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Should Atheists Promote Religion to Improve Society?

by Ken Daniels, Debunking Christianity

A deist friend of has pointed me to a couple of articles by atheist Theodore Dalrymple: Why Religion Is Good for Us and What the New Atheists Don’t See.

I find these articles both fascinating and puzzling: a self-confessed atheist praises religion for imbuing the lives of millions with meaning, purpose and morality, while castigating recent atheist writers for their simplistic belittlement of religion. Dalrymple’s perspective is best summarized by the following quote:

Though I am not religious, I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible for us to live decently without the aid of religion. That is the ambiguity of the Enlightenment.

I appreciate Dalrymple’s call for personal responsibility, but it strikes me as patronizing for an atheist to say that society needs religion to be decent. Does Dalrymple not consider himself to be decent? If so, how has he managed to maintain his own decency without religion? Does he feel that he has somehow managed to rise above the need for religion while the masses still require it? If so, can they not benefit from the same insights that have allowed him to live morally without religion? He does seem to have a high estimation of the intelligence of the underclasses; why not leverage that intelligence to lead them to an understanding of the benefits of morality without supernaturalism?

I’m writing this post primarily to elicit feedback from believers concerning Dalyrmple’s approach. For which kind of atheist do you have the lesser respect: one who sings the practical benefits of religion or one who advocates putting religion behind us? Before answering this question, perhaps imagine temporarily for the sake of argument that there really are no gods. Also take into consideration Paul’s thoughts in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

In short, do you appreciate being told by an atheist like Dalrymple that, even if your religion is untrue, you should go ahead and maintain your faith because of its contribution to your sense of meaning and morality? Or would you prefer that atheists encourage you to leave your religion if God does not exist?


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