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:Government safety nets. Oh yeah, that's working out well.
"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
The third fear factor is: reality. In Washington and in statehouses around the country, the reality of the pending Fiscal Armageddon is starting to seep into the thick skulls of the elected class. Jerry Brown pronounced himself “shocked” once he got a good peek at California’s balance sheet. Off the record, politicians of both parties are starting to concede that a lot of the old ideological disputes at now moot, because there simply isn’t any money. It’s not a question of whether there are going to be deep cuts and fundamental restructuring, but when and how much.Churches are losing ground? Err, maybe not.
Better science is linked to atheism? Not really.
The problem with claiming societal victory using data from a decade or two is that societal oscillations have a periodicity much greater than decades. It's more on the order of generations. Modern, enlightened, wealthy, secular nations are not not reproducing, are spending themselves into fiscally-induced convulsions and are crowing about non-existent links between science and atheism. Mike Austin's well-reasoned response is complete overkill. The entire premise of the article he's refuting is crumbling as we speak.
Before we rush about claiming that one or another societal structure is superior, we probably ought to let it play out for a couple of centuries and check the scoreboard then. Right now, in terms of personal freedom and living standards, it's a runaway for Christian, capitalist democracies.
Update: Our Monastery of Miscellaneous Musings has a short post illustrating the trouble with claiming that atheist regimes are the wave of the future.