Someone sent me a link today for an article in Psychology Today called Why Atheism Will Replace Religion. It claims to have evidence to support this assertion. To steal a phrase, “that’s mighty bold talk for a one-eyed fat man, I mean soft science!”
What is the evidence offered? First, atheism is on the rise in industrialized nations. It is most prominent in Europe, and nearly non-existent in sub-Sahara Africa.
Atheism is correlated with higher education and affluence. The author sees religion as a way of coping with fear. In those prosperous nations, there is less to fear. This is particularly true as they have developed extensive social welfare programs.
These nations, he notes, are also marked by a decreasing birth rate. This is because fewer people are needed to work the land. He sees a tie between an agrarian economy, birthrates and atheism. The modern man has “tamed” much of life’s unpredictability, he thinks, and no longer needs God. Or children.
As an “evolutionary psychologist’ the author, Nigel Barber sees this as a good evolution.
So, what is the problem?
11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God,… Deuteronomy 8 (ESV)
Approximate 3,400 years ago God predicted this exact pattern in the life of Israel. It is not a new thing. Prosperity produces pride which means that people forget God. This begins with practical atheism and morphs into theoretical atheism. The rise of theoretical atheism in Europe should not surprise the biblically informed person. This has been happening for thousands of years!
4 But I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. 5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; 6 but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me. Hosea 13 (ESV)
But can atheism replace religion? In the short term, yes. In the long term, no.