This is a good article, Karl. It seems to me, as a fellow atheist, that there are two quite separate arguments against any form of magical thinking. The first is predicated on the nature of magical thinking itself: infantile, disconnected from reality, simple-minded. Regardless of the mythology in question, the religionist assumes a privileged position from which to judge others and this is always intrinsically unhelpful. The particular quirks of any given mythology merely exacerbate this fundamental problem. Furthermore, the religionist has no core moral values but rather abdicates to whatever they’re told by the leaders of their cult, church, or whatever. This is the precise opposite of morality, regardless of whatever the mythology happens to claim. But arguments of this form are secondary.

The primary argument is simply that all religious mythologies are merely holdovers from an earlier time when we knew nothing about the universe in which we live. It was quite excusable for people even as recently as five hundred years ago to imagine gods and goblins in order to explain natural phenomenon. Our tiny ape-brains seek patterns and when reality doesn’t provide simple enough patterns we create them ourselves. But today, if we had a clean slate, only the unintelligent and uneducated would feel any need to invent gods and goblins. There are no phenomenon for which such invisible magical creatures are required as an explanation. Furthermore, all “where did this all come from if not from my particular god/goblin” statements are void because they imply a pointless regression. Even a small child, with sufficient intelligence, will simply ask, “well then, where did your god/goblin come from?” In other words, invoking one or more invisible magical creatures as an “explanation” for the existence of the universe is a logically null exercise. Therefore one omits it because it has no value whatsoever.

Thus if religions did not exist, we would no longer need to invent them. They persist today merely because our small brains default to whatever we’re told as children and remain largely incapable of dealing with reality as we age. We believe we’re sentient, but this is (as has been demonstrated amply in a great many clinical studies) an illusion. Nevertheless it is an illusion to which a great many cling with increasing desperation as reality intrudes further and further into their tribal beliefs.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.