At the turn of the 20th century almost none of the World’s population called themselves an atheist or a non-believer. Forty years after Dawin’s famous theory, still very few people believed in Evolution or that it meant that God doesn’t exist. Now, over a century later, Atheism is the world’s fastest growing belief system. Almost 15% of the world’s population class themselves as non-believers, and that doesn’t count the millions who are religious in name but rarely attend any kind of regular worship, nor the millions who claim a belief they don’t have for fear of persecution. Yet, still radical variants of religious sects exist all over the world, whether its Islamic State militants from Syria and parts of the Middle East and Africa, the 969 group in Myanmar (a violent Buddhist sect) or the KKK, which purports to be upholding Christian morality. Every day we hear of new attacks, new bombings and new shootings done in the name of a belief system.
Is it a surprise that secularism is becoming such a force to be reckoned with?
The reality of the situation is fairly simple, Religions require their teachings to be spread and passed down from generation to generation but that is no longer happening in the way it once did. Birth rates are declining in many countries, so the next generation of believers will be smaller than the last, and those born into religious families will be exposed to far more secular media and news than ever before. With the internet growing, western media proliferates even further than it ever has and it’s undeniable that the West is no longer as controlled by religious thought as it once was.
True, the UK’s head of state may also be the head of the Church, the Pope has a huge following and influence; and American Presidents still refuse to confirm or deny that they are Atheist. But if you take a cursory glance at TV schedules or the news and it’s obvious what has replaced the church as the architects of human ideology. We no longer read the bible and instead worship a culture of technology and materialism.
Reading those words makes it sound far worse than it is though, because ultimately why is this religion of knowledge and material goods such a bad one?
You can listen to films like Fight Club which say we’re all unhappy because of material goods, or agree with Russell Brand school of thought which teaches that the culture of celebrity and buying stuff didn’t make him happy (which it does by selling millions of books at ridiculous prices). Realistically though, this New Atheism is hardly evil. It regularly preaches inclusivity, empathy, humour, ambition, advancement and education above everything else. Yes, we’re taught to make money, buy things and sometimes manipulated into doing those things but we’re also taught to love our families and friends and those who can’t or don’t are helped to do so.
“It preaches inclusivity, empathy, humour, ambition, advancement and education above everything else.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that this religion is taking over from the ancient ones, because, though Christianity preaches to “love thy neighbour” and Islam teaches that society was made so that we “may know each other (not that ye may despise each other)”, too often we see these doctrines twisted and polluted. Today, to most educated people, Religion is equated with self-contradiction and hypocrisy. Religion is too often used as an excuse for Bad people to do Bad things in the name of “Good”.