I’m reading G.K. Chesterton’s slim volume on Saint Francis of Assisi. In it, he makes a great little point about the historical setting for said Saint that totally resonates with how I feel about libertarians who hate religion - or i guess any religious atheists for that matter:
To write history and hate Rome, both pagan and papal, [referring to H.G. Wells’ Outline of History] is practically to hate nearly everything that has happened. It comes very near to hating humanity on purely humanitarian grounds. To dislike both the priest and the soldier, both the laurels of the warrior and the lilies of the saint, is to suffer a division from the mass of mankind for which not all the dexterities of the finest and most flexible of modern intelligences can compensate. A much wider sympathy is needed for the historical setting of St. Francis, himself both a soldier and a saint.
If religion doesn’t work so well for you and the concept of spirituality is totally baffling, that’s fine. But becoming hateful or crusading about it seems as ridiculous to me as it would be for Asperger-types to rail against the need for empathy and social skills. You’re obviously just missing some hard-wiring, so leave it alone.
From my vantage point, the temptation to impute great explanatory power to superstitions and conjectures where observable effects would otherwise have no known explanation is hardly "baffling." It's an essential part of the human pattern-seeking brain. And in this, science and religion share the same root source. Where they part is whether those intutions evolve into testable hypotheses or calcify into immutable dogmas.
Thus are we "hard-wired" for many things that may have both positive and negative manifestations. We are social creatures, inclined toward cooperative behavior with fellow members of the pack. One can celebrate how this inclination has yielded nurturing families and the division of labor, while also loathing the tendency of the accompanying "pack loyalty" to stoke the fires of war and prejudice.
Speaking of the pack, we also are hard-wired to establish and respect hierarchies within the pack, a tendency whose evolutionary necessity cannot be denied, but which doesn't withstand even a first blush of moral scrutiny. Even still, one can delineate those manifestations of this hard-wiring that are essentially harmless (children's roughhousing, sporting contests) from those that are clearly vile and disgusting (prison rapes, running for political office.)
One can look to Rome -- to church and to state -- and see extraordinary examples of human potential, but certainly, examples of human fault, folly and flagitiousness also abound. Are we simply to accept it all as the result of "hard-wiring," above or beyond critical analysis because the bad was so thoroughly intermingled with the good? If so, then why ever make any value judgments about anything?
So, yes, I can appreciate the human urge to try to make sense of the senseless and to fish for meaning in the abyss. I revere the majesty of our pattern-seeking brain, and am in awe of all the happy accidents it has bestowed upon us, singularly among the mammals. After all, beavers can build houses, but they can't construct metaphors. Dogs can recognize faces, but they can't spot archetypes. Hyenas can cackle, but they don't appreciate irony.
One can drink in the joy of all of this and more.....and still find religion to be not only a crock of shit, but one whose continuing prevalence in human affairs, at best, stymies progress, and at worst, gives comfort to the worst -- the most base and vile instincts -- that remain hard-wired in the circuitry of mankind.