Having read the extremely interesting "Atheism in 10 years time" thread, I find myself, sadly, not being quite as optimistic as some of the contributors to that topic.
While I agree (and fervently hope) that the numbers of those rejecting faith will continue to rise, I think it unlikely that we are about to see a rapid increase in the ranks of atheism.
I can only really speak for The UK (and Christianity specifically), but in my honest opinion, by far the biggest impediment to a welcome increase in atheism is apathy at best, and intellectually laziness at worst.
For example, it’s often said that ‘traditional’ Christian beliefs in this country are in rapid decline, with weekly (i.e Sunday) church attendances proportionately as low as they’ve ever been. However, although most of the demographic groups that would have once attended regular church services now profess to be agnostic or atheist, the overwhelming majority of them still choose to observe and celebrate certain ‘important’ life events in a church or chapel.
People who do not practise any form of ‘organised’ Christianity from one year to the next still choose to have their children christened and baptized, they still elect to get married in church, and almost without exception, they still choose to have a religious service conducted at their funerals.
They continue to do these things because, for want of a better phrase, it’s “the done thing”. In a way, tradition is being allowed to trump one’s personal beliefs and opinions – if that is, they really have any such opinions.
To these ends, I would propose that most of these (albeit – well-intentioned) people, who almost automatically opt for these Christian services and ceremonies, have never really spent the time to explore their own beliefs, and less time still exploring other faiths and religions.
They don’t really care if they believe in a god or not. And often enough, even if they have given it some thought, and have decided that there probably isn’t, they still continue the charade of following established traditions in their choice of venue and content for the above-mentioned ceremonies.
I’m afraid that until these wishy-washy, apathetic, religion-enablers snap out of their self-induced coma, and can be bothered to actually spend some time to properly research the beliefs and opinions they owe themselves, the self-perpetuating anachronism of religious service attendance will continue to roll on unchecked.
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Hmm that was IMHO an interesting and thoughtful post, I guess apathy has a lot to do with it also I would not be surprised if in many cases, not all, people have been given wills been promised material possessions upon mirage when they have family who are very religious. I for one want to get married in a catholic church to make my mom happy. Having some hard times finding a priest who won't let that bit about vowing to raise my kids in the Catholic faith slide though I have found priest willing to overlook the whole confirmation bit.
As you found out, two things rule the churches, apathy and money. If churches let things slide due to apathy, there is usually money involved somewhere to make up for it.
I disagree. I don't think there are that many churches around that will trade their beliefs for cash. I can see them charging extra to use their church if you aren't a member, but I don't see them bending over backwards to break their own rules for money.
Apathy can make countries crumble, why not religions? If their is apathy on our side, then there is apathy on their side as well. Maybe the effects of that apathy will cause religions to falter slightly but they will always be held up by someone pushing their message on us.
It's going to be interesting to see what my father will do for his funeral (hopefully not for a long long time though). He's pretty vocally against organized religion now that my grandmother is out of the picture, but Catholicism is still for the most part "the done thing" four our family as a whole. While I know that he really doesn't care what happens after he's dead, he might make the express request to not have a religious service. We'll see.