Why is atheism on the incline in the United States, and why are religious numbers declining? According to a recent poll, the “Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” the number of citizens who call themselves religious has dropped 13 percent from 2005 to 2012. In those seven years, the number of people who called themselves atheists rose from just 1 percent of Americans to 5 percent. Those numbers are staggering. What are the causes of these findings? What national and global trends could possibly be contributing to these religious trends?
Nontraditional Values: For those who are inclined to follow what the religious might label “non-traditional values,” it can be hard to subscribe to any religion that restricts them. For a prime example, homosexual marriage is banned in most religions. However, since 1988 approval for gay marriage rose from 11 percent to 46 percent in 2010. This is not the only example however, any time traditional religious values clash with trending social change, there will conflict. While society is ever-changing and evolving, religion stays constant; it’s values and rules remain rigid. When people find themselves in conflict with one religious “law” or commandment, they may question others.
Education: As science becomes more advanced, it becomes harder to merely explain the unquestionable with religious teachings. Those questions that were once unanswered are slowly being discovered. These scientific answers beg questions from religious followers, and many times religious leaders may not have the answers. Where science explicitly relies on facts for its claims, religion requires a large amount of faith in a higher being.
The Effect of Internet on our Youth: Perhaps a huge part of the decrease in religion, and the increase in atheism is due to our youth. With the rise in internet and social media, we are losing our sense of community. Many who might have joined churches, clubs, or attended community gatherings now prefer to socialize online. Also, its easier for people to find like minded individuals to socialize with online. While twenty years ago it might have been hard for a child to find answers to his or her questions and religious doubts, now its easy to find information behind the “safety” of the computer screen.
I believe that these three reasons barely scratch the surface of the trend towards atheism. It’s hard to define what may have caused this depreciation of religiosity, though I believe this trend will only continue.