Obviously, the above is not an exact chart, but it does represent how some historians view the Christian Dark Ages. (My guess would be that the collapse of the stable Roman Empire had at least as much effect as the domination of Christian religious dogma that stifled the pursuit of any heretical knowledge.)
But look at the right edge of that “chart.” We’ve made amazing progress in the last 300 years.
The number of nonreligionists… throughout the 20th century has skyrocketed from 3.2 million in 1900… to 918 million in AD 2000…
So we’re okay now, right? We’ve passed the tipping point, and religion is going to slowly die out as education and prosperity spreads around the globe. As science reveals more of how the world actually works, religious beliefs will appear more and more laughable. So we’re gonna be okay, right?
I’m not so sure. In fact, if I was forced to bet, I’d say we’re headed for another dark age. And it has nothing to do with evidence, education, intelligence, or anything that should control the future of the planet. No, the second dark age will be a simple consequence of demographics.
Educated people, who are more likely to be non-believers, have way fewer kids than ignorant, poor, religious people. This means that whichever religion becomes dominant (Islam) will take over the world not by convincing educated adults of their ridiculous myths and barbaric morals, but by having lots of babies and brainwashing them all while non-believers simply don’t bother to have kids because they’ve got other things to do.
This video, made by and for Christians, illustrates (with real numbers) the terrifying consequences of high birth rates among the religious:
If that doesn’t scare lovers of reason, freedom, progress, and morality, I don’t know what will.
Update: tinyfrog’s analysis of these numbers is here. Conclusion: Most of the numbers are just plain wrong. As I should have expected, the video is nothing but Christian propaganda.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I think the following is at least plausible:
So what’s the moral?
I can’t convince non-believers to have more kids. And I can’t convince religious people to stop having kids.
But I can do some things. I can promote reason and evidence-based thinking. I can criticize blind faith and magical thinking. I can invite liberal or moderate religious people to inform and challenge fundamentalists, who are the real danger anyway. I can defend the separation of church and state (something Christians will probably see the value of once Islam takes over the majority). And I can promote the advance of science as much as possible while we still have a culture that allows it.
And maybe, if we’re lucky, the Muslim Dark Age will never come. Maybe.
By the way, a great summary of the current demographics of atheism is Zuckerman’s Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns.
Update: Remember, I’m not making a serious argument here. It’s merely a rant, and a possible future. Also, obviously I do not think that all Muslims are poor, ignorant fools who have nothing better to do than pop out kids and brainwash them. But that does describe huge masses of them. And it’s not like it’s their fault that they’re ignorant or that one of their only social freedoms is to raise children. And of course there are also masses of ignorant, uneducated atheists all over the world. And it’s also no great achievement for me to have been born into a life of privledge. That’s just how it happened.