I have no idea what percentage of atheists would like to see a complete absence of religion. I know that I am not one of them. There is no doubt in my mind that the religious community provides a great deal of comfort for the grief-stricken, no matter what the reason for their grief may be.
Quite recently I read an essay by Nigel Barber, an evolutionary psychologist, whose thesis is that the religiosity of a country is in direct proportion to the dysfunctionality of its society, in other words the more dysfunctional the society, the more religious it is. Dysfunctionality is measured in well-defined ways such as income inequality, levels of education , healthcare and child mortality, including neonatal mortality.
The levels of atheism vary greatly as one moves around the globe. Sweden has 64 per cent, Denmark 48 per cent,France, Germany and Britain 43 per cent, and sub-Saharan Africa, not surprisingly, is less than 1 per cent.
There are perfectly valid reasons for these huge discrepancies in the percentages of non-believers. The leaner the social infrastructure of a country, the more its inhabitants are inclined to find relief and solace in religion.
Conversely in other societies, when people experience physical or psychological difficulties they turn to a medically qualified individual; they prefer the real psychotropic medicines dished out by physicians to the metaphorical opiates offered by religion.
The reasons that churches lose ground in developed countries can be summarized in market terms. With government safety nets and smaller families there is less fear and uncertainty in people and hence less of a market for religion. Canada has a healthy proportion of non-believers, which will ensure that it remains a secular society for many years to come.
The Clergy Project was started to answer a need for pastors, ministers and priests who no longer believe in God. It was founded as an online community safe house in the Spring of 2011 and its membership at last count is slightly more than 440. Anonymity is guaranteed until a member indicates that he or she is ready to go public.
Although many of the members have already resigned from their churches, several are still ministering to their congregations. This has provoked Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Seminary, to criticize the project as a “haven for cowards and charlatans” – decidedly unChristian language for someone so prominent in his chosen field of forgiveness and understanding. Whatever happened to the old adage “hate the sin but love the sinner”?Perhaps Southern Baptists are different!
I would consider myself very remiss had I not brought this escape route/safe house to the attention of all Christian incumbents within the Arrow Lakes News reading area. It is not impossible that someone will experience a crisis of faith at some point and will be very thankful that such an organisation exists.
A cogent quotation from Voltaire: “Men will only stop committing atrocities when they stop believing in absurdities.”