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Probably not completely – but I suspect it’s peaked this time round. (These things tend to go in cycles).

Why? Well, to start with, the odds are stacked against it. A few posts back I wrote about some of the things that atheists like to forget. Most people are not aware of the details, of course. Even so, there is some suspicion of atheists as simply killjoys. Atheism starts from a built-in disadvantage.

Another reason is that although a lot of people have no time for organised religion, most believe in something – a force behind the universe or whatever. So they cannot really call themselves atheists, often sheltering behind the title ‘agnostic’. But agnosticism doesn’t have much of a cutting edge compared to the dogmatism of Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett.

Most of all, though, I think we are entering one of those periods of moral seriousness that happens now and again. It is fairly obvious that the various cultural groups that we lump together as ‘Western Civilisation’ have some issues to square up to. Social and economic problems make the headlines very day.

It cannot be long before the idea gets around that such problems are largely connected with the lack of a convincing moral framework within which people feel they should live. Such a framework has never arisen from atheism, quite the opposite. Atheism has mostly been used to justify abandoning moral frameworks. David Hume (who would qualify as a saint if atheists believed in sainthood) famously claimed that you can’t get an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’.

As the idea of morality makes a come back, it will grow more and more obvious that although we may not want fanaticism, nor perhaps many of the structures of conventional religion, we do need a faith that puts a few oughts back into life.

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