Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta rose to some level of national prominence with the publication of his book I Sold My Soul on eBay. His blog, Friendly Atheist, is among the various mills of unbelief I read to stay current on popular atheism. In a recent post, Mehta upbraided New York Times editorialist Nicholas Kristof for “not getting” atheists. Kristof had commended a few skeptics whose books highlight religion’s power “as an ethical and cohesive force,” so that religious belief aids the building of societies. In this line of thought, even granting an evolutionary perspective, religion has been a profoundly helpful adaptation, despite the fact that ritual and ceremony have no obvious immediate survival benefits.
Mehta counters, indirectly:
No one ever argued religion wasn’t powerful…. But the “New Atheists” are right that religion is harmful and irrational. More importantly, religious beliefs are untrue. There’s no credible evidence Jesus rose from the dead, people go to heaven and hell, that your prayers get answered, or that God talks to you.
Religion may give you hope, but that hope rests on you accepting a lie. I, and many other atheists, don’t want to live that way.
Mehta’s argument is straightforward: even if a religious belief increases personal peace and goodwill within a community, we ought not believe it if we know is that it is false. The side benefits of a belief are never enough to justify holding false belief. His point is fair enough, as far as it goes, but Mehta’s problem is that he doesn’t go quite far enough. Read more about Living a Lie