Are atheists dying out?

PERSONAL_SECULARISM_LOGOAn article in Evolutionary Psychological Science looks at the “secularization hypothesis,” the assumption that modernity would be accompanied with the gradual dying out of religion.  That is proving not to be the case, with many researchers trying to figure out why.

The authors of this study sought a biological reason.  They found a strong correlation between “religiosity” and family size.  Conversely, they found a very strong correlation between the degree of “secularism” and small family size.  That is to say, atheists tend to have very few children.

The researchers conclude that secularists are dwindling demographically.

In the words of the article abstract (given after the jump), “A contra-secularization hypothesis is proposed and defended in the discussion. It states that secularism is likely to undergo a decline throughout the remainder of the twenty-first century, including Europe and other industrial societies.”

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C. S. Lewis, atheist

C. S. Lewis, one of the foremost Christian apologists, had been for 15 years a convinced and rather militant atheist.  My friend and former colleague Joel Heck has written a splendid study of Lewis’s atheism, published by Concordia Publishing House:   From Atheism to Christianity:  The Story of C. S. Lewis

There are many kinds of atheism, just like there are many kinds of Christianity, and Joel unpacks the influences, books, and ideas that defined Lewis’s particular variety of unbelief.  In tracing Lewis’s life and intellectual development from his school days through the early years of his academic career, the book is a compelling biography.

In his recreation of the intellectual atmosphere of pre-war Oxford, Joel shows the important influence of idealist philosophers, such as F. H. Bradley and Henri Bergson.  Most studies of early modernism focus on materialism and existentialism.  And yet, arguably, the idealists–who said things like “”the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine” (James Jeans)–may have been even more important.  After all, T. S. Eliot, a founder of literary modernism, wrote his dissertation on Bradley.  Certainly the artistic modernists–Yeats and Joyce with their mythmaking; Stravinsky with his neo-primitive music; Picasso’s Cubism, Dalí’s Surrealism, and Kandinsky’s Abstractionism–are hard to reconcile with the definition of Modernism as an “age of reason.”  [Suggestion for graduate students:  Lots of good material for dissertations here!]

Both idealists and materialists could be atheist, and Lewis seems to have vacillated between the two, but idealism best accounted for his personal and aesthetic yearnings.  This new book also describes in detail how and why Lewis gave up his atheism, turning first to belief in a personal though philosophically-abstract deity, and then to the God of Abraham who became incarnate in Jesus Christ.

C. S. Lewis fans, apologists, intellectual historians, and atheists will all want to read this book.

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Church removes minister for her atheism

We have blogged about the case of the atheist pastor.  Gretta Vosper has been a minister in a Toronto congregation of the United Church of Canada, where she preaches atheism.  Contrary to my prediction, the plenty liberal denomination has finally removed her from office “because she does not believe in God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit.”

Now comes the indignation.  In a story about the action excerpted and linked after the jump, a member who describes himself as “agnostic, an atheist, a non-believer” says that he wouldn’t be attending church if it weren’t for Pastor Vosper. [Read more…]

Was Christopher Hitchens reconsidering his atheism?

Christopher Hitchens was one of the most prominent of the “new atheists,” but a book by evangelical author Larry Alex Taunton who travelled with him says that after his diagnosis of terminal cancer, which killed him in 2011, he was reconsidering his atheism and may have come close to converting to Christianity.  And that there is the unlikely possibility that, on his deathbed, he did.

Taunton studied the Bible with Hitchens, who talked about his “divided self.”

A sympathetic review in the New York Times after the jump, which also cites deathbed conversions that I didn’t know about (Wallace Stevens, Buffalo Bill Cody, John Wayne, et al.).

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The case of the atheist pastor

Mainline Protestants have been casting away traditional Christian teachings with great abandon.  Pastors can now be female, gay, rejecters of Christ’s deity, atonement, and resurrection, etc., etc.  One wonders if, in liberal Protestantism, there is any minimum religious belief that is necessary in a pastor.  Or in a Christian or a member of the church.  For example, does a pastor (or Christian, or church member),  have to believe in God?

The United Church of Canada is having to make a decision about this, as it reviews the case of one of its ministers, Greta Vosper, who is an atheist and who teaches atheism from her pulpit.

PREDICTION:  Pastors in the United Church will not be required to believe in God.  Nor will church members.  Christians may be atheists.  And atheists will be considered Christians.  To their great annoyance. [Read more…]

Christian atheists

The BBC website has pages on the different kinds of religion, including “Christian atheism.”  Read the characteristics after the jump, and then I raise a question. [Read more…]