Friday, 25 April 2014

Why are people atheist?

First, if you haven't read my other post about why people are religious, then a) what are you playing at?!? and b) go check it out now and then come back to this. Now atheism is becoming bigger and bigger, however there are no atheist dominated communities, they are spread out throughout the world, often popping up with little to no encouragement. Now this may have something to do with the internet, and that these communities exist in cyberspace rather than actual space. But atheism has been around for a long long time. Many early Greek philosophers could be described as atheists .e.g Xenophanes, Anaxagoras, Democritus and even Socrates to an extent. There has probably been some form of atheism ever since there has been religion, but why? 

In the previous post, I mentioned how religiosity is intuitive and that it is effectively our default way of thinking. So therefore atheist thinking is inherently counter-intuitive to us. If you have ever gone from being religious to atheist then you will know how scary and worrying it is to think that there isn't anyone looking over you, that there isn't an afterlife or divine intervention. It is truly very difficult to let go of that safety provided by religious belief, which is one of the main reasons why religion is so attractive to many people. 

One of the key differences between people who are religious and those who are not seems to be this. Those who are religious would be saddened to think that the universe, our planet and even us are only here because of the laws of physics and sheer fluke, whereas those who are not religious are often amazed and inspired by this idea.

Atheists are indeed on the rise, this is probably because there are more non-religious organisations that can meet people's social welfare needs, particularly in western Europe, where atheism is growing the most rapidly. This means that, while religious organisations may still be attractive to people, religious groups are no longer necessary for some people and less and less people are actually dependant on religion for food, shelter, therapy etc.

This is then combined with how stationary many religions have been, while many societies have moved at a rapid pace, the teachings, principles and rules that many religions require (or at least heavily recommend) have remained the same for many hundreds if not thousands of years. This means that some people (particularly young adults and teens) don't necessarily feel that religious groups are very relevant to them, and that they might seek alternatives that are more in tune with their lifestyle. 

In more recent times, atheism has boomed, this is probably due to 3 main factors; upbringing, science and disenchantment. As more and more people become atheist or just less religious, the more there are people who aren't brought up in a religious environment and thus things snowball from there. Also, numerous scientific discoveries have proven that the universe and the world did not come about in the way that any religion has described; leading many to discount religion entirely. Take the US, while still abnormally religious for their relative development, there has been a decline in religious belief over the last 60 years or so, the graph below shows that recent times have seen a rapid decline in religiosity. However, it is important to point out that the reasons for changes in religious belief are incredibly complex, this article begins to explain just how complicated it can get.

this graph shows the decline in US religiosity over the last 60 years, the Y axis is the result of an algorithm that tracked over 400 religious surveys, From

Finally, with the increasing globalisation of the world, we are becoming more and more aware of the many many injustices that fall upon many people. This may have lead some to believe that there can't be a God, as said God would surely not allow these terrible things to go on. This has also shed light on the extent of religious extremism and leads some to believe that many beliefs held by religious groups actually are quite ridiculous. It may also occur to some people that, if there are so many religions around that have very different ideas- perhaps none of them are right? 

I'm not sure why, but I feel the need to point out that I am neither for or against religion or atheism, as long as whatever belief system you have works for you then good for you. However, it is undeniable that religiosity is on the decline and atheism is becoming a more accepted and valid belief system.  I personally hold a very humanist view and that we must do what we can for each other now, regardless of whether there is anything watching over us. It is up to us to fix the problems we clearly have in the world, problems that we ourselves have created. I am not opposed to the idea of a God, I would love it if there was- but I find it very hard to believe that there is. I'm also of the view that if you are going to follow a religion you can't pick and choose, and as I couldn't subscribe to every teaching from a single religion, I can't follow any of them (perhaps this prevents a number of other people from being religious aswell). 

Like in my previous post about why people are religious, please let me know what you think about why people are atheist. I'm not interested in argueing over which is right, as that does nothing to change people's minds (I'll be doing a post on this in the future).  


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