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Why atheism can't replace religion
Psychology Today ^ | Dec 16 2010 | Michael W. Austin

Posted on 12/18/2010 5:45:06 PM PST by neverdem

In a widely read and commented upon post, Nigel Barber examines some of the evidence and trends related to atheism and the decline of religion.  Barber closes his thought-provoking post with the following:

"The reasons that churches lose ground in developed countries can be summarized in market terms. First, with better science, and with government safety nets, and smaller families, there is less fear and uncertainty in people's daily lives and hence less of a market for religion. At the same time many alternative products are being offered, such as psychotropic medicines and electronic entertainment that have fewer strings attached and that do not require slavish conformity to unscientific beliefs."

It is true that much of the developed world lives in not only a post-Christian, but a post-religious society in many ways. And it is true that many people have turned to religion because of economic uncertainty or emotional challenges. They still do, in fact.

However, for many people, religion is not merely a way to deal with fear, uncertainty, and emotional difficulties. In my experience, many people follow a particular religious way of life because they believe that it is true. The problem with a market-based analysis of the future of religion, as well as the market-based practices present in many contemporary religious communities, is that religion at its best is not a consumer product. Rather, at its best religious faith calls for sacrifice, unselfishness, love, and a willingness to remove oneself from the center of the universe, so to speak. In order to be willling to live in such a way, a self-centered market-based approach to religion will not do. Rather, one must believe that she is living in a way that is consistent with reality in order to motivate an unselfish approach to life.

It is also unclear how atheism is positioned to replace religion, in the following way. Atheism is the belief that God does not exist. But this, in and of itself, cannot form the foundation for a way of life. Only by forming and practicing positive beliefs and values can one build a coherent and meaningful life. So if something is to replace religion, it will not be atheism. Perhaps some form of secular humanism will accomplish this task. But here we run into another problem, namely, that human beings long for transcendence of some sort, as shown by the presence and prevalence of religious belief throughout cultures across time.

On this topic, Barber claims that sports can replace religion. In one sense, I think he is right. The loyalty, community-identification, and limited transcendence of the experiences related to sports do fuflill many of the functions of religion for many people. However--and I am a passionate sports fan and participant--at the end of the day sports are incapable of doing the work needed to provide sufficient meaning, transcendence, and fulfillment in life. But even if sport can do this to some degree, the view that sport is replacing religion fails to notice that religion should not be approached as a consumer good.

Lastly, we should be very grateful for the powerful psychopharmacological substances which can make life better for many of us.  However, we must remember that religion is not merely about making my life better. Religion at its best is about making me better, and a better contributor to the common good. In closing, I think the reports of the impending death and replacement of religion with atheism are greatly exaggerated.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: apologetics; atheism; historicity; religion; scientism
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1 posted on 12/18/2010 5:45:10 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem

The OP conflates religion and churches, congregations, etc.

Religion is based in belief (faith). Churches, congregations, etc. are social constructs to share and exchange those beliefs in a community.


2 posted on 12/18/2010 5:48:44 PM PST by freedumb2003 (Nothing sharpens the mind like not being able to get a job. /Nonstatist)
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To: freedumb2003

Atheism can’t replace religious belief because there’s no there there.


3 posted on 12/18/2010 5:54:49 PM PST by mkmensinger
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To: neverdem

***Why atheism can’t replace religion ***

It has “nothing” to offer!


4 posted on 12/18/2010 5:57:31 PM PST by Ruy Dias de Bivar (I visited GEN TOMMY FRANKS Military Museum in HOBART, OKLAHOMA! Well worth it!)
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To: neverdem
Answered here very well.


5 posted on 12/18/2010 5:57:48 PM PST by mc5cents
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To: neverdem

Neverdem; Thank you for posting!

While there is no altar call in the article, and the religion described is generic, I will be sending this to several people who would describe themselves as wandering on the borders of belief.


6 posted on 12/18/2010 5:58:25 PM PST by Pete from Shawnee Mission
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To: neverdem
Internal analysis, reductio ad absurdum.

Self limiting perception.
7 posted on 12/18/2010 6:01:50 PM PST by allmost
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To: mkmensinger

>>Atheism can’t replace religious belief because there’s no there there.<<

Fair enough. But the OP starts in a bad direction and thus, can’t really arrive at the conclusion desired.


8 posted on 12/18/2010 6:03:37 PM PST by freedumb2003 (Nothing sharpens the mind like not being able to get a job. /Nonstatist)
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To: allmost

>>reductio ad absurdum<<

Wasn’t that what Snapes used as a curse to dispatch Dumbledoor?


9 posted on 12/18/2010 6:06:18 PM PST by freedumb2003 (Nothing sharpens the mind like not being able to get a job. /Nonstatist)
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To: freedumb2003
Can't claim to be... on to anything Dumbledoor.
10 posted on 12/18/2010 6:11:54 PM PST by allmost
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To: freedumb2003

It’s an old saying.


11 posted on 12/18/2010 6:13:13 PM PST by allmost
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On this topic, Barber claims that sports can replace religion.

On this topic, Barber is a moron.

12 posted on 12/18/2010 6:15:00 PM PST by Graybeard58
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To: neverdem
I find it very unlikely that atheism will replace religion entirely, but developed countries have certainly seen unbelief replace religion in part. In 2005, a survey of the EU's members at that time found that among EU citizens 18% had no form of belief. In Japan, the number is more like 75%.

On the whole, religion simply seems to be playing less and less of a role in the average person's life...at least in the developed world. The United States is an exception, although even here atheism is much more prevalent than it was even half a century ago.

Here's an interesting graphic from Gallup: A religiosity index of the world's countries. The brighter the color, the more religious the country's people.


13 posted on 12/18/2010 6:38:50 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: neverdem

All I can say is, local roads are a complete MESS with—no exaggerations here—tens of thousands of worshippers trying to get into and out of the various services of the different churches. Local cops try hard to get Sundays off so they can work off-duty at high wages directing traffic for all these services. Churches are being built rapidly as there is more demand for space and even monstrous buildings are crowded. This says something about the hunger people have to hear Christ preached.


14 posted on 12/18/2010 6:40:45 PM PST by ottbmare (off-the-track Thoroughbred mare)
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To: Abin Sur

Your info is contraindcacatory


15 posted on 12/18/2010 6:44:17 PM PST by allmost
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To: allmost

How so?


16 posted on 12/18/2010 6:49:46 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: Abin Sur
The chart shows political borders. It also shows gray areas. Both of which are bunk.

Merry Christmass.
17 posted on 12/18/2010 6:56:27 PM PST by allmost
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To: neverdem

The great contradiction people miss is the fact that being an atheist also requires faith in the certainty that there is no supreme being or unexplainable things. There is an arrogance in the denial of the fact we simply don’t know one way or another.


18 posted on 12/18/2010 6:57:14 PM PST by Cacique (quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat ( Islamia Delenda Est ))
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To: freedumb2003

The negative correlation between income and religiosity is a Western model. In the non-Western countries, rich people are as religious—if not more—than poor people. part of the reason is that poor people cannot be bothered with ‘heavenly things’ when they are hungry.


19 posted on 12/18/2010 6:58:15 PM PST by paudio (The differences between Clinton and 0bama? About a dozen of former Democratic Congressmen.)
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To: allmost
The chart shows political borders.

Since the poll was conducted on a country-by-country basis, how else would you illustrate such a map?

It also shows gray areas.

The gray areas represent countries which weren't polled.

Both of which are bunk.

Ok, I'll bite. Why?

20 posted on 12/18/2010 7:02:43 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: Cacique
The great contradiction people miss is the fact that being an atheist also requires faith in the certainty that there is no supreme being or unexplainable things.

While that is true of positive atheism, it's not so for negative atheism. Strong atheism states "There is no God (or gods)", whereas a negative atheist would state "While I have no belief in God (or gods) I cannot know with certainty that such a being or beings do not exist".

I subscribe to the latter, for what it's worth.

21 posted on 12/18/2010 7:08:46 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: Abin Sur

Fundamental reality. Try looking into it.


22 posted on 12/18/2010 7:09:37 PM PST by allmost
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>> Article: Religion at its best is about making me better, and a better contributor to the common good.

New-Age tripe.

Thankfully, Christianity is not a religion.


23 posted on 12/18/2010 7:14:04 PM PST by Gene Eric (Your Hope has been redistributed. Here's your Change.)
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To: paudio
...poor people cannot be bothered with ‘heavenly things’ when they are hungry.

Are you sure about that? Here's data from a 2009 Gallup poll:

The populations of countries that are dirt poor are much more religious than wealthy countries.

24 posted on 12/18/2010 7:17:26 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: neverdem

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him” Voltaire


25 posted on 12/18/2010 7:20:57 PM PST by Delacon ("The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." H. L. Mencken)
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To: allmost
Could you be more explicit, please? Why would you characterize both:

1) The use of political borders on a map
2) The color gray denoting a lack of data on a map

As "bunk"?

26 posted on 12/18/2010 7:24:20 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: Delacon
I like you tag line by Mencken. My favorite variation of it is by Heinlein:

"Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surely curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they make better neighbors than the other sort. "

27 posted on 12/18/2010 7:31:02 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: neverdem
Atheism IS A religion. It has exactly all of the same elements of a “religion.”

Interestingly, atheism is more of an anti-Christian religion than anything else. If Christianity ceased to exist, atheism would have no purpose.

28 posted on 12/18/2010 7:31:40 PM PST by dhs12345
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To: Abin Sur
Where does your 'rah rah' thang come from.

PLEASE GIVE ME MORE INFO.
29 posted on 12/18/2010 7:32:52 PM PST by allmost
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To: allmost
I'm curious -- do you realize how extremely inarticulate you are? I've been looking at your posts and I just can't make heads or tails of them.

And I'm pretty sure that is a reflection on you, and not on me.

30 posted on 12/18/2010 7:40:14 PM PST by ClearCase_guy
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To: allmost
Where does your 'rah rah' thang come from.

PLEASE GIVE ME MORE INFO.

Ok, I'm stumped. What in Crom's name are you talking about?

31 posted on 12/18/2010 7:41:47 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: ClearCase_guy

Jump me at your preferred point.


32 posted on 12/18/2010 7:43:27 PM PST by allmost
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To: neverdem

As a non-believer, I have far more respect for someone who has arrived at his or her religious convictions as a result of mature personal reflection than someone who is religious because of a need to conform, a desire for “community”, or because “they were raised that way”.

Parts of Western Europe are already “post-religious” in the sense that a majority of of people do not believe in the existence of a god who takes a interest in their individual behavior, but religion is in no danger of extinction there - tens of millions of people still value their personal religious experience and place it make it the core of their moral values, attempt to enlist new believers to their ranks, and will doubtless continue to do so.

Such believers may no longer have the force of the state to enforce their convictions upon others, but it seems to me that this strengthens, rather then weakens, their moral authority.


33 posted on 12/18/2010 7:43:34 PM PST by M. Dodge Thomas
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To: ClearCase_guy
I've been looking at your posts and I just can't make heads or tails of them.

I'm hoping (in vain, I suspect) for him to give us a detailed explanation of why political borders and the color gray are "bunk"!

34 posted on 12/18/2010 7:44:58 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: allmost

Jean has a long mustache.


35 posted on 12/18/2010 7:45:07 PM PST by ClearCase_guy
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To: ClearCase_guy

A mirror, Unfortunately. What are you digging for?


36 posted on 12/18/2010 7:46:52 PM PST by allmost
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To: ClearCase_guy
Jean has a long mustache.

Vive La Résistance! Wolverines!

37 posted on 12/18/2010 7:52:20 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: dhs12345
Atheism IS A religion. It has exactly all of the same elements of a “religion.”

Absolutely correct. Atheism is a narcissistic religion in which one worships himself and is closely related to humanism.

It is predicated on the atheist's need to deny a God because he wants so desperately not to be held accountable for his behavior. If he is his own god, then all of his actions are pre-approved and acceptable.

Like the Voltaire quote above, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him," implies, if our rights are not inherent and are solely dependent on society, then they are fluid and changing. Right and wrong are not constants. God is law and that law is immutable. If man is a god then he is a law unto himself only.

38 posted on 12/18/2010 7:52:33 PM PST by seowulf ("If you write a whole line of zeroes, it's still---nothing"...Kira Alexandrovna Argounova)
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To: dhs12345
"Atheism IS A religion."

It is a religion based on hate.

39 posted on 12/18/2010 8:08:14 PM PST by UnwashedPeasant (Don't nuke me, bro)
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To: freedumb2003

What’s the OP?


40 posted on 12/18/2010 8:12:12 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: Abin Sur

Seek experience with God and you will KNOW without having to believe.


41 posted on 12/18/2010 8:19:34 PM PST by GEC (We're not drilling in ANWR because....)
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To: Cacique
The great contradiction people miss is the fact that being an atheist also requires faith in the certainty that there is no supreme being or unexplainable things. There is an arrogance in the denial of the fact we simply don’t know one way or another.

Sorry, but that's just silly.

I don't know with certainty whether I will wake tomorrow, but that doesn't mean I can't believe I will--or live today in acordance with that belief.

42 posted on 12/18/2010 8:31:42 PM PST by Gondring (Paul Revere would have been flamed as a naysayer troll and told to go back to Boston.)
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To: UnwashedPeasant

LOL


43 posted on 12/18/2010 8:32:26 PM PST by Gondring (Paul Revere would have been flamed as a naysayer troll and told to go back to Boston.)
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To: Abin Sur

Lol. We curmudgeons are only suspicious of those who would force us to be altruistic.


44 posted on 12/18/2010 8:35:55 PM PST by Delacon ("The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." H. L. Mencken)
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To: GEC
Seek experience with God and you will KNOW without having to believe.

I've already done so. I asked Christ to be my savior (I was quite sincere at the time, let me assure you) when I was in Sunday School...and yet I felt nothing. I certainly didn't receive any divine KNOWledge as a result.

45 posted on 12/18/2010 8:37:13 PM PST by Abin Sur
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To: seowulf
So you disagree with the idea that people choose religion based on what they believe is true, and must choose a religion based on its impact on them?

Wow....I wonder what God would say to that!

46 posted on 12/18/2010 8:39:02 PM PST by Gondring (Paul Revere would have been flamed as a naysayer troll and told to go back to Boston.)
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To: neverdem

The article completely misses the relationship between God and His follower. I belong to God. He is the sole source of truth in my life. I do not prize my life above my bond with Him. The world will destroy my body but it cannot touch my soul.


47 posted on 12/18/2010 8:44:22 PM PST by Louis Foxwell (The American Revolution is just as unpopular with statists today as it was at our founding.)
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To: Abin Sur

You asked but you did not surrender, absolutely.


48 posted on 12/18/2010 8:46:00 PM PST by Louis Foxwell (The American Revolution is just as unpopular with statists today as it was at our founding.)
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To: M. Dodge Thomas
As a non-believer, I have far more respect for someone who has arrived at his or her religious convictions as a result of mature personal reflection than someone who is religious because of a need to conform, a desire for “community”, or because “they were raised that way”.

As a former luke-warm believer I've come to know that those that don't believe have some misconceptions as to how believers came to believe. I can say with experience that for many (myself included) it wasn't a conscious effort, a need for a "fix", a desire to be part of a social group, etc., but rather a supernatural event. IOW, a miraculous event or series of events take place in believer's lives, undeniable evidence of God's existence. I know it's difficult to explain to non-believers (I was once where you're at), but I can tell you that these "signs and wonders" do happen. It happened to me.

49 posted on 12/18/2010 8:58:15 PM PST by randog (Tap into America!)
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To: neverdem

OK Michael W. Austin. You will soon meet
your maker. What then? Your smart prose
will serve you poorly. MARANATHA!


50 posted on 12/18/2010 9:07:56 PM PST by E38
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