The polls do not lie; the number of people who are getting away from religious affiliation has been steadily increasing, and while that does not mean that people are leaving their belief system altogether, the number of people who identify themselves as atheists or agnostics has also been on the rise. There are many reasons for that change but the main one has the ease in which you can find information online. People have found themselves less sheltered so now instead of only hearing the opinions of people nearby they can also look for other ways of thinking and research how much sense those opinions make and why.
Not Slowing Down
Internet use has grown each year at a very high rate. According to InternetWorldStats.com in North America there were 273,785,413 internet users up from 108,096,800 in the year 2000. That means that the atheist message is reaching a lot more people in a little more than a decade. It has also been estimated that there are 8 new internet users each second around the world. While some countries ban a certain type of internet sites, most of them let people access information about atheism. The more people get a second opinion on spirituality and scientific discovery the more likely they will be to change their minds.
Small Numbers Still
In the United States it has been calculated that the amount of people who call themselves as atheists is around 3-6 percent of the population. While that may sound like a small number when you calculate the number of people that translates to 10 to 18 million and the number could be much larger. A lot of people choose to identify themselves as agnostics while others simply choose to say they are non-religious or have no religious affiliation. When you lump those numbers together the percentage jumped to 20%. While that is still very much behind Christianity as a whole, when compared to different sects even the 6 percent number is very impressive.
One more reason that atheism is on the rise is that there have been a lot of scientific discoveries that have helped fill the “god gap”. It used to be that when something could not be explained it was attributed to one of the deities people worshipped through history. Lightning and thunder were given to deities like Zeus and Thor, but now of course we know what lightning and thunder are so there is no need to say that a deity created it. The gap of knowledge is then filled by scientific discovery.
Offensive Statements By Some
Still today some have decided to attribute things like hurricanes and earthquakes to god when we actually know that they occur because of real scientific reasons. After Hurricane Katrina, Pat Robertson attributed the destruction on American policy towards abortion; Pastor John Hagee attributed it to Gay Pride and how it “was offensive to God”. When people hear those things some of them become offended and though they may still believe in a deity they start to question if it makes sense to do so. Another question would be that if Katrina hit New Orléans because of abortion or gay pride, then why was there a tornado outbreak in Oklahoma? What did people in Oklahoma City do to make god angry? Was it simply nature or was there a divine hand punishing the people of Oklahoma City?
In recent years polls have shown that Atheists are actually the least trusted minority group in the country. A study by the University of Minnesota found out that atheists ranked below Muslims, recent immigrants and the gay community as far as trust from the public. The same study said that atheists are also the group of people whom most Americans would be more hesitant to allow their sons or daughters to marry an atheist. In the last few years however more books have been published by atheist authors and more people in the public arena have talked about their atheism. More atheist groups have been created and they have reached out to people so that they can come out as atheists and to give them a place they can share their ideas.
People have left their religious affiliations and a lot of the time it is because religion has driven them away. A billboard is not responsible for changing people’s minds; it is a lot more likely that people will leave the church because of the church itself. Most religious people have not asked themselves questions about their religious upbringing and some have but even though they do not really believe what the church tells them or on a deity, they still find themselves as a part of that group due to fear of social rejection. As social stigma goes away, more people will feel more comfortable with declaring themselves as non-believers and that means that the number of atheists is very likely to grow in the future.