For starters, my intent in the previous post was not so much to comment as to present and let folks decide for themselves. The issues raised are as complex as they are profound, and I felt that by juxtaposing these two poles, I was providing an opportunity to see both sides more clearly. And that includes me.
Now this is my take. Rereading Dennett's views makes me wonder what he's talking about, because when he and pundits start telling me what religion is, I simply don't recognize it. He might as well be describing my mother in terms of the periodic table of the elements, or Bizet's The Pearl Fishers by oscilloscope readings. Or worse yet, by judging the phenomenon of music in its entirety by surveying the efforts of high school thrash metal bands. Not very scientific, is it? But what else can you say about a guy who overlooks the message of the Gospels, the cathedral at Chartres, Bach's Matthew's Passion, men like Kolbe, etc., etc., not to mention the Baghavad Gita, the Dhammapada, etc., etc., and fixates on suicide bombers. Might as well reduce Japanese culture to kamikaze pilots. Or all scientists, Japanese or otherwise, by those who worked for Unit 731.
I felt that there was a gap, a chasm, an intergalactic interval, between Dennett's characterization of religion and the practice of one man's Roman Catholicism (a rare and extreme example of its practice, to be sure). I thought the irony was pretty evident--Dennett seems to contrast a caste of enlightened , benevolent scientists, who have somehow come into existence via some process of historical spontaneous generation sans the cultural benefits of Christianity, with murderous yet pitiable religious knuckle-draggers who are on the verge of blowing us all to their idea of kingdom come. But Dennett is confident that right thinking will drive the irrational belief in the unquantifiable our of existence.
Kolbe story, however, shows the sheer irrationality of religion in a different light. Caught in a grasp of what, at the time, was thought to be a completely rational and science-based regime, one man who was steeped in a religious code of love and sacrifice, consistently neglected himself to serve others (this to me is more impressive than stepping forward to take the place of the condemned man; many can make one impulsively saintly decision), and dying a slow, painful, yet dignified death sustained by his faith. Those who say that Kolbe would have done the same without his religion simply don't know his story and show a blind faith in whatever they think refutes religion.
In short, there are martyrs, and there are martyrs. I just wanted append a scenario to Dennett's screed that would suggest that he fails to give a complete characterization of religion.