I’m not sure if trying to write this on the tube is a good idea. Still, better now than in 2012. If we’re not vaporised around that time I should be able to tweet directly from here with all fumbled mistyping happily included (while I miss my station due to concentrating on writing). Still, Marshall Mcluhan aside…
I may be about to make a Bold Statement. This sort of thing is never advised but sometimes they are at least amusing.
Tonight I went to Methodist Central Hall for an Intelligence Squared debate. This event was on the motion "The house believes that the Catholic Church is a force for good". Speaking against the motion were Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens. For the motion was an African archbishop and Anne Widdecombe. The first three, Stephen Fry not surprisingly in particular, were excellent public speakers.
I’m giving nothing away to announce the results as they will be online soon enough and next week, we are told, the video of the event will be televised to 70 million people (mostly in Africa). It is the convention for IQ2 to canvas audience opinion before and after the debate and questions. In this instance before 634 were for the motion, 1,204 against and 432 undecided. After it was 237 for the motion, 2002 for the motion and 34 undecided.
Now can tell you better than I about biased and self selecting groups. IQ2 events are organised by The Spectator and similar publications and so will naturally tend to draw a skeptical crowd. It was rather telling though that 20% of the way through the Q&A the chair asked for any questions not going to the Catholics and all hands went down. Only five people spoke for the Catholic side. One openly decried the state of the church and called for reform and 3 of the four others, all from Africa to judge by their accents, made statements about belief rather than asking questions. It was interesting to not that both Ms Widdicomb and the archbishop said at the end how much they enjoyed the event.
Anyway, what is this Bold Statement I was going to make? Well, I was thinking last night about the already monumental changes that have happened in my lifetime and wondering what else could happen if I’m lucky enough to live another 40 or 50 years or more.
Well, I’m going way out on a limb here but I starting to wonder if we’re on the edge of a catastrophic collapsed of organised religion in most 1st world countries (US aside).
Perhaps I hang out too much in secular societies and have drank the Kool Aid but it seems to me that there are any number of signs.
Looking past events such as this evenings which tend to attract confirmed skeptics.
Much of the worlds most popular "new media", such as BoingBoing the world’s most popular blog, are either completely run by atheists or give more space to secularists than religion.
Religion has all-but disappeared from radio and television. Not only shows about religion but characters even mentioning religion are now either the bad guys or seen to be out of date or somehow strange.
Church attendance numbers, Christian churches particularly, (again outside the US) are falling to record lows.
Perhaps most interestingly though is that I feel that now it is becoming taboo to discuss religion at all. The meme always was that it was bad to criticise religion but now that has bonded with not wanting to offend anyone and since it is so easy to become accidentally offensive when discussing religion, usually because the side defending it is doing it from faith rather than reason, it is simply easier to avoid it at all. I recently found out by accident, much to my surprise, that a friend of mine of many years is an atheist. The subject simply never came up.
I don’t like Richard Dawkins much but many of the things in The God Delusion are true. I’m thinking in particular that as a society we are collectively holding our breath – waiting for someone to tell us it’s okay not to believe. I don’t think it will take much. A few high profile sports and pop stars saying the got to where they are today without God and the kids will be finally be able to say openly "I’m like them".
I do feel that a movement is growing. Yes, it is quite small now and mostly limited to the sort of folks who were there tonight but I do think we’re reaching a tipping point and in perhaps the next 20 years it will become the norm to be an atheist, or at least an agnostic, in many countries of the world.