A thought struck me today. (This rarely happens, as I keep well out of range of most thoughts, but it's impossible to be entirely protected.) Some time in 2010 (I can't remember exactly when) I began to seriously practice the Catholic faith, having been an agnostic tending towards atheism for as long as I could remember. Even before that, I did a lot of reading and thinking about religion-- I came across an email I wrote to an agnostic blogger in 2007.
To me, for all that time, the great adversary was atheism. Of course, the New Atheism was at full tide at this period (it has receded somewhat since), but it wasn't just atheism as a body of opinion that seemed daunting to me. It was atheism as an intellectual position, since there seemed to me then such a lot to be said for the theory that there was no Deity of any kind. Atheism seemed like the argument to beat. The conflict between faith and atheism seemed like the great drama of our era.
Today I realized how far, without even noticing it, I've drifted from this attitude. I no longer think of atheism as the great intellectual fortress to be stormed, or the grand adversary in a cultural war of ideas. I do not believe that most of the post-Christians in Europe are people who have thought through the arguments for and against religious belief, and for and against Christianity, and who have thereby become convinced atheists. I think that, for the most part, they have simply imbibed an atmosphere that is antagonistic to Christianity-- in fact, an atmosphere that is hotile to any kind of serious philosophy of life whatsoever.
And insofar as there is a serious intellectual adversary to Christianity in modern society, it is not atheism or scientific materialism, but liberalism. And atheism is merely a flag of convenience for liberalism. People embrace atheism because it gives (or they think it gives) a metaphysical basis to their liberalism, rather than embracing liberalism as a consequence of an atheism to which they arrived independently.
Atheism, to be blunt, doesn't seem a very big deal to me anymore.