Jaron Lanier in Discover:
I’ve kept quiet during the past year or so of high-profile science/religion bickering because I assumed there would be no use for yet another voice in the agitated crowd. As it happens, though, the approach to science/religion questions that I prefer has remained almost entirely unrepresented, so now I will join in.
Sadly, the first question to ask about any religious practice these days is whether it’s likely to turn violent. Sure, binary cultists look cute on video, but will they be storming a data center in São Paulo in a few years?
Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett have recently led a charge against religion, and one of their main accusations is that religion encourages violence. This claim recalls similar ones that violent video games or pornography cause criminal behavior. Sometimes they might, but sometimes they clearly don’t. It’s hard to isolate causes of human violence because violence is so common.
What if religion can serve either to incite or reduce violence, depending on some details that we have the good fortune to be able to influence?