According to Richard Dawkins, religion is ‘the root of all evil’, and the teaching of religion to children is tantamount to ‘child abuse’. Not to be outdone, Christopher Hitchens declares that ‘religion poisons everything’.
Now, I do not hold a brief to defend either the truth or the goodness of religion generally. We must distinguish between what is good, what is neutral, and what is actually evil in religion.
But we should not assume that the blanket condemnation of all religions by Dawkins et al is condoned by all atheists.
My attention was drawn to an interesting article written some time ago by Niall Ferguson, a Scot who is Professor of History at Harvard University. Ferguson describes himself as ‘a hard-shelled materialist’, so I presume he must also regard himself as an atheist. Nevertheless, he thinks that ‘we’ (by which he means the British) ‘must rekindle our religion’ (by which he means the Christian faith).
Ferguson cites the well-known aphorism that “When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing. They believe in anything.” He notes the drastic down-turn in Christian observance in this country dating back to the 1960s. He observes that, as Chesterton and others predicted, this has made our country a soft target not only for superstition, but also for religious fanaticism.
He concludes, remarkably:-