Bruce Sheiman recently published a book descriptively entitled "An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity Is Better Off With Religion Than Without It".
A blog written by a self-professed fence-sitting agnostic gave it a positive reivew and provided a lot of nice HL Mencken quotes.
Bruce Sheiman issued this poorly considered response:
Given that Mencken famously made up the history of the bathtub, only to see it propagated in encyclopedias for decades thereafter, he knows a few things about making things up. And he had little use for the made-up stories of religion. Neither do I.
But as I say in my book, religion is more about meaning and purpose than facts and events. And I want to congratulate you on offering the best interpretation of my book’s reason for being compared to other reviewers.
Religion has value despite its being scientifically false. And after living more than half a lifetime, I would rather live the “inauthentic life” of a believer than in the stark, naked atheistic reality that we are all “food for worms” and that the universe cares not for my existence. That makes me an “unhappy atheist.” And I assert that most atheists are unhappy with their creedless belief system.
It is so much more fulfilling to believe in something than nothing – or, worse — to believe in an anti-belief, i.e., to base my existence on the antithesis of someone else’s belief. Atheists can try to make that into a virtue (“free-thinkers living life courageously”). But as Dr. Phil asks, Would you rather be right or happy?
Given the choice, I would choose the latter. But as I make clear in my book, it is rarely a choice. Atheism or theism is what one is; it is not what one chooses. And that is precisely why the “debate” is a useless exercise: if belief or unbelief is not a choice, then all the argumentation in the world cannot change one’s position.
Alas, I remain an atheist.
What do you think of that? Has anyone read Bruce's book?
My response to Bruce Sheiman is in the comments below.
I did not start the us-vs-them dichotomy, and it is not "false" in the mind of society in that it is what the majority of people derive from the debate.
One of my basic criticisms will be very familiar to you. I would ask that the mainstream group of atheists stop engaging in herd-thinking, in groupthink, in conformistic in-group/out-group thinking. The fact that Reggie below can say "Thanks for saving me the trouble of typing out my own response" shows how similiar your responses would be.
Religion, and even atheism, is enormously complex, and the one distinction I would make is between the mass of moderates and the elite group of extremists, where the latter largely defines the agenda for the former. As you would say to your religious counterparts, "Think for yourself."
Again, I do not want to appear to be disparaging to anyone in particular. I am open to the atheist argument (if it is original) and the religious argument (if that is original). And I think my argument in my book, website and blogs are original to a significant degree. And all I ask is that you read them before your criticize them.
Thanks for listening. I know I have not answered all your questions. But I do appreciate your open-mindedness.
I did not mean to suggest that if an argument is not "original" (based on my admittedly biased interpretation of what is original) I will ignore it. It's just that no doubt I will have heard those points before.
I would be especially interested in your response to my website and blog essays. There I attempt to be somewhat "original" (albeit, I may not have achieved that).
In the end, we are on the same side. I do not believe in God, but I do hold many of the same values that are shared by all religions. My objective is to convey that we atheists are not "enemies" of religion (the exception being extremism of both kinds -- religious and secular).
A life with a goal and a purpose is far superior to a life without a goal and a purpose but looking to religion for that purpose? I don't think that is necessary.
All this talk of bias and groupthink makes me wonder if the biggest groupthink of all is the very human desire impulsion to assign design and purpose to chaos, to exert control on the uncontollable? I would think this affinity to some of religions' comforting ideas to be a regression into herd mentality on a grand scale.
The fact that Reggie below can say "Thanks for saving me the trouble of typing out my own response" shows how similiar your responses would be.
Dave is a smart fellow. My response would be similar simply for the fact that I have come to the same conclusions as Dave. If it makes you feel better to believe that this is group think at work, then you are welcome to your delusion.
I guess if I agreed with Dave that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen molecules, this is more evidence of group think? The point is, if you are going to accuse us of group think, at least back it up with something with substance. That I agreed with Dave doesn't say anything beyond the fact that I agreed with him.
So basically, he's saying that because the delusion of religion is a nice comforting delusion, it's better than reality. Reality is an ugly thing, so it would be better if we all accepted mass insanity instead, because the insanity is fluffier and makes us feel better?!
Wow! I know I don't need to make the point that just because something makes you feel good about your place in the universe, that doesn't mean it's ok to stick with it. But I'm going to make that point anyway. Maybe murdering people and molesting children and kicking puppies and microwaving kittens makes me feel good about my place in the universe, so that's just super fucking duper, eh? Hey guys, if it feels good do it (unless it's premarital sex, being gay, eating shellfish, working on the sabbath, not beating our kids, equality of the sexes and races, etc, etc). Boy, is that ever a mixed message for Christians! It's cool to believe in Christ because the belief makes you feel good, but you can't justify anything ELSE with that same logic! RRAAAAWWWWWRRRR!!!! They make my blood pressure go up!
Andrew J is spot-on with his analysis. This guy is "cypher" from the Matrix. Even knowing it's all bullshit, he'd willingly choose to go back to it if he could!
And what's this shit about reality not being good enough without God? I find reality BETTER without God! It's not bleak and dreary! We are made of star stuff, right?! THAT'S AWESOME! I'm more a "part of the universe" than I ever felt like as a Christian!