There's a piece by Nicholas Buxton (who was in a reality TV show set in a Monastery) in yesterday's Guardian about why secularism is flawed. Although Buxton acknowledges that religion may be incorrect, he still thinks that it is necessary.
Buxton claims that life without religion would not be worth living:
"If we truly believed that life was meaningless, we would have no reason to get up in the morning - ultimately, the most rational thing to do would be to jump over the edge of a cliff. In other words, religion is our way of making sense out of nonsense, necessary precisely because life, in and of itself, may well be meaningless. To be religious is simply our way of expressing what it means to be human; we could no more cease being religious than cease being artistic or political."
So why don't I feel the urge to throw myself of a cliff in despair at the meaninglessness of life? Because I don't need life to have an extrinsic meaning. Buxton makes it sound like having a life is such a dreadful thing that we need to have a higher meaning in order to get through the day. I'm very sad that he feels like that. Me, I'm happy to be alive.
Buxton moves on to the classic tactic of claiming that secularists are religious really:
"The second mistake secularists make is that they fail to acknowledge the foundational assumptions - "dogmas" by any other name - underpinning their own worldview. ... When it comes to ethics, secularists are forced to assert that we behave morally and responsibly because it is "human nature" to do so. But what do they mean by human nature? This abstract notion is no different from a religious absolute, and performs exactly the same role in the sentences in which it is used as "God" does in the sentences in which He features."
Buxton seems to have a bit of a bee in his bonnet about Marxism and doesn't seem to address secular ethics in general. Humanism is very different from a religious absolute. Humanism treats morality as something we need to constantly assess and improve. "God" provides 'just because' answers to ethical questions, humanism provides 'to the best of our knowledge' answers. I know which I prefer.
Finally, Buxton suggests that religion is needed to keep us in check:
"Secularism has a more worrying implication, however. Without religion's insight that human beings are essentially flawed, we lose all checks on our hubristic pride, and risk making a false god of our own scientific genius, even though there is no evidence to support the belief that society advances in tandem with science."
Why do religious people always assume that rationalists treat science as a religion, or that we worship humanity? The whole point of being rational is that we don't treat anything as sacred. The scariest thing in the world to me is someone in a position of power claiming that they have God on their side - who loses all checks on their hubristic pride then?
All-in-all, the piece reads like a pseudo-intellectual attempt by Buxton to convince himself that religion is necessary because he feels that without it, he would have nothing. Buxton is currently doing a PhD thesis on Buddhist philosophy at the University of Cambridge. I hope they hold him to higher standards of research and reasoning than those exhibited in this article.