… and that Steve Pinker has been trashing his ideas (all these guys are atheists, by the way). Here:
I suppose the atheist-bashing of arrogant pundits like Gray derives from their claim that we’re disbelieving for the wrong reasons. But I suggest that “not enough evidence” is a reason that’s perfectly sufficient. As for the “value of myth” in helping humanity, I’d like to see some examples. As an atheist who nevertheless promotes religious belief, Gray is simply advancing the condescending Little People Argument. If we need myth, how about simple but clearly fictional stories that espouse racial and sexual equality and note the horrible consequences of prejudice. Why do we need to accrete those stories around scripture that is not only claimed to be true, but has a lot of bad side effects? Why the Bible instead of, say, Maus? (Actually, Maus is a graphic novel—a very wonderful one—based on real events.)
Really, one would have to be blind to claim that every rejection of reason of humanity’s ancient days remains with us, and has kept us from advancing, both scientifically and morally. Morally because, as Steve Pinker showed in The Better Angels of Our Nature, it is reason that has led to the decline of violence on Earth, as well as other salubrious (and probably inexorable) changes in attitudes. For what is it but reason that has led us to recognize that heterosexual adult white European males hold no special moral privilege over gays, people of other ethnicities, or women? Or that children should be not be worked to death and animals mistreated? Those advances did not come from religion, although some churches promoted more liberal attitudes. Had equality been inherent in Christianity (or Judaism or Islam) from the outset, and had scripture been a myth that promoted good behavior, most of those improvements in morality would have taken place by the Middle Ages, not in the last two centuries.
Anyone who thinks that violence has declined in the last century must have slept through most of it or be remarkably poorly informed.
Well, sartorially, gray is better than pinker, if one must choose, but … quit hogging the cream pitcher!
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