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.