Monday, March 28, 2011

Census data indicates religion may become extinct in nine nations

source: via

A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team's mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Their means of analysing the data invokes what is known as nonlinear dynamics - a mathematical approach that has been used to explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part.

One of the team, Daniel Abrams of Northwestern University, put forth a similar model in 2003 to put a numerical basis behind the decline of lesser-spoken world languages.

At its heart is the competition between speakers of different languages, and the "utility" of speaking one instead of another.

"The idea is pretty simple," said Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the University of Arizona.

"It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility.

"For example in languages, there can be greater utility or status in speaking Spanish instead of [the dying language] Quechuan in Peru, and similarly there's some kind of status or utility in being a member of a religion or not."

Some of the census data the team used date from the 19th century Dr Wiener continued: "In a large number of modern secular democracies, there's been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion; in the Netherlands the number was 40%, and the highest we saw was in the Czech Republic, where the number was 60%."

The team then applied their nonlinear dynamics model, adjusting parameters for the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership of the "non-religious" category.

They found, in a study published online, that those parameters were similar across all the countries studied, suggesting that similar behaviour drives the mathematics in all of them.

And in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction.

However, Dr Wiener told the conference that the team was working to update the model with a "network structure" more representative of the one at work in the world.

"Obviously we don't really believe this is the network structure of a modern society, where each person is influenced equally by all the other people in society," he said.

However, he told BBC News that he thought it was "a suggestive result".

"It's interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data, and if those simple ideas are correct, it suggests where this might be going.

"Obviously much more complicated things are going on with any one individual, but maybe a lot of that averages out."

Sunday, March 13, 2011 - Differences to other non-theistic organisations

Richard Green introduced me to Atheism and I'm now a council member / director of this organisation.  But what what does Atheism do that BHA and NSS do not do?

Where we fit in

A few people have asked, “Why is such an organization necessary?” or “What are you going to do that other organizations like the National Secular Society (NSS) or British Humanist Society (BHA) aren’t already doing?”  It is a fair question, and the main answer to this is that none of the groups mentioned actually promote atheism. They do not, as a matter of course, challenge religions directly, question the validity of the concept of faith, or criticize pronouncements made by the religious institutions. At Atheism, we will be challenging religious claims and the propagation of religious faith.
At the last NSS Annual General Meeting (November 2009), its President, Terry Sanderson, stated that it was not their job to promote atheism and at present there is not an organization that is doing so. He went on to explain that the current non-theistic movement is made up of three “arms”, and we at Atheism have modeled this into a simple Venn diagram as a graphical aid to differentiate where we fit in as an organization (please note this diagram is schematic and not to scale).
Each of the circles represent the following movements:
Secularism is the political movement to separate church and state, and to challenge and remove religious privilege.
Non-Theistic “Lifestances” are more positive “alternatives” to faith and religion, such as humanism, PEARLism, scientism and the like. They promote ethical systems, ways of thinking and ways of life.
Active atheism is the challenging of faith – the belief, in the absence of evidence, that God exists – as a bad thing per se. From this follows the challenging of religion, its doctrines, pronouncements and teachings. Until now there has been no distinctively atheist organization in the UK, which is why this organization has been formed.
At Atheism, we do, by definition, support and promote secularism, and we have common ground with non-theistic “lifestances” – hence the overlap. We will work with their promoting organizations where appropriate. However, we will be doing things that they do not (or will not) do and vice versa.
So join Atheism, the nation’s only democratic, membership led, grassroots campaigning organization advancing atheism.