Thoughtful commentary from Razib over at Gene Expression on Alan Jacobs’s Wall Street Journal piece “Too Much Faith In Faith.” The topic is one I’ve commented on myself here and elsewhere: What does religion cause to happen? The New Atheists’ answer is: “All bad things!” Believers reply: “No, all good things!” Razib points out how naive both answers are, and stresses the difficulty of untangling religious from other motives.
… religion is such an expansive phenomenon, intercalated with other social processes, that we need to be very careful in ascribing any particular good or evil to religion as such. In point #2 I try to point out that the psychology of religion is also rather complex, and how people relate to their religion, and the explanations they offer about how they relate, should be taken with a grain of salt. These are generally negative points, expressions of skepticism and agnosticism about the assertions which religionists and anti-religionists regularly make. In The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason Sam Harris naively explores the irrationality of religion by taking at face value the assertions of religionists. To me this is like making inferences about mantle geophysics by examining what you see from satellite photographs in terms of surface topography.