I was speaking with another atheist recently and she made a statement that, well, confounded me. Atheism is on the rise, is what the statement was but she never offered any evidence of that statement and , to my chagrin, I never asked her for that proof. It’s the same kind of proof we’d ask anybody, as skeptics (If you are indeed a skeptic. Not all atheists are.) to prove their statements, declarations about whatever religion it is that happens to be making riodiculous claims at the moment. And yet, as I have discovered, people do believe that atheism isgrowing in the United States, where there is little proof of this occurring.
It’s certainly possible that yes, atheism is becoming more mainstream but there are no current data which reflect anything but small changes in the percentage of people in the U.S. that would identify as atheist. There is nothing to substantiate the claim that atheism us on the rise. It is possible that some people confuse the rise of the nones – those people polled as to what religion they observe – to that of atheism. It is true that more and more people have given up specific denominational affiliations but that by itself does not say anything about atheism as many of the “nones” still claim a belief in god.
The reason seems obvious as to why there hasn’t been a dramatic rise in nonbelievers: There isn’t a structure within atheism, like there is in all religions, to be able to evangelize atheism. Why not ? Atheism, unlike religion, is a personal conclusion. Of course those religoius would say the same, that “Accepting Jesus” is a personal choice. But is it? It’s really more that there is pressure within a group and to belong to that group, a person must submit. Not like atheism at all.
People like the idea of an “afterlife” – that their is something beyond. What it comes down to though is what may be proved. No one can prove that there is any sort of life after death, As much as we, as humans would like to belive, no one can say for sure that , at death, we start seeing relatives that passed before us. It’s useless, in my opinion, to argue with those that have “faith” in their belief of an afterlife.
Will atheism ever become mainstream in the U.S.? I think it will but not until more people decide to become “nones”. The decline of organized religion (which is not a factor currently in the U.S.) will, I think carry over to a rise in those that declare themselves atheists. There are still places in this country where being openly atheist is not tolerated. Not that anyone would be run out of town on a rail, but clearly be discriminated against. Those days of evangelical Christianity ruling some of the regions will come to an end and there won’t be a stigma for just declaring to be a nonbeliever.
Will atheism decline in the future? It’s really hard to tell but if I had to place a bet right now, I would say no. I would say that because there seems to be, over time, a slow, if not steady, increase on those claiming to be nonbelievers, that yes, more people will declare themselves as such.