David Sloan Wilson is the author of a book called Evolution for Everyone. Sounds all well and good but at a recent philosophy of biology conference, he made comments against the New Atheists that don’t make much sense.
… As we speak, we are establishing our first consulting relationship with a religious congregation in Binghamton to explore their religion and spirituality and to help them be more effective as an organization [by using evolutionary tools]. I think the benefits we provide will be so great that we will be sought after by other congregations.
[Question:] Does your approach annoy atheists?
I piss off atheists more than any other category, and I am an atheist. One of the things that infuriates me about the newest crop of angry atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, is their denial of the beneficial aspects of religion. Their beef is not just that there is no evidence for God. They also insist that religion “poisons everything”, as Christopher Hitchens subtitled his book. They are ignoring the scientific theory and evidence for the “secular utility” of religion, as Émile Durkheim put it, even though they wrap themselves in the mantle of science and rationality. Someone needs to call them out on that, and that person is me.
He’s missing the point of what the New Atheists are saying.
No one — including Dawkins — denies that religion offers benefits like community and hope. But these are things that you could get with any group of close friends — without having to believe in supernatural nonsense. That’s what we’re rallying against. In order to be part of that community, you must subscribe to beliefs that are not based in reality, that cherish ignorance, and that preach bigotry against certain groups of people.
Certainly, churches have a better infrastructure than Humanist groups do, but that’s no reason to go running to them. The detriments far outweigh the benefits.
Christopher Hitchens asks a very good question in God is Not Great:
“Name an ethical statement or action, made or performed by a person of faith, that could not have been made or performed by a nonbeliever. I have since asked this question at every stop and haven’t had a reply yet.”
He hasn’t received a reply because there’s no good answer to that. Religion doesn’t offer any benefits you couldn’t find in a good secular alternative.
That’s why we go after religion. The claims are ludicrous, but there is a feeling among millions of people that religion makes people better or more moral. They’re wrong.
The New Atheists support strong communities of people. They don’t support membership being restricted to those who buy into religious mythology.