Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Christopher Hitchens: God Is Not Good


Author: Christopher Hitchens:
Title: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Publication: (New York / Boston: Twelve, 2007.)
ISBN 0-446-57980-3, 307 pages, indexed, hardcover).

First, Dr. Hutchens talks about slavery (two reviews down) and he blames Christianity (and in other scenarios, Islam) for complicity with it. And he blames religion for complicity with major totalitarian movements, including Fascism and Communism. He gives lots of historical details to connect religion to political outcomes and to suggest that religion is a tool of political and social control. At the end of the book, he calls for a New Enlightenment. Like Gore, he argues for the supremacy of reason.

He perhaps does not recognize the limits of reason or personal rationality as well as Gore. After all, no one is immune to hardships that one cannot prevent. That usually supports the religious idea that “everyone needs God”. It is true, in the mainstream world, that the promise of salvation or eternal life should not be used as an excuse or bait for accepting hardships, especially those caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of others. Carried far, that kind of viewpoint leads to objectivism and many people want the reassurance that religion provides. It does seem that on a personal level, within the home and community, and with a certain emphasis on loyalty, religion is associated with moral behavior on teaching (but often at the expense of battles between groups, tribes, or nations). But it’s possible to develop ethical theory beyond the libertarian notion of non-aggression and harmlessness to some and understanding of a systematic set of obligations to others, and to develop and maintain the practical skills that support interdependence with others. Ideas like filial responsibility (even for those without their own kids) come to mind. Many of the ideas around socialization have to do with not only supporting others financially but also with helping those less intact have a sense of meaning. After all, that is one of the things religious faith accomplishes. True, though, Marx once called religion “the opiate of the masses”. But it is amazing, in time after time, to see how determined and loyal the faithful are to their ideals, and what they will do (right or wrong) to defend their faith. Just look at recent history.

Other buzzwords come to mind here, like "secular humanism" and even the "God is dead" scare of that infamous Time issue in the 1960s.

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