D’Souza challenge: Chapter Two

Chapter two is titled “Survival of the Sacred: Why Religion is Winning.” D’Souza begins by imagining evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins and anthropologist Scott Atran as being dumbfounded when it comes to supplying a rational evolutionary explanation as to why religion survives. He brings up some valid points. Religion is costly to individuals and to societies. It consumes a great deal of resources especially in our monument-building past. This is nothing new. Religion helps cement a society together, that doesn’t make it right, good, or true. Being at war with a common enemy accomplishes the same thing.

He refers to several atheists as “Darwinists,” a term only used pejoratively by theists to describe a person who understands the theory of evolution. He writes that “Darwinists are hoping that by explaining the existence of religion they can expose its natural roots and undermine its supernatural authority” (14).  D’Souza then quotes Dawkins as saying, “The proximate cause of religion might be hyperactivity in a particular node of the brain.” D’Souza intentionally chose a weak sentence, making Dawkins sound like he was guessing or just thinking aloud. He didn’t cite the quote either so I’m not sure exactly where it came from, but the topic is discussed at length in chapter five of The God Delusion. Dawkins combines his ideas with Dennett’s work and explores the ways in which we are “psychologically primed for religion” (208). It’s a great read if you haven’t read it already. Our pattern recognition “software” finds faces in the darkness and sees spirits everywhere. Early forms of religion, like ancestor worship, are partially explained by this human trait.

D’Souza’s main argument in his short 2000 word “chapter” is that religion is growing because religious people are having more babies. He brings up some sociological factors dealing with the decline of fertility rates in Europe and attempts to explain this phenomenon as being directly related to the happiness and sense of community created by religion. He even claims that society, in the past, viewed children as gifts from God and that “traditional cultures still view them that way” (18). He failed to mention that more traditional cultures also practice infanticide, genital mutilation, and child marriages. But that isn’t the worst of it, his entire diatribe about fertility rates and religion completely ignores one extremely important factor; women. He claims that religious people have more children because they have a “zest for life” and because in poorer countries sex is “one of their only means of recreation.” Even his explanation of lower birth rates in Europe leaves out the role of women. The truth is that more educated, egalitarian societies have less children because women are in control of their own reproductive rights. The religious countries that D’Souza refers to, but never specifically names, are the countries where women have no freedom, no access to contraception, and no chance at upward mobility through education. That’s why he leaves out specifics. Even in America some women are trained from birth to be subservient baby machines and punished for independent thought. This is where religion wins, this is where freedom loses. D’Souza intentionally puts the right’s of women aside in his explanation of fertility rates among religious people.

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