The Implications of Evolutionary Explanations of Religious Belief for Atheism

This is not new, but I just saw for the first time an interesting article by Alan Jacobs entitled, “The Future of Atheism: Damned If You Don’t, Damned If You Don’t.”

Jacobs expresses a viewpoint I haven’t seen addressed by other atheists, but it’s one I’ve often thought about myself.

if the evolutionary account of religious belief that many atheists are now promoting is correct, then atheists don’t have much of a future. Their own arguments, plus some elementary demographic data, show that their position cannot become dominant.  

I think he is right: if one accepts an evolutionary explanation for religious belief, then, everything else held equal, it does seem that atheism cannot become the dominant position.

Jacobs also talks about birth rates between theists and theists.

But such data as we currently have can’t be encouraging to the atheist cause. As many studies have shown, atheism is especially associated with higher levels of education and with Western Europe, and highly educated people and Western Europeans tend to have low birth rates—less than replacement level, in many cases. If religious people are having lots of offspring and atheists aren’t having many at all, that would suggest that it’s almost impossible for atheists to gain ground, evolutionarily speaking.

 I completely agree with everything Jacobs writes in this paragraph; I have been saying this for 20 years.

Jacobs also makes an interesting point which has implications for the argument from reasonable nonbelief (aka the argument from divine hiddenness): “The only real chance that atheism has to flourish is if it’s wrong.” I’m not going to comment on that argument here and now, but it is an interesting argument.

What do you think?

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