as for whether atheism can fill that notorious “God-shaped hole,” well [says Jerry Coyne] it obviously can. Look at Sweden and Denmark—indeed, much of northern Europe—where atheism is common. And yet the inhabitants are not casting about wildly for something to replace faith. To some extent the state has met those needs, by providing health care, help for the sick and aged, social services, unemployment, maternity/paternity leave, and so on. And people’s “needs” to engage with other humans seem to have been met in those countries as well. As for the “need” to think that you’ll live on after death, well, I don’t think it’s our responsibility to replace such a lie, and it would be impossible to do so anyway...
as religion wanes—and I think that’s inevitable—those ‘needs’ will be met by secular organizations and practices. Any attempts to set them up in advance, as in Alain de Botton’s prescriptions below, are artificial and will be ineffectual. My view is that we should first cut out the cancer of religion, and then administer what plastic surgery we can to the holes that remain.
At any rate, in a piece called “After God: What can atheists learn from believers?“, the New Statesmen has collected five notables who criticize NA and have published mini-essays on why faith is okay. You need to read this yourself rather than just the summaries I give below, but here’s a brief guidelines to the beefs of the faithful and faitheists... A slew of apologists and atheist butters in The New Statesman « Why Evolution Is TrueMy view: intolerant, fundamentalist, hell-breathing faith IS a cancer... but not all faith is that way. Admittedly, here in the south it can sometimes feels that way. In any case, the New Atheists aren't so new any more. Might be time to write another chapter.