That Anglican archbishop, Rowan Williams, is complaining about the atheists again.
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.
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.
He’s making a very common error of perspective. I hate to break the news to all of you, but atheism is not cool. It’s not cool at all. It’s the domain of nerds and geeks and sciencey weirdos with beards and snarky women who are way smarter than the guys chasing them. We are not rock stars. We are not fabulously sexy (well, except for Brian Cox). We tend not to have loud movie star personalities (well, except for Neil deGrasse Tyson). Nothing personal, but if you put together a line-up of one of the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Daniel Radcliffe, and Richard Dawkins, and showed them to the average person on the American street, most of our citizens’ eyes would light up in recognition at the first four, and look quizzically at the guy on the end. And no, it wouldn’t help much to swap in Brian Cox for Richard Dawkins.
But that’s the point: cool is a relative thing. Coolness depends on what you contrast it with. And that’s really Rowan Williams’ problem.
It’s not the coolness of atheism. It’s the lameness of religion.
Look at me. I’m moderately popular, and I’m a schlubby college professor at a small college. I’ve got a beard and I wear nerdy ties. I’m nobody. But stand me next to a priest, or a creationist, and the contrast makes me look white-hot and super-cool, even though I’m not. It’s been my cunning trick for years.
So the problem for Williams isn’t that atheism is cool at all — it’s that our cool/lame quotient rockets to stratospheric heights whenever we’re in opposition to old geezy wankers who are chanting antique gobbledygook about magic rabbis and dead people. And those apologists trying break into our schtick? All they are doing is making us look cooler.
There’s only one solution. If the priests just fade away and stop looking like such gomers next to us, then atheism will look much, much less cool. We’ll have to compete with Michael Bay and video games and porn for attention, and then there won’t be anyone chattering about how cool we are any more.
OH NO! I just revealed the secret to making atheism irrelevent — for all the religious folk to disappear into the woodwork. Now we’re dooooomed!