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Frequent First Things contributor Alan Jacobs has a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal , ” Too Much Faith in Faith .” It’s a provocative thesis—that Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and all the other atheism-pushers uncritically attribute too large of a role to religion. Jacobs writes that religion doesn’t really affect us all that much:

I am by most measures a pretty deeply committed Christian. I am quite active in my church; I teach at a Christian college; I have written extensively in support of Christian ideas and belief. Yet when I ask myself how much of what I do and think is driven by my religious beliefs, the honest answer is “not so much.” The books I read, the food I eat, the music I listen to, my hobbies and interests, the thoughts that occupy my mind throughout the greater part of every day — these are, if truth be told, far less indebted to my Christianity than to my status as a middle-aged, middle-class American man.

I’m not buying it. Jacobs’ thesis hangs on what we mean by “religion” and what we mean by “driven.” It seems to me, though, that religious traditions, particularly the one to which Jacobs adheres, have shaped the culture in such a way that allows and even creates the possibility for Jacobs’ status as “a middle-aged, middle-class American man.” Consciously and unconsciously, I would bet, Jacobs’ Christian faith—and the Christian tradition more broadly—drives many aspects of his life.

Jacobs closes his piece with this: “But the idea that without religion people would stop seeking power, stop manipulating, stop deceiving, is just wishful thinking of the silliest kind.” Well, perhaps. But is this even the right claim to be refuting? What would Jacob say to those who argue that without religion people would stop seeking compassion, charity, honesty, and justice?



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