…even more dismaying is the quasi-religious intellectual posturing of those who seek the demise of religion. If religious people deny paradise to their opponents or to “non-believers,” atheists would likewise seek to eliminate “dangerous” believers with their “childish” ways and their heads in the clouds. One would have thought that the only truly humanistic attitude – midway between two theses that cannot prove themselves definitively – would be to make a commitment to ongoing debate, and then actively to pursue it out of concern for mutual intellectual integrity. It is only through such a clash of ideas that we learn to be self-critical and approach intellectual humility.
It is for this reason that the twenty-first century – along with the sort of hubristic atheists it has produced – needs the continuing presence of religion, in just the same way that religion must confront the real challenges posed by the fiercest critics of its day in order to sharpen the conscience of those who study the timeless sacred texts. This much was acknowledged by the vast majority of the more than one thousand students present at the Cambridge debate, for when it came time to vote the audience found Dawkins and his supporters in the wrong.