An Evolutionary End to Atheism?


I have been trying to continue the conversation at this blog between the Christian worldview which is necessarily formed by the Holy Scripture and the atheistic worldview which is necessarily shaped by evolution and the evolutionary worldview which is necessarily shaped by atheism. To that end, I post links and thoughts and ideas designed to not only provoke, but to continue this dialogue.

Well I have just today come across yet another essay dealing with evolution and atheism and this essay makes the link between the two explicit. Alan Jacobs, in his essay The Future of Atheism, writes:

 So here’s where I’m headed with this thought experiment: if the evolutionary account of religious belief that many atheists are now promoting is correct, then atheists don’t have much of a future. Their own arguments, plus some elementary demographic data, show that their position cannot become dominant. The only real chance that atheism has to flourish is if it’s wrong. If the Christian anthropology, for instance, happens to be true, then we will expect people to rebel against God, to act in violation of his will. But we will also expect them not to want to admit that that’s what they’re doing. So they will try to argue that their actions, however sinful, however violent, intolerant, and cruel, are somehow in keeping with God’s will. But eventually the cognitive dissonance of that position is likely to become too much for them, at which point they might find—like that one-time Russian Orthodox seminarian Josef Stalin—that the easier path is simply to deny the existence of the God who otherwise would be their Judge.

So if Christianity is true (and a similar case could be made with regard to some other religions, though not all), then we might well expect atheism to flourish, at least in certain places and at certain times. But if the evolutionary argument against religious belief is true, then atheism is doomed.

You’ll have to read the entire essay to put all that in context, but the short of it is:

Now, an atheist saying this immediately has a new problem, especially if he or she thinks that religious belief produces violence and intolerance—which is what many atheists, most notably Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, have shouted from the world’s rooftops. Anyone who holds both these views is in an interesting position, to say the least. Do we say that if I am violent and intolerant toward others I am more likely to pass along my genes—perhaps because I kill or injure those who do not share my religious beliefs before they can reproduce? If we do say that, then the atheist who protests against violence and intolerance will have to argue that we should behave in ways that do not maximize the likelihood of passing along our genes.

But this is a bad situation for an atheist to be in, since he or she is likely to have trouble grounding that “should” in anything compelling, and in any case is—according to his or her own philosophy—fighting a losing battle. If religiously inspired violence and intolerance are evolutionarily adaptive, and the blind processes of natural selection are the only ones that determine reproductive survival in the long term, then people who argue against religion and its accompanying pathologies are certain to diminish in numbers and eventually become totally marginal—nothing more than the occasional maladaptive mutation. The selfish gene will ultimately, necessarily, win out over the altruistic one.

It’s an interesting essay to say the least and should give all who read it pause. I’m not inclined to think that atheism will ever totally vanish from the earth–at least not until Jesus returns and makes his point–but I am hopeful that the dialogue can continue and, perhaps, more atheists will eventually see the light of the glory of Christ and turn to Him for salvation.

Soli Deo Gloria!



  1. Chris 899

    The laws of natural evolution hardly apply to people in todays society. Humans no longer struggle to reach the age of reproduction, and the number of offspring they produce is a result of several factors other than survival. The basis of this essay is erroneous, atheism and religions will see their popularity change as a result of society, not evolution.

  2. onein6billion

    Another stark difference is that genes are determined at conception and don’t really change. It is true that a child brought up by religious parents is very likely to have the same religion that they do. However, the child can grow up and choose another religion or to not have any religion at all. So with proper education, the children of religious parents can be “converted”.

    So my opinion is that this article is nonsense.

  3. One,

    It is nonsense because only because you don’t believe in God.


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