I enjoyed reading this article about the decline of religion and the rise of the ‘nones’, which I thought was very sensible. However, much as I like to hear that religiosity is declining in the Western world there are a couple of things that worry me, both of which are related.
Deists often say: “there are no atheists in the trenches” (or the lifeboat, or whatever). That’s such a stupid argument that it’s hardly worth refuting. Faced with an imminent agonising death, I cry out for a heavenly saviour and promise anything for redemption. That makes a compulsive argument for believing, right? Well, only if you’re the sort of person that ignores logic and objectivity.
My point is that committed atheists or agnostics are immune to religion in such situations, whereas the drifters are not so reliable.
One thing that all religions deliver is a code of morality. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on your point of view. I can’t help but think that “do unto others as you would be done unto” is actually a good basis for a civilised society, but I can’t see that this simple idea needs any religious baggage. Some religions have codes that justify the execution of apostates – I know what I think about that idea, but others just as human as I am seem willing to accept it.
I firmly reject the Christian assumption of original sin, preferring to believe that there is an evolutionary basis for the opposite assumption, namely that by and large people are “good”. My concern is simply that people who drift, like so-called lapsed Catholics for example, still have an innate religiosity that could easily see them sucked into a religious cause. In an era where Islamic fundamentalism is waging war on an intellectually flabby first world, that is surely a cause for serious concern.
That religiosity seems to be declining should not be seen as a signal that secularism is safely and securely dominant. Those of us that care deeply about it should instead be encouraged to see it advance yet further, especially in those parts of the world where it is yet not even marginal.