Atheists for religion
2006 me: What's with these pro-religion atheists? Don't they have the courage of their convictions?
2020 me: I've got some bad news; you become one of them.
2006 me: You're joking. How on earth do I go from a New Atheist firebrand to that?
2020 me: Look, it just sort of happens. You know how you keep seeing studies saying religious people are happier, more generous, etc.?
2006 me: Yeah, and they're all flawed! Show me one and I’ll poke holes in it.
2020 me: Well the evidence keeps piling up and eventually denying it looks silly. Religious practice really seems to have positive externalities.
2006 me: What about all the intolerance of gays and lesbians? The promotion of creationism? Those are negative externalities - you're OK with them?
2020 me: No, not at all. Those things are still bad. But once George W. Bush is out of office, marshaling atheist arguments is going to feel a lot less pressing. Evangelicals are still around doing their thing, but they’ve lost some major battles and are no longer an ascendant force.
2006 me: I guess that’s good, but it doesn’t make believing in a god any more correct.
2020 me: Obviously the deity part is crazy. But the overall religion package really seems to be beneficial. Look, you know Dennett's Breaking the Spell?
2006 me: It just came out.
2020 me: Remember how he proposes dissecting religion and finding out how it is able to do the things it does? Well, imagine doing that, and ultimately concluding that we don't know how to separate the god part from the rest of the memeplex.
2006 me: I can sort of see that… but what’s this mean? You don’t go to church, but you pray? Or tithe?
2020 me: No, none of that. But I don’t walk around trying to debate people about religion anymore. If someone says, “I’ll pray for you,” I don’t retort “Will you also sacrifice a goat?”
2006 me: There are better ways to convert people to atheism?
2020 me: Well, probably. But converting people stops seeming like a good goal. At the margin I’d rather see an unattached person become a moderate Methodist or Presbyterian than a militant atheist.
2006 me: What else is going on in 2020?
2020 me: You wouldn't believe me if I told you.