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Good News!

Entry 1605, on 2013-12-11 at 22:44:02 (Rating 3, Religion)

Good news! According to the latest 2013 census figures Christians no longer make up a majority of the New Zealand population. Their proportion in the population overall has fallen by 8% since 2006 and the number with no religion has increased by an impressive 26%. About 1.9 million New Zealanders describe themselves as belonging to one of the Christian faiths, compared to 1.6 million with no religion, out of a total population of just over 4 million. To put it in perspective, based on these rates, today atheism (and similar beliefs) gained about 150 new members but Christianity lost 50.

So for the first time since western colonisation began about 200 years ago Christians are less than half of the population and "non-believers" are rapidly closing in on being the biggest group, a trend which is repeated to a greater or lesser extent in most "civilised" western nations.

Of course, as I have suggested in the past, many people who categorise themselves as followers of some sort of religion are doing so more through habit or because it is just the "right thing to do" rather than any real commitment to that particular belief system. But the opposite is rarely the case. People don't tend to say they are non-believers when they actually are truly religious. So I think the stats tend to favour the believers and the true progress of atheism, agnosticism, and other non-belief is even greater than it seems.

But what's actually happening here? According to a University religion expert, people aren't converting from religion to non-religion, but less young people are religious to begin with, presumably because there is a much less indoctrination now than in the past.

This has been a trend here since the 1960s, and has especially affected the country's traditional religions (Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Methodists) although other mainstream religions, such as Catholicism, are decreasingly in absolute numbers less quickly. It wasn't mentioned in the report, but I have heard that the numbers joining the more fundamentalist (AKA crazy) religions are increasing. My theory is that this is an over-reaction to religion in general dying.

Most experts think that the number of non-religious people will probably continue to increase because older people who are generally more religious are being replaced with new generations who have lower levels of belief. Another factor is that the proportion of non-Christian religions (especially Islam and Hinduism) is increasing as more immigrants arrive here because cultural minorities tend to be more religious.

According to another discussion on the subject, worldwide there are probably almost a billion people with no religion and although the birth rate in religious communities is much higher than in non-religious populations the percentage of non-believers is still increasing. Clearly the number of people moving to no religion must be much higher than the number moving the other way.

These trends should have implications for politics. For example, Christian lobby groups can no longer claim to represent the majority. A spokesperson for the Association of Rationalists and Humanists says some laws should be changed, and that religious instruction in schools should stop.

So from a rationalist perspective things are looking positive. It's OK to accept the quaint myths of religion as being a part of our society's history, but to take the primitive philosophy in most religions seriously can never be good in the modern world. The death of religion will be a long, slow process, but at least it is happening.

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Comment 27 (3787) by OJB on 2013-12-22 at 22:01:39: (view earlier comments)

OK, you have told me science is the best way to establish objective truth about the real world but science disproves your beliefs. You think the DI practices science where I have shown you in multiple ways that it doesn't. You have failed to back up your claim that science supports god. You have no credibility. Please stop making claims you cannot support with facts. You live in a religious fantasy world where absurd ideas somehow make sense. Good luck with that...

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Comment 28 (3788) by OJB on 2013-12-22 at 22:06:46:

And here's another point (I hope that by using different approaches one might get through to you). If the DI is an unbiased, scientific, non-religious organisation, please tell me how many atheists work there. Then compare that with the number of Christians who work in science.

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Comment 29 (3789) by OJB on 2013-12-22 at 22:08:59:

And please explain the list of scientific organisations which reject ID here.

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Comment 30 (3794) by richard on 2013-12-23 at 10:38:59:

Did you even read my post? It's hardly worth commenting, if you are simply going to continue to ignore what is supposed to be a reasonable discussion Owen. Clearly, we are right back where we started. There are lots of people that do not think science disproves these beliefs at all, this is just assertion on your part. I have described how to approach thousands of existing papers with a more open mind. By all means you are welcome to disagree, but that disagreement is not proving your point at all.

Sorry, but I don't see anywhere where you showed me in multiple ways that DI does not practice science?! I don't see where you showed me even one way! You showed me people merely asserting that claim because they don't like its conclusions. BTW - Do I really need to point out the distinction within the multiple streams that exist in the DI, (some which are more religiously oriented) and the 'Science and Culture' stream, which concentrates purely on areas of Science, with which it has its particular opinion. Again - no surprises there. I don't have any particular interest in their other streams, and no one else is obligated to either, in order to freely access their Science related stuff. This is all very clearly explained in the FAQ for the CSC Stream here: http://www.discovery.org/csc/topQuestions.php

Comment 28? The FAQ above does point out that some members of the DI are agnostic, but come on - use some common sense - Why would many atheists want to work for an organisation that promotes an idea that has implications against their world view. That qn is completely pointless and just plain bad logic. You may as well ask how many vegans work in a freezing works. I already asked you to show me exactly where they promote religion in their articles that are dedicated to ID - you haven't.

Comment 29? Again happy to explain, but what's the point - you clearly are not going to accept anything I offer. I encourage all readers with a fair mind to closely assess the specific claims made against ID by those organisations against the CSC FAQ, with specific attention to the section entitled: Qns about Science Education Policy.

I think the key point is that most of these organisations statements are opposed to the teaching of ID 'as fact' in science classes, in opposition to the current paradigm (evolution). I have no problem at all with that objection either, and neither does the DI, as stated unambiguously in the above mentioned section. It merely suggests (quote): "Although Discovery Institute does NOT advocate requiring the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, it does believe there is nothing unconstitutional about discussing the scientific theory of design in the classroom. In addition, the Institute opposes efforts to persecute individual teachers who may wish to discuss the scientific debate over design in a pedagogically appropriate manner." (emphasis added)

Secondly, this list (mostly, but not always) concentrates on the 2nd qn (whether it's true) by claiming the 'overwhelming consensus regarding evo, rather than whether it is Science. I note that some do also make that claim however.

On that note, I find many of the statements made by those organisations quite remarkably lacking in scientific judgement. For example the AGU states: "Advocates of intelligent design believe that life on Earth is too complex to have evolved on its own and must therefore be the work of a designer. That is an untestable belief and, therefore, cannot qualify as a scientific theory"

Why is this INFERRENCE untestable, at least with some degree?! If that is the criteria, then the AGU also must dismiss all other historical sciences such as Archaeology, which seems quite happy with its available tests to infer now non detectable designers, on far less complex historical artifacts. That ID proposes to provide such tests is the whole point of the debate, so merely a-priori claiming untestable is both circular, and damaging to many other areas of science, is is just pain wrong.

Others make the ridiculous (actually outrageous) claim that the mere suggestion of design is a 'science stopper'! Man that in itself is just bad science as this is demonstrably false. Most of the greatest advances in modern science where contributed by scientists who were Ok with a design inference behind their observations, in fact it was what prompted their scientific investigations. This is also plain nonsense.

So yes - I say we should by all means look closely at this list, and examine it's statements and claims carefully, with appropriate academic rigour, and compare it to the CSC FAQ and make up your own mind. To quote you - good luck with that...

And with that, I'll leave you to have the last word on this thread - It clearly isn't going anywhere further.

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Comment 31 (3795) by OJB on 2013-12-23 at 11:15:09:

I think you're bluffing because when I ask for these papers you can't provide any. So I will ask again, can you provide a paper which hasn't been discredited and is published in a reputable journal which gives scientific evidence for thinking there is a god.

DI is the Discovery Institue right? The organisation described as being creationist in Wikipedia? Does that sound like science to you? Also, where are their published papers? Again, I think you're bluffing.

Why would ID have implications for an atheist's world view? The intelligence does not need to be a god, does it? Or maybe it does... especially if ID is a religion and not science!

So you brush off the criticism those respected organisations have and believe the FAQ of a creationist organisation instead. Sorry but you are obviously determined to be ignorant. I will also leave others to evaluate how unbiased you are on this topic.

I don't think anyone would have a problem with a scientific discussion of design. It would involve showing how design can seem to exist when natural processes are acting on the organism. And that happens. What people do object to is the propaganda the DI and others want to use instead, such as their misleading so-called textbooks.

Actually I think I partly agree with your criticism of the AGU statement. But I think what they were trying to say is that there is no objective way to say when something is too complex. The ID crowd have already tried that trick with the bacterial flagellum and the eye and have been shown wrong in both cases.

You're right: this is going nowhere. Anyone who believes the propaganda on a creationist site and ignores the commentary of the world's major scientific organisations clearly actually wants to be ignorant. I see this all the time with believers. They have their own little world with its own web sites and other propaganda sources isolated form reality. Unfortunate, really.

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