Atheist Majority

I’m having issues with the Internets. I’ll be back shortly.

In the meantime… ponder this one:

Atheists are a minority of the population. The best-selling atheist authors would love to see that change, as would most atheist organizations around the country. I’m sure many like-minded bloggers would want to see that as well.

How would society be different if atheists were in the majority?


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • Gadren

    A great question!

    I don’t think that an atheist society would necessarily be a better one. A better society would come about from a more rational people (and atheism would just be a happy side effect). Of course, it’s likely that it would be an improvement in some areas (a president who said that God told him to invade other countries would get laughed out of office, for example). But unless people were rational and acted in logical and sensible ways, they would possess a shallow atheism, the kind where they never question being brought up atheist. And atheism on its own wouldn’t mean no wacky beliefs in homeopathic medicine and other New Age tripe.

  • Tolga K.

    The country would definitely be very libertarian. I have no qualms about saying that most conservatism (in both democrats and republicans) is fueled by religion and dislike of “different” ideas or people.

    The religious will definitely feel oppressed at first even if they are treated equally, as they will be subject to taxes (as the deserve to be) and will not have the opportunity to do as much indoctrination and conversion as they usually do.

    I think there would ultimately be a push to start restricting religion in unethical ways. As much as we may like some of our friends who are religious, it seems to me that almost every outspoken atheist has a complete hatred for religion. And because it is very easy to sway the masses with extreme claims, I have no doubt that people will eventually end up like today’s Evangelicals (with the exception that they believe in logical things).

    The problem is that Americans take a lot of pride in the groups they are a part of. Especially a group that was once oppressed (or felt oppressed). It’s human nature. Many religious people think little of their religion, because they assume everyone else believes in the majority religion unless told otherwise(1), when almost every Atheist I’ve known (including myself) wants to be some sort of activist.

    It’s no secret that the masses are stupid. We, as part of the masses, are also stupid, and hide it to keep our personal pride high. And only when the majority of individuals realize that they are just as stupid as the bad driver in front of them, the asshole that holds up the line, or the lazy bastard at work, will society truly act in a sensible manner.

    And I admit it, I am a stupid human… just like the other 6 or so billion people on this planet.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    I don’t think that atheism brings about rationalism (see: the history of the soviet union).

    I would hope that a “let’s see the evidence first, then decide” or “my belief or support of a prospect is in direct proportion to the amount of evidence” type of worldview would be a positive step whether or not it resulted in a majority atheist society.

    Obviously I think it would, but that’s my own bias showing.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    No idea. Depends on which atheists. If they were the John Mortimer type it would probably be pleasant and a lot of fun, if they were the Dawkinsites, it would be a pretty grim and intolerant place. But it’s not going to happen. I’m sure there was a time the Muggletonians thought they were going to rule the world.

    I did speculate on the Dawkinsites taking over once. I was convinced that they would lord it over the followers of Harris who would be known as Harrisites.

  • http://synapostasy.blogspot.com Aaron

    I think culture would remain to a certain extent unchanged. For most people, religion sits on the back burner most of the time. We might see a certain decrease in appeal to the supernatural in TV and film and such… but then again, maybe not. Atheists can use their imaginations, too.

    That said, a few major changes might resonate and skew society in unpredictable ways. I have to wonder what the response from the remaining religious community would be. Would they become increasingly conservative and radicalized as people stopped listening to them?

  • Claire

    I don’t think that atheism brings about rationalism (see: the history of the soviet union).

    I’m not sure that’s a valid point. The soviet union was a top-down imposition of belief system that didn’t accomplish its aim. All it created was a whole lot of closet christians and some state-worshippers. Look how fast religion came back after it fell, it took what, a couple weeks?

    Grass-roots atheism would no doubt put rationality at the forefront of public policy, the government would start taking the long view, and I have a bridge to sell you…

    People who want power will still try to scare voters into electing them – religion or not, that will not change. If the only result were that people were even a little more likely to vote for lawmakers who would represent the people governed instead of their own religious viewpoints, because (as atheists) the voters were a bit harder to convince/manipulate/herd, that alone would make for a better society.

  • http://terahertz.wordpress.com THz

    The first things to go would be Creationism, absitinence-only sex ed, and fairly quickly better equality would develop (one should hope). I think I have to agree that it would take a more rational thinking society to do truly improve and to not buy into everything they’re told. The education in the US is just lacking something that fails to provide a lot of Americans with developed critical thinking skills (see religion, New Ageism, Homeopathy, and anything untested).

  • Mriana

    I don’t know. While I would love to see religious extremist disappear, I think a more Humanistic society would be far better. I, of course, am not saying I’m against the idea of the majority being atheists, on the contrary, but I think having Religious Humanist (I’m including Christian, Jewish, and Islamic Humanism), along with Secular, Ethical, and Cultural Humanism would be the best thing that could happen. In effect, the majority would be atheists, but there would be more to it than just atheism alone. I do hope that makes sense. :?

  • http://sideeffectsmayvary.wordpress.com Lily

    I imagine our foreign policy would probably change, but I doubt society would be drastically different than it is now. Most of the religious groups that consistently make the news and generate controversy tend to be on the fringe of society anyway, so even if atheists were the majority those groups would still be an issue (i.e. we would still have to worry about adhering to the constitution – separation of church and state, freedom of religious expression, etc).

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    How would society be different if atheists were in the majority?

    It would probably be like Western Europe.

  • Miko

    There’d be more Star Trek on TV, but other than that things would stay pretty much the same.

  • Mriana

    OH! Another Trekker! Hi, Miko! Nice to see a fellow Trekker! Gene is my hero, even though he’s gone. :D

  • Darryl

    What we need desperately is not more atheists as much as less nonsense. I’m just hoping for public education that really does educate. I’d be happy in a world of tolerant, moderate faithful that, like Jimmy Carter, believe in science, reason, and making peace not war. Look at the jackass in the White House–there’s what we’ve got to offer the world.

  • Maria

    It would probably be like Western Europe.

    I hope so. If that’s how it was, that would be a great thing I think. If that is the type of atheist majority it would be very good. However if it was a very anti-theist (I do think there is a difference between atheist and anti-theist) majority, I would worry about it going too far the other way and not treating theists as equals. I think the first one would be much more likely though-and that’s a good thing.

    I don’t think that an atheist society would necessarily be a better one. A better society would come about from a more rational people (and atheism would just be a happy side effect). Of course, it’s likely that it would be an improvement in some areas (a president who said that God told him to invade other countries would get laughed out of office, for example). But unless people were rational and acted in logical and sensible ways, they would possess a shallow atheism, the kind where they never question being brought up atheist. And atheism on its own wouldn’t mean no wacky beliefs in homeopathic medicine and other New Age tripe.

    I agree. I would add though that not everything about homeopathy is bad. Of course it should never be used totally in place of known science, and stuff like faith healing is nonsense (as well as plenty of other stuff in it). But there is stuff that helps (like some herbs)-other cultures do use them. My own illness for example, is marginalized by some docs so I’ve found that some homeopathic herbs in addition to standard treatment have helped me. I think the biggest problem with it is it needs to be tested-if we could do that, we could figure out more what is worth keeping and what is not. They are doing this in Europe, which is pretty secular. So I’d like to hope if we became more secular here we’d do the same thing.

    The country would definitely be very libertarian. I have no qualms about saying that most conservatism (in both democrats and republicans) is fueled by religion and dislike of “different” ideas or people.

    The religious will definitely feel oppressed at first even if they are treated equally, as they will be subject to taxes (as the deserve to be) and will not have the opportunity to do as much indoctrination and conversion as they usually do.

    I think there would ultimately be a push to start restricting religion in unethical ways. As much as we may like some of our friends who are religious, it seems to me that almost every outspoken atheist has a complete hatred for religion. And because it is very easy to sway the masses with extreme claims, I have no doubt that people will eventually end up like today’s Evangelicals (with the exception that they believe in logical things).

    The problem is that Americans take a lot of pride in the groups they are a part of. Especially a group that was once oppressed (or felt oppressed). It’s human nature. Many religious people think little of their religion, because they assume everyone else believes in the majority religion unless told otherwise(1), when almost every Atheist I’ve known (including myself) wants to be some sort of activist.

    It’s no secret that the masses are stupid. We, as part of the masses, are also stupid, and hide it to keep our personal pride high. And only when the majority of individuals realize that they are just as stupid as the bad driver in front of them, the asshole that holds up the line, or the lazy bastard at work, will society truly act in a sensible manner.

    And I admit it, I am a stupid human… just like the other 6 or so billion people on this planet.

    You make excellent points, especially about the “unethical push”. It seems whenever there is a majority group, some members want to persecute a minority-no matter how rational other members of that group may be. The Christians started out as a small, persecuted minority. Then when they got into power, look what they became. Same with Muslims…….it just seems to be a human thing that too often too many members of a majority group get stuck on power. Maybe though, if society was more rational and reasonable overall-this could be prevented?

    I would hope that a “let’s see the evidence first, then decide” or “my belief or support of a prospect is in direct proportion to the amount of evidence” type of worldview would be a positive step whether or not it resulted in a majority atheist society.

    I agree with you. It may not result in a more fully atheistic society, but it should definitely be a more rational society that thinks things out more.

    People who want power will still try to scare voters into electing them – religion or not, that will not change. If the only result were that people were even a little more likely to vote for lawmakers who would represent the people governed instead of their own religious viewpoints, because (as atheists) the voters were a bit harder to convince/manipulate/herd, that alone would make for a better society.

    that makes a lot of sense

    I don’t know. While I would love to see religious extremist disappear, I think a more Humanistic society would be far better. I, of course, am not saying I’m against the idea of the majority being atheists, on the contrary, but I think having Religious Humanist (I’m including Christian, Jewish, and Islamic Humanism), along with Secular, Ethical, and Cultural Humanism would be the best thing that could happen. In effect, the majority would be atheists, but there would be more to it than just atheism alone. I do hope that makes sense.

    yeah it does, and I think it’s a good idea. I have to say I like a lot of things about humanism

    What we need desperately is not more atheists as much as less nonsense. I’m just hoping for public education that really does educate. I’d be happy in a world of tolerant, moderate faithful that, like Jimmy Carter, believe in science, reason, and making peace not war. Look at the jackass in the White House–there’s what we’ve got to offer the world.

    good point. the jackass in the white house almost makes me want to move to Canada-luckily he’ll be out in a year and then maybe, just maybe, things might start to get better. I’ve heard the evangelicals are divided over the republican candidates-not united like last time, so hopefully they will be too fragmented to vote as a unit again.

  • Stephen-

    As already suggested, the important thing is not to be an atheist per se, but an adogmatist; to reject not just religious dogmas, but all other forms of dogmas: communist, nationalist, racist etc.

    Yes, American society would probably move in the direction of Western Europe. Not paradise on earth by any means, but a little bit healthier all round.

    This however is pure scare-mongering:

    I think there would ultimately be a push to start restricting religion in unethical ways. As much as we may like some of our friends who are religious, it seems to me that almost every outspoken atheist has a complete hatred for religion.

    As frequently pointed out, trying to organise atheists is like herding cats. Once atheists are no longer under threat, atheist organisations will simply disintegrate. In the Netherlands I know of just one tiny atheist organisation; atheist organisations aren’t needed.

    In the 25 years I have lived in the Netherlands I have yet to hear a single attempt to “start restricting religion in unethical ways”. True, American society does tend to produce more hot-heads, so it wouldn’t surprise me if a few people did try to pull that sort of stunt – but I think the chance of them succeeding would, in a adogmatist society, be essentially nil.

    The nearest anything here has come to restricting religion, was with the SGP – the fundamentalist Christian political party. This does not allow women to stand as candidates for parliament and in fact does not allow them full membership of the party. It was decided two years ago that this meant they were excluded from receiving government subsidies until they stopped discriminating. Hardly unethical.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I think that a transition to Atheists being a majority would take several generations but without a religious majority to pigeon hole and oppress our views a lot of Atheists would simply go about their daily lives in much the same way that they do now.

    All those old churches would make good night clubs though.

  • Stephen

    (My first attempt five minutes ago, hasn’t appeared; I hope this doesn’t appear twice.)

    As already suggested, the important thing is not to be an atheist per se, but an adogmatist; to reject not just religious dogmas, but all other forms of dogmas: communist, nationalist, racist etc.

    Yes, American society would probably move in the direction of Western Europe. Not paradise on earth by any means, but a little bit healthier all round.

    This however is pure scare-mongering:

    I think there would ultimately be a push to start restricting religion in unethical ways. As much as we may like some of our friends who are religious, it seems to me that almost every outspoken atheist has a complete hatred for religion.

    As frequently pointed out, trying to organise atheists is like herding cats. Once atheists are no longer under threat, atheist organisations will simply disintegrate. In the Netherlands I know of just one tiny atheist organisation; atheist organisations aren’t needed.

    In the 25 years I have lived in the Netherlands I have yet to hear a single attempt to “start restricting religion in unethical ways”. True, American society does tend to produce more hot-heads, so it wouldn’t surprise me if a few people did try to pull that sort of stunt – but I think the chance of them succeeding would, in a adogmatist society, be essentially nil.

    The nearest anything has come to restricting religion, was with the SGP – the fundamentalist Christian political party. This does not allow women to stand as candidates for parliament and in fact does not allow them full membership of the party. It was decided two years ago that this meant they were excluded from receiving government subsidies until they stopped discriminating. Hardly unethical.

  • http://atheistrevolution.blogspot.com/ vjack

    We’d see the end to politicians pandering to religious groups, and I like to think there would finally be meaningful church-state separation.

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