Religion and Terror, Cause and Effect

In an article titled The New Naysayers, Newsweek discusses some new books by atheist authors who blame many of the world’s ills on religion. It’s an interesting article, though not much of this material is particularly new. It seems to me that a good deal of writing about history or about the general state of the world is involved with an attempt to blame broad results on some general answer. Christianity destroyed the Roman Empire (it was such a solid structure before Constantine’s conversion), atheism caused communism, and more recently that the theory of evolution has caused just about every evil thing in the world, starting with Nazism.

Now I haven’t read the three books in question, though I intend to read them all. I like both Dennett and Dawkins and enjoy their writing. Note that I don’t mean that I agree, merely that I find it interesting, challenging, and worth thinking through. I’ve read a number of other books by them. Here, however, I’m responding just to the content of the Newsweek article.

Discussing reactions to 9/11, many of which promoted faith, and the discordant message presented by atheists who believed it was religion that was the problem, not the solution, the article notes:

This was not a message most Americans wanted to hear, before or after 9/11. Atheists “are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public,” according to a study by Penny Edgell, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota. In a recent NEWSWEEK Poll, Americans said they believed in God by a margin of 92 to 6

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