According to a recent WIN-Gallup International poll, the number of Americans saying they are “religious” has declined since 2005 from 73 percent of the population to 60 percent. In that same period, the number of “convinced atheists” has risen from 1 to 5 percent of the population. In the 39 countries polled, the number of people saying they are “religious” declined from 77 to 68 percent, while the number of “convinced atheists” increased from 4 to 7 percent.
While this is good news for those who recognize the destructive nature of religion, the rejection of religious faith hardly equals the acceptance of reason. Communists reject religious faith but embrace a secularized version of faith demanding blind acceptance of collectivist dogmas such as, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Atheism means only that one does not believe in god; it does not mean that one embraces reason.
What should we make of the rise of atheism in America? The Washington Post points out that the increase in the number of atheists coincides with the prominence of the New Atheists: Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. Although in some ways these writers demonstrate a reverence for reason, in important ways they do not.
As Alan Germani summarizes:
While decrying faith, [the New Atheists] fail to show that morality can be based on reason and thus grounded in reality. They fail to offer anything essentially different from the religionists whom they condemn, instead joining them in the belief that moral knowledge can only be gained by non-rational means.
For details, see Germani’s illuminating article.
Far more important than whether someone rejects religion, is whether someone embraces reason—thinking grounded in observation of reality.
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