Maybe. As disgusted as I am with the regressives making the most noise (and the most profit) in the current iteration of the atheosphere, there are some promising indicators. Gregory Paul has an encouraging article, The Great and Amazingly Rapid Secularization of the Increasingly Proevolution United States, that is full of surveys and graphs that show a steady, consistent trend: secularism is growing. Maybe not your usual aggressive atheists, but lots of people are fed up with the efforts of a minority to impose theocracy on us. The United States is a weird outlier with greater religiosity than other ‘first world’ nations, but we’re getting better.
As for the demographic future, there is every reason to expect the USA to continue to secularize more towards the western norm at a fast pace despite the frantic but inherently insufficient effective counter efforts of organized theism. The unprecedented nonreligiosity of youth and the dechurching power of modernity cannot be overcome, which is why there never has been a serious religious revival in any advanced democracy. Because the rise of proevolution atheism is a largely automatic, casual lifestyle conversion in response to subtle but powerful socioeconomic forces usually done without deep thought, it will remain true that neither side can do much to alter the course of events one way or another.
Atheist evangelism isn’t going to be effective, but just setting an example and letting the churched drift our way naturally might.
My personal cause, accepting naturalism as the best scientific approach, also gets a mention — he favors what the NCSE has been doing in broadening their science outreach beyond just evolution, although he’s not enthusiastic about the success of trying to prop up theistic evolutionists.
As for the proevolution effort, the tactic of trying to educate theists to accept the evolution of humans over deep time is at best marginally effective – there is no such thing as a developed democracy that is both proevolution and highly religious and probably never will be – but if in the unlikely event it can be made to work it is the only means of speeding up the acceptance of bioevolution. The most practical strategy is to wait for the organic increase in the size of the atheist cohort to automatically boost proevolution opinion. As such the recent deemphasis of proevolution activity by the NCSE and AAAS is logical; but of course educational and legal efforts must continue as long as creationism is a serious societal and antiscientific issue – after all, we’re still dealing with flatearthers (whose views are often Bible based BTW).
Hey, let’s look on the bright side of Donald Trump! He’s been doing an excellent job of yanking out the moralizing rug from under the feet of the evangelicals. Given how often Christians whine about atheist morality or the lack thereof Trump is a useful tool for atheists.
And for as much trouble as it is causing, the theocon minority – in alliance with an increasing secular white nationalist cohort – has handed Ameroatheism a big gift that will last forever – that a socially deranged faith-based theocon collective helped make Trump president bares like nothing else that they have long been pulling a colossal, cynical con as they proclaimed that as followers of the perfect creator they are the advocates of principled, unchanging morality and decency. By exposing themselves as in the main morally relative opportunists with a propensity towards neoracism, theocons have permanently wrecked their hypocritical pretense of having high moral principles, so much so that a minority of theocons are in despair over what has happened to the future prospects of their ideology. They can never take it back, and for decades to come when theocons start going on about their godly morality we can always bring up Trump.
He may tear down the Republic and the rule of law, but yeah, he is a poison pill for evangelical Christianity otherwise. Hooray?
In another appeal to native pride, Mark Silk reports that The Pacific Northwest is the American religious future.
Early in this century, the academic center that I direct undertook a research project to examine religion and region in American public life. Of the eight regions we divided the country into, the most distinctive was the Pacific Northwest (PNW)—Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.
The distinctiveness had everything to do with the region’s low degree of religious identification—something that had been the case ever since Anglo-Americans began settling the place in the 19th century. For that reason, we subtitled the volume dedicated to it “the None Zone.”
He argues that the low levels of religiosity in the region compels the religious to be more cooperative in order to get anything done. So while the region isn’t majority atheist, the non-believers are dampening the competitive fervor among the evangelical types. I guess we’re like the boron control rods in a nuclear reactor, keeping the nuclear reactions of the masses from going critical.
Another feature of the region is environmentalism — and interestingly, that’s driving a greater polarization between the moderate religious/atheists and evangelical Protestantism.
The main avenue of religious common cause was environmentalism, which in our view had become the region’s dominant world view—its civil religion if you will. A gospel of sustainability and biodiversity was strongly in evidence in the Catholic and mainline Protestant churches, the non-Christian and New Age faiths, and among the Nones themselves. Yet the PNW also had its counterculture, located above all in its sizable evangelical community, where the region’s religious entrepreneurship was especially on display.
As one would expect, PNW evangelicalism was ranged against the dominant culture on abortion and gay rights. Most strikingly, however, the PNW was the one region where a majority of evangelicals took a negative view of environmentalism. Clearly, in this regional version of the national culture war, environmentalism had become part of a spiritual ideology that evangelicals felt obliged to set themselves against.
That brings back memories. There were people who hated environmental causes — loggers and ranchers, who were typically very conservative — against the majority I knew, who took it for granted that the natural beauty of the place needed to be cared for. I don’t recall associating the difference with degree of religiosity, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a correlation.
I really wouldn’t mind if the social attitudes of the whole USA became more like that of the Pacific Northwest…which also includes a nice chunk of Canada, don’t forget. It’s not perfect, but it would be better in many ways.
I’ll also note that there is a strong connection between Minnesota and Washington state, especially in my experience with my family, and many of the residents with Scandinavian roots. Minnesota also has an affinity to Canada. Maybe it’s not the lessened religiosity that makes a difference, but the bigger influence of Canada in these states. However it works, I’ll take it.