Nautilus

Atheism, the Computer Model

In the United States, the nones have it. The nones being people with no organized religion and increasingly no belief in God or a universal spiritual power. They have the momentum, attention, and an expectation that in the future they will become a majority of the population, just as they currently are in western Europe, Japan, and China.

Or so says the Pew Research Religious Landscape Study, which in 2015 found that almost a quarter of Americans profess no religious affiliation. Within that group, a third do not believe in God or a higher power of any sort (“nothing in particular,” as the study termed it). Both numbers are up from a similar study in 2007, when 16 percent of the country professed no religious affiliation, and 22 percent of these did not believe in God. Driving the growth are Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000. As they come of age, 70 percent of them say they do not believe in a higher power.

REASONS TO NOT BELIEVE: Boston University philosopher and theologian Wesley Wildman (above), leader of the Modeling Religion Project, presents factors such as “existential security” and “free self-expression” that explain why societies become “post-supernatural.”Jenn Lindsay

Pew expects the percent of religious Americans will continue to fall. It suggests older generations will die off and take their belief with them. Outside the U.S., a WIN/Gallup International poll found that more than half of Vietnamese, Koreans, and French people say they are atheists or not affiliated with a religion. For the Japanese and Germans, it’s more than 60 percent, and for the Dutch and British, two-thirds. Certainly, belief in nothing has market momentum.

The rise of the nones presents a compelling backdrop to the Modeling Religion Project, led by Boston University philosopher and theologian Wesley Wildman, and

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