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May 19, 2012

by DailyKenn.com

Short answer: The Philippines.

When trying to identify regions of the world where atheism is most prevalent, one researcher discovered that less than 1 percent of Filipinos check the "none" box when asked about their belief in God.

The most atheist region on the planet is East Germany where more than half, 52.1%, self identify as atheists.

The report reveals an interesting observation about human nature: When governments provide a perceived safety net, people abandon their belief in theism. Government suppression of religion also seems to be effective.

The research was compiled by Tom W. Smith of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. His paper is titled “Beliefs About God Across Time and Countries” and was produced for the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP). It was released on April 18, 2012.

Smith observes: “Countries with high atheism (and low strong belief) tend to be ex-Socialist states and countries in northwest Europe. Countries with low atheism and high strong belief tend to be Catholic societies, especially in the developing world, plus the United States, Israel, and Orthodox Cyprus.”

God tends to fill a need and when that need is filled by other sources, God disappears. Specifically, humans need to feel a sense of security, that everything is under control. When government provides that control, God is no longer needed. Although East Germans lived in abject poverty, the former communist government provided a sense of security. Furthermore, the communists suppressed access to religion and theistic concepts. Without a need for a supernatural Provider and in lieu of external reminders that such a Provider even exists, East Germans defaulted to secularism. That belief (or lack of belief) remains.

(Note that liberal Democrats [socialists] frequently appeal to voters with the term "access". Republicans, they said, were denying women access to health care by rejecting the Obamacare mandate that insurance companies provide coverage for contraceptives.)

The accumulation of wealth doesn't necessarily provide a sense of security. As societies experience technological progress, the perception of security changes. Nearly all Americans, for example, are phenomenally wealthy compared to their nineteenth century ancestors. Yet they don't perceive their advanced economic status. We tend to measure ourselves by what is available and our ability to access it. We worry, for example, that we may not have access to health care technologies that didn't exist a century ago. Our great-grandparents had no such worries; nor could they.

The drive to accumulate wealth is an effort to acquire a sense of security, something provided by belief in God and something provided by socialism. Note the sense of security is not the same as actual security.

Wealthy individuals have the added worry of losing their acquisitions. Religions address that worry by including a "can't lose it" component. Jesus, for example, is cited as saying, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Likewise, socialism provides that same sense of well being. When governments are compelled to renege on their security promises by implementing austerity initiatives, those affected take to the streets (as in Greece) or boot the offending politicians out of office (as in France.) They are not driven by rationality and reason, but by a determination to preserve their sense of security.

Throughout civilization governments and religion have both merged (Pharaoh was god) and competed (Pharaohs and priests were frequently at odds). Popes and kings jockied for control and sometimes, as with Henry VIII (and Akhenaten), the civil authority crafted a revised religion and asserted himself as the religious authority.

It's interesting to observe religious people as they are faced with the competition in their minds between God and government as their source for security. Some side with God, some with government and many with both.

A question comes to mind: Are those who vicariously allow government to displace the traditional role of religion as security provider truly atheists?



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