May Atheism succeed demographically?
In the wake of the fruitful explosion of Evolutionary Studies of Religion, Evolutionary Studies of Atheism are making inroads, too. I was glad to be able to blog about Dominic Johnson's respective hypotheses last summer and recently about a ground-breaking paper by Ara Norenzayan and Will M. Gervais.
Although we are beginning to understand the emergence and expansion of non-religious worldviews better than ever, a major question remains: Are human populations lacking any beliefs in superempirical agents doomed to demographic extinction?
It's not only that religious people tend (on average) to have far "more" children than their non-religious peers - it's also about that ominous fact that we do not know about a single non-religious group or population that managed to retain at least the reproductive replacement level for just a century. There have been numerous attempts since Greek and Indian antiquity, not to speak about those late Western cultures and countries - but up to now, there has not been a single demographic success on the communal level.
Reasons for not having children
A new recent survey about the reasons of many Germans not to have kids pointed out three main arguments:
1. 60% of the respondents claimed that they wanted to be "free and independent".
2. 58% pointed out that raising children would be "too expensive".
3. 51% argued that "the professional career is more important than having a family".
Religious vs. Non-Religious Arguments
To me, it seems to be rather obvious that religious traditions are able to counter such arguments, referring to their respective superempirical agents (such as ancestors or gods): Parts of the individual freedom should be submitted to their will, money and professional self-fulfillment should not be held higher than the needs of communities and families. Even if you chose not to have children (for example as a religious Celibate), you should contribute to the survival and cooperation of the religious group! And the superempirical agents are watching and judging your behaviors!
In contrast, I can't see any convincing arguments acceptable to an educated non-believer. Philosophically, Society or Evolution are no absolute values and the simple answer that there might be "too many humans" around would be able to counter and silence any remaining moralistic claims.
Therefore, the empirical irony remains: The more Atheism is flourishing numerically, the more Religion(s) are winning out evolutionarily.
If there's a God, he seems to sport a certain sense of humour...