The Economist Magazine reports this morning that the number of people who identify as Atheists in the United States population has grown five-fold in the last five years. They derived this information from a Gallup poll which reinforces a year-old Pew survey, the latest in a series of such polls taken over the years.
If the Economist were not so conservative, seemingly most interested in publicizing Mitt Romney’s bid for the White House and criticizing what they insist on calling Obamacare, they might have done the rest of the math that is readily available from any number of sources, and which is neatly compiled in a new book by David Niose (Nonbeliever Nation), a must-read book which I am in the middle of reading. Mr. Niose makes an excellent case for placing the percentage of US citizens who do not believe in any god at 15% or more.
What the Economist is actually reporting, then, is that more people today are willing to out themselves as atheists. This is a situation analogous to people outing themselves as gay, as it was very recently illegal to be gay, a fact that certainly stopped people from admitting that sexual preference. Indeed, is still illegal in some parts of the US to be openly atheist, including laws in some states which make it illegal for an atheist to be elected to public office.
This is, of course, one of the facts which make the US a throwback to the rampant religiosity which brought Europe such wonders as the Holy Wars and the Spanish Inquisition. Europe has moved on from creationism and repression, and is much less religious than the US. In the US, we have not burned anyone at the stake lately, but the lack of a belief in any manufactured and preposterous god is demonized from the pulpit nationwide every Sunday.
The only difference between the torture devices of the Inquisition and the demonization of atheists in America is one of degree. America is one of the few bastions of religious idiocy left in our modern world. And there you have the reason for the number of self-reported atheists being historically so low. The religious right has made it a crime to deny belief in their magic and mysticism, and works hard to ostracize atheists. As usual, it is organized religion which is repressing anyone that it can in order to further its own agenda.
Sorry, folks. Magic religious underwear will not bring salvation. Slavish devotion to deities made up by humans to allay their morbid fear of death will not bring some mystical afterlife. The Earth is well over 5000 years old.
All ye who cannot understand those simple facts are holding all of mankind back.