Today NY Times Op Ed columnist Nicholas B. Kristof wrote a column under the title Learning to Respect Religion, which begins with these provocative paragraphs (you're invited to read it in its entirety):

A FEW years ago, God seemed caught in a devil of a fight.

Atheists were firing thunderbolts suggesting that “religion poisons everything,” as Christopher Hitchens put it in the subtitle of his book, “God Is Not Great.” Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins also wrote best sellers that were scathing about God, whom Dawkins denounced as “arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction.”

Yet lately I’ve noticed a very different intellectual tide: grudging admiration for religion as an ethical and cohesive force.

The standard-bearer of this line of thinking — and a provocative text for Easter Sunday — is a new book, “Religion for Atheists,” by Alain de Botton. He argues that atheists have a great deal to learn from religion.

“One can be left cold by the doctrines of the Christian Trinity and the Buddhist Eightfold Path and yet at the same time be interested in the ways in which religions deliver sermons, promote morality, engender a spirit of community, make use of art and architecture, inspire travels, train minds and encourage gratitude at the beauty of spring,” de Botton writes.

“The error of modern atheism has been to overlook how many aspects of the faiths remain relevant even after their central tenets have been dismissed,” he adds, and his book displays an attitude toward religion that is sometimes — dare I say — reverential.

What are YOUR thoughts?

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If the views and attitudes on these forums are not representative of the atheist 'comunity' in general, then i could be wrong.

@ MikeyMike1 - Oh, so you meant atheists on this forum. Yes we are an egotistical lot, but in a good way, usually. 


"Atheists have no faith."

I disagree. Faith is, as defined:

confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability. 2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by ...

I have faith in the common goodness of almost all people. There's a few rotten apples but they're in the minority. Yeah, I have faith, it's just not in a religious context. Thankfully. 

I admire how religion makes for so many (relatively) obedient followers. If I could do that, I could make a fortune.

And when a priest, preacher or Imam looks you in the eye and tells you what God wants you to do, I'm simply mesmerized at how they keep such a straight face. I really admire a man who knows how to laugh up his sleeve while simultaneously seeming sincere.

But most of all, I admire how adults can congregate and revert to childhood and be awed at: rising from the dead; pregnancy without sex; walking on water; riding flying horses; and turning people into pillars of salt. It must be a lot like when my son watches Saturday morning cartoons: he always has such fun!

I find any and all religions to be a form of poison against free thought, therefore I think it is bad, evil, corrupt and disgusting.

Agreed. If you come to the conclusion that you're admiring people of religious faith go to a church, any church, sit down for a service and take a mental note of how many times they preach about the word of God. How many times they preach there own opinion and what utter nonsense they think is true and then you'll realize that you should admire yourself. You're not a lamb.

I see that as short sighted.  Free thought is a mere means to an end.  The point of everything is higher quality of life.  Seeing religion in such rigid black and white lenses doesn't accomplish the end for which free thought is used.  Religion isn't going away.  It is a much more logical use of one's energy and efforts to make sure that religion is more pleasant.

Like Mabel said, It is better to zero in on the most ridiculous types of religion and work to change them to being more palatable.  Fighting religion is like swimming upstream.  You can talk about all the progress you are making as you get one or two inches up river, but it still doesn't change the fact that even if you are picking up speed, you still have the overwhelming majority of the current against you.  

Furthermore, anyone who knows systems theory, knows that you will encounter hostility any time you actively disrupt a system.  This is why families have trouble with new in-laws who try to change things.

Faith is a powerful tool for giving purpose and context, and for distracting fear about the future.

@ diggerbanks - I agree with you there but it is the cowardly false way. It is the "I accept this crap in the now because I am supposed to and its all well and good because one day crap will be abolished forever and I won't ever have to deal with crap again."

Number one; the main reason the world is in such a mess right now is because of people "accepting crap" instead of dealing with reality in the here and now it and making things better.

Number two; No, there will never be a crap free existence as long as people continue to shirk their responsibilities to their brothers and sisters in the here and now and start facing reality instead of going on the delusion that an invisible god is going to take care of things in his own sweet time.

A good example is all this Armageddon preaching going on in the USA. It does nothing but make a lot of people sit back and say to themselves "Ah well, there is nothing we can do. It has been foretold. The sooner the better then we can all go to heaven and be happy."

What people need to be doing instead, are things that make sense, such as doing what we can to expose the horrible detriments of religion in all their oppressing glory so we can start in the direction of peace across the earth.

We need an ethical movement and get away from beating up on religion so incessantly.

@ MikeyMike1 - Personally, I try not to beat up on religion as a whole. I like to zero in on its really stupid and dangerous parts and rip them up, letting the pieces fall where they may.

I think that if you want atheism to "live long and prosper," it would be well to sound less like just another hate group. You attract more bees with honey than with vinegar, as the old saying goes.

If our ideas are good and we have truth on our side, ultimate victory is assured. By being vocal and provocative we simply entrench the opposition.

Agreed. I have come to this conclusion after alienating members of my own family with my caustic remarks about delusion and ignorance. Hindsight is 20-20.

@Unseen - I agree that Atheism shouldn't sound like a hate group, but I see no parallels there with honey or any correlations between truth and victory.

Theists, particularly religious leaders, hate dealing with pesky old facts.  This is why they talk about the 'truth in your heart' and such bullshit.  That is their honey, and truth is far more like vinegar than honey.

The human race has evolved for argumentation as a means of status, not as a means of deriving truth.  If argumentation lead to truth there would be no need for party systems in politics.

I realize the situation is very different in the U.S. than here in Canada - but up here people are actually embarrassed to publicly speak about supernatural nonsense unless they get the feeling that they have found a receptive audience - and I am out there every single day ensuring that where I am present there is NOT a receptive audience for their bullshit.

A lot of atheists DO sound like hate group members. One can disagree without being disagreeable.


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