The Decline of Organized Religion

The Decline of Organized Religion

I have noticed that many of my atheist friends on the net seem to be gloating that organized religion in the West is on the decline.  I suspect that some of them who have a high opinion of themselves even imagine that they are influencing its decline.

Let’s, for the moment, assume that religion is declining just as some of the new atheists seem to  believe.  This would, out of necessity, cause us to ask the question “Why?”  Could it be, as some of the new atheists assume, that humanity, at least in the West, is more educated and getting smarter?[1] I have doubts that education has had  little, if any effect on the decline of organized religion or even on the true number atheists.  Their growth could be contributed more likely, to a ‘coming out of the closet’ rather than any actual growth.

There has always been a large number of unbelievers in organized religion, especially when the religion is the dominant cultural religion and it has become socially and economically beneficial to pose as a believer.  It’s easy to come out the closet when you live in a culture that believes nothing.  If this is the case then I personally, as a believer, am thankful to the new atheist for helping us rid ourselves of the chaff within the Christian faith.  However, I really don’t think that this is the case.

One huge contributor to the decline in organized religion and other social organizations is the transfer of  the dependence of poor people on their faith community and other social organizations to their dependency on the state for all of their needs.

Personally, it’s hard for me to see anything very positive about this transfer of power.  The only result is that the poor have lost their moral compass, and the state has gained more power over them thereby expanding their power over the entire population.  On the other end of the economic spectrum, the wealthy and business class no longer have to demonstrate their goodness and honesty by going to church, although many still go to church for what they call “net working”; to sell their wares.

All of this has little or nothing to do with the level of intelligence of people living in the West or the new atheist movement, both of which I believe are a part of the declension and decay of civilization.  One mark of a declining civilization is its loss of faith in its gods or religion.  This loss of faith many not be causal but it does go hand and hand with the death of civilization and is a sign of a decaying culture.

The churches like all social institutions in Western culture are losing membership and this is not something to be gloating over for the reason that people are becoming increasingly isolated from each other, which in turn gives the state more power.  This is one of the factors  contributing to our loss of freedom.  Taking religion out of the public square is not the separation of powers, it is the enthroning of state power without any organized resistance.  This is why dictators and tyrants make it their goal to eradicate religion as soon as they gain power.  Therefore, most tyrannical governments support atheism.

In addition, the creation of democracy and the rise of individualism also can give rise to an anti-authority mindset, that also can cause a decline in any authoritative organization.  So, it is not surprising that organized religions, which have an authority structure, are declining the most in democratic societies.  This would include mainline Protestant and Catholic churches which have an authoritative structure.  Independent churches which are more democratic in their structure are maintaining their membership and even growing in membership.

Again, we see that the increase of knowledge seems to have little to do with the decline of religion and the rise of atheism.  The rise of atheism can be traced much more easily to social and psychological[2] reasons then to any level of education.

[1] If people are getting smarter why is there a decline in philosophy students which seems to be corresponding with the decline in religion?

[2] Note my article on “The Making of a Fundamentalist Atheist” and “Prerequisites for Atheism” at: