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About a month ago New Scientist published a special section on God – I’ve just caught up with my reading. An eye-catching headline, but of course the articles published were more about religion than God, the existence of whom was not necessarily implied. No surprise there.

Even so, there seems to be somewhat of a sea change, at least to the extent of acknowledging the importance of religion. There is, of course, the usual ‘new atheist’ blast, on this occasion from Victor Stenger. The drift of the other articles, however, is not so negative.

The writers assert that religion is an integral part of human nature – so integral, in fact, that religion is likely to outlive science, if ever push comes to shove. This is a great improvement on the view that religions are invented by authoritarian bodies and imposed on everyone else. The article by Ara Norenzayan is particularly thought-provoking, showing that religions create civilisations, not vice versa. Without religion we would still be living in the stone age.

The implication of all this seems obvious. It should be a common concern for humanity not to dispose of religion, as many atheists seek to do, but to encourage better religion. That does not mean performing mental gymnastics, or claiming to have faith when it is absent. It might mean, however, decreasing the criticism of religion and seeking a more positive evaluation.

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