Why An Agnostic Philosopher Says We’re All ‘Religious’

Cathy Lynn Grossman in Publishers Weekly:

53534-v1-600xStephen Asma, a philosophy professor at Columbia College in Chicago, was a childhood Catholic altar boy who grew up to become a “cultural Buddhist” and religion-skewering writer for Skeptic magazine. Now, at 51, he's finds himself agnostic about God, but is asserting Why We Need Religion in his new book due out from Oxford in June.

You write in Why We Need Religion that “… the irrationality of religion does not render it unacceptable or valueless.” Will your unbelieving friends think you’ve lost your mind?

Maybe! But there are a number of people like me who are skeptical about the belief claims of religions yet nonetheless respect it. They haven’t had the voice for what they are thinking. I say religion is actually very good therapy for our emotional lives. It resonates. There are levels of suffering that art and science can’t do much with and religion is very good at. People think of religion as a system of beliefs but it is fundamentally an emotional management system, one that science and any other kind of “cultural technology” cannot offer.

Are we all – including you — inherently “religious” but some of us don’t ‘name it and claim it’?

Yes. We are mammals. Our brains evolved to seek help. Sometimes there is no help to be found with other human beings so your brain and emotions reach out to the universe. Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson don’t need to tell a grieving mother that the religion that gives her solace and the strength to get up and keep going is all fictive. We evolved things such as prayer to manage our spontaneous yearning to survive and flourish. I’m not embarrassed and I don’t think it is intellectually cowardly. Religiosity is in human nature. I don’t kneel down and pray as I did in my childhood. But I allow myself to have spontaneous conversations with the universe.

More here.