Gross generalizations about atheists remain in style. A letter in response to a Sunday New York Times article in the Week in Review section, by Nicholas Wade.

Dear Mr. Wade,

While I always enjoy - despite being an atheist - having my thinking stimulated by good articles about spirituality, and, in particular, the origins of religious experience, and enjoyed your article (The Evolution of the God Gene), I feel I must point out a paragraph that seems to me to sound a little glib and not clearly thought through.

You write "For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless."

I'd first want to know how you know that this is a distasteful idea for atheists. But beyond that, I think very few evolved atheists - even the clamorous Dawkins type - would deny that religion is important and potentially beneficial to individuals. (Whether it's had a net good effect to society as a whole over the last two millenia is an entirely different question). I don't believe atheists say that religion is "useless", even if it is - as you oddly concur in such a delphic paragraph about atheist's beliefs - "a lifebelt."

I'd go further and state that many atheists would likely rejoice if the prevailing belief was that religion was an evolutionary adaptation. It seems odd that you would not see that a scientific explanation of religion would appeal to atheists.

As a side note, please note my careful verbiage: "many atheists would likely", as compared to your - well, there's no other word for it - sloppy: "For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought." And you compound your strange, all-knowing generalization with a bold sub-heading "The idea that there is a genetic component to religion doesn't sit well with atheists..." Yet, nowhere in your article do I see a single quote from an atheist expressing the discomfort you somehow intuit.

Sincerely, Keith Adams