Atheists, Christians, and Pagans on the social value of religion

Gus diZerega, who co-authored Beyond the Burning Times with my friend Philip Johnson, recently posted some thought provoking comments on Atheists, Christians, and Pagans.

The recent plethora of books by militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens is beginning to generate a good deal of return fire from people writing within the Christian tradition, either as sophisticated adherents or writers recognizing that on balance our society benefited from it rather more than it lost.  … I think we NeoPagans have something of value to add to this debate about the social value of religion.

I agree and think this call to engage is a welcome development. Too often Atheist apologetics is framed in bipolar terms. The standard talk is of “irreligion versus religion” with Christianity, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, being seen as the primary representative of “religion”. In a pluralistic society such as our own I see this as deeply myopic and deeply problematic, so I welcome Pagans to the conversation and wish them well in broadening it.

I am also encouraged that Gus avoids the easy stereotypes of Christianity and Paganism which promises to lift the conversation to a higher and more mutually respectful level.

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