I have rejected holding religious beliefs myself, not because I feel that their effects are bad, but because I think none of them are true.
So I think religious claims are false, but do I think everyone should make rational truth their priority and reject religion?
I hope that even if I went down the Dawkins road in terms of having no truck with religion at all, I would still empathise with believers. I don’t really feel any need to bash irrationality (however much it irritates me) – no-one is perfectly rational and I do not think salvation of the human race lies in rationality alone. I do, however, feel myself to be much better off being freed from the religious mindset. But is that just me, or would it be the case for everyone?
I feel I need to have humility about this question and be open-minded. I don’t want to say that I already know of all the effects of religious belief and that I can be sure a person is always better off without it on balance. If there really is no ideal, it is impossible to say this. My feeling is that when there is good in something, it cannot be written off, because there is always the possibility that there will be some situation or variant of it in which the good outweighs any bad.
Maybe religion is like TV: neither good nor bad in itself; only its content makes it good or bad. It would perhaps be a mistake to assume it’s always bad in every incarnation. My logic tells me that if some beliefs can have effects on people that I would consider bad, it must also be possible for some beliefs to have effects that I would consider good. I can see no reason why having your strength of belief turned up higher than the level of objective evidence is categorically bad. It is categorically irrational, certainly, but not categorically bad in its effects.
To say that faith is categorically bad is to deny that the collective human imagination is capable of coming up with ideas that serve us and edify us more than the bare rational truth does. I don’t know that there’s enough evidence to say that with any certainty. 😛