“The bus ads suggest a utilitarian reason for skepticism: you’ll enjoy life more. The only touchstone that I can possibly imagine for deciding whether or not to adopt any particular belief is its truth, in this case: Does the evidence of human experience support the claim that we are attended to by a loving, personal God? Even if the conclusion that we have no ‘Friend’ in the sky leads inevitably to melancholy or dissatisfaction, it is better to live unhappily in truth than happily in delusion, in my view. (As I have written before, however, I am puzzled by the claim that life would be meaningless without God. Schubert wrote some 600 songs, nearly every one of them a gem of lethal beauty and exquisiteness. You want something more?)”

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“I will donate $10,000 to him, or give it to any children’s charity he names. All I ask is that he goes into a studio and gives me 20 minutes on why there is no God and why evolution is scientific. Then I will give 20 minutes on how we can know God exists and why evolution is nothing more than an unsubstantiated and unscientific fairy tale for grownups. Then we both will have 10 minutes to respond.”

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“Brain scanning has indeed shown particular bits of the brain lighting up with activity when people pray, look at pictures of the Virgin Mary or recollect intense religious experiences. Richard Harries said: ‘It would not be surprising if God had created us with a physical facility for belief.’…

When we understand how our brains generate religious ideas, and what the Darwinian adaptive value of such brain processes is, what will be left for religion?”

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“The truth is, however, that if you go to South America, you will find a huge number of conversions to Protestant Christianity. If you go to Korea, you will find Christian churches with 100,000 members. If you go to China, you will find 100 million Christians. And if you go to Africa, you’ll find that countries whose populations were only five percent Christian 100 years ago are now 50 percent Christian. These trends have not gone unnoticed by historians, who are startled by them and have attempted to explain them away, and they are the empirical basis for my claim that God is doing very well in this world. What’s important to understand is that the New Atheism is not a triumphant cry of success, but rather a bitter reaction to the success of religion.”