Question: What do you believe?
Jonathan Haidt: I believe that while there is no God or external intelligence, I believe that we humans do better when we can orient ourselves around common goals, common purposes, common ideals.
I believe our brains evolved with our cultures, so that we have religious brains that are designed to be immersed in religious cultures. In other words, religion is not a trick or a disease, as Richard Dawkins and [Daniel] Dennett tell us.
Religion is an adaptation. It’s one that we have freed ourselves in some ways; and then we’re puzzled as to why most of our fellow citizens, at least in the United States, cling to it.
So I believe that in our community of liberal, secular scientists, we will not progress. We will not understand the true nature of society until we open our minds, especially to religious ideas, not that there is a God, but that religion is adaptive. Our brains are built for it, and if we’re going to find ways to live with both religious diversity and to make a space for atheists, like me, we need to understand what religion does and what are some workable alternatives to it.
Recorded on: May 9, 2008