The atheist alliance have launched a campaign to get some numbers on the sorts of people worldwide who describe themselves as atheist. So far the sample group size is 69,798 and counting, with 64% describing themselves as atheist, with the second largest group preferring the term ‘Humanist’.
A whopping 34% are former Catholics, with a further 36% from other Christian denominations. The numbers also reveal that almost 60% have a University or College level education.
The recently published 2011 Office of National Statistics census, here in the UK, shows that the number of people describing themselves as Christian has fallen dramatically since the census of 2001, while the number of atheists has risen sharply from 15% in 2001 to 25% in 2011.
The pedophile priests scandal in the Catholic church, and the positive dialogue about atheism which was spurred on by the likes of the late Christopher Hitchens and neuroscientists Sam Harris in the wake of 9/11, undoubtedly played a role in spiking these numbers.
But perhaps the most surprising data from the on-going atheist alliance census, when broken down by region, is that of the 28,798 North Americans who responded as of 18th December 2012, the vast majority are former Christians over the age of 34 — suggesting that far from being a phenomena more to do with fashion trends and social pressures among the young and internet savvy, as detractors of the so-called new atheist movement are prone to suggest, the actual reason for the rise in people describing themselves as atheist could in-fact be more to do with the time it takes for doubting Christians to carefully unpick what they have been told all their life to believe, before eventually becoming comfortable with the realisation none of it is true in their more contemplative years.
This is an extremely positive sign. Once upon a time churches could be virtually guaranteed that after teenagers and twenty somethings “got it out of their system”, by the time they came to marry, have children and settle down, they would become somewhat tempered by real life experiences, and a sense of mortality which often alludes the young, and begin regularly attending and donating to churches again, later in life.
What the ONS census and the atheist alliance data suggests, is that these back-sliders are a group on the wane, which churches can no longer rely upon to boost their numbers; strongly suggesting that — despite the protestations of apologists, theists and religionists to the contrary — cultural Christians know the game is up for religion in general, and no longer see a reason to self-indentify as such for merely cultural and traditional reasons.
When you also factor in the stone-age attitude towards the role of women in the Church, coupled with an unrepentant homophobic agenda, and the clearly negative effect on the health of political dialogue which theocrats have had in countries like Iran, Egypt and The United States, there’s little wonder so many people are now ready to embrace the Dawkins challenge, and come out of the atheist closet.
Sign the census: http://www.atheistcensus.com
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