t join the Boy Scouts. which also has a much greater portion of its population in prison. Even within this country. punitive hitting of children. wicked and angry. are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. and even as homosexuals gain respect. homophobia. anti-Semitism. nonbelievers are one minority still commonly denied in practical terms the right to assume office despite the constitutional ban on religious tests. Atheist soldiers are rated potentially deficient when they do not score as sufficiently “spiritual” in military psychological evaluation s. 2011 Long after blacks and Jews have made great strides. environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers. Those who don’t believe in God are widely considered to be immoral. sexism. those :4: . acceptance and new rights. Consider that at the societal level. Surveys find that most Americans refuse or are reluctant to marry or vote for nontheists. Rarely denounced by the mainstream. Is this knee-jerk dislike of atheists warranted? Not even close. Published: April 29. in other words. particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious. and non-religious people in general. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture.

Denmark. So when the likes of Glenn Beck. And studies of apostates — people who were religious but later rejected their religion — report feeling happier. While many studies show that secular Americans don’t fare as well as the religious when it comes to certain indicators of mental health or subjective well-being. They value freedom of thought. sexually transmitted diseases.states with the highest levels of church attendance. have significantly higher murder rates than far less religious states such as Vermont and Oregon. which is among the least religious countries in the history of the world. They are more likely to practice safe sex than the strongly religious are. These put-downs have had sticking power. whereas atheists who are more convinced are doing about as well as devout believers. On numerous respected measures of societal success — rates of poverty. and mental health and wellbeing are complex. as well as economics — high levels of secularity are consistently correlated with positive outcomes in first-world nations. incapable of doing any good. teenage pregnancy. consistently rates as the happiest of nations. Negative stereotypes of atheists are alive and well. new scholarship is showing that the relationships among atheism. atheists tend to score high on measures of intelligence. theism.000 years ago. None of the secular advanced democracies suffers from the combined social ills seen here in Christian America. But surveys indicating that religious Americans are better off can be misleading because they include among the non-religious fencesitters who are as likely to believe in God. especially verbal ability and scientific literacy. whoever wrote Psalm 14 claimed that atheists were foolish and corrupt. Yet like all stereotypes. obesity. to make up their own minds when it comes to existential questions and to obey the golden rule. such as Louisiana and Mississippi. drug use and crime. and are less likely to be nationalistic or ethnocentric. :5: . Nontheism isn’t all balloons and ice cream. better and liberated in their post-religious lives. Some studies suggest that suicide rates are higher among the non-religious. abortion. they aren’t true — and perhaps they tell us more about those who harbor them than those who are maligned by them. They tend to raise their children to solve problems rationally. More than 2. After all. As individuals.

Younger generations’ tolerance for the endless disputes of religion is waning fast. As with other national minority groups. atheism is enjoying rapid growth. the number of American nontheists has tripled as a proportion of the general population since the 1960s. Despite the bigotry. they do so in disregard of reality. Gregory Paul is an independent researcher in sociology and evolution.Sarah Palin. a professor of sociology at Pitzer College. Surveys designed to overcome the understandable reluctance to admit atheism have found that as many as 60 million Americans — a fifth of the population — are not believers. is the author of “Society Without God. Our nonreligious compatriots should be accorded the same respect as other minorities. Phil Zuckerman.” :6: . Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich engage in the politics of division and destruction by maligning atheists.

but was certainly not a miracle-performing son of any god. and just like last time. There was no wait. and possibly in the history of the world. Religion News Imagine a place where almost no one ever goes to church. and nearly everyone understands that morals and values exist independently of religion. living for another year in Aarhus. humane. almost everyone knows that the Bible was written by humans and not the divine. marginal. 
 But you don't actually have to imagine too hard -. in the here and now. Imagine a society where people see Jesus as perhaps a nice man who taught some nice things. religion is so weak. Society Religion. almost everyone accepts the evidence supporting evolution. Let me give a few examples: 
 My elder daughter recently had a cough. the office was clean and aesthetically :7: . In such a culture. They're just indifferent and perhaps uninterested. Denmark Religion. Such a secular haven really exists. I'm back here again. and downright quaint that people aren't even anti-religious. Religion Society. their belief is fairly watery and thin. Denmark's second largest city. and calm everything is. It is my second extended stay here in Scandinavia. Scandinavia Religion.just hop on a plane to Denmark.Phil Zuckerman Posted: September 22. Secular Society. Try to conceive of a modern corner of the world where religion has virtually no place in politics. and among those who do. the majority of people do not believe in God. safe. 2010 06:00 PM Imagine No Religion: Can a Society Be Successful Without It? Read More: Denmark Happiness. my mind reels at just how damn rational. Contemporary Denmark is indeed one of the least religious countries in the world. civil. Religionless Society. Europe. Religion-Free Society. so I took her to the doctor.

observation. Healthcare here is universal. etc. There are no homeless people. Glenn Beck. so they are well paid. one can simply look at the sociological facts: on nearly every standard measure and nearly every international index. tax-subsidized. state-run. have excellent benefits.pleasing. and their conservative Christian sheep are wrong: religious faith is not necessary for a society to be successful and well-functioning. from economic well-being to educational attainment. ample vacation time. logic. They may even be unnecessary distractions. begging in the streets.
 But my own personal experiences aside.not by prayer or faith.) 
 The bike lanes here in secular Scandinavia are wide and safe. No problem: the county provides taxi service for my daughter.) My younger daughter attends a language immersion school on the other side of the city. troubles and challenges are faced by marshaling human reason. at how the cars readily give bike riders the right of way. I could go on and on. from low violent crime rates to low unemployment rates.these things are clearly not required for a country to be happy and prosperous. and are thus in a relatively chipper mood. But you can be sure that here in Denmark. empathy. And the taxi drivers are unionized. successful societies such as Sweden. (They're also well dressed and their taxis couldn't be cleaner. (Not a death panel to be seen for miles. debate. Japan. from quality of life to happiness and life satisfaction. And the yogurt. and rational problem-solving -. prayer. this religion-lite land is among the best on earth. and it was totally free. as is the jam.) is noteworthy for several reasons. love of Jesus. Belief in God. and Bible study -. the doctor was professional yet easy-going. 
Are there any problems here? Of course. Christine O'Donnell. rather than the finger. Unfortunately. free of charge. and it couldn't be better. No society is without its troubles and challenges. The bread is devastatingly good. we don't have a car. :8: . discussion. 
 First. as I bike to and from work. 
 The existence of Denmark (and similarly secular. and I am happily stunned each day.

democracy -. and maybe most importantly. in their work. decent. people can clearly find meaning in their lives outside of religious paradigms. And all without much concern for an eternity of heavenly bliss or torturous hellfire. as are orphans. in their love of the outdoors. Children are well taken care of. Religion is simply not the only thing on this planet that can provide people with a profound sense of purpose. And I'm loving it. I'm not only imagining it. as are the elderly. or in their hobbies and personal pursuits.
 Second. and the sick. but I'm living it. Men and women can find meaning in their relationships with family and friends. freedom.these things are not only highly valued but successfully realized. Equality. 
 John Lennon asked us to imagine no religion. :9: . but it is also one of the most moral and ethically conscious cultures in the modern world. 
 Third. as are the physically and mentally challenged. Denmark is not only one of the safest places on earth. and the afflicted. and just without religious faith. people can be upstanding.

innate component to being human. all of which sharply refute any assertion that religion is natural or instinctual. war-loving. he claims. Faith. Consider the following truths. The most recent American Religious Identification Survey found that 12% of Americans are atheist or agnostic. this one particular fact is still important and must be publicly pronounced in response to Goldberg's assertion: many millions of humans are not "hard-wired" for God.that's a lot of Americans. many Americans are secular. greed-adoring. rendering the oft-touted declaration that humans are essentially or "naturally" religious manifestly untenable. Either one . 2010 12:41 PM Are We 'Hard-Wired' for God? Read More: Atheism ." Humans are simply "hard-wired" to believe. A 2008 Harris Poll found that approximately 19% of Americans are either atheist or agnostic. earthhating. Secularity is an undeniable fact of human existence. All people. He can marshal all the philosophical musing he wants in an attempt to paint faith as a humanly universal. but the social science is clear: hundreds of millions of people are not spiritual or religious. Really? While it is usually Goldberg's right-wing. First. have a religious need or spiritual proclivity. Tens of millions. health-care-deploring opinions than I object to. Religion . according to Goldberg.Phil Zuckerman Posted: January 5. Jonah Goldberg . And the percentage of Americans who claim "none" as their religion has doubled in recent years. conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg asserted that religion is a natural. While empirical reality rarely matters much when religion is the topic. is actually an "instinct. Faith . : 10 : . in this particular instance.19% or 12% . from around 8% back in the 1980s to around 15% today. Politics News In the Los Angeles Times last week. my problem with Goldberg is strictly factual.

Second. they are not innate. Many millions of people who were raised with religion. Finally. Yes. and 20 percent of the British do not believe in God or any sort of spirit or life force. Add more millions to the pile of secular folk. rates of secularity are even higher in many other countries. 25 percent of Germans. Many Israelis are also secular. have gone on to reject their faith. When it comes to social phenomena. international survey data indicates that somewhere between 500 million and 750 millions people worldwide do not believe in God. from former Muslim Ayann Hirsi Ali to former L. Other studies have found that a significant majority of Estonians. religion.A. And according to some estimates. ubiquity must never be mistaken for biology. And then there's China -. where the vast majority of people are non-believers. For example. almost half of South Koreans are atheist or agnostic. But many are not. 27 percent of the Dutch. and spirituality are certainly common and widespread. ultimately deciding to let it go. but are no longer.but you get the idea. and there are also weapons of mass destruction buried in the sand in Iraq. there is the persistent reality of apostasy. Times reporter and former Evangelical Christian William Lobdell. the world is full of people who were once religious. a 2005 Eurobarometer study found that 33 percent of the French. most people are religiously inclined. According to my own tabulations which were published in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism (2007). Faith an instinct? Sure. Czechs. How does Goldberg explain such cases? Did their "hard-wiring" go kaput? Where did their natrual religious "instinct" go? The bottom line is that while faith. there's more! Let's not forget Japan. Why is this simple truth so hard for the likes of Goldberg to accept? : 11 : . That's hundreds of millions of humans living life without religious faith or a spiritual compass. But wait. From Dan Barker (former pastor and now head of the Freedom From Religion Foundation) to comedian Julia Sweeney ("Letting Go of God"). 27 percent of Belgians. or became religious at some point in their lives. and Swedes are totally irreligious.

Whether Christian. prosperous. Every societal illwhether crime." further adding that "when a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture . poor public education. from the pope in Vatican City to Mormons in Salt Lake City. poverty. . From Orthodox rabbis in the occupied West Bank to Wahhabi sheiks in Saudi Arabia. A comparison of highly irreligious countries with highly religious countries. safe. healthy society. or AIDS-is thus blamed on a lack of piety. poverty. peaceful. In reality. and disease and the most religious nations to be models of societal health. And the most religious : 12 : . A most disconcerting example of this worldview was expressed in the immediate aftermath of September 11. when Jerry Falwell blamed the terrorists attacks on America's "throwing God out of the public square. wealthy. Muslim. ." If this often-touted religious theory were correct-that a turning away from God is at the root of all societal ills-then we would expect to find the least religious nations on earth to be bastions of crime. 2003) and is currently writing a book on secularization in Scandinavia. Jewish. free. the lament is the same: God and his will must be at the center of everyone's lives in order to ensure a moral. He is the author of Invitation to the Sociology of Religion (Routledge.Sects and Violence Is Faith Good for Us? Phil Zuckerman Phil Zuckerman is an associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College in California. when large numbers of people in a society reject God or fail to make him the center of their lives. the most secular countries-those with the highest proportion of atheists and agnostics-are among the most stable. the result is not good. or Sikh. reveals a very different state of affairs. 2001. fundamentalists agree that. there is one common belief that all religious fundamentalists share: worship of God and obedience to his laws are essential for a peaceful. and healthy societies. Furthermore. societal disintegration is sure to follow. however. collective existence.

educational attainment. and so on. However. The twenty-five nations characterized by organic atheism with the highest proportion of nonbelievers are listed in Table 1. and the former Soviet states) and open. Furthermore. which can be described as "coercive atheism. nearly every nation with high levels of "organic atheism" is a veritable model of societal health. economic stagnation. One must always be careful. democratic nations where atheism is freely chosen by a well-educated population (as in Sweden. to distinguish between totalitarian nations where atheism is forced upon an unwilling population (such as in North Korea. violent. the Netherlands. censorship. depression. Conversely. which ranks 177 countries on a "Human Development Index. Australia. the twenty-five with the lowest infant-mortality rates had significantly high levels of organic atheism. of the top twenty-five nations. China. of course. or Japan). and destitute." measures such indicators of societal health as life expectancy. All had notably high degrees of organic atheism. The former nations' nonreligion. all but Ireland and the United States were top-ranking nonbelieving nations with some of the highest percentages of organic atheism on earth. the five top nations were Norway.000 live births). highly religious nations fare rather poorly. According to this report. The 2004 United Nations' Human Development Report.cia. : 13 : . we find that they fare remarkably well. the seventyfive nations with the highest infant-mortality rates were all very religious and without statistically significant levels of organic atheism. and the Netherlands. and religious countries had the highest rates. the bottom fifty countries of the "Human Development Index" lacked statistically significant levels of organic atheism. According to the 2004 CIA World Factbook (http://www. adult literacy." is plagued by all that comes with totalitarianism: corruption.nations-wherein worship of God is in abundance-are among the most unstable. Canada. and the like. Conversely. poor. Sweden. oppressive. percapita When looking at standard measures of societal health. out of 225 nations. Irreligious countries had the lowest infant-mortality rate (number of deaths per 1. Vietnam.

with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism. (Botswana suffers from the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.avert.Concerning international poverty rates. Conversely. Concerning gender equality. such as those of Scandinavia-where public sex education is supported and birth control is widely accessible-fared the best.) Conversely. while highly religious nations are among the most oppressive. looked at thirty-eight non-African nations and found that the ten with the highest homicide rates were highly religious. in a study reported in the Journal of Law and Economics (2002). with minimal or statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism. of the ten nations with the lowest homicide rates. of the forty poorest nations on earth (measured by the percentage of population that lives on less than one dollar a day). see http://www. According to the 2004 Human Development Report's "Gender : 14 : . the most religious nations on earth-particularly those in Africa-fared the worst. the United Nations Report on the World Social Situation (2003) found that. of the ten nations with the lowest homicide rates. all were highly religious. In regard to rates of AIDS and HIV infection. the highly irreligious nations of Western Europe. all but Ireland and Kuwait were relatively secular nations. James Fox and Jack Levin. with high levels of organic atheism. looked at thirty-seven non-African nations and found that.. all but Estonia and Taiwan were highly religious. all but Vietnam were highly religious nations with statistically minimal or insignificant levels of atheism. of the thirty-five nations with the highest levels of youth-illiteracy rates (percentage of population ages fifteen to twenty-four who cannot read or write). according to the United Nations Report on the World Social Situation (2003). experiencing among the lowest rates of AIDS and HIV infection in the world. all but Ireland were secular nations with high levels of atheism. nations marked by high degrees of organic atheism are among the most egalitarian in the world. Conversely. Regarding homicide rates. of the ten nations with the highest homicide rates. Concerning literacy rates. in The Will to Kill. with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism. Oablo Fajnzylber et htm.

tended to be highly religious. in Human Values and Social Change (2003).who. A country's suicide rate stands out as the one indicator of societal health in which religious nations fare much better than secular nations. found that. Latvia.. five were distinctly irreligious nations ranked among the top twenty-five nations listed earlier." of the ten nations most accepting of gender equality. countries such as Sweden.Empowerment Measure. Nigeria. Hungary. Denmark. with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism. According to Inglehart et al. Conversely. These five are all were highly religious and had statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism. tended to be characterized by high degrees of organic atheism. the bottom ten were all highly religious nations without any statistically significant percentages of atheists. Of the ten nations with the highest male suicide rates. It is interesting to note that of the nations currently experiencing the highest rates of suicide-including the five just mentioned-nearly all are former : 15 : . and countries such as Pakistan. in Human Beliefs and Values: A Cross-Cultural Sourcebook Based on the 1999-2002 Value Surveys (2004). of the eighteen nations least likely to condemn homosexuality. The acceptance of gender equality among irreligious nations may be linked to the relative acceptance of homosexuality." the ten nations with the highest degrees of gender equality were all strongly organic-atheistic nations with significantly high percentages of nonbelief. and the Netherlands. all but Hungary were highly religious. According to the 2003 World Health Organization's report on international male suicide rates (http://www. characterized by extremely high levels of theism (usually of the Muslim and Catholic varieties). with the most female members of parliament. all were highly ranked organic-atheistic nations. Conversely. with the fewest female members in parliament. of the eighteen nations most likely to condemn homosexuality. all but the United States and Colombia were marked by high levels of organic atheism. and Slovenia. Inglehart et al. the nations with the lowest rates of suicide were all highly religious. According to Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris's (2003) "Gender Equality Scale. of the ten least-accepting of gender equality. and Iran. Russia.

e. and the nations of Europe-its standing in terms of societal health plummets. democratic nations such as Canada. poverty. better educated. poverty. According to the United Nations' 2004 "Human Development Index" discussed earlier. The former nations have among the lowest homicide rates. making it the most religious of all Western industrialized nations. when we compare the United States to its peer nations-i. and more humane when compared to the United States.) In sum. poverty rates. cleaner. The sole indicator of societal health in which religious countries scored higher than irreligious countries is suicide. do not have the highest suicide rates in the world. The fact is that extremely secular nations such as Japan and Sweden are much safer. as is widely thought to be the case. industrialized. and homelessness rates than any of its more secular peer nations. Where does the United States fit in all this? Americans are very religious. well-being. Rates of prayer. infant mortality rates. It is also the only Western industrialized democracy that is unwilling to provide universal health coverage to its citizens. Many studies have found that only between 3-7 percent of Americans do not believe in God. When it comes to societal health. belief in the divine origins of the Bible. The wealth.Soviet/communist-dominated societies. and rates of church attendance are remarkably robust in the United States. and suffering in various : 16 : . despite the latter's exceptionally strong levels of theism. belief in the divinity of Jesus. with the possible exception of Ireland.. Japan. The information presented in this discussion in no way proves that high levels of organic atheism cause societal health or that low levels of organic atheism cause societal ills such as poverty or illiteracy. The United States has far higher homicide. However. while societies with nonexistent rates of organic atheism are among the most destitute. life expectancy. healthier. educational attainment. countries with high rates of organic atheism are among the most societally healthy on earth. obesity. and illiteracy rates and among the highest levels of wealth. (The nations of Scandinavia. the United States certainly fares far better than much of the rest of the world. where organic atheism is strongest. and gender equality in the world. developed. the United States ranked eighth.

Rather. Paul's important research correlating rates of belief/nonbelief with various measures of societal health. However. the conclusion to be drawn from the data provided above is simply that high levels of irreligion do not automatically result in a breakdown of civilization. Acknowledgment My article is indebted to Gregory S. : 17 : . historical. conservative Christians are championing religion as the solution to America's societal problems. just. and sociological factors that are far more determinant than people's personal belief systems. one is more likely to find it among those nations ranking low in religious faith-contrary to the preaching of religious folks. a rise in immoral behavior. but. safe. humane. Furthermore. its results do not compare at all favorably with that of the more secular societies. their pious "solution" is highly dubious and clearly not supported by the best available research of social science. Belief in God may provide comfort to the individual believer. economic. From small-town school boards to the floor of the Senate. or in "sick societies. This fact must be vigorously asserted in response to the proclamations of politically active theists. and healthy society.nations are caused by numerous political. When seeking a more civil. religion is clearly not the simple and single path to righteous societies that religious fundamentalists seem to think it is." Quite the opposite seems to be the case. at the societal level.

Finland. Wales has the highest proportion of religiously "non-affiliated" A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction. say researchers. study says By Jason Palmer Science and technology reporter. The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia. The result. New Zealand and Switzerland. US. The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation. The team's mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one. Ireland.Science & Environment 22 March 2011 Last updated at 07:31 GMT Religion may become extinct in nine nations. reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas. the Netherlands. Canada. Their means of analysing the data invokes what is known as nonlinear dynamics . Austria. the Czech Republic. indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries. Dallas I In the UK.a mathematical approach that has been used to : 18 : . BBC News.

At its heart is the competition between speakers of different languages." said Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility. and the highest we saw was in the Czech Republic. and the University of Arizona. : 19 : . where the number was 60%. Daniel Abrams of Northwestern University.explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part." Some of the census data the team used date from the 19th century Dr Wiener continued: "In a large number of modern secular democracies. adjusting parameters for the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership of the "non-religious" category. and the "utility" of speaking one instead of another. "It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join. "The idea is pretty simple. in the Netherlands the number was 40%. One of the team. "For example in languages. put forth a similar model in 2003 to put a numerical basis behind the decline of lesser-spoken world languages. there's been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion." The team then applied their nonlinear dynamics model. there can be greater utility or status in speaking Spanish instead of [the dying language] Quechuan in Peru. and similarly there's some kind of status or utility in being a member of a religion or not.

"It's interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data. where each person is influenced equally by all the other people in society. Dr Wiener told the conference that the team was working to update the model with a "network structure" more representative of the one at work in the world. the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction. in a study published online.They found. he told BBC News that he thought it was "a suggestive result". "Obviously much more complicated things are going on with any one individual." he said. it suggests where this might be going. And in all the countries. suggesting that similar behaviour drives the mathematics in all of them. However." : 20 : . and if those simple ideas are correct. but maybe a lot of that averages out. "Obviously we don't really believe this is the network structure of a modern society. However. that those parameters were similar across all the countries studied.