Will atheists be out-bred by believers?

I’m getting rather annoyed with the argument that because secularists typically have fewer offspring, in the long run religions will eventually out-breed us. Although I have the rare distinction of having been born to a somewhat non-religious family, I can assure you this is usually not the case with many atheists I have encountered since I started this blog. Some were born in extremely religious families, but left their faith after a painful audit of their own beliefs. Others came from a moderately religious group that had failed to instill the belief in God in a convincing way. The point is, we all come to our atheism in a variety of ways, and you certainly don’t need to be born to unbelievers to not believe in God.

Ed West thinks otherwise; he sees the growth of fundamentalism and their high birth rate as a sign of things to come, describing birth control as the secularist’s cyanide tablet (are we the only ones using birth control?). It’s true fundamentalist sects rarely lose their followers, but it’s also true these religious minorities are becoming increasingly marginalized in society. They represent only a minor portion of society, while the moderates, who often do lose their own religions, are still very much the majority. Even if these religious wackos were having 10 kids each, it wouldn’t change the fact they are, by and large, not a significant portion of the population.

The truth is as people become more educated, and more influenced by other cultures and ideas, their own “faith” is often threatened. Intellectual integrity is antithetical to religious belief, and so long as there are people with doubts and questions, there’s no shortage of skeptical minds to reject the antiquated Gods of our ancestors. No one is suggesting this process will occur overnight, but I seriously doubt the best thing for secularists is to start trying to out-breed religious folks; you’re not going to win that game, trust me.

Comments (12)

  • avatar

    Duane

    I think Mike Judge had the same theory, the movie was called Idiocracy.

  • avatar

    Charlie

    ^ and it was awesome.

  • avatar

    Jon

    Every discussion of this sort always goes back to Idiocracy, which I third as a great (albeit scary) movie! But remember folks, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

  • avatar

    Dangomushi

    If it makes a difference, my mother is a born-again Chrsitian and my father also identifies as a Christian (although in a big more nebulous and libertarian sense of the term). Still… if I can come from belief in all the Christian mythology… into investigations into the mythology and teachings of other religions… and eventually come out as an atheist dedicated to trying to understand the universe through science and reason… I’d say there’s still hope, even if religious zealots are birthing more than atheists.

  • avatar

    Pol Llaunas

    Catholics are growing by 20 million a year… and more. In 10 years they will be 1.500 million. If 1 of each 100 Catholics older than 20 is devote and 1 of each 100 devouts is highly intelligent or an effective leader, it means that 108.000 devout geniuses and leaders all over the world will be working in a global net coordinated from Rome: all countries, all languages… Imagine 100.000 Ignatius of Loyola or 100.000 Mother Teresas… in network with modern communications. They will be able to energize the other 1.500 million. Not even Chinese can do this… much less any petty atheist club. There is not way to stop this: demographics, technology, organization and even education only work towards their succeeds.

  • avatar

    GK

    Pol – *ahem* – Source?

  • avatar

    Tom T

    I think atheism has a huge chance to succeed beyond anyone’s expectation…one word: memes.

    A meme “is a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme

    It started with books by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett…it will continue to spread until those that remain believing in superstition WANT to fit into the cultural idea (which is the dismissal of supernatural phenomenon).

    Also, Hitchens had stated in a video I saw recently on YouTube that he sees Atheism (or, at least the percent of non-religious population) double in the next 10 years in the U.S. That would place the non-religious population at approx. 32% by 2020. It is currently the FASTEST growing demographic. Can’t wait! :)

  • avatar

    Beer

    These assertions do not phase me one bit. Just look back, there was a time where if you even questioned the religious interpretations of the world, you got tied to a pole and burned alive. Eventually it softened up and Galileo only got locked up in his house for the rest of his life. Later on, slavery was abolished, women could vote, and now gay people are starting to gain recognition as equals. As long as we continue to learn and fight and help those who may not be able to help themselves (you know, like the how the bible says to… lol). We will progress, like always, dragging the religious hard-cores kicking and screaming all the way along. Probably to the bitter end too; until we finally have enough knowledge to dismiss pretty much every magical thing the sky beings are responsible for. Greater knowledge about the world correlates nicely with less invoked magic. IMO there is no stopping this process, unless we get wiped out as a species.

  • avatar

    J. N. Hudson

    The central flaw in that idea is that neither atheism nor secularism are inherited traits. I hail from a family of rabid fundamentalists and I was raised to believe the things that they did and today I count myself in the ranks of the non-believers, much to my family’s chagrin. Additionally so do 3 of my 4 children, all of whom were or are raised in the church and came to their lack of belief of their own volition.

    As a side note I allowed my children to to attend church with my parents because i don’t think that my family’s refusal to acknowledge my existence because I dared to disagree with their church’s beliefs should also deny my children a chance to know their grandparents. Both my daughters and my oldest son have since come out as non believers and subsequently also been declared persona non grata and my oldest daughter has been the object of retaliation by members of my parents church who first attempted to keep her, the Salutatorian, from speaking at, walking the stage of, or even attending her high school graduation. There were also other church members who have, at various different times, attempted to force both my daughter and myself from our jobs through various means and tried, unsucessfully, to get the coach to cut my so from the track team.

    Back to the point of this post. No matter how many children fundamentalist have there is no gurantee that those children will become fundies, moderate christians, or out and out atheists. Theists have been in the majority for most if not all of recorded history and they have, by virtue of shear numbers, always outbred the non-religious and yet the number of non-religious people has and will continue to increase as myth is replaced by fact, blind faith by logice, and dogma by truth.

  • avatar

    Shamrock

    I was raised in a strongly catholic family and was able to think my way out of the religion (along with my brother and many other friends). The current level of information that is available to people would suggest that freethinking will not die out (or be bred out).
    BTW – isn’t ‘devout genius’ a bit of an oxymoron?

  • avatar

    CybrgnX

    The xtians like the islamics have always implied that if you can’t beat them then out breed them!!!! And they have the advantage of being so deluded that they do not fear the environmental problems with breading at high speed because they KNOW the end times are near.
    Sorry but as a group they are all so incredibly stupid it burns the brain to think of them.
    The WWW is the only thing that is given raise to increased changes to at least agnostics but the conversion rate to atheist is way slower then the breeding rate.
    I use to think the women were being oppressed by the males but have since changed my mind as they are the breeders and are doing it.
    It sure seems like they enjoy being down-trodden.

  • avatar

    Bread

    Pol Llaunas @March 16th, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Hmm, that’s an interesting point you’ve raised there. Never thought about it that way before. I mean, what’s the point of trying to fight them when you could join them instead and then have access to all those wonderful resources and dedicated geniuses and social networking possibilities?

    If I joined them, maybe I could rise up the ranks and become the Pope myself and actually BE the one dishing out the orders to a loyal tribe of over 1 billion?

    And the added advantage of the Catholics is that they let anyone join their club, unlike the Jews who won’t let you join their club, instead you have to be born into it. Which seems incredibly racist if you ask me – they are selfishly keeping all their networking resources to themselves! grrrrr.

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