Moral Animal

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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/24/opinion/the-moral-animal.html?_r=0 The Moral Animal
By JONATHAN SACKS
Jonathan Sacks is the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and a member of the House of Lords. Published: December 23, 2012
IT is the religious time of the year. Step into any city in America or Britain and you will see the night sky lit by religious symbols, Christmas decorations certainly and probably also a giant menorah. Religion in the West seems alive and well. But is it really? Or have these symbols been emptied of content, no more than a glittering backdrop to the West’s newest faith, consumerism, and its secular cathedrals, shopping malls? At first glance, religion is in decline. In Britain, the results of the 2011 national census have just been published. They show that a quarter of the population claims to have no religion, almost double the figure 10 years ago. And though the United States remains the most religious country in the West, 20 percent declare themselves without religious affiliation — double the number a generation ago. Looked at another way, though, the figures tell a different story. Since the 18th century, many Western intellectuals have predicted religion’s imminent demise. Yet after a series of withering attacks, most recently by the new atheists, including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, still in Britain three in four people, and in America four in five, declare allegiance to a religious faith. That, in an age of science, is what is truly surprising. The irony is that many of the new atheists are followers of Charles Darwin. We are what we are, they say, because it has allowed us to survive and pass on our genes to the next generation. Our biological and cultural makeup constitutes our “adaptive fitness.” Yet religion is the greatest survivor of them all. Superpowers tend to last a century; the great faiths last millenniums. The question is why. Darwin himself...
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