The changing demographics of non-religiosity

Many studies have shown that non-religiosity is on the rise in America.  This is not news, per se. What strikes my attention, in particular, are two salient trends (from the graph above) in the data: from 1970 until about 1980, we see a steep rise in non-religiosity.  Furthermore, from about 2000 until 2010, we observe an even steeper rise in secular attitudes. What has caused this ambivalence in world views?

I think in the case of the first trend, the drift in belief was most likely motioned by the birth of the counter-culture movement, the civil rights revolution, and second wave feminism which radically collided with generations of conservative and traditional thinking.  However, I speculate that the second trend is very much a post-9/11 phenomenon.

After all, 9/11 was a snapshot of what it was actually like to live in a world secured by the terror of divine justice.  It was an opportunity to appreciate the value of an ordinary day, in the 21st century, that need not begin with raping the village virgins or burning alive your witch neighbors.  Until recently, someone must have wondered what it would be like to live in a time when a meeting of the greatest philosophical minds was summoned to grapple with such profound questions as: does martyring yourself by slaughtering thousands of innocent people pave the road for moral salvation or doesn’t it? Well, 9/11 invited us to relive the civilizational consequences of such medieval quandaries.

Judging by what seems to be a speeding recession of confidence in organizational dogmas, I am glad to see the urgency for these brands of moldy wisdom finally waning away.


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