Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Archbishop of Canterbury: atheism is cool

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I was interested to read that the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in conversation with comedian Frank Skinner at Canterbury Cathedral last week, has remarked on the difficulties faced by the Church of England in competing with the "coolness" of atheism.

Commenting on the current popularity of so-called "New Atheist" authors, in particular Richard Dawkins, Williams suggested that it is hard for those making the religious counter-arguments to reach a large audience:
“The problem is it becomes a bit of a vicious circle. Atheism is cool, so books about atheism are cool. They get a high profile, and books that say ‘Actually, this, this and this are wrong Richard Dawkins’ don’t get the same kind of publicity because atheism is the new cool thing. It’s the sort of dog-bites-man, man-bites-dog thing. One’s news, the other not so much. So it’s difficult to break into that, but plenty of people are trying.”
Nevertheless, the Archbishop also expressed scepticism as to how many people have been converted by Dawkins et al:
“I’d want to know how many atheists [Dawkins'] The God Delusion created. The book sold, but did it make a difference to the number of people who were actually committed one way or the other? . . . I’m not avoiding the point that the coolness of atheism is very much in evidence. I’m just not quite sure that it shifts people’s serious commitments that much in the long run.”
It seems Williams is rather keen on this characterisation of atheism, which makes me wonder if it's all a clever ruse – can anything truly be cool once the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that it is?
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