Here's an interesting article from the Guardian website, Comment is Free: Belief. I don't know who "Hawkins" is, though I hope Dawkins isn't too miffed at being nudged out of this trinity.
Beyond Grayling, Hawkins [sic] and Hitchens, a new kind of British atheism
On 27 March, when British households were completing census forms, people may have chosen to answer the optional question, "What is your religion?". It is thought that the proportion of those who did, and ticked the "no religion" box, will have risen from the 15% it was at the time of the last census, in 2001.
Indeed, the British Humanist has campaigned for this. It cites statistics estimating that more like between 30% and 40% of the population is "non-religious", increasing to as much as 65% for young people.
But what does it mean to be a "none"? Does it mean just being indifferent to religion, or being an atheist? Social research has begun to try to understand this growing constituency defined by what they are not, and we are contributing to this with a one-year project speaking to young people who identify themselves as atheists, free thinkers, humanists, secularists, sceptics – or all of the above.
Public debate so far has tended to focus on the high-profile, rather old "new atheists" such as AC Grayling (with his bible for atheists just out), Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, but from the numbers it appears that atheists are relatively young.
From our research so far it seems they may be more flexible and open to different perspectives than older non-religionists (some report attending events with actively Christian friends), and prefer to engage with online communitiesthan belong to official organisations. They are strongly influenced by family and education. Some have reacted against Christian upbringings; have been influenced by writers like Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris; one man is looking to challenge the influence of the Christian Union on his university campus; and another would like to break the association between Britishness and Christianity. For one woman, the important thing is being pro-human rather than anti-religious.
Whatever the variety in terms of identities, journeys to and reasons for stances, the group we have engaged with so far is demographically similar – mainly British-born, white and middle-class, planning to go to, attending or having been to university. This fits with other people's findings, though of course there are exceptions.
We cannot generalise from our small sample, but research elsewhere indicates that an actively non-religious position is more socially acceptable in Britain than in the US, and is easier for a young person to proclaim in contemporary Britain than a Christian identity.
This suggests real and distinctive social change in Britain, which some scholars now refer to as "post-Christian". Nonetheless, Christianity is clearly of enduring social significance for some "young atheists". They can struggle to affirm the positive rather than negative content of their "irreligious" identity, but we're finding faith in people rather than nothing, and that the secular can be just as moral, emotional and sacred as the religious.
Read this article on the Guardian's Comment is Free: Belief website, along with reader comments:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/apr/14/atheism-socialnetworking?CMP=twt_fd