He begins his essay with the Bubble Boy, a particularly poignant episode that he describes as "the straw that broke the back of his religious faith." Indeed, one wonders how the religious mind can square tragedies of this kind with a loving God. I would think that if one must believe in a deity, it would make much more sense to see him as a sonuvabitch, or at least completely indifferent. Perhaps capricious, like the mythical gods on Olympus. Regardless, the faithful seem to have an almost infinite (one might say miraculous) ability to reconcile horrors of this kind with the Divine plan of a mysterious deity. Shapiro, like many of us, seems to have exhausted his supply of incredulity.
I felt that he did a good of conveying the sense of deep belonging and purpose that an immercive religious upbringing can convey to the young and impressionable. When this rigid structure is imposed at an early age, it is rare that the grown believer can shed it's burden without a feeling of having lost something important. This, more than almost anything else, is the source of religion's enduring power over our species. We are infected before we have developed the proper tools with which to fight off the infection.
Shapiro then moves on to his perception of the current state of religion in the world, and how it relates/interacts with science and philosophy. He stakes out three positions that can be taken in the intersection between faith and reason: a state of war, a rationalist approach, and one of incommensurability (NOMA.) After some soul-searching, and a positively painful tangent into the Abraham/Isaac debacle, he comes to the conclusion that a state of zero-sum conflict between faith and reason is indeed the reality that exists in our time. I am, of course, in substantive agreement with him on this point. Let religion join alchemy, astrology, and magic on the ash heap of discarded human ideas.
One amusing aside: I found it interesting how his daughter referred to "cold, hard logic." I wonder how much of our modern perception of logic is owed to its championing by Mr. Spock? He often came across as cold and calculating, devoid of apparent emotion. Of course, as informed Star Trek fans, we know this to be false. But Spock's place in our cultural consciousness as a cold and logical being is secure. I just found it...fascinating.