An atheist who “gets” religion
Tim Crane isn’t an angry or arrogant atheist. He simply believes that nothing exists beyond the realm of scientific explanation.
He has nothing against religious believers. As a matter of fact, Crane, who grew up with a Catholic education, pretty much “gets” religious people … even though he’s convinced they’re wrong. But he doesn’t blame them. He’s more bothered by those angry, arrogant atheists, those who look down their noses at religious people. It’s a tactic that Crane is convinced simply doesn’t work. Arrogant atheism doesn’t convert believers; it just turns them off.
Crane believes atheists need to change their ways when relating to people of faith—starting by understanding what religion is, he concludes in his new book, THE MEANING OF BELIEF: Religion From an Atheist’s Point of View.
The New York Times explains in its review:
“In a spirit of reconciliation, Crane proposes to paint a more accurate picture of religion for his fellow unbelievers. Religion is an immense, sprawling and variegated affair. Any attempt to define it, however comprehensive, will omit some aspects, and most attempts to define it, however crude, will capture something. The name of the game is what you see as central. Crane resists the notion, common to combative atheists, that the core of religion is an archaic cosmology (beliefs about things like the origin of the universe and supernatural agents) grafted onto a moral code. If you conceive of religion this way, as bad science plus arbitrary injunctions, of course you will think it should be replaced by good science and rational ethics.
“For Crane, the religious worldview is better understood as the combination of two attitudes. First: a sense of the transcendent, of an unseen moral order to the universe, often known as God. Second: an identification with a community that tries to ‘make sense of the world’ by attempting to bring its members into alignment with this moral order through a tradition of narratives and rituals. Crane concedes there is a cosmology here; a belief in the transcendent is ‘a claim about the universe.’ He also grants that religion, like science, is trying to explain things. But the kind of explanation and the kind of cosmology offered by religion, which does not ‘expect all aspects of the world to be intelligible,’ are nothing like those of science, which strives to eliminate mystery.”
The review concludes Crane “believes religion can be a rational, ‘intelligible human reaction to the mystery of the world.'”
The same review goes on to comment on new books by sociologist Christian Smith (RELIGION: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It Matters) and theologian John F. Haught (THE NEW COSMIC STORY: Inside Our Awakening Universe).
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