Below, agnostic Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God, discusses religion and atheism with atheist John Horgan. Wright has a rather novel view of religion and atheism, seeing both of them as morally neutral, with their “demonic” sides only being activated wherever they are set into zero sum games (as in the Middle East and the Soviet Union in the 1930s), and their “angelic” sides activated when non-zero sum games are at work (as on a university campus where opposing sides are well fed and clothed and can have a respectful discussion). This ecological approach to ideology strikes me as fresh. Wright has also written, by the way, a book on zero and non-zero sum games titled Nonzero, and in bringing zero sum analysis to religion and atheism, I think something is being added. Horgan, however, seems skeptical.
In any event, a good exchange.
Oh, and BloggingHeads TV (from which the clip comes) gets some of its money from the Templeton Foundation. I point this out because it looks to me like BloggingHeads TV is a good project to fund, and it undermines (at least to my mind) the notion that Templeton is a bad grant foundation to work with:
I think that it’s interesting that, by the end of the clip, Wright and Horgan converged on something that they both agree on: non-ironic proselytizing theism and atheism (monotheism and monoatheism) are problematic.
I take from this clip two key ideas:
- Religion and atheism are probably neutral phenomena that can be activated to evil or moral ends depending on the environment that they are functioning in; and
- Proselytizing and universalizing impulses (monotheism and monoatheism) are problematic.