'Atheism Is Cool,' But Religion Getting Stronger, Says Archbishop

Atheism might be considered "cool" and the concept may sell a lot of books, but people are looking to God more than ever, said Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Williams said that the growing popularity of atheism has not necessarily led to a decrease in the number of people who describe themselves as religious. His statement comes before the October release of atheist Richard Dawkin’s new book, The Magic of Reality.

"I'd want to know how many atheists The God Delusion created," Williams said during a recent public conversation. Referring to Richard Dawkins' 2006 book, Williams said, "The book sold, but did it make a difference to the number of people who were actually committed one way or the other?"

Williams, head of the Church of England, added, "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."

Williams also claimed that the publishing industry tends to favor books about atheism, while shunning books that challenge them.

"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," he said. "It's difficult to break into that, but plenty of people are trying."

The archbishop pointed out a survey conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB), which found the number of atheists have fallen from 18 percent to 16 percent, despite the popularity of prominent atheist writers like Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

The ORB poll, which interviewed 2,049 adults, also found that 59 percent of Britons agree that religion should have a place in public life, with half of those saying that the Roman Catholic Church should take a moral lead in British society.

In addition, Williams claimed that a poll conducted by the Roman Catholic Church proved that there was an increase in religious belief after a papal visit last year.

The poll said that religious belief increased from 38 percent to 47 percent immediately after Pope Benedict XVI visited Scotland and England last September.

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