A new phase of civilization

A new phase of civilization March 31, 2021
 By James A. Haught
Human civilization has staggered and lunged through many phases and subphases, some overlapping:
  • Stone Age
  • Bronze Age
  • Iron Age
  • Hunter-gatherers
  • Early agriculture
  • Kings and empires
  • City-states
  • Dark Ages
  • Renaissance
  • Enlightenment
  • Colonialism
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Decolonialism
  • Space travel
  • Human rights
  • Black equality
  • Female equality
  • Gay equality
  • Decline of warfare
  • Information Age
Now, anthropologists have hatched a new label, the Anthropocene Epoch, for the latest period when fossil fuel burning has altered the planet’s biosphere and climate.
Amid all this chaos of history, I think another growing phase of civilization can be detected: the Secular Age — the death of religion and the disappearance of supernatural gods, devils, heavens, hells and the like. Miracles and prophecies no longer are treated seriously in advanced Western democracies. They’re ignored with amusement, like old wives’ tales.Does any part of society seriously expect divine magic to cure human problems? A few people give lip service to such a fantasy, but most know it’s just a fantasy. In the West, including the United States, churchgoing has fallen spectacularly in the 21st century. Soon, supernatural beliefs may be an odd fringe.

When I was born in 1932 (in an Appalachian farm town with no electricity or paved streets), the world had 2 billion people; now this is approaching 8 billion. Civilization has changed greatly in my lifetime, and the pace of change seems to accelerate. It’s fun to guess what’s next.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I predict that the Secular Age is taking shape under our noses.


FFRF Member James A. Haught, syndicated by PeaceVoice, was the longtime editor at the Charleston Gazette and has been the editor emeritus since 2015. He has won two dozen national newswriting awards and is author of 12 books and 150 magazine essays. He also is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine and was writer-in-residence for the United Coalition of Reason. 

This article is adapted from a piece that originally appeared at Daylight Atheism on March 29, 2021.

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