I was thinking about why the atheism thing seems important to me at the moment.
I don’t think I’ve ever articulated it to myself explicitly before, but I think it amounts to a sense that if, in a hundred years time, the world is less religious — fewer believers and less fervent belief — that’s a sign that it’s moving in a good direction. And alternatively, if humankind is more religious, that’s a sign that something has gone wrong.
I’m not suggesting that it’s the only possible measure of ‘progress’, or even the best one — much better to use direct measures like life-expectancy, school leaving age, literacy rates, human rights violations or whatever. But still, I think of it as a kind of weather-vane; increased religiosity seems like a symptom of some kind of underlying problem.
I have no evidence to back it up, and not much of an argument beyond a sense that a culture is healthiest when it values reason and independent thought over inherited ideas. But that’s how I feel.
Of course, if the religiosity is just a symptom of some different underlying problem, then religious belief is the wrong target. But still, the sense that, for the first time in my life, religion might be becoming more influential rather than less makes me deeply uneasy.