According to these soldiers of reason, the time for religion is over. It clings like a bad gene replicating in the population, but its usefulness is played out. Sam Harris's most recent book, The Moral Landscape (Free Press, 2010), is the latest in the continuing battle. As an agnostic, I find much of the horsemen's critiques to be healthy.
But most friends and even enemies of the new atheism have not yet noticed the provincialism of the current debate. If the horsemen left their world of books, conferences, classrooms, and computers to travel more in the developing world for a year, they would find some unfamiliar religious arenas.
Having lived in Cambodia and China, and traveled in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Africa, I have come to appreciate how religion functions quite differently in the developing world—where the majority of believers actually live. The Four Horsemen, their fans, and their enemies all fail to factor in their own prosperity when they think about the uses and abuses of religion.
Basically he argues that the new atheists limit the discussion too much on the "true or false" question along with questions about the potential bad effects of religion. A for me very interesting part that deserves to be thought about is the following:
But I'd advance a much more radical argument as well. Not only should the more rational and therapeutic elements be distilled from the opiate of religion. But the wacky, superstitious, cloud-cuckoo-land forms of religion, too, should be cherished and preserved, for those forms of religion sometimes do great good for our emotional lives, even when they compromise our more-rational lives....
Religion, even the wacky, superstitious stuff, is an analgesic survival mechanism and sanctuary in the developing world. Religion provides some order, coherence, respite, peace, and traction against the fates. Perhaps most important, it quells the emotional distress of human vulnerability. I'm an agnostic and a citizen of a wealthy nation, but when my own son was in the emergency room with an illness, I prayed spontaneously. I'm not naïve—I don't think it did a damn thing to heal him. But when people have their backs against the wall, when they are truly helpless and hopeless, then groveling and negotiating with anything more powerful than themselves is a very human response. It is a response that will not go away, and that should not go away if it provides some genuine relief for anxiety and agony. As Roger Scruton says, "The consolation of imaginary things is not imaginary consolation."
Read this through several times to understand where he comes from. He simply argues that ALTHOUGH religion is false it might still make sense to preserve it because......
Quite some folks criticized Stephen's text including PZ Myers here.
Which prompted Stephen and then PZ to write again.
Currently i must say I think that PZ doesn't see the point really or he doesn't seem to see the relevance of it.
For me striking are the following two parts in PZs' last post.
and I've told people that we need more appeal to those lower centers of the brain…but this idea that atheists are all a bunch of Spock-like uber-rationalists, or that we aspire to a coldly logical society, is simply an annoying stereotype that isn't true.I recall a presentation by PZ Look at 5:35 where he himself stated that atheists do have that image and that they should have to work against that image. So i presumed (and still do) that he is well aware of the problem that atheists often DO appear to be exactly the stereotype that he states to be untrue. Atheists often do tend to argue based on reason and rationality (which is of course the only way to correctly argue) Especially if seen from the perspective of people that (as PZ and the other author seem to agree) use the rationality-module less often than atheists. So frankly it is NOT a question of true and false alone but also one of appearance. And it is a sad thing that sometimes with all the talks about truth and false that you get from reasonable people like PZ and Dawkins and whoever you want to list, that sometimes they simply fail to see the "emotional" side. It actually doesn't matter if something is true or not. Believers will recognize what seems "appropriate" for them. PZ fails to see that I would say ...
"And the whole point of what I wrote is that "it makes me feel good" is inadequate support for a complex set of beliefs about the world—"it's true" is also essential."The judgment about whether something is inadequate or not ... who is allowed to make that?
I think Stephen has a good point for example with the story of the son that died. IF an illusion is all that can keep the mother sane, THEN that illusion is as adequate as anything could be in that situation REGARDLESS of whether it is true or not. Sometimes the truth is simply not acceptable for a person at a certain point in life.
It also doesn't matter if Atheists are correct or not if their correctness would destroy the worldview of a person. He most probably won't accept it.
The question is not if that is so, but rather how do we deal with this. And sadly that's where I think the biggest failure of many atheists resides. Stephen in my view correctly hints that a relationship between the amount of people living a religion and the social and economic situation in a region seems to exist. It is NOT the truth that will persuade or convince people to come over to the "light" side. In order to get them to use the neocortex more and be less dependent on emotional relief you have to reduce the situations that trigger your "limbic or mammalian brain".
Less religiousness requires more wealth and a more stable environment. This helps far more than lectures about evolution alone could, when it comes to people and the strength of their convictions.
I would argue that the wealthier and socially advanced a society, the more receptive people are for "scientific ideas".