So why is organised faith in decline in the developed world? Why, in particular, are young people ignoring mainstream religion in such vast numbers?
I can think of a couple of reasons. The Internet is certainly not doing religion any favours. Where once it was hard to check facts and claims it now couldn't be simpler. We know, by way of example, that the Gospel authors are anonymous, and that we don't know when the Gospels were penned, or where. We also know we have no eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus, and no original manuscripts to refer to. Just as we know that the manuscripts we do have changed over time to align with various socio political agendas. And those claims I've just made you can check; and if you've an ounce of personal investment in the matter then check you should.
Point is, it's never been easier to identify when people are pulling the wool, or being disingenuous, or creative with the truth. Combine this with a tech savvy younger generation and it's clear the wheels of organised religion will come off.
Which is precisely what's happening. Yet even I'm surprised at the speed. When I became an apostate several years ago it was at the beginning of what has become known as the enlightenment 2.0. I'm proud to be able to say that I was there at its birth and actively involved in its proliferation. I spent a lot of time on religious websites in dialogue with persons of faith, and it never ceased to startle me what they DIDN'T know about the faith they lived by. It was like boarding a raft and setting sail into a vast ocean of denial and cognitive dissonance, and to this day I get the distinct impression that many believers simply cannot cope with the possibility that what they have built their lives upon amounts to dust and ashes. In many ways this is very sad. There is so much wonder in this universe, and so many unanswered questions there remains room for awe and hope and transcendence. Our universe is vast and old and strange things happen all the time; it's just got nothing to do with mainstream religion.
A second reason for religions steep decline amongst our brave youth has much to do with the rejection of homophobic and patriarchal ideals. We know in the depths of our being that love transcends gender stereotypes, and that women are more than breeding machines and are of equal status. Its an exodus that I hope to see continue; and religion will respond in one of two ways. If its smart it will do what it often does when overwhelmed with new information; it will quietly capitulate and re-imagine itself in order to appeal to a wider audience. There's also the possibility that a deranged core will regress to ultra orthodox values and cast themselves wider from 21st century norms. In truth we'll see a mix of the two, with the former likely out punching the latter. Yet despite any efforts to reinvent itself, Christianity still has to step up and own up to the fact that many of its claims are simply either outright false, or too weakly supported by evidence to claim as absolutely true. I'd love to see a commitment to honest truth seeking amongst my Christian friends rather than further battening down of hatches that have long since given up the ghost. Christianity, to survive as a viable proposition, needs to start being honest about many of its fundamental claims. Which means that it has to start being honest with itself. Given its track record I'm not convinced that truth seeking is a key driver amongst many believers. I hope that this changes. I hope they can make the transition to not just nice people, but people of moral courage, able to face new information with fortitude and courage, rather than simply failing to engage.