Another Viewpoint re: Will Atheism Replace Religion?
More than one way to interpret data.
Posted Aug 08, 2011
Nigel Barber's article, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion: New Evidence expresses one interesting point of view. There are others, however, that are equally interesting.
For example, as people move into cities in large numbers the connection to nature is weakened and even destroyed. A simple example is how many people who live in cities, even the elderly, have never, or hardly ever, seen a sunrise. (I first read about this phenomenon years ago when a Chicago elementary school teacher gave her students an assignment to watch a sunrise and discovered that it wasn't just the children who hadn't ever seen one. Neither had some of the parents and grandparents.) This is significant because when people are connected to nature in their daily lives, it is not just nature's destruction and uncertainty that they experience; they often experience the mystical--mystery, a sense of the sacred, of something larger than oneself, of something not graspable through ordinary logic and sense perceptions. There is evidence that mysticism is natural to humans when the scientific-rational-materialistic viewpoint hasn't yet conditioned their thinking to block it out.
It may be that in Dr. Barber's data, intelligence, as measured by standardized intelligence tests, is correlated with atheism, but atheism is not necessarily indicative of higher intelligence. It is typically indicative of a certain deftness with left-brain functions, but may not include highly evolved right-brain or whole-brain capacity, or what might be called heart-brain capacity. (I am told there is good research now suggesting the existence of an intelligence field that is heart-based rather than brain-based, though I have not yet read any of that research.) Regular meditation has been shown to boost intellectual functioning, and highly trained meditators, such as Buddhist monks, have been shown to exhibit superior brain function and greater control over their physiology and emotions than typical humans.
Atheists tend to take only physically-perceivable phenomena as their data. Then they apply left-brain-based reasoning and logic to interpret it. This can be viewed as a limited way of operating in the world since there are many phenomena that cannot be perceived or explained by the limited sensing capacities of the physical organs and the limited logic of the brain-mind. As science advances--for example, as it is now doing in the realms of quantum and related physics fields--atheism will eventually go out the window too, because it's just one more limited viewpoint, like anything else.
What if Consciousness itself is playing a game? People flock to cities for apparent reasons--e.g., for jobs, economic security, or opportunities to participate in certain types of music or artistic events--but what if what might be called the "real" or underlying reason is so that the collective consciousness of the human species can experiment with what it's like to be disconnected from intimacy--intimacy with nature, with other humans in a deeply personal way, and with its very own larger unified self? What if this collective consciousness is part of a larger Consciousness within which all of us--human and non-human, "living" and "not living" are connected?
When you have the direct experience of Oneness with all beings and all so-called "external reality"--as I and many others have had--you cannot, strictly speaking, be atheist. You know from a different way of knowing that there is something more than what can be perceived with the limited sense organs of the body and left-brain mind.
Much of religion and spirituality has become little more than conditioned belief, just as much of science is also based on conditioned beliefs. Yet, the inclination toward religion tends to express an impulse in humans that can be viewed as born of connection, not fear and uncertainty. In less modern, economically developed societies, connections with others and with nature tend to be stronger. Hence a natural impulse toward a perception of "something beyond' ourselves.
Who knows? If Dr. Barber's interpretation is correct the prevalence of atheism may in fact decline--if the global economy collapses and life grows increasingly uncertain even in the social democracies of Europe. I do not mean to suggest that Dr. Barber's interpretation of the data is "wrong"--not at all--just that it is one interesting point of view; and, as I said, there are other viewpoints, also interesting. My own view is that atheism will probably fall away eventually, and religion will grow more expansive (as in more open and tolerant of differing viewpoints), as new and intriguing viewpoints and explorations in consciousness emerge.