In case you have not heard, the number of people who declare themselves to be non-religious has risen over the last few years. This has the Gnu atheists all excited, especially given the fact that atheism appears to be on the sharpest rise among young people.
Whether they have good cause to be excited is a topic for another day. Right now I would like to ask why are young Americans so receptive to atheism? Is it because they have superior reasoning abilities? A superior ability to detect and process evidence?
Actually, that is probably how the young atheists would explain it. For there is another trend that has risen among the youth for the last few decades – narcissism.
According to a recent BBC report:
About nine million young people have filled out the American Freshman Survey, since it began in 1966.
It asks students to rate how they measure up to their peers in a number of basic skills areas – and over the past four decades, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being “above average” for academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability and self-confidence.
Yet note this:
while the Freshman Survey shows that students are increasingly likely to label themselves as gifted in writing ability, objective test scores indicate that actual writing ability has gone down since the 1960s.
And while in the late 1980s, almost half of students said they studied for six or more hours a week, the figure was little over a third by 2009 – a fact that sits rather oddly, given there has been a rise in students’ self-proclaimed drive to succeed during the same period.
Apparently, according to one scientist who has been studying this, there has been a “30% tilt towards narcissistic attitudes in US students since 1979.”
Why is this?
In The Narcissism Epidemic, co-written with Keith Campbell, Twenge blames the growth of narcissistic attitudes on a range of trends – including parenting styles, celebrity culture, social media and access to easy credit, which allows people to appear more successful than they are.
“What’s really become prevalent over the last two decades is the idea that being highly self-confident – loving yourself, believing in yourself – is the key to success.
“Now the interesting thing about that belief is it’s widely held, it’s very deeply held, and it’s also untrue.”
Hmmmm. Should we explore the possible relationship between the rise of narcissism among the youth with the rise of atheism among the youth? Is there any connection?