It continues to astonish me how low the bar for smart, sensible, brilliant, and profound is set by some when applied to religious statements. First up, William D. Phillips, participating in a Templeton Foundation survey, and answering the question: Does science make belief in God obsolete?
"[A] scientist can believe in God because such belief is not a scientific matter. Scientific statements must be 'falsifiable.' That is, there must be some outcome that at least in principle could show that the statement is false. I might say, 'Einstein's theory of relativity correctly describes the behavior of visible objects in our solar system.' So far, extremely careful measurements have failed to prove that statement false, but they could (and some people have invested careers in trying to see if they will). By contrast, religious statements are not necessarily falsifiable. I might say, 'God loves us and wants us to love one another.' I cannot think of anything that could prove that statement false. Some might argue that if I were more explicit about what I mean by God and the other concepts in my statement, it would become falsifiable. But such an argument misses the point. It is an attempt to turn a religious statement into a scientific one. There is no requirement that every statement be a scientific statement. Nor are non-scientific statements worthless or irrational simply because they are not scientific. 'She sings beautifully.' 'He is a good man.' 'I love you.' These are all non-scientific statements that can be of great value. Science is not the only useful way of looking at life."
His argument is just warmed over NOMA at its core, which is laughable (you can't be an alternate source of knowledge when you produce no knowledge), and his examples of "non-scientific statements" seem like the sort of things children and idiots say. Beauty, love, and goodness might be subjective human experiences, but they are still demonstrably real, and coherent. The same cannot be said for a disembodied consciousness that supposedly created the universe. And some wonder why the Courtier's Reply is trotted out so much.
Believe it or not, offline I'm one of those people you'd never know was an atheist unless you asked me, or noticed the lack of religious knick knacks around the house. I find the subject of God's existence boring, and avoid debates on it like the plague. I'm just amazed by the consistency with which brilliant people say things that strike me as idiotic on this one, and only, subject.
Here's another example, this time from Francisco Ayala:
"'Science and religion concern nonoverlapping realms of knowledge,' he writes in the new book. 'It is only when assertions are made beyond their legitimate boundaries that evolutionary theory and religious belief appear to be antithetical.'
Well that sounds nice and sweet and conciliatory, until one wonders just what knowledge religion claims, and what exactly are it's boundaries. Those promoting this pie-in-the-sky view are always rather negligent in fleshing out this part of the argument, and for good reason. There isn't anything in religion that can claim the mantle of "knowledge". Oh, there's lots of speculation about a wide range of issues, such as what happens when we die, what is moral, etc. But without any evidenciary backing, it deserves only the label we give to all other claims with the same traits: guesses, or worse, fiction.
I just do not understand that driving force so many intelligent people have to justify baseless, downright silly beliefs. So you have a little irrational, comfy idea you hold in your head that helps you not have nightmares about death, or gives your clear moral structure, or feeds your need for some overarching power and justice in the world, or WTF ever it does for you. So what? I can relate to a lot of that. Sure science makes that sort of thing obsolete, but who of us is scientific all the time? I'm afraid of heights, but I don't tie myself into semantic knots trying to justify it with idiotic comparisons to the taste of my sandwich or how much I love my mother. I just admit my weakness and move on. Why don't you? Martin Gardner nailed this one a long time ago, and I paraphrase from memory:
"I believe, by a completely irrational leap of faith, that there is a god I'll meet when I die"
Is that really so damned hard?