So, the other day this person introduced himself to a friend of mine who’s a priest. Early in the conversation he announced “I’m an atheist.” Later on he asked my friend to bless his wedding ring.
This is an unusual kind of atheism, to say the least.
This encounter made me wonder just what is behind the increase in people identifying in polls as atheist. Perhaps not all have followed the same process of rigorous thinking.
It seems at least possible that there may be rather more people than this one individual who are using the word in ways which are quite a way off a rational, well-thought through rejection of God or gods.
Perhaps we should consider the explanation that being “atheist” is becoming a kind of “cultural default” for some people who might, say, a quarter of century ago, have identified themselves as “C of E”. It is a reflex response, the easiest thing to say without thinking about what you believe.
If that is so, then it is an indicator of how far “cultural Christianity” has receded, which for some will be a cause of mourning and for others a rather more exhilarating and challenging opportunity. Either way, it may be well worth investigating.