While I am an atheist, I think it is an open question what role religion plays in society and whether religious people or atheists think more clearly. These are empirical questions.
I think the New Atheists do a very bad job of reviewing that evidence. Their argument style is polemical. It is that of a lawyer making a case and they make the most negative case possible for religion. In my book, I show that they are simply wrong. They are simply incorrect in many of their statements about religion.
Furthermore, a basic principle of my book is morality binds and blinds. If you are an atheist who treats science as sacred and you call yourself an apostle of science, then you are replicating many of the thinking patterns that you accuse religious people of having, namely, closed-mindedness, blindness to evidence, black and white thinking and attributing the worst motives to your enemies. I think all of these are clearly visible in the writings of the New Atheists.
I am a scientist and an atheist, but I don’t treat science as sacred. I think the empirical facts about religion in America are generally quite positive, and I say that in my book. I’m hoping that my book will give secular people an alternative vision of religion than that offered by the New Atheists.
If the New Atheists were correct, there could be no compromise and we would be in a battle to the death between religion and atheism. But I think they’re not correct and religion and atheism can coexist quite peacefully in this country.
I’m a social scientist. I’m an empiricist, meaning I’m interested in what the evidence says, and the evidence, as collected in particular by Robert Putnam [and David Campbell] in his new book American Grace, the evidence is very consistent and very positive.
Had it turned out that religious people were more violent, racist and selfish, then I would agree with the New Atheists that we should try to reduce the role of religion. But, in fact, that is not the case. Religious people are more generous, more public spirited and happier. So I followed the evidence and the evidence said that religion contributes a great deal to people’s lives and to our nation.