It’s a tough time to defend religion. Respect for it has diminished in almost every corner of modern life — not just among atheists and intellectuals, but among the wider public, too. And the next generation of young peoplelooks likely to be the most religiously unaffiliated demographic in recent memory.

There are good reasons for this discontent: continued revelations of abuse by priests and clerics, jihad campaigns against “infidels” and homegrown Christian hostility toward diversity and secular culture. This convergence of bad behavior and bad press has led many to echo the evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson’s claim that “for the sake of human progress, the best thing we could possibly do would be to diminish, to the point of eliminating, religious faiths.”

Despite the very real problems with religion — and my own historical skepticism toward it — I don’t subscribe to that view. I would like to argue here, in fact, that we still need religion.

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