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Is Religion Dangerous?

Keith Ward (Lion Hudson Pic: September 1, 2006), 224 pages.

Although he lacks the glibness, arrogance, and fame of best-selling antireligionists Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, Ward neatly cuts the ground from under such global-village atheists. He points out their definitional haziness about the key terms religion and the paltriness of the evidence for their claims, and their reliance on outdated, unverifiable anthropological and psychological speculations. And that’s only in the introduction. Religion and violence, religion and irrationality, religion and morality, and whether religion does more harm than good are the topics of the short book’s four parts proper, and in each Ward demonstrates that clear, consistent, and logical relationships between ill effects and religious motivations cannot be established. If religion is violent, how to explain Quakers and Buddhists? If irrational, then those philosophical reconcilers of reason and faith Kant, Descartes, and Aquinas must be refuted. Religious belief seems immoral only when scripture is cherry-picked, and whether religion harms more than helps the person and society has yet to be demonstrated. Ward argues with the findings of social science research and philosophy rather than scripture, and he concludes with boilerplate ecumenism only after having reassured readers that God-bashing celebs don’t, perhaps can’t, know what they’re yakking about. ~ Ray Olson for Booklist