"""So-called new atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens have denounced religious belief as not only retrograde but evil; they regard themselves as the vanguard of a campaign to expunge it from human consciousness. Religion, they claim, creates divisions, strife, and warfare; it imprisons women and brainwashes children; its doctrines are primitive, unscientific, and irrational, essentially the preserve of the unsophisticated and gullible.
These writers are wrong -- not only about religion, but also about politics -- because they are wrong about human nature. Homo sapiens is also Homo religiosus. As soon as we became recognizably human, men and women started to create religions. We are meaning-seeking creatures. While dogs, as far as we know, do not worry about the canine condition or agonize about their mortality, humans fall very easily into despair if we don’t find some significance in our lives. Theological ideas come and go, but the quest for meaning continues. So God isn’t going anywhere. And when we treat religion as something to be derided, dismissed, or destroyed, we risk amplifying its worst faults. Whether we like it or not, God is here to stay, and it’s time we found a way to live with him in a balanced, compassionate manner."""
Armstrong may not pay sufficient attention to the type of hysteria which some neo-atheists rightly object to, yet she raises an important point re the neo-atheist's cold, reductionist view of human nature. A Dawkins reduces religion merely to a search for proof. We can't see an ancient, bearded gent in the skies, or in our telescopes, or microscopes; therefore, He doesn't bloody exist, claim the Dawkinistas.
A rational agnostic should protest most of Dawkins' naive empiricist tactics. A religious Being, or realm might not be an object, as say a person, or planet is an object. Is our concept of Justice identifiable via a microscope? Yet many if not most humans would agree they have such a concept. We imagine a Stalin, Hitler, or Idi Amin stuffed in hell, along with small-town perps and panderers, or corrupt judges, politicians, or newspaper editors who fabricate a person's guilt to appeal to some yokels (yokels are multicultural these days). Modern science routinely operates on the assumption that objects (like subatomic particles) exist which cannot be detected by human sight, but merely inferred. At least, the question is not strictly inductive, as in we can't verify God (as in point to him, like one might point to a black swan), but whether religious inferences might be allowed, or plausible in a sense.
That's not to say that one should assume that religion equals traditional monotheism, i.e. an Abrahamic religion--, though the Bible itself remains a source of wisdom, at least when read by rational people. (thankfully, Dawkins, unlike the wackier Harris, does not approve of the mystical occult BS characteristic of many of the neo-atheist gang)--however most eastern religions do uphold some form of mystical/supernatural beliefs (ie, reincarnation, or the various deities of hinduism). Dawkins' insistence on empirical confirmation applies to Hinduism, as much as it would to baptists.
Armstrong's point regarding humans' quest for meaning also should be considered. An afterlife, however implausible to a bottlewasher, makes sense to some people, not only the usual sort of biblethumping WASP. A catholic mother who prays for her sons and daughters serving in the military in a distant country engages in an significant act; she's not merely reiterating some superstitious ritual (tho' admittedly some believers rely too heavily on prayer--and alleged miracles). The Dawkins-esque bottlewasher waves his hand or scoffs, but a mother's prayer means something in a religious realm--a heartfelt prayer has significance (that doesn't mean that one necessarily blesses the priests or preachers who require it...). A prayer of any sort means little or nothing in a naturalist, Darwinist world.