More on Belief and Reason, A Believer’s Response

In the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Will Joyner its editor:

In the previous issue of the bulletin (autumn 2006), I commented that the tension between religious belief and the often overloaded, or inappropriately loaded, concept “reason” is, in effect, at the core of every edition of the magazine that we produce. As we have prepared this Winter 2007 edition, that comment has echoed through my mind in a way that’s frankly dispiriting (it’s tempting to see the spate of “new atheism” best sellers as so misrepresentative of religion as to be laughable, fleeting, ignorable) but also constructively troubling. Hence, the “continued” tag on the headline above.

The God Delusion, by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, has come to represent most loudly, and crudely, the notion that religion is the primary root of evil in the world today. There have been several thorough critiques of this book that have exposed the willful flaws of Dawkins’s disingenuous line of argument—the best of these, in my view, was written for a recent issue of The New York Review of Books by H. Allen Orr, a biology professor at the University of Rochester, and I urge everyone to read that essay at the NYRB website. The Dawkins book itself, though, is not as troubling to me as responses such as that of a well-educated, agnostic friend of mine who, without having read The God Delusion, said to me, “Well, I’m sure Dawkins exaggerates, but he does have a point about religion—look at Iraq.”

What the Bulletin can do best in this increasingly skewed, Alice in Wonderland-like atmosphere is at least three-fold.