Sunday, April 05, 2009

God Is Back

There's an unsympathetic review of John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge's God Is Back in today's nytimes. "Religion is returning to public life," they report. This will, of course, be sad news for a few atheists. Not for all atheists I am sure, since there is a form of atheism that simply does not care how much religion there is in the world.

Micklethwait is editor of The Economist, and Wooldridge is The Economist's Washington bureau chief. Michiko Kakutani's review says "in arguing that “religion’s power” has “continued to increase,” they contradict considerable evidence to the contrary. (The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, released this month, found that “the U.S. population continues to show signs of becoming less religious, with one out of every five Americans failing to indicate a religious identity in 2008.”)"

I haven't read the book. What do I think?

  • The needs religion addresses cannot be addressed by science. Science qua science says nothing about value. The advance of science will raise even more meta-physical questions. That bodes well for "religion."

  • If the religious impulse is hard-wired into us, guess what: it'll never go away, at least not in our lifetime or many lifetimes to come. I view most "internet atheists" as hopelessly mired in theism's noetic framework. Why such protest? Really, on atheism, who cares?

  • In my very tiny world as a philosophy professor at a community college, the packed-out rooms in my philosophy of religion classes show me that students are hugely interested in "religion" and God and want to talk about this and study these things with someone who will listen, dialogue with them, and assert a strong religious worldview.
  • I personally don't think "religion" is in great jeopardy. But I am defining "religion" to include the deep existential religious impulse that I continue to meet and see in people irregardless of the evangelistic atheists. So is God "back?" I don't think he ever left.