Have you ever walked to your backyard to catch a glimpse of a beautiful mountain or lake in the distance?
Then you just might be an atheist.
That’s essentially the main point of a new study appearing in the journal Sociology of Religion:
Our study provides evidence that regions with more beautiful weather and scenery have lower rates of religious adherence.
There are all sorts of theories as to why this is. But the researchers, Todd Ferguson and Jeffrey Tamburello of Baylor University, boil it down to this: When you’re surrounding by natural beauty, you don’t need to get your weekly dose of awe and inspiration by stepping into church.
But there are other factors worth considering:
The American West has a lot of natural beauty and those who explored it initially were the adventurous, curious sorts — the kind of qualities often associated with atheism. That spirit may still be pervasive in the area.
It’s also possible that living somewhere so calm and serene means you don’t spend time worrying about disasters that require protection from God.
And we know that living in those beautiful areas costs money, and atheists tend to have higher salaries than the general population. (So, much like atheism and education levels, the two may be correlated without one necessarily causing the other.)
Whatever the reason, it turns out saving the environment isn’t just good for the planet; it could be a new form of atheist evangelism.