Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why Fear Secularism?

I think one of the reasons why so many religious people fear political secularism is because they fear that once you prevent religion from mingling with government, or public institutions like schools, it marks the beginning of the end for religion. And you know what? To a certain degree they're right.

Look at the spectacular secularization of the Western world over the past century or so. Much of Western Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are culturally post-religious. That is to say, religious belief and practice plays a very insignificant role in people's everyday lives that in many cases is near invisible.

When I was chatting with Aron Ra the other week, we were talking about how much more motivated atheists seem to be in the South and how northern atheists seem to mostly be apatheists. One of the reasons why is because here in secular New York, we've essentially achieved what secularists are trying to achieve in the South. Religion doesn't matter here. You're very unlikely to get fired from your job over being an atheist, or lose all your friends and have your family disown you. In the South, that is unfortunately all too common. If in 10-15 years attitudes in the South become as friendly towards atheists as it is here in the North, atheists might become apatheists there too.

But religious belief may have to pay the price for this. The more atheists are tolerated, the more there seems to be more atheists. This is due to atheists "coming out of the closet" because of the friendlier environment, but also the friendlier environment might make it easier for theists to deconvert. Once the social pressures and taboos are gone that keep you conforming to the faith, it seems that this has the possibility of opening the floodgates of disbelief.

So then, if you're a person who is alarmed at the rise in non-religiosity and wants to prevent it, then I suppose from a purely strategic tactic, it's in your best interest to foster an environment as hostile to atheists and secularists as much as possible. This is what many religious fundamentalists are trying to do, but in doing so, they also damage the image of religion by making it look more irrational and intolerant, and that might also backfire and lead to more atheists. So tolerance might be the best tactic, and that only seems to grow the numbers of atheists.

But still, many of the fundies march on with their war on secularism and their vain hopes that the West is going to return to traditional Judeo-Christian values full force.

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