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Getting On : Literature Reviews

god is not great; how religion poisons everything

from GoldenMic - Monday, September 10, 2007
accessed 637 times

This is an excerpt from an-mail I recently wrote to a friend:

I just finished reading a book that is apparently a best seller, called god is not great, by Christopher Hitchens. This book actually disturbed me quite a bit because it did an excellent job of deconstructing religion as a mostly-harmful human artifact, complicit with tyranny and totalism, and completely unnecessary for the modern scientific mind. Mostly, it has been my bliss to continue describing myself as a Christian so long as one does not press me to actually justify Christianity's abuses or absurdities, and so long as I am defining my own personal approach, free from any human's right to judge or coerce me from my own walk with the divine.

This stupid and horrifying book puts holes all through my thinking, and I certainly did not enjoy having to further distress my own internal peace!

I have heard others make many of the arguments that Hitchens makes, but his work does a very thorough job of putting it all together without straining his ideas through the standard progressive lens of anti-Americanism or insisting that one worship at the new alters of liberalism or green (simply NOT my cup of tea) or other fashionable political correctness's. Instead, he just systematically articulates and establishes the case for letting go of and rejecting religion.

Hitchens impressed me with his easy writing style, and he has a couple of particularly profound points, including his discussion of the reason why its time to let it go of religion as an acceptable, necessary, or positive force in human endeavors, "Religion is man made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their ... redeemers actually said or did. Still less can they hope to tell us the meaning of later discoveries and developments which were, when they began, either obstructed by religions or denounced by them. And yet - believers still claim to know! ... The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species . It may be a long farewell, but it has begun ... and should not be protracted" (2007, pp. 10-11).

He then makes a case for the modern ethical non-religionist, one who relies on implicit human decency and scientific rationality for guidance, "Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. (p. 5) ... (and)... The level of intensity fluctuates according to time and place, but it can be stated as truth that religion does not, and in the long run cannot, be content with its own marvelous claims and sublime assurances. It must seek to interfere with the lives of nonbelievers... It may speak about the bliss of the next world, but it wants power in this one. This is only to be expected. It is, after all, wholly man-made. And it does not have the confidence in its own various preaching even to allow coexistence between different faiths". (p 17)

Now, here's the killer:

"If I cannot definitively prove that the usefulness of religion is in the past, and that its foundational books are transparent fables, and that it is a man-made imposition, and that it has been an enemy of science and inquiry, and that it has subsisted largely on lies and fears, and been the accomplice of ignorance and guilt as well as of slavery, genocide, racism, and tyranny, I can most certainly claim that religion is now fully aware of these criticisms. It is also fully aware of the ever-mounting evidence, concerning the origins of the cosmos and the origins of the species, which consign it to marginality if not irrelevance".

I admit that I just love being challenged so articulately and so well, and having to pare my own faith down into its most non-assuming essence. Interestingly, Hitchens' work does not even affect my faith whatsoever in the basic ethics of goodness and the divine, since his thoughtful attack has nothing to do with that. But it has really caused me to question my assumptions about the value of religions in the world (as opposed to ethics and decency and love, and God). He makes a solid case for religion as humanity's vain and self-important assumption that it could ever really know, understand, or speak for a Divine even if such exists, and that such narcissism includes the right to censure, judge, and even abuse others who disagree or refuse to submit to that interpretation of the divine.


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from Corpus Outreach
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 - 05:02

Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
Though I did not read Hitchens book, I am familiar with him. He is a regular on a few news shows. I kinda like the guy, but I read a few reviews on his book. Yes, some were Christians, but the reviews seemed to honestly show Hitchens work as shallow compared to other Athiests disputes of Christianity. I read a pretty good critique from a catholic scholar, pretty humble intellectual, he did a good job at deconstructing many of Hitchens arguments. In doing so he actually gave better examples from other Athiests that corrected some of Hitchens mistakes. I will try to read Hitchens when I get a chance.
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from geo
Friday, September 14, 2007 - 19:36

Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
Christopher Hitchens is a very important writer, and I don't think one needs to agree with all of his positions to recognize this. He has uneven popularity, and probably as many enemies as friends in the media. I dont think he holds a single expected or conventional view on any subject.
Your review of his book surprisingly honest and open-minded. Generally, people dont like their highly respected beliefs challenged and prefer to avoid hearing the opposing position-if your belief is right the other guy must be wrong-but you dont.
I have seen when a religious person reaches a point in their education where they recognize that their beliefs may not be logical or rational, and must make an important decision. I dont think this decision is an intellectual one anymore, its now psychological or even guided by their subconscious.
Do you realize or 'feel' that your belief is right regardless of what your reason tells you (faith after-all, requires no evidence). Do you need faith because of the comfort and benefits you receive from it. Would it be too difficult psychologically to give it up?
Then you must sacrifice your intellect at faiths altar. You believe, not because it is easy, you believe because it is hard. You will always be tested and face obstacles but you must remain steadfast in your belief and fight the temptation to doubt-this is your passage to salvation.
Or, like a very small minority of people, you value your intellect above else. You throw out the ancient knowledge of your ancestors. Thousands of years of belief, thousands of books written by intelligent religious authorities, maybe even by god himself. You question all things spiritual because they dont fit easily into your rational, testable, scientific view of the world. In your pride, you believe yourself to be smarter then billions of believers past and present-wiser than even god. You are arrogant. You are an Atheist.

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From Corpus Outreach
Tuesday, November 20, 2007, 05:05

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
Anthony Flew would disagree!(reply to this comment
from J_P
Thursday, September 13, 2007 - 09:06

Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

I find it intriguing that you can read a book like that, acknowledge it, yet not have it move your faith in any way. While I came to many of the same conclusions as the author of this book before reading it or knowing about it, not to mention others by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, I don't see how one can read it and still be convinced that it is not entirely a man-made myth. I say this sincerely not to spite you, as you seem reasonably intelligent and well spoken unlike some other non-athiests here. While I don't have any respect for religious beliefs, I am curious how one rationalises said belief after a read like that.
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From GoldenMic
Thursday, September 13, 2007, 11:38

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

I believe you are asking a fair question here. The read, actually, has moved my faith a bit and I am having trouble rationalizing my beliefs. I wonder if I am right now at the place where many religious people actively choose to be self-deluding, and where the lies and cheating of religion actually begins. From the inside, I am experiencing a moment where faith and easy assumptions seem to have met their natural limits, and it is rather distressing to rigorously examine the basis for my previous beliefs, and assurances. Maybe it is right at this moment that so many, including gurus and followers, choose to begin a life of comforting self-delusion that takes one ever farther away from reality, resulting in a "religion" that is increasingly unable to trust instinctive internal ethics (which would inevetably require constant evaluation and critique), and instead, that person becomes increasingly dependent on rituals, sacred writings, and self-justifying fantasies to guide them and justify their actions. Maybe this moment is actually part of the answer of why those fools kept right on lying and living insane (and exploitive)lives, because the price of honest anlysis would have robbed them of their comforting faith.(reply to this comment

From Corpus Outreach
Tuesday, November 20, 2007, 05:31

Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
It would be sad for you to abandon 'belief' at a time where some of the most recent [30 years] scientific discoveries seem to lead to faith [at least a designer]. Many intellectual athiests have actually abandoned evolution because of the mounting evidence against it! They are not becoming 'diests' they are just embracing 'Punctuated Equilibrium' [I guess it makes them feel intelectuall to come up with these terms!]. Basically it teaches that things evolved so fast [as opposed to billions of years] that the fossils missed it. A basic capitulation to the Christian world view, if the fossils 'missed it' then science 'teaches' it didn't happen! [now, you can still believe in Darwinian Evolution, but at this point it would be an act of FAITH]. DNA discovery has also shown us that human blood needs at least 30 working complex machines [mechanisms] at inception, in order for human blood to function. We didn't always know this. This SIENTIFIC FACT speaks against macro evolution. Science in these cases is disproving evolution, not faith. I can go on, but it would be too long for this section! I encourage 'golden mic' to keep the faith [or whatever traces that are left] John.(reply to this comment
From GoldenMic
Tuesday, November 20, 2007, 15:10


It was interesting to me that you used the word "sad" to respond here. I guess I don't find it a matter of feelings at all when one is reviewing and critiquing one's beliefs, but more a matter of continuing to grow and understand the psyche and the self. I believe that questioning myself is healthy and ethical.

Anyway, I continue to have a strong sense of belief in a Creator, a desire for the possibility of the mystical, and little concern or respect for the mess that people have made in attempting to prove, spread, and impose their spiritual belief system's upon others. Coming from a cult, this seems a reasonable position to hold, and it does allow me my own bliss.

Interesting point above, too, in suggesting that all the people and all the ages before us may have been touching upon something important and real in their approach to the divine, but consistent with history that most or all of those approaches may have faltered in the face of humanity's insatiable need to feel special and wise and better, then cram that down the throats of others.(reply to this comment

From Samuel
Tuesday, November 20, 2007, 06:35



As much as I agree with your comment, please remember that this site is for former members of The Family. I'm afraid you've overstayed your welcome.

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