Religion, Secularism, and Mystery

To follow up on my early post Christopher Hitchens v. God, Jonah at the Frontal Cortex has some insightful comments on religion and secularism. The money quote:

When people like Dawkins attack wimpy agnostics or moderate believers, they forget that many atheists aren’t uber-rationalists. They carry around tarot cards, not The Selfish Gene.

Jonah also makes a good point that science and religion may not have irreconcilable differences:

It’s important to note that science isn’t necessarily in conflict with our need to believe in some sort of mystery. Modern science, after all, has discovered some of the craziest ideas around, from the principles of quantum physics to the fact that our head holds a trillion cells trafficking in minor jolts of electricity. These ideas are both materialist and mysterious, since they hint at a universe that exceeds the current capacities of our imagination. What Hamlet said to Horatio is still true.

This sort of analysis seems to me far more nuanced and interesting than that advanced by what I’ll call the “vulgar atheists” — Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, et al.

Christopher Hitchens vs. God

Christopher Hitchens goes to war against religion–on a recent episode of Radio Open Source: “Religion does not say that there is a mystery. Religion says there is an answer to a mystery.” It’s an interesting observation, but, I think, wrong.

For a hyper-rationalist, Hitchens resorts to a lot of irrational attacks. If nothing else, his caustic approach is probably not winning many converts.

Although he refuses to admit it, I think his problem is really with fundamentalists, not with religion. By taking such a polemical approach, though, he is probably selling more books.

Check out his appearance on the show, as well as the follow-up on a later show (and comments).

Radio Open Source is a rare example of a successful melding of old and new media. Often traditional media efforts to create a web-based “community” around an existing show fall flat. Open Source was started as a multimedia show, though, and maybe that’s why it works.