Atheism is the “new cool”?

Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Thoughts | 8 comments

On September 19 2011, the Telegraph website published an article titled “Atheism is cool, says Archbishop Rowan Williams“. In the article the Archbishop claims the apparent rise in atheism due to it’s “cool” factor, and that refutations of authors such as Richard Dawkins don’t get the attention they “deserve” because atheism is the latest fad, not religion.

Williams then claims that despite this “fad” that the Christian community in Zimbabwe continues to climb, and this is a symbol of the innate strength of the Christian message. I beg to differ on both of these points.

Firstly, the perceived rise in atheism among populations is far more likely to be due to the fact that religions can no longer stifle information the way that have in the past. For example, if one wants to find out facts about the church’s historical role during the Second World War, all one has to do is do a Google search and they will discover that The Vatican signed a treaty with the Nazi Party that would guarantee that the Catholic Church maintained a role in Germany. Once upon a time, this information was hidden in deep in the history books; one would first need to know where to look, then have to struggle through page after page of extraneous information before they could discover things like The Reichskonkordat Treaty. This is to say that people are becoming less ignorant and more informed about matters of the church and its history, and likewise are able to find information about contemporary philosophy. Calling atheism and secularism “cool” only seeks to discredit the fact that people are no longer blind to the manipulative nature of organised religion. It is not a fad, and it’s not going away any time soon.

Secondly, the fact that books refuting the likes of Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” are not unpopular because they are uncool. They are unpopular because they are badly written books that so often lower their tone into ad-hominem attacks against Dawkins’ personality and even his personal life. This is pathetic, and anyone taking these kinds of books seriously needs to do some more reading. People are more discerning than they used to be. We have the option of choosing our information, sifting through the good and bad writings, and making our own decisions. The fact is, the church is not the only kid on the block anymore with ideas and sway, so if the theistic apologists want to be taken seriously, they’d better step up their game. It’s almost as though the facts as presented by the scientific community are on a completely different playing field to the theistic viewpoints.

The article continues with a quote from The Archbishop.

“The important, ongoing debate about the moral principles and values which are needed to underpin a stable, flourishing society is illuminated by the light of Religious faith.”

The debate is illuminated by faith? I’d say the debate is muddied by faith-speak, and depends far too much upon the “gut” feelings of its participants who “just know” rather than taking a moment to weigh up arguments. There are many questions to which we don’t know the answers, but to constantly come up with the same answer on all occasions of “God did it” no longer cuts it. Religions do not have a mandate over morality, and those who claim it does are not looking hard enough. People are questioning the religious dogma, and are not afraid to say so. In response to the Archbishop’s quote above, I’d say: “The important, ongoing debate about the moral principles and values which are needed to underpin a stable, flourishing society is not illuminated by Religious faith, but rather is being revealed to be a part of human nature. Religion only claims to be the basis and the illuminator.”

At the end of the article The Archbishop claims that the recent London riots just highlight a need “more than ever to build a new culture of social responsibility.” Yes I agree, people should be held accountable, but where in the bible does it say “Thou shalt not riot in the streets when thou job prospects are basically nil, when the rich are getting richer and the class divide threatens to leave the lower-class behind”? It doesn’t. Religion cannot lay claim to being the basis for social equality and stability.

As for Zimbabwe? Well it’s a moot point, Christianity is falling in other regions of the world. Apart from this, the Christian church has missions specifically targeting the third world with the exclusive purpose of converting people to Christianity. Atheists don’t do this, and yet the numbers of those who are coming out as atheists publicly are rising steadily. Maybe this should act as a message to society that we have outgrown the God issue, and should start dealing with one-another as people first, then worry about where morality comes from.

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8 Comments

  1. Insightful as usual Marty and I couldn’t agree more. I’m not an atheist because it’s “cool”. I haven’t raised two freethinking daughter because it’s the “latest fad”. It’s because reason and logic have brought me to this point. The church and many countries have been discriminating against non believers for centuries and suppressing their views. Well, times they are a changing and our voices are starting too be heard. Deal with it.

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    • Very well written article, I quite liked the point you raised about the catholic church, a shady organization if I’ve ever seen one!! I was raised in a christian home and it took until I was 20, living halfway across the world before I was able to honestly and objectively look at the matter of faith. Since ‘coming out’ atheist to my family (which I did soon after reading “The God Delusion”) I can’t count how many discussions-turned-arguments I’ve had regarding what atheism actually is (hint: it doesn’t mean I’m angry with god and want to sin) and also how misguided it is to solve 21st century problems using Bronze Age rhetoric. I’m sure these have fallen on deaf ears, but I’ve found a value, a real appreciation for the one life I have.

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  2. Excellent post, Marty. Rowan Williams really does say a hell of a lot of idiotic things. Not the same kind of stupid as William Lane Craig, but I think just as bad. As soon as I saw that the article you criticise was about him, I pretty much knew the level of “thought” to expect.

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  3. I agree with Mark C. I never considered atheism ‘cool’ or pursued it.
    I pursued answers to my religious questions.
    In the beginning, I wanted to know more about god, and then after reading the NT several times and most of OT, I wanted to know more about these works.
    What I found doused the flame of any religious faith I had.
    I continue to search for any truth in religion, and so far have found none.
    Peace

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  4. Excellent, Marti.

    C’mon surely Hillsong is the cool kid. Atheism is the kid with glasses.

    As always with the higher echelon Anglican and Catholic rhetoric, whilst compelling and well crafted, it’s demonstrably false. History shows us that irreligion is no fad.

    As the influence of organised religion is decreasing, God is no longer thought of as that lawgiver character in the Bible. Rather as a disembodied mind that exists pantheistically or as pure speculation or is not thought of at all.

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  5. The we seem to have yet another religious “leader” lying in print and in person to advance the agenda of religion. Is this something new? Religions are founded upon lies and continue to lie to protect their interests.

    No one should be surprised at this.

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  6. Atheism is inded cool and refreshing and-liberating!

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  7. Hasty generalization is a blight on much thinking on all sides of most issues. (I hope that statement isn’t an example of hasty generalization!)

    In this case, the good Archbishop surely over-generalizes if he claims that a recent bump in the popularity of atheism is due to its “cool” factor. The explanation is far more complex than that, and the weighing of evidence for and against the existence of God is surely a factor for many people.

    On the other hand, I think that Martin is a bit hasty in his generalization about theistic responses to current atheism advocacy. To be sure, there are books that pass over evidence and argument in breezy fashion and simply attack the messenger. But Martin implies that this is true of all published responses to Dawkins. He can’t be serious. One might, as he suggests, do a simple Google search to turn up more sophisticated treatments, of Dawkins’ work, yes, but also of the atheistic or naturalistic position more generally. Some are published by prestigious presses that are careful to publish only the best serious and academic work on such topics: Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Blackwell, and Routledge, for example.

    Also, I notice that ad hominem rhetoric is tossed about on both sides of this issue. In the comment stream for this post, for example, Rowan Williams is chided in uncharitable terms and William Lane Craig is said to be stupid.

    I’m new to this website, so I don’t know about its general tenor or the tone of regular commentators. But if the byline is “Attempting to make sense,” then I urge Martin to admonish his readers to take greater care to marshal evidence in support of their claims rather than to make safe and provocative assertions and tender emotional arguments.

    If this site seeks to engage readers in meaningful dialogue, I suspect it will attract more thoughtful responses, from a spectrum of positions, if it monitors the discussion and facilitates reasoned debate. A wise proverb says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly.” In other words, if sophistry prevails, find someone else to talk to.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ateísmo é o novo “cool”? | Sociedade Racionalista - [...] original: http://www.martinspribble.com/2011/10/15/atheism-is-the-new-cool/ Arquivado em: Artigo, Ateismo, Destaque, História, Humanismo, Racionalismo, Secularismo, [...]
  2. Archbishop Worries That Atheism is “Cool,” and This Makes Atheists Happy « Doug Geivett's Blog - [...] I read a post about the Archbishop’s statement at an atheist blog hosted by Martin Pribble Image via …

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