Andrew Sullivan, in his ‘Daily Dish’ blog, today quotes philosopher Daniel Dennett on clergy who have lost faith but continue to be priests. Professor Dennett is famed for being a compatabilist–someone who believes that free will and determinism are compatable–and for being one of the Four Horsemen, a group of prominent, intellectual, activist atheists.
Dennett’s compatability on free will and determinism fails him on religion and atheism. For Dennett, religious belief is irrational and self-limiting. To be a believer is to be in the clutches of superstition and subject to wild flights of emotional insensibility. Lapsed priests are rarely able to break free from the “tragic trap” of their religious career path.
Religiosity is not “tragic,” and it is not a “trap.” Religion will always be a normal, integral part of human socialization, just as atheism will always be a normal skeptical response to metaphysical claims. Neither is ever going to conquer the other; they both will endure forever as part of being a normal human.
That’s what compatability is: the eternal binding of complete opposites, like the pluralism of the Yin and Yang, where one cannot even exist without the presence of the other. Dennett’s religious/atheist incompatabilism is what is truly ‘self-limiting.’