the Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion


Are direct arguments against religious beliefs likely to dissuade their votaries? The anecdotal evidence seems to suggest not; robust attacks by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, it is said, only annoy the faithful and make them dig further in. I am not so sure about this. In my experience, waverers and Sunday-only observers can find forthright challenges to religious pretensions a relief and a liberation. They give them the reason, sometimes the courage, to abandon those shreds of early-acquired religious habit that cling around their ankles and trip them up. Still, Darwin and David Lewis-Williams have a point in thinking, as the former put it, that “direct arguments against [religion] produce hardly any effect on the public, and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follows from the advance of science”. In the preface to this book, Lewis-Williams says that he intends to follow Darwin’s strategy, seeking to achieve by flanking manoeuvres what Dawkins and Hitchens attempt by cavalry charge.

more from A C Grayling at The New Statesman here.