Introduction

Tom Flynn

What is religion good for? For secular humanists on the atheist side of the spectrum, the reflexive answer is often “Nothing much.” Congregational and religious humanists might object that the great faiths have brought forth towering cultural achievements in domains ranging from architecture, music, and painting to ethics and philosophy. Religions embody some of the richest wisdom developed over millennia of the human quest. Counterfactual, even steeped in error as they are, surely the result of so many person-years of striving cannot be wholly without value for the men and women of today. Yet rationalists can argue that precisely because of their counterfactuality, their rootedness in the naïve guesswork of ancient pastoralists, the religions of old are perforce irrelevant to contemporary concerns and aspirations.

So complex is this question that no single view of it may be possible. Gathered here are three radically distinct perspectives.

This article is available to subscribers only.
Subscribe now or log in to read this article.