Bruce Sheiman doesn’t believe in God, but he does believe in religion.
Setting aside the question of whether God exists, it’s clear that the benefits of faith far outweigh its costs, he argues in his new book, An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity is Better Off With Religion than Without It.
“I don’t know if anybody is going to be able to convince me that God exists,” Sheiman said in an interview, “but they can convince me that religion has intrinsic value.”
The old atheists said there was no God. The so-called “New Atheists” said there was no God, and they were vocally vicious about it. Now, the new “New Atheists” — call it Atheism 3.0 — say there’s still no God, but maybe religion isn’t all that bad.
Faith provides meaning and purpose for millions of believers, inspires people to tend to each other and build communities, gives them a sense of union with a transcendent force, and provides numerous health benefits, Sheiman says. Moreover, the galvanizing force behind many achievements in Western civilization has been faith, Sheiman argues, while conceding that he limits his analysis, for the most part, to modern Western religion.
USA Today: Atheism 3.0 finds a little more room for religion
See also Scott Atran’s contributions to this discussion at the Edge.
October 23, 2009 at 2:35 am
October 23, 2009 at 9:22 am
Presumably an idea that will find favour with the chaos magick crowd…
October 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm
The inherent problem with religion is fundamentalism. As someone who was raised by apocalyptic Baptists and was rather traumatized by the experience, I would like to see rationalists from all walks of life (agnostics and atheists and especially those within the faith-based communities) come together and figure out a way to purge the toxin of fundamentalism from our collective unconscious once and for all.
October 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm
Replace the word religion with “your own personally relevant form of spirituality” and he’s got no arguments from me, at least on that issue.
New atheists? So “i’m ok, you’re ok” atheists never existed before he cleverly attached a version number to the idea.
Here I thought I had been respecting other peoples dumbass religions for the value it provided them since my early teens, but I guess this really is “new” after all.
Awww, look at the warm fuzzy photo in the article. I bet were all going to get along now…
October 23, 2009 at 8:25 pm
Due to fuzzy criteria, it’s hard to make a rational argument for or against the value of religion. It’s sort of like asking, “Is the southern hemisphere good or bad?” That isn’t to say that people shouldn’t speak up when they see evil and stupidity in front of them, but it’s always good to be polite. Of course, anytime we’re talking about an organization having power over people, we’re not really talking about religion as such, are we?
October 24, 2009 at 4:46 am
Argh! How disappointing in this day and age.
There’s no use in pretending gods are objective realities. Better to recognize that myth retains a place in our lives, but religion is something we can certainly do without.
October 24, 2009 at 8:06 pm
Er… isn’t this what William James said?
February 7, 2010 at 3:06 am
So long as religion teaches kids things that just ain’t so, pays for laws that enforce its beliefs, or in any other way tries to force, coerce or inveigle its beliefs on others, it does humanity a disservice.
To the extent that religion teaches compassion, friendship, feeding and clothing and housing others and caring for them in their sickness and comforting them with humanity and not preachiness, to that extent I say bravo. What motivates you to do those things is of no concern, so long as they’re done out of heart, not out of ideology or a sense of superiority.