The North looks ever more attractive — read this excellent article on the collapse of organized religion in Canada. The numbers of church members is simply plummeting up there, a state we can only dream of bringing to pass here in the US (numbers are declining here, too, but we can hope that this is an inevitable descent and that Canada is only leading us by a few years.)
One interesting hypothesis for why it’s happening is that we can thank, in part, feminism.
Women the traditional mainstays of institutional religion in huge numbers abruptly rejected the church’s patriarchal exemplar of them as chaste, submissive “angels in the house” with all of the social and moral responsibility for community and family but none of the authority.
Unable to find acceptable religious role models or religious ideals that were not painful or oppressive, they reconstructed their identities as secular and sexual beings.
As they progressed into university graduate and professional schools and entered the work force, their horizons broadened and they discovered ways of serving that were more valuable than doing dishes and running church picnics.
I don’t know how solid the data is on that claim, but it’s at least intuitively attractive. Mothers are typically far more influential on their children’s religious belief than fathers, at least in my experience, so anything that draws women away from the church is going to have strong effects.
Maybe if we want atheism to succeed, we need to promote women more. Everyone thinks of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens when we discuss the godless movement — but perhaps we should be giving more props to Susan Jacoby, Julia Sweeney, Ellen Johnson, Natalie Angier, Margaret Downey, even Madelyn Murray O’Hair … hey, have you noticed? There are lots of actively atheist women!