Why is non-belief flourishing?

February 21, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More

A recent Pew study shows that non-belief is growing among Americans.   Freelance researcher Gregory S. Paul has proposed a mechanism for this growth of non-belief.  For instance, in 2009, he published on this topic in Evolutionary Psychology.   More recently, in the February, 2010 edition of Science (available online only to subscribers), Paul gives a succinct summary of this proposed mechanism to explain declining popularity of religion in prosperous countries:

In modern nations, non-religion and the acceptance of evolution become popular when the middle-class majority feels sufficiently secure and safe, thanks to low income inequality, universal health care, job and retirement security, and lower rates of legal crime; this has occurred to greater and lesser degrees in most first-world countries, from Japan to Scandinavia. Religion thrives when the majority seek the aid and protection of supernatural powers because they are impoverished, is in third- and second-world countries or, in the case of the United States (the most religious and creationist first-world country), because a majority of Americans fear losing their middle-class status as a result of limited government support, high levels of social pathology, and intense economic come petition and income disparity. Prosperous modernity is proving to be the nemesis of religion.


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Category: American Culture, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. > "a majority of Americans fear losing their middle-class status as a result of limited government support"

    So any government that wants to promote religiousness will retreat from caring for its citizens.

    That explains nicely the Dutch PM's (conservative christian) talkings about the "Caring Society", meaning cutting budgets for anything important like education, health, social welfare, etc., so people will (hopefully) flock to organized religion again and be controlled and fleeced that way. Much more effective than democracy.

    Sounds plausible to me…..

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    David Sloan Wilson echoes Gregory Paul's conclusion in this two-minute video. If we want to make religious fundamentalism unattractive to the masses, then we need to work hard to make people feel secure in their daily lives. Souped up religion thrives in places where people feel "existentially" insecure.

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