Nigel Barber, author of “Why Atheism Will Replace Religion: The triumph of earthly pleasures over pie in the sky” makes this bold statement in an article published on the Huffington Post.
(…) The notion that improving living conditions are associated with a decline in religion is supported by a mountain of evidence.
(…) The most obvious approach to estimating when the world will switch over to being majority atheist is based on economic growth. This is logical because economic development is the key factor responsible for secularization. In deriving this estimate, I used the nine most godless countries as my touchstone (excluding Estonia as a formerly communist country).
The countries were Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. These nine countries averaged out at the atheist transition in 2004 with exactly half of the populations disbelieving in God. Their gross domestic product (GDP) averaged $29,822 compared to $10,855 for the average country in the world. How long will it take before the world economy has expanded sufficiently that the GDP of the average country has caught up to the average for the godless countries in 2004?
Using the average global growth rate of GDP for the past 30 years of 3.33 percent (based on International Monetary Fund data from their website), the atheist transition would occur in 2035.
Belief in God is not the only relevant measure of religion, of course. A person might believe in God in a fairly superficial way without religion affecting his or her daily life. One way of assessing the depth of religious commitment is to ask survey participants whether they think that religion is important in their daily lives as the Gallup Organization has done in worldwide nationally representative surveys.
If fewer than 50 percent of the population agreed that religion was important to them, then the country has effectively crossed over to a secular majority. The godless countries by religiosity were Spain, South Korea, Canada, Switzerland, Uruguay, Germany and France. At a growth rate of 3.33 percent per year it would be 2041 before the average country in the world would be at an equivalent level of affluence as these godless nations.
If national wealth drives secularization, the global population will cross an atheist threshold where the majority see religion as unimportant by 2041.
(…) Is the loss of religious belief something fear? Contrary to the claims of religious leaders, Godless countries are highly moral nations with an unusual level of social trust, economic equality, low crime and a high level of civic engagement.
Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. (2004). Sacred and secular: Religion and politics worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Barber, N. (2011). A Cross-National test of the uncertainty hypothesis of religious belief Cross-Cultural Research, 45, 318-333.
Kaufmann, E. (2010). Shall the religious inherit the earth? London: Profile books.
Zuckerman, P. (2008). Society without God: What the least religious nations can tell us about contentment. New York: New York University Press.