Francis Sedgemore says:
Atheists will never “call off the faith wars”. We are in this battle to the end of religion, which poisons everything.
I fear this overstates things. There's lots of research - much of it summarized here (pdf) and here (pdf) to suggest that religion has some positive effects. For example, it is associated with increased trust and lower crime (pdf), and - at least amongst protestants and jews - with higher education and labour supply. For these reasons, it's quite possible that religious beliefs - if not (pdf) actual church attendance - are conducive to prosperity.
What's more, there's pretty good evidence that religious belief is associated - on average and with exceptions naturally - with higher subjective well-being, not least because it cushions us against adverse events.
Of course, you don't have to look far for evidence that religion also has horrible effects. But it is surely absurdly unscientific to think that Boko Haram or the Taleban are typical of religious observers.
You might object to this that religious belief is just irrational. But it doesn't follow that the defeat of religion would mean the triumph of reason. You only have to look at Comment is Free to see that people have an infinite number of ways of being silly without believing in sky fairies. As G.K. Chesterton said, when people stop believing in God they don't believe in nothing but in anything.
I cannot, therefore, side with some of my fellow atheists in regarding religion as wholly bad. Indeed, I suspect it's unscientific to do so. Maybe, all things considered, it is a net bad, but the Hayekian in me thinks it impossible for anyone to construct a fully accurate balance sheet of all its costs and benefits.
Which brings me to a paradox. My personal attitude to the content of religion was formed by reading Bertrand Russell's Why I am not a Christian as a teenager; I don't think Dawkins or Hitchins add much to this. But this is moderated by the research suggesting that - at least here in the west - religion has some favourable social effects. I'm puzzled, then, that the "culture wars" should be more intense now than at any time in my life. I suspect there are two reasons for this.
One is a version of the halo effect. People tend to think that if religion is bad in one respect - "it's irrational" - it must be bad in many others. But it ain't necessarily so. (Believers, of course, are also prone to this error.)
Secondly, we live in an age of ego, and of fragile ego at that. The demand that religion die out, or that it spread, amounts to little more than the demand that people be more like me, me, me.