The only poison in the church is that book on the lectern.

I have this instant just returned from my first visit to a Christian church in several years. I have only been into churches about eight or nine times in my life, normally for the purposes of listening to or playing in concerts. My reason for going on this occasion was to have a go at playing the organ that’s there. My thinking: how often does one get the opportunity to play such a gargantuan musical instrument? These instruments are in churches everywhere and are rarely used, so why not?

I live less than a kilometre away from the one I visited moments ago: within easy cycling and walking distance. Yet it has been even longer since I last went into this particular church. So much so that I could not remember anything that was in it, except for one of the side-rooms. I also forgot how easily accessed they are; that you can just walk in and around it at any time.

I was completely aware before going in that I would not have the violent reaction to the religious environment that I once might have had. I would consider myself a new atheist, but I make a distinction between archaic remnants of culture, and genuine religion. In other words, I appreciate the grandiose architecture of the building without despising it because of its religious connotations. At the time when the church was built, we were a lot less advanced as a species. Nobody really had any idea about origins. The options were no idea, or some arbitrary idea. The science and philosophical arguments that are around today which should be enough to convince anyone against believing in religious doctrine, weren’t available (though that shouldn’t stop people thinking for themselves). As philosophy and science become more advanced and more freely accessible, it becomes more irrational to be religious.

This building seemed more like the ruins of a castle than somewhere that modern humans still gather to maintain their antiquated belief system. If another sentient species, millions of years from now, uncovers the remains of one of these churches, all they would conclude is that human beings had a peculiar interest in geometry and incorporated that into the structural features. Most of the masonry consists only of geometric shapes. The pillars and arches and the vaulted ceiling had repetitive circles or criss-crosses but very few religious symbols. The door into the building was built more like a portcullis, but that was all. Even the stained glass windows had only a few obvious symbols; they were mostly just depictions of medieval scenes with knights in armour. The pews still looked annoying. I’ve sat on those things about five times in my life and hated every second of it.

In fact, I looked around the building, and the only really striking object of any religious significance is that book on the lectern, the bible. It dwarfs the other items in its religious babble. In that book is contained all of the nonsense that is spewed out and forms part of the thing we call religion. The concept of removing gods from religion is often thrown around. Sod it, remove religion from religion. These old buildings need preserving, church numbers are falling, why not find another use for them?

Will Religion Die Out? What Will Happen To Atheism If It Does?

Unquestionably, the world is more atheist now than it used to be. Some of the most developed countries in the world have incredibly high percentages of atheists among their population. Some studies have estimated that countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland have atheist or agnostic majorities. Atheism is gaining momentum.

Let’s envisage some possible futures. Imagine atheism continues to gain momentum among the developed world, by using its cool rationale and precise logic in widely publicised debates and so forth. Let’s say that it becomes the dominant viewpoint in the population. There will be a brief period of history, possibly a decade or so, in which this surge of rationality might take place. Many people will be excited by the new thinking during this hypothetical atheist revolution. But since atheism has no intrinsic beliefs, this tidal wave of logic probably won’t last very long. Afterwards there may be a number of minority religions, and perhaps the major ones will survive better. But once the major religious presence has gone, there will be a “belief vacuum”. As time goes on new generations will rediscover religion and start believing in it again, or even inventing new religions.

With a world that is learning about religion again, with all of the major proponents of atheism now ageing or long gone. Religion will have no predator. It could easily become dominant again and then atheism would be rediscovered, and the entire cycle would repeat itself, moving into an oscillatory mode. As atheism is a response to religion, if religion goes, then so will atheism.

Of course, this speculation neglects changes in society or education. It is entirely possible to see that if religious education continues in schools, then atheism will always exist as a counterpart.

Also, less economically developed countries tend to have more religious populations. If atheism does experience a revolution, it won’t be a global phenomenon. It would have to wait for other nations to catch up. In which case there could be a continuous stand-off between largely atheist and largely religious countries.

Then there is the mark that religion has left upon the world in terms of architecture. No architectural preservationist will ever allow the Vatican City to be destroyed. The same goes for other religious buildings around the world.

There is also the question of whether human beings need religion in some way. It has often been remarked that as so many societies have religion, it must provide some sort of advantage either socially or evolutionarily. This is probably true. Religion certainly gives human beings emotional comfort. This could give religion the necessary fuel to keep going in spite of atheism.

And dare we even imagine that which is, to a religious person, heresy. Religion could evolve. It could develop in some way; this would be quite in contrast to its traditional stagnancy. Religion would become a public relations phenomenon, simply trying to grab the most popular ideas that are out there and gain momentum through them.

Unfortunately all of this leads to an annoying conclusion. Religion probably won’t ever disappear from humanity, and so atheism and its proponents will have to keep on arguing, forever.