A new study has suggested that atheism is doomed because religious people have higher rates of reproduction.
Due to their lack of belief in contraception, religious believers are having more children than atheists, which could ultimately result in the end of atheism, the study suggests.
The findings fly in the face of popular discourse - and scientists’ predictions - which implies fewer and fewer people are religious nowadays.
But the new research claims religion is actually at no risk of dying out and the reverse is in fact the case.
Scientists from the US and Malaysia studied over 4,000 students, asking them about their religious beliefs and how many siblings they had.
They found that Malaysian atheists had 1.5 fewer siblings than the average.
The gap was narrower in the US, where students unaffiliated with any religion had 0.16 fewer siblings than average - non-religious couples had 3.04 children, whereas 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 said.
World's most popular religions
Although one might argue that just because someone has religious parents it doesn’t necessarily mean they will grow up with the same beliefs, further studies have shown that religion does in fact appear to be heritable.
And it appears both nature and nurture play a role - it may seem obvious that how you’re brought up will influence your worldview, but it turns out there’s a genetic base too.
Those with a higher capacity to believe in a god have certain genes.
The researchers of the study explain that before the 19th century, there was probably little difference in reproduction rates regardless of whether you had the genes or not.
However this then changed: “By the mid-19th century, scientific discoveries had moved to a point that human reproduction was sufficiently well understood that fertility rates began to be impacted, especially in the emerging industrial countries,” the scientists explain.
And just as the discovery of evolution was made, the genes that make someone more likely to be religious “gained a reproductive advantage - and were better able to spread through the population,” The Times reports.
This was a time when effective and safe means of birth control were yet to be developed.
However, “research indicates that the individuals who were most successful in curtailing their fertility during this time were the most highly educated and the least religious,” the researchers explain.
“Thus, for the first time in human history, secularists began to curtail their reproduction much more than the highly religious segments of these countries.”Reuse content