Atheists and agnostics are finding it more socially acceptable to share their (lack of) faith with others, according to this article in the Washington Post.
I think it’s true. I doubt that there is any significant recent rise in atheism, just that more people are open about it today. And I doubt that society is any more liberal or accepting of new ideas, just that being a member of a mainstream religion – especially Christianity – is in a completely different context today than it was even a few years ago.
There is no longer an incentive to be quiet about your (lack of) religious beliefs. Years ago, if you didn’t Believe, there was no good reason to tell your coworkers, casual friends, etc., unless you wanted to make waves. Now, if you’re not a Member, there’s an incentive to avoid being associated with that Religion and their recent scandals/sleaze/dogma.
Religious people are not Evil, but plenty of their members are. TV Evangelists, Abusive priests, etc. You could make the argument that being part of an organization that ignores these things makes you complicit in the Evil, but that’s not what I’m doing.
This article goes into some more detail about the “rise” of atheism and how it’s becoming more socially acceptable. I like to think that some of the alternative religions helped with this.
A study released in June by the Barna Group, a religious polling firm, found that about 5 million adults in the United States call themselves atheists. The number rises to about 20 million — about one in every 11 Americans — if people who say they have no religious faith or are agnostic (they doubt the existence of a God or a supreme deity) are included.
The article can be found here.