First, on the tactical issue, Ophelia allows place for criticism that recognizes the virtues in what it opposes, but counters that 'non-balanced comment can shake up people's thinking'. Yes, occasionally it can. But, as often, it doesn't - simply confirming those it is aimed at in their conviction that the criticism is... well, unbalanced. And those ready to listen to both sides of an argument are more usually swayed by advocacy that concedes a point where there is one to be conceded. Given the context of this particular discussion, in which we atheists and secularists want to claim the virtues of reason, respect for evidence, methodological doubt, care with the arguments of an opponent and so forth, and in which precisely the reliance on faith and unbending certainty is one of the main points made against the religious outlook, it's not clear to me that lack of balance in argument has a lot going for it.
Second, Ophelia denies any 'Hegelian' intent whereby - as I thought I had detected from her earlier post - the good aspects of religion are contaminated or undone by the bad ones, with which they form a kind of seamless unity. This is not, she says, her meaning; or at any rate it isn't the meaning that really matters to her - which is, rather, that you can't have 'the good parts (of religion) without subscribing to the supernatural truth claims... without subscribing to (what one takes to be) a lie'; and therefore 'the cost is too high'. I'm happy to take Ophelia's meaning as being what she says it is.
But I fear that she's lost sight of what this discussion is about. It's not about whether we accept religion, nor even about whether we give it an all-round good report, in which the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones. On these issues she and I are on the same side. I am not a religious person just because I do not see any grounds for believing the central claims made by people of faith; and for the same reason, and others to do with the harm that unquestioning belief can lead people into, if I were to draw up an overall assessment in this matter I would not be commending to anyone a life of religious devotion. But that was not the issue of Ophelia's original post or of my reply to it. The issue was about seeing only the bad in religion as opposed to taking a more balanced view. To justify the former approach Ophelia needs the 'Hegelian', contaminating move - and I suggest that that is why you find it in her original post, even though it wasn't her intention. For if you stick with what she intended, then all you've got is that for her the bad in religion is more important than the good, overshadows it, and therefore is too high a price to pay. Nonetheless the good is still there, and it can be identified as such and given its due, with everything said that needs to be said about the other darker side. But you have no basis, now, for just leaving out the good aspects as if they were nothing.
Third, in response to two different kinds of analogy I used - a person with good and bad traits, and bodies of ideas perceived to have strengths amongst their more prominent weaknesses - Ophelia objects that neither analogy is a good one because religion is just a different kind of thing from the ones in the analogies. But that, surely, is how an analogy works. I'm inviting people to think about how we manage to distinguish good and bad in other matters without allowing the bad simply to 'disappear' the good. This can happen even where the bad is very, very bad. To go back to Joe: imagine that the guy is a complete moral disaster in his personal life, but that he contributes regularly to charity and will go to the aid of a stranger in distress. Would it really make sense to say that Joe would have been no worse a person had he also been financially too mean ever to make a donation and too selfish ever to help anyone at all? Is a fascist regime that is genocidal and responsible for the deaths of millions no worse than one that, respectively, isn't and isn't? We can always discriminate bad features, worse features, and - where there are such - good features. Ophelia needs more than the claim that religion is different. She needs an argument why it can't be analogized.
Finally, in reply to my story of the Polish Catholic who risked her life to save a Jew in danger, Ophelia questions whether the religious belief was a necessary condition of rescue: couldn't the woman have done the same just through being a good or courageous person, or from a different set of beliefs? But this just repeats a point (made by commenter Kate) that I had already dealt with. Of course, there were rescuers in Nazi Europe who were humanists, non-religious communists, socialists, liberals. To repeat:
[R]eligious belief is not a necessary condition of any practical good; it is also not a sufficient condition. But the same can be said of any competing secular outlook.Ophelia ends here by questioning the efficacy of religious belief in moving people to act in heroic ways on behalf of others - and she is now joined in that by some commenters in her comments box. Not only does it fly in the face of evidence collected about the motivations of actual rescuers, and not only does it contradict more general historical evidence about the motivating power of religious belief; there is, as well, a certain (prejudicial) selectivity in only recognizing the power of religious belief to influence people when you perceive that influence to be harmful, but where on the face of things it appears to be for the good, denying that it is what it seems. Isn't this exactly the sort of fast and loose way with evidence that rationalist atheists criticize in people of faith?
There is an air of complete unreality about the notion that religion has never motivated anyone towards the good.