This book sees the atheist principles - you can be good without faith in God, you can believe in being universally good without God and science refutes God as false and tries to argue thus.  Christian Smith is Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame and seems to be rehashing worn out Christian objections to atheism.  He thinks atheists are not sticking to what they know but isn't that what he is doing himself?  It depends on what a person reads and he clearly has not read well.

His argument that atheism is unnatural is dangerous.  It calls the atheist a deviant or a pretender. 

POINT MADE BY BOOK: Humans are naturally religious but just as in tendency. Its not a guarantee that they will be.

COMMENT: Suppose there is nothing only the natural. What then? If many people have no religious tendency and many do not then it is nonsense to say there is a natural tendency. Some religions go as far as to say that as God made all people to be say Muslim that all people have a hunger for Islam even if they cannot articulate it or realise it is there.

If there is a supernatural and it is good for us to believe in it then we would expect more than a tendency to think a religion is true or that there is a God.  We would really want to know and serve God.

The natural tends to be confused with things being left to run their course.  Nature is based on that yes but not only that - nature is more about defying itself.  That is why we cannot know by testing if a man is a biological man for nature may program him to be a woman through intervention and how his brain is wired up.  He is a biological woman but in a different way.

Some argue that nature though not deliberately designed is still as good as designed and thus what is natural matters even if there is no God so homosexuality or transgenderism is wrong.  The whole area of natural is more complex than we realise.

If all is natural and just forces falling in order which has to happen in some way at some time then faith and God are nothing special and are just natural products themselves.  In fact we would have to oppose them for they pose as something special.  The natural posing as the transcendent is the natural being a lie.

One appeal religion has is that it to a greater or lesser degree argues for respect for natural ways on moral grounds.  For example, sexual promiscuity is seen as reversing what nature has made you to revert to something more primitive.  This motivation is based on a total error or deliberate blindness.

If religion is natural then things like pious fraud, falsified scriptures, anti-woman, clerical sex abuse and religious violence are religious problems and not just human problems.   It follows that you cannot argue that religion is good for the bad things its people do in its name are just human not religious.

QUOTE AS TO WHY HE THINKS ITS NATURAL TO TEND TO BE RELIGIOUS: The first of these natural tendencies toward religion springs from our universal human epistemic condition. In the final analysis, all humans are believers generally, not knowers with certitude, with respect to what is real.

COMMENT: Nature is not the reason we tend to make do with belief not knowledge!  Nature did not give us limited sight.  Sight just has to be limited.  Nothing can expect you to be able to see the other side of the mountain.

QUOTE: There is no universal, rational foundation upon which indubitably certain knowledge can be built. All human knowing is built on believing. That is the human condition. And that means that religious commitment is not fundamentally different, at bottom, from all other human belief commitments, insofar as religion involves trust in and response to believed-in realities that are not objectively verifiable or universally shared by all reasonable people. Religious believing is thus not at odds with the broad trajectory of all human believing. And that helps to incline people, under the right conditions, toward religion.

COMMENT: Then why does religious belief claim and want a special place in society, the family and in everything?  If religion gives us reasons for morality then those reasons are no better or worse than "bad" atheist reasons.

QUOTE: The human moral condition inescapably involves the making of “strong evaluations” (in Charles Taylor’s words), based on moral beliefs that we take to arise not from our personal preferences and desires but from sources transcending them. It is simply unnatural, in the strongest sense of that word, for humans to think that morality is nothing but a charade, that even the asking of moral questions is wrong-headed, that all moral claims are nothing but relative human constructions.

COMMENT: Relativists are never consistent and don't seem to believe in their ideas themselves which is why they try to use the law and social media to force them on people.

QUOTE: Simply because some feature of human being is natural, that does not mean that it always is or needs to be expressed, acted upon, or found necessary or attractive to all humans or to most humans in any particular culture.


QUOTE: A proper reading of these matters rightly concludes that science is inherently incapable of proving or disproving God’s possible existence. Overreaching atheists who are intellectually honest should moderate their claims that science empirically verifies their beliefs. Finally, contrary to an atheist hope that human societies might readily become secular, human beings turn out to be strongly disposed to believe and practice religion. Humans are not naturally religious in the sense that religion is inevitable in human lives and social institutions. But we are naturally religious in the sense of possessing by nature not only the complex capacities but also the recurrent, strong inclinations to cognize, believe, and observe religious ideas and practices.

COMMENT: As he is wrong to say nature puts a tendency to be religious in us, this would be a hint that the universe does not care what we believe about God or religion so in fact nature is as good as saying we shouldn't waste our time.

QUOTE: The alternative historical tradition, which we might call Augustinian, recognizes a crucial disjunct between reason and will, and locates much immoral behavior not in a flaw in reason but primarily in the misdirection of the will. In the latter tradition, reason can conclude whatever it wishes, but the will has at least a semiautonomy of its own to motivate contrary behaviors to which it might be attracted.

COMMENT: Worth thinking about.

QUOTE: Some of these writers tend to confuse the question of whether atheists have reasons to be morally good with the distinct question of whether atheists can lead meaningful or purpose-filled lives—thus failing to recognize that one could well lead a meaningful life that is anything but morally good (e.g., I have no doubt that the lives of many Nazi fascists were highly meaningful).

COMMENT: Brilliant point. Religion sells itself on its power to give your life meaning.

But if there is a loving God he made us for a purpose.  It will be immoral to go against that purpose for it is missing the mark.  Thus with God-belief meaning and morality are two sides of the same coin.

The atheist worries about that for as Smith said, the Nazis thought their lives were purposeful.  The Nazis did follow their own version of Christianity and they felt protected by some higher power otherwise they would not have went as far as they did as if they were invincible.  Essentially, the spiritual life-purpose outlook is what really tortured and killed the Jews during the Holocaust.

FINALLY: Sam Harris says morality is maximising well-being as much as possible for creatures.  He wrote that as morality is objectively true though there is no God, then it follows that if aliens could eat us all and that would take well-being to its maximum then that would be morally right.  The only objection to that would be saying, life is life.  Five lives are as valuable as one.  All human lives are as valuable as one alien superbeing's who is greater than us all put together.

People think Harris is wrong for

Now we get to the bottom of it - who says that if you can throw a switch to direct a train at one person to save five then don't bother for you are still killing and that is evil?  Only God can say that for it is about saying the number of lives is irrelevant and that needs commanding and is not obvious. 

Harris gets accused of the naturalistic fallacy.  That is he thinks morality can be the same thing as well-being.  Well-being is thought to be a natural thing so it is not about morality.  You cannot equate a moral with a non-moral.

The way to test for the fallacy is to ask, "Why say it is good?"  For that reason it seems you cannot say morality is happiness for who says happiness is good or necessarily good?  It makes sense to ask if hat God says is good is really good.  So God does not help either.  Asking if it is good makes sense and is not like asking, "How did the dog that is dead a week eat his dinner today?"  Or what if you substitute health/well-being for happiness?  You cannot define a part of good as being what good is all about.

Of all the forms of the naturalistic fallacy which one is the worst of them?

Here is the only list of the fallacies we need:

Health - mental and physical - is possible for people so we SHOULD maximise it for them.

Happiness is possible for people so we SHOULD maximise it for them.

God's Command to look after others even strangers can be obeyed and we SHOULD obey it.

The trouble is the shoulds are tacked on.  None of the three give us a should.  We just assume the should.  You get no way of finding out how if you should care for your happiness, wellbeing or your obedience to God why this should be expanded to concern for others.

Morality has to fit the facts.  Morality is based on truth so it has to be that way.  If there is nothing you can do to explain why you SHOULD do good or be kind then it is moral to accept that.  It is immoral not to.

The book tries to make you think you need there to be a God before you can be a moral person to all people. It debunks all theories that say you can even without a God.  But that is virtually saying all you need to do is believe in God and it falls into place even if the moral theories are all wrong and flawed.  But that doe not give you a God that grounds you in morality but one that says, "Just trust me!  I'm right!" Do we really need any theory about why we should help all people?  Suppose we can help them all.  Then we will theory or not.  There is something more heroic and noble about somebody that can't think of moral reasons to help and does it anyway than somebody that has the reasons.  If morality is about treating people well then morality paradoxically will reward you!  If you need God to give you a theory then you are not really into helping them all in the first place.