Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nail in the coffin of Atheism?

OK, now I'm worried, could this be the beginning of the end for the new atheists?

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury was in public conversation with famous comedian (and Catholic) Frank Skinner last week and accepted that Atheism is "cool", and his organisation was finding it hard to compete with the "coolness" of science and rational thought. At which point a horrible realisation struck me, can anything that the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks is cool actually be cool?

On a more serious note, it was a good conversation, very telling in many ways, here are my take-away thoughts,
  • Rowan Williams is decently witty (if it was scripted then I withdraw that complement!)
  • Frank Skinner seems to have a simplistic view of religion, for example he earnestly used Pascal's wager as a reason that believers needed to convince non-believers.
  • Williams seemed to have a somewhat strange view of how publicity works, he said that because atheism was cool it meant that atheist books were cool and therefore there was an amplification effect. Whilst this is true, what he didn't acknowledge was that there has to be a catalyst for anything to become popular to begin with; for new atheists that is usually things like 9/11, the Catholic child-rape scandal and creationism/fundamentalism, plus the fact that as we learn more about the universe the religious stories become less and less compelling and therefore disbelieved.
  • The conversation was basically an affirmation of faith, faith seemed to be the most important thing, whether or not the argument for the basis of it was good or not. This of course goes to the core of the difference between believers and non-believers, lack of evidence defines faith, the flakier the story the more faith you need to believe it so if you admire "faith" then you will naturally seek out the most unlikely things to believe in (or not!)

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