Atheists and religious fanatics are equally wrong about God, argues professor and philosopher William Egginton. To do right by humankind, he says, just a little belief means a lot.
Of all the subjects to broach. Of all the things to bring up. Is there any better way to get people at each other than to ask them about God? Hordes have been dispatched to the Great Beyond, or at least the grave, over the issue of His nature, or whom He favors. Religion, in grand historical terms, has meant breaking out the slingshots and scimitars. In modern times, avid nonbelievers have added their (often loud) voices to the fray. You’d think the last thing a sensible, introspective person would want to do is get in the crossfire. Even if one were to write a thoughtful treatise that pleads for the moderate uses of religion in furthering the aims of humankind, he would risk becoming the enemy of the two poles of the U.S. culture wars.
Yet that’s exactly what William Egginton has done. In his book In Defense of Religious Moderation, published this month by Columbia University Press, Egginton argues that fervent believers and nonbelievers share more than they’d care to admit: a certainty that goes beyond the bounds of reason and does little more than polarize people. Their ongoing metaphysical shouting match has real-world consequences, Egginton argues. It keeps society from moving forward.