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Hemant Mehta, the "friendly atheist" in his blog and this week's Reader, is congenial by temperament, heritage, and strategy. (He's speaking tonight at the Barbara's near UIC.) But that attitude also reflects his confidence that extreme fundamentalism will die out soon, and that supernatural belief will too, eventually.
Is this confidence justified? He says kids these days are too well-educated to fall for religious hoo-ha. The Pew Center has some evidence in that direction: of those born before 1946, 5 percent call themselves agnostic, atheist, or nonreligious. That percentage increases to 11 among those born 1946-64, 14 among those born 1965-76, and 19 among Mehta's generation, born since 1977.
But at this rate it will be a couple of centuries before believers are the same-size minority atheists are today. And trends of this sort have been reversed in the past.