“Societies that forgo the exoskeleton of religion should reflect carefully on what will happen to them over several generations. We don’t really know, because the first atheistic societies have only emerged in Europe in the last few decades. They are the least efficient societies ever known at turning resources (of which they have a lot) into offspring (of which they have few).”
Jonathan Haidt, “The Righteous Mind”
Are atheistic societies simply a dead end, destined to be out-competed by more cooperative and cohesive religious cultures? Or might the move toward atheism be seen in combination with humanity’s transition to a “global village”, one super-culture?
That would still be unknown territory… are we able to actually STOP competing?
It is an interesting argument, but rather complicated by the secular analogies that were present in most pagan civilizations – like the Greeks and Romans where competition between religions took place within a larger society. Individual religions were accepted in specific regions, but across these societies the religions were accorded similar levels of respect beyond their home city… It looks to me like we are moving toward a similar social construction, since we have managed it before I am hopeful that we can manage it again.
Besides, is turning resources into offspring the best measure of a society’s success as we move toward a world where small, well educated populations may have a survival edge in the troubled times ahead of humanity. Certainly any society that believes that a divinity will sweep in a protect them from an environmental disaster has a great weight of history already proving them wrong. Any Christian who claims that global warming is a sign of the end-of-days and expects the rapture may be echoing the beliefs of the Maya and Anasazi during their environmental apocalypses… Against those sorts of forces no amount of religious cohesion can help, those who survive are those willing to give up their traditions and customs and adapt to change.