Karen Armstrong, the popular and prolific writer on religion, criticizes the so-called “new atheists,” Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, in this article in Foreign Policy. She’s written another book, “The Case for God,” and the article, I’m guessing, is a synopsis of her argument.
My brain is scrambled from listening to Glenn Gould’s “The Quiet in the Land” and I’ve got too much reading to do to write a cogent commentary on this, but I thought I’d toss it out here anyway.
Here’s a snippet:
These writers are wrong — not only about religion, but also about politics — because they are wrong about human nature. Homo sapiens is also Homo religiosus. As soon as we became recognizably human, men and women started to create religions. We are meaning-seeking creatures. While dogs, as far as we know, do not worry about the canine condition or agonize about their mortality, humans fall very easily into despair if we don’t find some significance in our lives. Theological ideas come and go, but the quest for meaning continues. So God isn’t going anywhere. And when we treat religion as something to be derided, dismissed, or destroyed, we risk amplifying its worst faults. Whether we like it or not, God is here to stay, and it’s time we found a way to live with him in a balanced, compassionate manner.
Okay, one quick comment. I think Armstrong is right about mankind being “Homo religiosus,” but for the wrong reason. I’m taking a course on the psychology of religion and it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that evolution (ironically) favors psychological mechanisms that lead to religious beliefs — and the belief in ghosts, for that matter. It’s not the conscious search for metaphysical meaning that’s primarily at play here, but the subconscious search for meaning in a much simpler sense, as in “what made that noise?” I can try to elaborate later, if anyone’s interested, once the church music and voices in my head subside.
Anyway, “Homo religiosus” struck me as an interesting term so I typed it into a Google search and turned up this comic strip critique of Armstrong’s book. If you’re offended by comic representations of Jesus or Mohammad, don’t look.