Atheism may be doomed because adherents use contraception more, while religious people tend to have higher rates of reproduction, a new study suggests.
For more than a century, social scientists have predicted declines in religious beliefs and a rise in more scientific/naturalistic outlooks - a prediction known as the secularization hypothesis.
But an international team of researchers from Malaysia, the US, Finland and Denmark predict that the opposite is actually true.
"A contra-secularization hypothesis is proposed. It states that secularism is likely to undergo a decline throughout the remainder of the twenty-first century," the authors write in the paper, 'The Future of Secularism: a Biologically Informed Theory Supplemented with Cross-Cultural Evidence', published in the journal of Evolutionary Psychological Science.
"Overall, religious people out-reproduce secularists. Consequently, the proportion of secularists in most if not all countries will decline noticeably."
The researchers studied 4,570 undergraduate college students from Malaysia and the US, questioning them about their religious beliefs and how many siblings they had.
They found that Malaysian atheists had 1.5 fewer siblings than the average. In the US, the gap was narrower. Secular students had 0.16 fewer siblings than average - non-religious couples had 3.04 children, while the average for the whole population is 3.2.
“It is ironical that effective birth control methods were developed primarily by secularists, and that these methods are serving to slowly diminish the proportional representation of secularists in forthcoming generations,” the researchers write.
"In other words, the genes conducive to secularism are now evidently being reduced in human populations relative to genes for high religiosity and low intelligence."