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Notes on young people from speaking around the world by Faisal Saeed Al Mutar — Founder, Global Secular Humanist Movement


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/01/23

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When we look at the landscape of belief for young people, they tend to decline in religious affiliation as a whole as well as levels of religiosity even if they are religious. You have noted this. What other observations do you note going to speaking engagements around the world?

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar: I say that this is happening to some extent universally. When I engage with people from the Middle East, I see that this is happening there as well. It happens with the access of information more than before and the curiosity of young people, except on some occasions such as China and some parts of East Asia.

The rise of Evangelical Christianity is interesting. The Christian Church, even as they decline in the West, you can see their focus on China and East Asia, so they can keep their numbers the highest in the world. There is a decline in some parts of the world and a rise in other parts of the world.

There is a difference between the decline of religious identification with a certain religion and atheism. I think the majority where the decline does not necessarily convert to identifying as an atheist, agnostic, or a humanist.

It is mostly going to “I don’t care” or “I am spiritual but not religious,” which is a separate category from those who adhere or support The God Delusion and the God Is Not Great world. This is what I don’t see coming to the general public.

In major cities in the West, where I speak, from Vancouver to New York and Boston and L.A., yes, the decline is there, but there is an apathetic atheism. They are not engaged in these discussions.

It is not in any way deep thinking about any of these theories such as M Theory being the best theory to explain quantum theory. I think the decline of religiosity is not with them. I think it is a decline in practice, but not a change of belief.

Jacobsen: So, it is a loosening up of their lifestyle, as opposed to some argumentation or philosophical point, or empirical point.

Mutar: I spoke in Denmark, in Copenhagen. It is one of the most non-religious countries. But even with that, there is still a Christian heritage there. They start with the music and the music has God, Jesus, and Bethlehem.

Even if they don’t believe in the virgin birth or all of the supernatural things, but they still identify with a Christian heritage and background, they are one of the most atheistic or non-religious countries in the world.

I think it is more complicated than people living their religion, especially when it comes to Europe and Asia. They have built, to some extent, a foundation that eventually got challenged by the Enlightenment values and secular values.

But it is more secularism with Christian heritage.

Jacobsen: What about the replacement of religious practice or just belief around the world for 18- to 35-year-olds, of the young around the world, especially the developed world where they have access to literacy, proper nutrition, and time to burn?

You noted the heritage that still exists in some halls of Denmark culture or in other areas of the world, where Islam and Christianity they have a long history in the culture. They lost the grip, but still, have an influence on the culture through music and iconography.

I am thinking more now about transitioning to the young. Although, they have no part of formal religion in their life. They still find informal ways from which to engage in what more or less would be called religious beliefs or religious practices, though they wouldn’t have those formal terms.

Mutar: Yes, with young people, some of the rise anti-globalism and “Make America Great Again.” It is some young people who tend to be atheistic too. If you look at Milo and Carl Benjamin/Sargon of Akkad, many of these people, followers, are young people who are not religious but they hold like a different identity that is kind off restoring the good ol’ days.

I think the young people of this century are dealing with so many questions of how they can shape their identity with the decline of formal religious institutions and the rise of new identities, so they can bring back the old religious institutions or the name of them.

I was speaking on campuses. Many young people have shifted beliefs from the SJW into the Alt-Right, and vice versa. These are difficult questions to grapple with. There is a need for every human being to identify with something.

With this globalized multicultural world that we live in, it is not easy to find yourself identifying with something. That probably would create a difficulty. That, I think, until today the humanist world have not been able to solve.

Jacobsen: I like that ending.

Mutar: [Laughing].


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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