According to a statement this Monday by Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, atheism is now ″cool″, and this is what is leading to the advent of freethinking and the decline of Christianity. Not education. Not the abundance of information readily available to the citizens of the world. Not even disgust at Christianity's all-out war with science, progress, homosexuals, women, minorities, anyone who isn't wealthy, and anyone who isn't Christian. It's coolness that makes atheism desirable. Atheism, I suppose, is the ideological equivalent of a cigarette.
"I'm not avoiding the point that the coolness of atheism is very much in evidence. The problem is it's become a bit of a vicious circle. Atheism is cool, so books about atheism are cool,″ said Dr. Rowan Williams, "They get a high profile, and books that say Richard Dawkins is wrong don't get the same kind of publicity because atheism is the new cool thing.″
It was rather eye-opening to read this, because for some time I hadn't considered the importance many Christians place on popularity when choosing a system of values and beliefs. It is frequently the case that when asked why they believe as they do, the religious will either cite upbringing or some variation of ″Because it seems nice″. Wendy Wright, for instance, repeatedly cited the unpleasantness of evolution and the ″nice″, ″personal″ and ″special″ feeling of creationism in her interview with Richard Dawkins, despite the fact that how one feels about evolution doesn't have a shred of bearing on the validity of scientific fact. I have to wonder if this inability to differentiate between logic and emotion is just a rhetorical tool or if there actually is some physiological or developmental reason why religious people, especially the deeply religious, cannot separate fact from feeling.
In any event, if you're examining atheism because you've noticed that it is popular among the educated and intelligent, well done. Ask questions. Lots of them. Examine the facts with a critical eye. Atheists may not have all the answers, but the answers we have tend to be almost painfully correct and are generally backed by proof.
If you've decided to be an atheist because it's cool, the last person you're going to impress is an atheist.