For Immediate Release: September 10, 2014
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - 207-358-9785

Religion: What is it Good For?
Free Inquiry Magazine Poses the Question

Three Experts Weigh in with Three Very Different Answers

FI oct nov 2014

Secular humanism rejects religion as a means of explaining reality or providing moral guidance. But is there any good that can come from religion? Three scholars, experts in ethics, history, and philosophy, tackle this consequential question from three very different angles in the latest issue of Free Inquiry magazine.

Catholic ethicist Daniel C. Maguire says yes, there is good to be had from religion, though not from blind faith but rather by the "salvage of old wisdom" from traditional faiths. Maguire, recognizing religions' inability to solve our greatest existential crises, nonetheless writes that they are "at their root poetry-rich philosophies that have hit on things that are stunningly relevant, with no authority behind them other than good sense."

Historian Thomas Tandy Lewis says, firmly, no, religion bears too much of the baggage of humanity's worst manifestations, citing specifically the genocidal mania of the god of the New Testament, and how this zeal for conquest and ethnic cleansing has poisoned the identities of whole cultures well into modern times. Lewis writes that regardless of the truth of biblical accounts of genocide, "belief in its accuracy has had a significant and unfortunate impact on the behavior of Christians and Jews living in subsequent centuries."

Philosophy professor Andy Norman takes a step back from the specific claims of particular religious traditions and decries faith itself as irrelevant to public discourse. Moreover, he argues, "religious talk is profoundly corrosive of civil society." Norman calls for a wall of separation that is far mightier than the one provided by American law. "By quietly subverting expectations of rational accountability," he writes, "religious talk undermines reason’s power to reconcile, civilize, and humanize us."

Also in this issue: Free Inquiry Editor Tom Flynn surveys a terrible year for secularists in the courts;David Koepsell advocates for an emphasis on social norms over legal battles in order to advance secularism; columnists Greta Christina and Shadia Drury offer two distinct views of the harm that can result from keeping one’s atheism “in the closet”; Ronald A. Lindsay reviews Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's new book Plato at the Googleplex; and much more.

The October/November 2014 issue of Free Inquiry is available on newsstands now.

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Free Inquiry is a bimonthly magazine, published by the Council for Secular Humanism, featuring thoughtful and provocative commentary from such leading political and social commentators as Arthur Caplan, Greta Christina, Nat Hentoff, and Russell Blackford. Launched in 1980, Free Inquiry has a paid circulation of approximately 34,000 worldwide.