Baby and Bathwater?

An ostensibly interesting attack on the “New Atheists” here, Bento (via Andrew Sullivan, and scroll down a long way, past the Parrot, to get to the good stuff), but from a self-avowed atheist; what do you think?

Me, I am not sure how this differs significantly from the utilitarian defence of organised religion, namely that it provides a bonding agent to society, a sense of morality, which helps us all function together as teams. The writer makes much of the apparent fact that religious people really really do give more to charity, even secular charities, than the secular generally do. To which the New Atheist would of course reply, bollocks, and point out the argument from utility completely ignores the issue of the veracity of the belief itself, whether it is a good thing for everyone to think things which are not in fact true but rather stark staring bonkers, and once you allow that to be a good thing in the first place you let have a slippery slope to belief in all sorts of nasty things, and a population of cowed simpletons.

Of course, our own dear Spinoza — uncomfortably for you perhaps — would be on the side of the author, ie that it is a good thing for the masses to have their opiate, so long as we Men of Reason know better. What am I to think?