A NEW book by an Irish biopsychologist is generating huge reaction through its claims that atheism will replace religion by 2041.
According to Nigel Barber the controversy, which is adding to sales, stems from a misinterpretation of the book’s title.
The book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion, is based on a new study of 137 countries, and outlines that religion is in sharp decline in the most developed countries.
Whereas in undeveloped regions like sub-Saharan Africa it still has a stronghold and there are virtually no atheists.
Barber argues that in countries where people are becoming richer, enjoying a better quality of life, benefit from state welfare systems, have better education and feel secure in their daily lives, the importance of religion is declining.
He predicts that decline will continue by 1 per cent each year. The book’s blurb states that religion is also being replaced by modern substitutes such as sports, entertainment and even Facebook.
While Barber has received support for his findings, with millions of hits on his blogs, he has also faced his detractors.
Connor Addams Sheets, writing for The International Business Times said: “It’s quite a leap of logic to suggest that rising financial security will lead inexorably to a rejection of religion, and a number of thought leaders have in fact drawn the opposite conclusion, predicting that religious beliefs will enjoy a resurgence as the world continues to develop”.
Sheets also pointed to a 2012 poll where only 13 per cent of people identified themselves as atheists.
Barber responded on his Huffington Post blog saying that argument was “as much of a logical stretch as claiming that although short people weigh less than tall people today, they will magically weigh more in the near future.”
Barber’s calculations that the majority of the population will shun a belief in God and become secular by 2041 are based on a country’s GDP figures and the Human Development Index.
While the author does not claim that religion will be extinct entirely by 2041, he maintains that it will lose its “majority clout” pointing to countries such as from Japan to Sweden where that has already occurred.
Barber also uses Ireland as an example of a newly secular society.
He refers to Gallup’s Global Index of Religion and Atheism where Ireland recently ranked tenth least religious in a study of 57 countries, adding that Britain was the sixth least religious country in Gallup’s study of the importance of religion.
Born in Ireland, Barber received his Ph.D. in Biopsychology from Hunter College, New York, and taught psychology at Bemidji State University and Birmingham Southern College.
He lives in America with his family and has published several other books and writes regularly on his Psychology Today blog The Human Beast.