The other day I dissected Ross Douthat’s long-form NYT essay, “A guide to finding faith.” In short, it was dire, but no worse than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. His thesis was that, in this age of science, empiricism gives us more reason than ever to believe in God, especially Douthat’s Catholic God. It still baffles me why the NYT would publish such tripe, but the proportion of tripeish material in the paper is approaching that of a bistro in Normandy.
But the readers have responded, and you’ll find five letters at the site below (click on link). Four of them are critical of organized religion, while one misguided soul supports Douthat. There are two notable letters in the former category, and I’ll reproduce them below.
To the Editor:
On a weekend when fundamentalist Muslims were winning a war against the United States, and as fundamentalist Christians demand the right to cause their fellow Americans to suffer and die from a preventable disease, Ross Douthat had the gall to tell me that I ought to accept the same primitive explanations that led directly to their fundamentalism. Hard pass.
To the Editor:
Ross Douthat is so frantic in his campaign to stop the erosion of faith in faith that he can’t resist twice committing the sin I call lying for Christ.
First, he unaccountably misinterprets the meaning of the title of my book “Breaking the Spell,” which called for scrutinizing the phenomena of religion with the same objectivity we adopt when studying viral pandemics.
Second, he misinterprets illusionism, the well-evidenced theory that says that evolution has designed us to be conscious of an efficient oversimplification of the physical world: a user-illusion that helps us track the features of the world that matter to us.
It is ironic that Mr. Douthat himself breaks the spell, taking a hard look at the difficulties confronting would-be religious believers today. His recommendation that they cultivate a return to the mind-set of the Dark Ages is particularly telling. We secularists can glory in the wonders of “creation” without the nagging worries he exposes.Daniel C. Dennett
The writer is co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University.