Current statistics rate the top beliefs systems by adherents as follows:
(1) Christianity: About 2.3 billion followers. About 50% of Christians are Roman Catholics.(2) Muslim: About 1.5 billion followers. About 80-90% of Muslims are Sunni and 10-20% are Shia. The Shia-Sunni split in the Muslim religion occurred due to the dispute over the succession after the prophet Muhammad died in 632.(3) Non-religious or atheist: About 1 billion people(4) Hindu: About 900 million followers with the vast majority living in India.(5) Buddhist: About 400 million followers. Based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the vast majority of Buddhists live in Asia.
In America it is said that atheism and non-belief in God, has risen from about 900,000 in 2001 to approximately 1.6 Million persons currently. Please note that those who have no religious belief are also lumped in with those who are atheists. There is a big difference between one who does not believe that God exists and one who has no opinion either way.So the numbers are slightly skewed as a result. Over the same period of time, it is said that Christianity has lost about 15% of it's adherents. Reminder that atheism has actually existed longer than Christianity estimated back over some 2,400 years.
In an article in the USA Today forum Anthony DeStefano points out much of the preceding information and claims that although atheism appears to be successful in its current marketing efforts through books, conferences and other schemes, it is worth noting that the atheists themselves are engaging in potentially the biggest fraud in history, by making it seem that the existence of material (materialism) is all that there is and that all other experience stems from it.
There are two trains of thoughts to DeStefanos' argument. 1- That material observation (empiricism) can be deceiving and give us completely wrong ideas about material reality. He points out that at one time the "observable world" was flat, and that although we don't observe that we're moving through space that we're actually hurling through space on a planet going millions of miles per hour. So material observation by itself fails. Then 2- The "superstition" of atheism, as DeStefano calls it, is the belief that biological processes and the interaction of molecules account for immaterial realities such as love, passion, memories, philosophies, dreams, thoughts, consciousness and other abstract concepts such as logic. The facts are that none of these things have ever been extracted from a body or brain and placed under a microscope and examined.
This is where the "myth" or "superstition" comes in. Because there is another world that materialsim, naturalism and scientism (the "superstition" that all reality is discovered through the 5 senses) just does not account for, it is only speculation that all reality either stems from or is a result of materialism and material processes. This is a faith proposition not rooted in evidence. Therefore, unlike the bible, which IS rooted in evidence and real history, the thought that the exchange of chemicals is the progenitor of immaterial realities is simply a myth and or a superstition at best. It certainly isn't an empirical or evidential claim.
So, the growth of atheism can be attributed in part to the promotion of "superstition". Presenting the facts (as it claims) has nothing to do with it. If atheism is open and intellectually honest, it must admit that it's tenets are at best statements of faith and that its demand for all things to stem from chemical and biological process is the modern equivalent of a superstition or novel speculation.
Now, this flies in the face of most materialists and metaphysical naturalists who claim that the bible is simply fantasy, myth and fairytale. They couldn't possibly fathom that their faith or what they believe, (that all things are a result of material processes) can be challenged. However, the facts are plain and simple even through and by the process of the scientific method which they hail as the holy grail of methodological naturalism. The fact is that it cannot be proven empirically that any material realities that exist even though they use these immaterial realities every day to assess data. For example, logic cannot be proven. It must be assumed. This assumption is equivalent to a statement of faith, or a belief in something that cannot be seen or proven. Mind cannot be proven, neither can thoughts be captured and transferred to another's mind, (except in the movies) but in order to communicate effectively, certain assumptions must be made and given. To say that these things simply "arrive" with a moral "ought" in humans is certainly one of the greatest superstitions that has ever tried to be sold in modern times.
What Of The Bible? It is Full Of Superstition.
The most radical claim that the modern scientific age of enlightenment has lessened the need for superstition. One couldn't tell that by the number of Psychics, Palm Readers and Tarrot Card Mystics that are on any block in the USA. In fact mysticism is on the rise in the United States and being promoted by Icons such as Oprah Winfrey. The claim of superstition within the bible is often associated with the biblical claims miracles and miraculous accounts found within its pages. These accounts have caused the critic to assess that the bible in the same light of "superstition", "myth" and "fairytale".
There are two things to say about this thought:
1- As DeStefano points out correctly, if the bible were a fairytale there would be absolutely no punishment for anyone, certainly no hell, no prohibitions to every action that one wants to engage in and an encouragement to simply enjoy one's self and make one's self happy. Even more technically, the modern study of literary genre and historiography has declassified the bible from the realm of folklore, myth and superstition as was the early 20th century claim of the form critics. So the biblical account along with it's commands and demands for righteousness etc, are in no way consistent with a fairytale narrative and the inclusion of miraculous events can only be understood in the light of being recorded events that occurred in real time.
2- The antisupernaturalist is the one who rejects miracles period. The rejection is primarily based on what is called the Principle Of Analogy. As I point out in my article on Antisupernaturalism, this principle builds upon the debunked premise of Hume who stated that the best way to determine if something happened in history, is to determined if it can be observed at present or in modern times. In other words, if miracles existed then, we should be able to see them happening now or in modern times. His conclusion and the conclusion of many critics is that we don't see miracles now so obviously they don't exist.
Aside from the fact that this is the most obvious and absurd denial of all human testimony to the affirmation of modern miracles, it is also a complete and utter denial of all the medically and scientifically unexplainable occurrences that happen which are claimed to be miraculous in nature. Aside from this, by Hume's interpretation the universe certainly doesn't exist. Example, the Big Bang according to scientists happened one time in the distant past. It doesn't happen today. There is no such thing as a Big Bang-Bang-Bang... However according to Hume's assertions it could not have happened in the past because it doesn't happen today! According to Hume, even YOU can't exist. How about your birth. You were born one time in the recent past. Although you observe other births, if you cannot be continually reborn then YOU may not exist either! These are ridiculous and absurd notions to say the least. However, this is what the "Superstition" of atheism is built on.
Critics, Gotta Love'em!
Today, President Obama squashed any further reasonable speculation over his birth by presenting a copy of his real and authentic birth certificate for review. For the last 2 years, skeptics have posed numerous objections even denying the Certificate Of Live Birth that ALL Hawaiian's receive as proof of their birth, claiming that even it was a fake document. It was claimed that President Obama wouldn't produce his certificate because he was a Muslim. It was claimed that he was actually born in Indonesia and not America. There were thousands of claims and postulations as to why we couldn't see his birth certificate. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, Sen. Michelle Bauckman and most vocally Donald Trump were promoting the theory that there was something fishy going on, the President may really be a foriegner, and that a real birth certificate didn't exist. Now,after what seems to be definitive proof has been delivered, it remains to be seen what will be the next story or reason as to why the actual certificate is a fake will be.
What I'm saying is that the critic will be the critic no matter what evidence is given and no matter what is seen and or experienced. Many critics think it's "free thought", to call everything into question. However, what many of them are doing is being bound by an inability to commit to truth. Many critics hate commitment truth propositions on grounds and basis other than of their own choosing. Even The Donald now says that it was because of him that President Obama presented his birth certificate. He is "really proud" of himself for accomplishing something "really important" no less for doubting and pushing the issue. What this shows is that he, like many, will only accept the evidence based on his own terms.
Although the previous situation has nothing to do with atheism, it is reminiscent of the similar problem with radical criticism arising within atheistic circles currently. The criticisms have very little to do with seeking truth, but much to do with affirming antisupernatural bias and anti-God and anti-Christ rhetoric. It is interesting to see how the critic will now assess criticism of their criticism. What a wonderful world!