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Sep 21 2011

Cooler than thou

The Archbish of C is annoyed because the perceived coolitude of atheism is making it “difficult for the Church to convey its message.”

Well jeez, Rowan, I’m annoyed because the perceived wonderfulness of theism makes it difficult for atheism to convey its message – and your message has had it all its own way for quite a long time, please note.

…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.

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’s difficult to break into that, but plenty of people are trying.

No, it’s not just because atheism is the new cool thing (which is itself highly debatable, given the volume of the backlash); it’s also because so far the books that say Richard Dawkins is wrong are terrible books. (That’s not because it’s impossible to write a good book that says Richard Dawkins is wrong. It’s probably because a whole book devoted to saying that is kind of a silly idea, so people who can write good books don’t write that kind of book.) (There are good books that say Richard Dawkins is wrong along with other things, but I take the Archbish to mean books written especially to say Richard Dawkins is wrong; there are no good ones of those.)

The archbishop said that Christian witness is the strongest argument the Church has to rebut the claims of atheists such as Dawkins. He said the evolutionary biologist would struggle to explain the growth of the Church in Zimbabwe in the face of constant brutality and harassment.

What? No he wouldn’t. Humans can be passionately devoted to beliefs that are mistaken. Opposition often strengthens that devotion – as it does with atheism in the US, for instance. We like a challenge. Devotion is not a marker of truth.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    chigau (違う)

    I’ve been getting less cool as I age.
    It’s good to know I still have something going for me.

  2. 2
    richardelguru

    How can we be cool, we don’t have those wildly cool eyebrows (at least I don’t)

  3. 3
    The Lorax

    Kids today are getting smarter and smarter, what with the explosive rise in information availability. They can see through the lies that people try to tell them.

    Atheism is “cool” because it isn’t presented as “there is no god”, it’s presented as “think for yourself”. Kids like that sort of thing. It’s empowering. Most religions are presented as, “you’re wrong, we’re right.” … Kids don’t go for that. And no matter how “cool” they make Jesus, kids know that’s just a hook; even Dr. Seuss knew that kids could smell a moral coming a mile away. You can’t treat kids like fish, luring them in with a Touchdown Jesus and then whisking it away with “you’re wrong, we’re right.”

    The times, they are a-changin’.

  4. 4
    Sajanas

    Its funny how the article is quoting studies done that show England is getting more ‘spiritual’ since the Pope visited, yet I know I’ve heard of other studies that show that belief in God is dipping below the majority, and church going further still.

    And really, Rowan Williams has only himself to blame. Its not just that Richard Dawkins is cool, its that he really isn’t a good leader. He can’t even give Dawkins a straight answer when asked point blank questions on the resurrection, and it just makes it clear that he personally has a hard time believing all the weird Christian stuff, yet he continues to head the church and demand special privileged? Dawkins makes a lot of effort to educate people and explain his views, and all Williams seems to do is just ask other people to come up with some good arguments. No one is ever going to be excited to follow someone who, while clearly knowledgeable, doesn’t express his own feelings, doesn’t have good answers, and freely admits that he hasn’t got any.

  5. 5
    mazeRunner

    Ophelia:

    (There are good books that say Richard Dawkins is wrong along with other things, but I take the Archbish to mean books written especially to say Richard Dawkins is wrong; there are no good ones of those.)

    (Emphasis mine)

    Good books that say Richard Dawkins is wrong about Atheism and Atheist activism? Or wrong about biology?(ya know group selection, importance of natural selection, convergenge, evolution by creeps vs jerks, tape of life, spandrels etc) Gould’s books? Others’?

    Which books do you mean, Ophelia?

  6. 6
    mazeRunner

    Oops. Sorry for the duplicate post. Didn’t realize it takes some time for comments to appear.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    maze, I meant specifically “wrong in The God Delusion” – which in context is what the archbish meant. (I also meant “wrong in arguing X [Y, Z etc],” not just wrong period, wrong in the whole book.) (I was thinking in particular of Aikin and Talisse, Reasonable Atheism.)

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    In other words, I was toning down a too-sweeping claim. For a change. :- )

  9. 9
    Renolds

    I checked out the poll they quoted (but felt that they shouldnt link to)
    http://www.opinion.co.uk/Documents/ReligiousPollResultsSept2011.pdf

    91% said they felt no difference to spiritual or religous values after the popes visit yet they are attempting to pin his visit as the reason why people apparently became more spiritual in 2011.

    I also put a question mark on the religous increase. If more people are becoming religous (8% increase according to the poll) would there not be a comparative increase in church attendance aswell? If there was an increase in church attendance you could bet on Rowan crowing about it rather than bemoaning the ‘coolness’ of atheism.

    Reasons why they didnt link to the poll…

    “The Catholic church is on balance a force for good”
    43% Disagree.
    32% Agree.

    “The Popes visit was good for Britain”
    36% Disagree.
    31% Agree.

    “I am satisfied with the Pope’s apology for the child sex abuse scandals”
    58% Disagree.
    24% Agree.

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    Still, even an 8% increase seems quite large, and very baffling – why would a visit from the pope have such an effect in a mostly non-Catholic country?

  11. 11
    KG

    @10
    If there has been such a rise, it’s probably due to increased economic insecurity. The Pope’s visit generated little interest outide Catholic circles, from either supporters or critics.

  12. 12
    Renolds

    The only reason I could think of is an increase in other religous groups, looking at only the christian stats last year in a poll by the same group. 52% said they were christian, this year it was 55%. theres a 2-3% margin for error in this poll, so its possible that there has been no growth at all for Christians in Britain in 2011.

    http://www.opinion.co.uk/Documents/Pre%20papal%20visit%20poll%20Sep%202010.pdf (2010 poll)

  13. 13
    Anthony K

    He said the evolutionary biologist would struggle to explain the growth of the Church in Zimbabwe in the face of constant brutality and harassment.

    Ugh. This bullshit. “Why would so many people put their lives on the line for Christianity if it weren’t true?

    It takes a special blend of ignorance and conceit to suggest that the adherents of every religion besides Christianity are simply hobbyists.

  14. 14
    Stacy

    He said the evolutionary biologist would struggle to explain the growth of the Church in Zimbabwe in the face of constant brutality and harassment.

    What? No he wouldn’t. Humans can be passionately devoted to beliefs that are mistaken.

    Not to mention the evidence which shows that religion thrives in unstable societies.

    http://epiphenom.fieldofscience.com/2009/08/dependence-of-religion-on-dysfunctional.html

  15. 15
    Stacy

    (BTW, I’m Stacy Kennedy–finally logged in; wound up as stacy.)

  16. 16
    Daniel Schealler

    Of course devotion isn’t a marker of truth.

    Everyone knows that truth is established by people who talk loudly and repeatedly over everyone else.

  17. 17
    Anubis Bloodsin III

    # OP

    “The archbishop said that Christian witness is the strongest argument the Church has to rebut the claims of atheists such as Dawkins.”

    That is not an argument tis is an assertion of credulous subjectivity masquerading as nebulous vague ‘fact’ without evidence.

    Claiming that ‘it must be true cos folks believe it’ is about as pathetic and as desperate as it gets.

    That is only an admittance really that the church is philosophically bankrupt….they have run out of ideas.

    They tried all sorts of marvelous ‘fisticated feology’, and it avails them now’t cos the premise and the shaky dogma hastily erected to prop it up is fast becoming a laughing stock if not embarrassment.
    They are sinking…and they got no life boats.

    ‘Catweazle’ let it slip during the royal wedding, or rather admitted it cos it provided a good whining point, that folks were drifting away from the church, and there was a classic camera shot of the other two delusional religious clowns Katolik and Judaic top doggies vigorously nodding their heads in sad affirmation of the fact.
    About the only ‘fact’ I ever heard ‘Catweazle ‘ express that is actually …based in well…fact!

    As for the poll he proudly waves around…well excuse me but since when have polls been regarded as ‘proof’ that god exists?

    He might be vaunted as a knowledgeable and learned man…but jebus crepers…wot a muppet!

  18. 18
    NathanDST

    I can think of many reasons for the Church in Zimbabwe to experience growth in the face of brutality, and not a one relies on the truth-value of its doctrine.

  19. 19
    NathanDST

    Oh right, and what exactly does he mean that Christian witness is the best rebuttal to atheists? How does telling me about the gospels of Jesus rebut anything? Or does he have a different meaning for “Christian witness” than I’m familiar with (possible, I’m sure)?

  20. 20
    cag

    When the church washes brains, they do not come out clean.

    Religion – now with enhanced delusion power. 100% more delusion than brand X.

  21. 21
    Deen

    Bragging that the church is doing well in countries full of desperate people like Zimbabwe somehow fails to impress me.

  22. 22
    Ophelia Benson

    Nathan @ 19 – I think he may have meant “the claims of atheists such as Dawkins”…that people are better off without religion, or something like that. Some kind of social claim as opposed to ontological claim. Maybe. I’m trying to train myself to read charitably.

  23. 23
    NathanDST

    Ophelia @22: Maybe. I read the article, and that’s not how I read it, but maybe. The article doesn’t really say what the Archbishop thinks Dawkins is wrong about, besides the obvious, so I’m left with reading “Christian witness” in the only way I’ve known it to be used — to witness is to evangelize/proselytize/seek to convert people. In that sense, I can’t see how it rebuts any claim I, or most atheists I know or read, would make.

  24. 24
    mazeRunner

    Ophelia at 7 :

    maze, I meant specifically “wrong in The God Delusion” – which in context is what the archbish meant.

    The Archbish :

    “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’s difficult to break into that, but plenty of people are trying.”

    (Emphasis mine)

    Hmmm, to nitpick, I’m not so sure about that Ophelia. He seems to be saying books arguing Dawkins is wrong about the whole atheism thing(not just about arguments in The God Delusion) and therefore Atheism is, are not getting a high profile.

    That or I need to pick up my comprehension.

    And I hadnt heard about Reasonable Atheism, so thanks for that.

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