IN 1960, Time magazine declared God dead. Half the world seemed officially atheist and the rest were expected to soon join. The tables have obviously turned. Now, only about two per cent of the world’s population is considered outright atheist, according to The World Factbook in 2010
Meanwhile, spirituality is experiencing a global resurgence. Overall, 84 per cent of the world’s inhabitants, which it estimated at 6.9 billion, identify with a religion, according to the study entitled ‘The Global Religious Landscape’ issued by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life this year.
Christianity is the largest faith with 2.2 billion adherents or 31.5 per cent of the world’s population
There are about 1.6 billion Muslims around the world – or 23 per cent of the global population
In his book The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World, historian and theologian Alistair McGrath examined where the atheist dream went wrong and explained why faith is destined to play a central role in the 21st century.
Interestingly, he also makes it clear that, despite a resurgence in faith, Western Christianity has not recovered from a faith crisis of the ’60s. McGrath says the origins of atheism lay primarily in a protest against the power, privilege, and corruption of church institutions ?? beginning with the French Revolution and ending about the time of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The atheism that swept across Europe in the 19th century and dominated most of the Western world in the 20th century was encouraged by a cerebral Christianity with its emphasis on cold doctrines, which might have engaged the mind but left emotions and imagination untouched.
Atheism envisioned a glorious future for a humanity freed from outdated dogmas and moral restrictions, with the unlimited potential of scientific advancement and the human imagination.
Humans could not only be good without God, but they could be much better.
God was chased out of heaven by Marx, banished to the unconscious by Freud and announced by Nietzsche to be deceased. Well, not quite.
McGrath, a lapsed atheist, documents what he says are the philosophical inconsistency and moral failures of atheism, especially when it acquired political power, for example in the guise of communism.
But he also documents religion’s “failures of imagination” and complicity with oppression that often fostered an environment in which atheism could thrive.