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Art Man

A speculation - what root psychological cause is there in the rise of atheism in the 20th century free world?

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Just a second ago this novelty of a thought suddenly struck me.  I was thinking that, in the history of atheism, this posture of disbelief exploded exponentially in the latter half of the 20th century in free countries such a the U.S.A. and Scandinavia. Freedom of religion has existed in the U.S.A. since the 1700s, so why hadnt atheism taken off much sooner? What fundamental change in how people lived or how they thought brought this explosion in atheism on? 

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I would speculate that developments like the theory of evolution and the big bang model made credible the claim Laplace's statement on god(s): I have no need for that hypothesis. It takes time for scientific ideas to percolate through society, hence the time lag. The rest is just letting people think about for themselves with these ideas in mind.

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I believe in the U.K. a big turning point was the Battle of the Somme,. For a war which was supposed to be over by Christmas, I would imagine learning that we had suffered 456 000 casualties and losses by November would of been quite sobering. The absolute horrors of trench warfare would obviously have played a part too. Especially on the soldiers. 

Edited by Curious layman

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2 hours ago, Art Man said:

Just a second ago this novelty of a thought suddenly struck me.  I was thinking that, in the history of atheism, this posture of disbelief exploded exponentially in the latter half of the 20th century in free countries such a the U.S.A. and Scandinavia. Freedom of religion has existed in the U.S.A. since the 1700s, so why hadnt atheism taken off much sooner? What fundamental change in how people lived or how they thought brought this explosion in atheism on? 

Yes, freedom of religion exists is the US, embodied in the US constitution. However, that has somehow not eradicated religious persecution and bigotry. It hasn't even guaranteed freedom of religion. As we see in other areas of life, when the system is skewed one way, people get used to thinking of that as the equal system, and a leveling of the playing field seems like persecution to those who had previously been advantaged.

 This "explosion" of atheism is roughly correlated with an advancement of minority rights and progress toward equal treatment for women. A certain amount of empowerment for people who have historically been subject to varying levels of oppression in society.  Perhaps it's just part of a larger enlightenment.

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Internet anonymity reminded people how many other atheists are out there and made being open and transparent about ones nonbelief a much safer position to share. It also exposed folks with uncertainty to far stronger arguments against belief in god(s), very convincing arguments that many people would never previously have seen. Scandals from the church, child abuse and extremism, plus obvious lies about obvious truths like evolution helped speed the transition. 

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7 hours ago, Art Man said:

Freedom of religion has existed in the U.S.A. since the 1700s, so why hadnt atheism taken off much sooner? 

Religions often stifle secular education, so perhaps it just took time before people knew better. The more our intelligence increases on a diet of good knowledge, the less we reach for wishful thinking, and the more we require our explanations to be reasonable.

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Perhaps it's just an example of:

We blame X for why X doesn't think like Y, so when Y gets the chance it counters the effects of X with Y thinking; then it's just a matter of exchanging letters.

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9 hours ago, Art Man said:

Just a second ago this novelty of a thought suddenly struck me.  I was thinking that, in the history of atheism, this posture of disbelief exploded exponentially in the latter half of the 20th century in free countries such a the U.S.A. and Scandinavia. Freedom of religion has existed in the U.S.A. since the 1700s, so why hadnt atheism taken off much sooner? What fundamental change in how people lived or how they thought brought this explosion in atheism on? 

There are different reasons for different countries. It is interesting that you mentioned US as religion is still fairly high. Also it depends whether you are strictly use the term "atheist" or take into account everyone without a specific religious affiliation. If we only look at self-declared atheists pew data from 2014 only show 3% being atheists, 4% agnostic. That is hardly  an explosion of any sort. Taking all unaffiliated we get around 23%. Looking at historic Gallup data we see that up to the 60s the percentage of folks claiming not adherent to any religion to be quite stably around 2% and increasing slowly throughout the 70s and 80s. Interestingly, in the 90s we see it plateauing out (even slightly decline) before increasing again around 2007 until  now. So in other words, not only is the increase not exponential, it is also not steady and quite not an explosion.

In other countries the influence of authoritarian socialist governments who basically banned religion had a big influence. But as it stand, being religious is still seen as a default in many countries though the relevance is weakening. However,  if we disregard authoritarian countries the data I can see indicates that she sharpest increase in  non-religious affiliation occurred sometime in the last 10-20 years (and not so much in the 20th century; gosh I feel old) . Specifically self-declared atheism is still fairly low, but I suspect part of it is due to  how folks interpret the various terms.

6 hours ago, swansont said:

This "explosion" of atheism is roughly correlated with an advancement of minority rights and progress toward equal treatment for women. A certain amount of empowerment for people who have historically been subject to varying levels of oppression in society.  Perhaps it's just part of a larger enlightenment.

I am not sure that these elements are necessary related. Especially as many minority groups are quite religious and religion played an important role in the civil rights movement. However, the first wave started in the 70s so there are some cultural shifts relevant to it. Edit: I just realized that movements have started in the late 60s to advocate for rights of non-religious folks in the US, so while perhaps somewhat independent from the "big" civil rights movements, it is one of the things that were also happening as part of the overall cultural change.

There is a whole can of worms with the term "enlightenment" which I try not to touch (at least not without having  two disposable historians and a flame retardant philosopher at hand).

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1 hour ago, CharonY said:

There is a whole can of worms with the term "enlightenment" which I try not to touch (at least not without having  two disposable historians and a flame retardant philosopher at hand).

LOL +1

For me enlightenment just means, I feel lighter with all that bullshit off my back...

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2 hours ago, CharonY said:

If we only look at self-declared atheists pew data from 2014 only show 3% being atheists, 4% agnostic. That is hardly  an explosion of any sort.

That is a limited sample of people but if you look at the tolerance level of religious people in regards to atheism and the amount of atheist product available for purchase in both the secular and the entertainment worlds you will find a lot more to choose from in 1990 than in 1950, and in some cases atheist product far outsells religious product and dictates the direction of pop culture.

I think that ww2 had a lot to do with the tolerance of atheism, especially in free countries.

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Just now, Art Man said:

That is a limited sample of people but if you look at the tolerance level of religious people in regards to atheism and the amount of atheist product available for purchase in both the secular and the entertainment worlds you will find a lot more to choose from in 1990 than in 1950, and in some cases atheist product far outsells religious product and dictates the direction of pop culture.

What exactly is an atheist product and what are the quantities? 

Besides that  I mentioned, that irreligiosity increased over time  but flattened out in the 90s. I.e. higher in the nineties but not increasing much  until way into the 2000s.  It is mostly a rebuttal to the claim that there was an exponential trend since the second half of the 20th century.

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1 minute ago, CharonY said:

What exactly is an atheist product and what are the quantities? 

Besides that  I mentioned, that irreligiosity increased over time  but flattened out in the 90s. I.e. higher in the nineties but not increasing much  until way into the 2000s.  It is mostly a rebuttal to the claim that there was an exponential trend since the second half of the 20th century.

An atheist product would be something prepared for secular consumption and doesn't contain the products of religion.

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19 minutes ago, Art Man said:

An atheist product would be something prepared for secular consumption and doesn't contain the products of religion.

That does not answer my question at all. Besides, with such a vague description, how would you determine quantity?  Just to make it clear what I am talking about here the US data for percentage of folks claiming no religious affiliation in the US. And again, this if for the question of being unaffiliated. If you really ask about being an atheist, the rate is still around 3% (perhaps a bit surprisingly).

 

 

Untitled picture.png

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13 hours ago, Art Man said:

free countries such a the U.S.A.

LOL

 

anyway, re.

"what root psychological cause is there in the rise of atheism in the 20th century free world?"

Why assume it is psychological?
Why couldn't it be as simple as 

The more things we find a real explanation for, the less we need a sky fairy to explain.

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1 hour ago, Art Man said:

That is a limited sample of people but if you look at the tolerance level of religious people in regards to atheism and the amount of atheist product available for purchase in both the secular and the entertainment worlds you will find a lot more to choose from in 1990 than in 1950, and in some cases atheist product far outsells religious product and dictates the direction of pop culture.

Yes, by definition a sample is limited.

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5 minutes ago, John Cuthber said:

LOL

 

anyway, re.

"what root psychological cause is there in the rise of atheism in the 20th century free world?"

Why assume it is psychological?
Why couldn't it be as simple as 

The more things we find a real explanation for, the less we need a sky fairy to explain.

In addition, the largest increases were in the 21st century (which is also true for the UK from the looks of it). Ultimately what seems to happen is that first fewer people associate themselves tightly with their respective religion (things like church attendance dropped first), then folks were more prone to  question faith entirely. It is fair to assume that those parents are also less likely to bring up their children religiously, which leaves only other venues (e.g. peers, school) to get children into religion. At the same time there is more social acceptance of being less or not religious which coincided with a reduced influence of church and parishes on daily social life. 

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1 hour ago, CharonY said:

 

That does not answer my question at all. Besides, with such a vague description, how would you determine quantity?  Just to make it clear what I am talking about here the US data for percentage of folks claiming no religious affiliation in the US. And again, this if for the question of being unaffiliated. If you really ask about being an atheist, the rate is still around 3% (perhaps a bit surprisingly).

 

 

Untitled picture.png

What I meant with "product" is anything for consumption, which would include television broadcasts, lectures, books, movies, science papers, really anything that can be "consumed" (either purchased as an item or absorbed or experienced through watching and listening). So, to measure such a thing would be a large task and would need more defined parameters, probably easier to do with just counting purchasable items but that wouldn't be representative of the degree that an idea such as atheism can penetrate a society. Many people don't care to share and don't base their consumption choices on the atheism/religion mindset. Christianity will always be prominent within our lifetimes but how deep a hold Christianity or any other religion has on a single society these days is far weaker than it use to be. Your chart here is a great example. 3% identify as atheists but the behaviour measured up to a much greater number. 

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5 minutes ago, Art Man said:

o, to measure such a thing would be a large task and would need more defined parameters, probably easier to do with just counting purchasable items but that wouldn't be representative of the degree that an idea such as atheism can penetrate a society.

So if you think that it is difficult to measure how can you be certain that the numbers have increased. How do you know that they have not decreased or remain the same? Each case would have different consequences. How are you certain that your premise is correct, while at the same time acknowledge that there is not way to provide evidence for it?

See, you are asking a question based on certain premises and if those are not valid, one has to step back and figure out what the real situation is. The reason is that without that, we cannot speculate about possible mechanisms. An increase of atheism in a rapid fashion within a short time frame has likely other reason, than a gradual increase over decades, for example. Thus, as long as we do not define what we take as a premise and make vague assertions, I doubt that a meaningful discussion is to be had.

 

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The root cause of the rise of atheism, is the drop in intensity of indoctrination of children. Religious belief is about 95% indoctrination, and only 5% choice. ( in my opinion )

People who are less committed, who harbour doubts of their own, are less strident in pushing religion on their children. My parents were Catholics born in Ireland, and the indoctrination was extremely intense when they were kids. 

I had a catholic upbringing, but it must have been less intense than what my parents got, because I was an atheist before I was ten. ( although I kept it to myself for a while ). I guess a more scientific education helped with me too. Darwin, and Newton and Einstein, and the big bang explanation, all help to confirm what I suspected all along.

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2 hours ago, John Cuthber said:

LOL

 

anyway, re.

"what root psychological cause is there in the rise of atheism in the 20th century free world?"

Why assume it is psychological?
Why couldn't it be as simple as 

The more things we find a real explanation for, the less we need a sky fairy to explain.

Well, at some point people were more comfortable with being secular and atheist or simply far less religiously involved and there is a psychological value there that was pre-empted with an event or a large scale change that made that psychological comfort possible. Like said earlier in this thread there was less oppression.

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33 minutes ago, mistermack said:

The root cause of the rise of atheism, is the drop in intensity of indoctrination of children. Religious belief is about 95% indoctrination, and only 5% choice. ( in my opinion )

People who are less committed, who harbour doubts of their own, are less strident in pushing religion on their children. My parents were Catholics born in Ireland, and the indoctrination was extremely intense when they were kids. 

I had a catholic upbringing, but it must have been less intense than what my parents got, because I was an atheist before I was ten. ( although I kept it to myself for a while ). I guess a more scientific education helped with me too. Darwin, and Newton and Einstein, and the big bang explanation, all help to confirm what I suspected all along.

And why, according to you, was there a drop in the intensity of indoctrination of children?

Edited by uncool

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1 hour ago, CharonY said:

So if you think that it is difficult to measure how can you be certain that the numbers have increased.

I can be sure because I can observe and note the difference. And that is partially why I created this thread in the speculation chapter because I don't have the information, but I can observe changes and be certain that what people do now isn't what people did in 1989.

1 hour ago, CharonY said:

See, you are asking a question based on certain premises and if those are not valid, one has to step back and figure out what the real situation is.

Isn't that what creating this thread does? There isn't information readily available to me but that doesn't mean that those observations haven't been measured and noted. And if they haven't well then perhaps this thread would show us what those things are that need measurement.

1 hour ago, CharonY said:

Thus, as long as we do not define what we take as a premise and make vague assertions, I doubt that a meaningful discussion is to be had

Speculation is like a think tank, you got an idea, not a prepared hypothesis, could be a partial idea, it could go somewhere, maybe someone else has some input to expand the idea or specialize it or give it life, maybe it was a dead end hunch, either way to make an idea grow into a hypothesis you'd need to discuss it.

If I was required to bring the information and the information would take me two years to research well then should an idea or observance be thrown out and forgotten or should you throw the idea out there first and make sure that two years of research is going to be worth the effort to make a message board topic.

Edited by Art Man

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6 minutes ago, uncool said:

And why, according to you, was there a drop in the intensity of indoctrination of children?

I think there are a hell of a lot of factors at work there. A lot of it is a change in the attitude of the average person, who are now far less inclined to take orders from "above", than their parents. There's a lot more questioning in politics for example, and peoples' allegiances are more mobile than those of their parents. I think a lot of the reason for that is the media, starting with newpapers, then came radio, and now tv and online stuff. Nowadays, people question everything, taking their cue from the media. A hundred years ago, they tended to simply accept authority. 

Obviously, it varies from family to family, but I think it explains the overall change fairly well. Religions that indoctrinate the kids more intensively generally keep them onside more. Like Mormons and Islam. But even they are not immune to the general change of public attitude to a more questioning one.

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1 hour ago, mistermack said:

A hundred years ago, they tended to simply accept authority. 

Ironically, I am severely skeptical of this idea. 

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8 minutes ago, uncool said:

Ironically, I am severely skeptical of this idea. 

I can't fault your reasoning.

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