Thomson has absolutist logic
I agree with Dr. J. Anderson Thomson Jr. [September 30 cover story] that religious fanaticism, coupled with our human tendency toward violent herd mentality, is one of the more alarming phenomena operating in our current world. However, I cannot share Thomson's happy, if naive, belief that if people would "wake up" to his atheist vision, the world would become a less violent place.
To hold that belief would be to ignore the millions who died under the (secular) totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Stalin, and who continue to die in non-religious killings around the world. Gang rapes are presumably not led by bearers of the cross, any more than the male-bonded coalitions of murderous apes Thomson cites go into battle screaming, "Allahu Akhbar."
Thomson conflates all religion with religious fanaticism. In doing so, he ignores the good that has come out of the world's religions. For example, while Thomson wishes us to realize that we are all "truly brothers and sisters," he fails to acknowledge the imperative, in both the Jewish and Christian Bibles, to do just that, in love for our neighbors and acts of charity and loving kindness.
Moreover, Thomson would have us embrace our common human origin. In Judaism, we are taught that since we are said to descend from Adam and Eve– whether one believes these figures real or mythical – no one has the right to boast that his or her origin is better than that of another. The Bible story then serves as an illustration of the common (African) origin that Thomson touts.
Thomson says we must learn that we are our "brother's keeper." Where has he read these words in the first place?
Thomson's segue from despising fanaticism to despising all religions is as simple-minded as some people's belief that because they (or their leaders) are Christians, Moslems, or Jews, they can do no wrong. Thomson's logic is not the opposite of fanaticism. It is the opposite side of the same, absolutist coin.
As one of many practicing Jews who is perfectly content to be a "risen ape," I don't believe religion and science to be antithetical. Science, like religion, can be used for good or evil– witness the Nazi doctors, or builders of weapons of mass destruction.
Most people of faith I know find their belief system a source of ethics, poetry, and music, as well as an imperative to look beyond our simian selves and the question of where our next banana is coming from.