— Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
There is nothing unusual about my town. This is perfectly ordinary, rural midwestern America, like thousands of other small towns all across the country. We’re just immersed in religion, like every other god-soaked spot in lightly-populated, Republican-leaning, Real-Live Genuine USA.
I would even say that these are good people, like most human beings, who are mostly concerned with getting along, doing well for their families, and seeing their community thrive as a safe and stable place. I don’t accept the common atheist line that religion is a phenomenon that makes men do evil acts, like fly airplanes into buildings or start holy wars; it can and has, of course, but those are the pathological extremes, and it isn’t right to judge an idea by the excesses of those maniacs who turn a belief into a cause for violence. Mainly what religion does is make people believe in ludicrously silly things, substitute dogma for reason and thought, and all too often, draw people down into self-destructive obsession as they fret more over their reward in the next life than their accomplishments in this one."
— PZ Myers, The Happy Atheist