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Book Review: God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

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Author and journalist Christopher Hitchens has in his 58 years traveled it seems about everywhere, and has amassed a thorough knowledge of the world today and its history. Of the writers who have recently published works assailing religion, including Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Sam Harris (The End of Faith,) Hitchens may be the most literary. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and Harris has a degree in philosophy and is working toward a doctorate in neuroscience.

It is not easy to "peg" Hitchens into any particular hole. While he is an avowed atheist and opposes the Bush administration's fundamentalist leanings, he is not clearly a political liberal and supports the U.S. incursion into Iraq. Hitchens has elucidated his hatred for what he calls "fascism with an Islamic face" but harbours a visceral dislike of Bill Clinton, owing to what Hitchens believes were a number of glaring failures during Clinton's tenure in the White House, not to mention character flaws in Clinton, the man.

In God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens has put together an intelligent and methodical dismantling of religion.  He opens with the story of a childhood teacher, a Mrs. Jean Watts, who inadvertantly brought Hitchens' own belief to a crashing halt by first exalting nature as God's great creation saying "So you see, children, how powerful and generous God is. He has made all the trees and grass to be green, which is exactly the color that is most restful to our eyes." But then, much to young Hitchens' consternation she continues, "Imagine if instead, the vegetation was all purple, or orange, how awful that would be." At age nine, Christopher Hitchens knew that his teacher had "managed to get everything wrong in just two sentences. The eyes were adjusted to nature, not the other way around."

This seemingly minor event sent Hitchens on a life-long journey of revelation regarding all things religious. As he matured, he found many things regarding the existence and nature of God just didn't ring true. He wondered "Why, if god was the creator of all things, were we supposed to "praise" (Hitchen's quotation marks) him so incessantly for doing what came naturally? … If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness? … With all this continual prayer, why no result?"

When Hitchens was thirteen, the headmaster of his school during a "no nonsense talk" with Hitchens and some fellow students stated, "You may not see the point of all this faith now,…but you will one day, when you start to lose loved ones." At this Hitchens was indignant. "Why, that would be as much as saying that religion might not be true, but never mind that, since it can be relied upon for comfort. How contemptible."

At length Hitchens arrived at : "…four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking."

From these assertions, Hitchens sets out to illucidate just how "religion poisons everything. "In Chapter 2, entitled 'Religion Kills,' he reminds us of the deadly history of religion, from monstrous biblical genocides to mass graves in Bosnia. He recounts religious inspired horrors from Belfast to Beirut, Belgrade to Bethlehem. And, oh yes, Baghdad. Hitchens chose to limit his illustrations to some of the "Bs." Obviously, he could have continued, ad nauseam, through the alphabet. 

Hitchens sets off on this tour of religion's murderous past with a query: Why does [a belief in god] not make its adherents happy?" Why, indeed! He asserts that religion…"cannot be content with its own marvelous claims and sublime assurances. It must (Hitchen's italics) seek to interfere with the lives of nonbelievers, or heretics, or adherents of other faiths." This interference more often than not leads to catastrophic destruction and mass murder all in the name, and for the glory of a god.

Moving on, Hitchens touches on religion's ever and ongoing war with science and technology, and its resistance to change in general, the false claims of religious metaphysics, the ludicrous arguments for "intelligent design."

He takes on the Christian Bible, first the Old Testament – filled with the rage of a jealous god and his murderous vengeance – a read not for the faint of heart, and then the New Testament, which Hitchens characterizes as a mostly discordant and contradictory mish-mash of altered or non-history noting that virtually all of it was written well after the supposed life of Jesus.

The Koran Hitchens describes as an even greater mish-mash of borrowed anecdotes and commentaries. Islam, Hitchens contends, "builds upon its primitive Jewish and Christian predecessors, selecting a chunk here and a shard there… a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require." He goes on to say that Islam "makes immense claims for itself, invokes prostrate submission… as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain. There is nothing – absoulutely nothing – in its teachings that can even begin to justify such arrogance and presumption."

Eastern traditions do not escape Hitchens' scrutiny. Many may be surprised to read of Hindu suicide bombers and militant Buddhist death squads in Sri Lanka.

He examines religion as a source of child abuse, citing genital mutilitation in the form of male circumcision, the excision of female labia and clitoris, and sexual abuse of altar boys by Catholic priests.

Hitchens takes a look at failed secular societies, namely Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. The focus here is how, in both cases, religion, per se, was replaced by nationalism, pointing out, though that in neither case was traditional religion completely eradicated. It is interesting as Hitchens notes that the first diplomatic accord made by Hitler after his rise to power in 1933 was a treaty with the Vatican.

Chapter 18, 'A Finer Tradition: The Resistance of the Rational' studies religious traditions' history of locking horns with rational thought from the likes of Socrates to Spinoza, David Hume to Thomas Paine, Immanuel Kant to Albert Einstein down to Lenny Bruce, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth and Joseph Heller.

In conclusion, Hitchens calls for a "renewed enlightenment" to counter the dangerous and stultifying effects of religion; how acceptance of religious dogma deadens curiosity and thought, that to "choose dogma and faith over doubt and experiment is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid."

He cites the dangers posed by religious radicals owing to their desire for ultimate conflagration, pointing out that Iran represents "a version of the Inquisition … about to lay hands on a nuclear weapon," that we are nearing the "moment when apocalyptic nihilists coincide[d] with Armageddon weaponry." stressing how imperative it is to recognize the reality and nature of this threat and to counter it however possible.

"We have first to transcend our prehistory, and escape the gnarled hands which reach out to drag us back to the catacombs and the reeking alters and the guilty pleasures of subjection and abjection … it has become necessary to know the enemy, and to prepare to fight it."

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About Baritone

  • http://www.genericmugwump.com Aaron Fleming

    Good review.

    Just a note, Hitchens doesn’t oppose the US incursion into Iraq, in fact he’s been a vociferous advocate of the action.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Aaron,

    Of course, you are correct. I must have suffered a brain fart at that point in the process. Hitchens is, as I noted, not easy to “peg.” Some of his positions confound me, but I am solidly aligned with his views on religion.

    TLS

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    I was perplexed by Aaron’s comment and went back and checked out the text of this review on my blog. The second paragraph above should have read as follows:

    It is not easy to “peg” Hitchens into any particular hole as it were. While he is an avowed atheist he is not clearly a political liberal. He opposes the Bush administration’s fundamentalist leanings but supports the US incursion into Iraq. Hitchens has elucidated his hatred for what he calls “fascism with an Islamic face” but harbours a visceral dislike of Bill Clinton owing to what Hitchens believes were a number of glaring failures during Clinton’s tenure in the White House, not to mention character flaws in Clinton, the man.

    Sorry for any confusion on this point. Sometimes the editing process on these things gets out of hand. There are times when I should leave well enough alone.

    Baritone

    Oh, and ignore the TLS signature in the comment above. That’s me in another incarnation.

  • http://www.genericmugwump.com Aaron Fleming

    No problem, I had an inkling it was a minor mistake such as that.

    I’ve noticed a general trend recently concerning Hitchens, a bunch of prevalent opinions along the line of “Like his view on religion, just a shame about that whole Iraq business.” Well, that is to say, opinion on the left, and a stance which I naturally agree with. Even though he argues for the Iraq war better than anyone else (not difficult considering the chaps in power), he nevertheless fails to justify the action. Still, we can take solace with this recent deluge of Hitchens mania which has featured, amongst others, some brilliant moments on Hannity & Colmes.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    I’ve missed the latter, unfortunately.

    Hitchens is presently at a rather high plateau in his public exposure. I agree with you concerning Iraq. As horrendous as Saddam’s regime was, and how much worse his sons were, from any kind of logical perspective, the US incursion into that country was neither necessary nor smart. At least under Saddam, Iraq was relatively stable. It is quite possible that his regime may well have collapsed under its own weight eventually.

    While Saddam maintained an iron rule, the infrastructure of his country was deteriorating at a rapid rate as witness their dilapidated oil industry. It operated just efficiently enough to keep Saddam’s pockets full of cash. The country was falling apart.

    It is fun to see Hitchens in operation, though. He is so well informed, and has such a mastery of the language, that few can match him in a head on confrontation.

    As much as I loathe William F. Buckley, Jr. (he still defends Sen. Joe McCarthy and the House Committee on Unamerican Activities,) he too has (or perhaps, had) a great facility with language and was, for the most part well schooled. There wasn’t anything about which he didn’t have an opinion. It was often fun to watch him joust with, say Gore Vidal who, in his day could hold his own against him.

    I prattle on.

    Baritone

  • http://myblog2-mojo.blogspot.com mojo

    I enjoyed the review of the book “God is Not Dead” and intend on reading it this summer. I also wrote down some of the other books and writers you mentioned in your article. I am familiar with Richard Dawkins and I have the Harris book already on my booklist.

    I think that solving the ever present problem of some groups of people trying to dictate how others live is always an important issue to address. In a diverse culture, it is important to stress pluralism. And this is how I view Fundamentalists of both Christian and Islamic stripes. A threat to pluralism. These groups are not happy to live and let live. They are constantly trying to interfere in the lives of others…like your article states: The nonbelievers, the heretics, and adherents of other faiths.

    Being a nonbeliever myself, the constant attempts to save me are flattering but unwelcome! I say thump your Bible somewhere else because it has no power over me…not really, I wouldn’t actually SAY that or be THAT direct to those folks at my doorstep…just a polite “no thanks, I’m not interested” is usually enough. Face to face interactions will religious zealots are few and far between, thank goodness.

    But the religious war on technology and science continues, as your article states. It is a cultural disaster. The opposite of progress. And THIS is what is alarming and bothers me the most…religious folks feeling they can use and abuse science to get their message across. The Creationist Museum in Kentucky is an example…cleverly disguising religious doctrine in a “scientific package”. This sort of activist creationism must be countered by the authentic scientific community.

    The whole “intelligent design” approach..the dismissal of evolutionary biology and the claims of divine truth in matters that are supernatural rather than natural…this lack of enlightenment is unsettling. One of my favorite books is by Carl Sagan: “The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”. The title says it all! We will be left in the dark again if the creationists have their way.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    mojo,

    Chris Hedges is adamant about the parallels between today’s efforts toward establishing an American theocracy and how Hitler rose to power in Germany over 70 years ago. While I found all of the books I mentioned good, informative reads, Hedges book may be the most riveting and urgent in its appeal.

    The radical christian war on science and evolution is symptomatic of a totalitarian state. To give credence to developments in science or to acknowledge the efficacy of evolutionary theory would be to admit that “the word” as the theocrats have defined it, could be in doubt. Doubt is not tolerated. Nor is individual thought or reason.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you do read some of the books and find them informative and useful.

    Baritone

  • med

    That review wasn’t so much a review as it was a summary of the book’s contents. How did Baritone feel about the book? I don’t know. I see he describes one part as “interesting,” but that doesn’t tell me much about Baritone’s thoughts on the book, or even how the book goes about its own thoughts.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Med,

    You know, you can’t please everyone. The last review I wrote, I was chastized for voicing my attitude and response to the work. Since the book isn’t a work of fiction, I preferred to let the quotes set the stage. Read the book. You decide whether you like it or not.

    Baritone

  • Philip Lundquist

    In June 1988, I moved into what was represented to me as a Christian communal home in California. A few days later, I was awakened about 7 A.M. when some Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the front door and spoke with an indulgent fellow roommate. I’d returned home about 4 A.M. following another long, wearying shift on my job, and in the context, was quite sensitive to the tempo of this early-morning conversation at our front door. And nineteen years later, I can distinctly recall the negative flavour of every reference by the JW people to Jesus Christ. I don’t remember their words at this point, but as soon as Jesus’ name came up, the references were always diminuitive towards him……Now, on the other hand, I’d like to tell you of my experiences at that “Christian” house. Got a couple hours – and an air sickness bag – or two? Hitchens is certainly right about one thing – religion does not respond favourably to independent enquiry. So I spend a lot of time now in the early-morning hours alone, with my mug of hot English tea. I can honestly tell you that none of these quiet and unmolested times has led to mental breakdown, child abuse, or a desire to dominate others.

  • Denise

    Dear Philip,
    Sorry to hear that you were awoken after 3 hours of sleep, at 7 AM. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t knock on doors that early in the morning, the usual time to even meet to make arrangements for door to door work starts at 9 AM or after. They do engage in street work earlier, but that is in public spaces, bus stops, train stations, mall type areas where people are already awake and starting their day. With only 3 hours of sleep I can see where the mix up might have happened, so it must have been another religion calling at your door that day.

    As Jehovah’s Witnesses we believe that Jesus Christ is the reason we even have a chance for salvation. World wide we recognize his generous gift, by obeying his command to hold a memorial of his death, which ransomed us. We also realize our prayers are not heard unless given through Jesus Christ.

    I hope that clears up any misunderstandings. Thank you for your time.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Denise,

    It’s thoughtful of you to clear things up for Philip, as it were.

    You might give some thought to the probability that all religion, all belief and yearning for god, any god, is chasing a myth.

    Instead of relinquishing your life in servitude to a non-existent diety for a “chance” at salvation in an effort to earn eternal life in an equally non-existent heavenly paradise, turn away from that and embrace this earthly life and relish it, for it is all we have, and it’s all we get.

    Baritone

  • Torihope

    Baritone: How do YOU KNOW this is the only life we’ll have? With what authority and on what basis do you make such a comment? Denise–I’ve never heard of Witnesses knocking on anyone’s door at 7:00 A.M., anywhere–ever. And as far as Jesus goes, he IS the savior of mankind, and it is is through him that we pray. It amazes me when people put their own spin on conversations with Witnesses. Perhaps it’s hearing impairment, or just plain bias. Jesus’ experiences on earth were similar, as I recall.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Tori,

    How do I KNOW there is not god? I don’t. But I can at least KNOW that such a belief is without reason, without logic, and, finally, without one iota of proof. Further, religious radicalism is, as I view it, a danger to American democracy – democracy anywhere for that matter, and an insult to human intelligence.

    Every christian, or true believer of any faith worth their salt claims to KNOW of god’s existence. You KNOW of no such thing. You, and many others obviously believe it with your whole heart, but that doesn’t make it true.

    People have believed in one or more gods pretty much throughout human history. All to no avail. No god, including yours has ever revealed him (her or it) self excepting through cryptic, inconsistent, contradictory, and, consequently, largely untelligible and supposed “divine” writings.

    I say what I do regarding gods as it is what I believe. I doubt that you have any compunction in sharing with anyone and everyone what you believe, as witness your original comment here, and what I know of JW’s modus operandi (even if you do wait until after 9AM to start knocking on doors.)

    The tenor of your response, your indignation, would indicate that you feel a perfect right to spread your beliefs to whomever, while it is presumptive of me, and/or any others who believe as I do, to do the same.

    Baritone

  • Derek

    Baritone,

    Just wanted to point out a few things, as I believe you are incorrect in your facts.

    1. To say that Christian belief is done so without logic or reason is not true. There were thousands of eyewitnesses to the life and death of Jesus and to his life after his resurrection. This is historical fact as much as Julius Ceasar being murdered in the senate. You believe that…don’t you?

    2. I believe history would show that the pilgrims left the “old country” to escape religious persecution and founded this “new country” on democracy. They were Christian, yet respected other’s beliefs enough to try to ensure that no religion would take over government. Pretty cool!

    So, please don’t say that having faith in God is “blind” any more than believing in the “big bang” is blind and please don’t accuse Christianity of being anti-democratic. Those two things are just intellectually dishonest.

    Peace and love!

    Derek

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Derek, have you considered the possibility that Jesus was just a human being? It’s quite possible to believe that Jesus did indeed live amongst us without buying into all the mystical nonsense. You seem to be claiming that the fact of his probable existence justifies a belief in an entirely absent god…

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Derek,

    I don’t ascribe to the same “historical facts” that you do. Outside of the biblical texts and perhaps the koran, I know of no “historical” evidence that firmly supports even the existence of Jesus, and certainly not his, or anyone else’s resurrection. For you to state that as being “historical fact” is intellectual dishonesty.

    Even in the new testament the accounts of Jesus’ life and death vary widely depending what book you are reading. The resurrection is not mentioned in all of the gospels. None of the new testament accounts were written contemporary with Jesus’ supposed life or death. They were written through handed down oral stories and legends, by mortal and fallible men, men with their own agendas, not by god.

    There are those who believe, and I count myself as among them, that the “pilgrims” generally did not leave their home countries owing to intolerance by others. Rather, many were encouraged or perhaps forced to leave due to their own intolerance of others, and in fact, did not respect or tolerate other beliefs.

    Keep in mind also that our government did not emerge until around 150 years after the landing of the Mayflower. Many of our country’s progenitors were at most deists – not believers in a personal god – including Madison, Jefferson and probably Adams among others. The absence of any reference to god in the constitution was not an accident. Puritanical christians, the Calvinists and others did not hold sway at either of the Constitutional Conventions.

    Apropos of little, I always love to make note of H.L. Menken’s definition of a puritan as “one who is afraid that somebody else may be having a good time.”

    I do not count faith in god as a virtue. It is, in fact blind. Faith requires that one must leave logic, reason and even curiosity and doubt at the door. I don’t have “faith” in the big bang. I accept it as the best available theory of the beginnings of the universe as put forward by scientists who study such things. Unless and until another theory presents itself with more compelling evidence, I will stick with the “bang.”

    I suggest you read Chris Hedges’ book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. Hedges is a graduate of the Harvard Divinity school and retains his faith. However, he is also aware of how intent a number of radical christians are at bringing about an American theocracy, trashing our constitution and our democracy along with it, and refashioning the good ole’ US of A under biblical law. Radical muslims are not the only ones pushing for religious states.

  • Derek

    Chris and Baritone,

    Absolutely, the “historical” Jesus lived as a human being. This is clear and anybody who would go “out on a limb” and suggest he didn’t is not looking honestly at the evidence.

    Again, to suggest otherwise would be paramount to saying, “Did Socrates live?” There is as much historical manuscript data about Jesus’ life as any other in ancient history. What is even more interesting to me, though, is that many of these eyewitnesses to those events died brutal deaths defending what they had seen. They could not deny the truth, even to the point of death.

    I don’t know about you, but if I were trying to promote a hoax by claiming I saw something that I didn’t, then I would not be willing to die for it if I had really witnessed something different. All of the apostles – i.e. except one who died of old age – did die for their faith and they were eyewitnesses.
    This is strong evidence.

    What you choose to do with Christ’s message and life is , of course, your own doing, but you weren’t there either. The writings of Paul and Peter – i.e. eyewitnesses to the events of the times – were there and reported on it. Our faith is not blind, because we believe in the eyewitness accounts of those who were there.

    Further, the mystical part of faith is the most exciting of all! I have seen miracles happen in my life and other’s and I know God is alive and well. I am sorry you believe I must be delusional or illogical, but I can’t deny what I have experienced, even if it is supernatural and doesn’t fit into a nice, tidy little scientific box.

    Lastly, I am not afraid that anybody is having a good time..and I am not. I am fine with my faith as it is and I let others choose to live anyway they want to live. I will say, however, that the reason Christians feel a need to share their experience with others is because we hope they will experience the same “awesome” thing.

    Don’t you share great experiences with your friends, so they can enjoy them as well?

    Peace and love!

    Derek

    p.s. Lastly, lastly….Doesn’t the Declaration of Independence list our “Creator” as the one who gave us inalienable rights? Does Christopher Hitchens have disdain for all the framers as well? Do you?

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Derek,

    Actually, it is not altogether clear that Socrates was an actual person. Probably was, but no one is sure.

    We often can’t agree about what happened yesterday. Why people accept the bible as inerrant historical fact is a mystery to me.

    However, I won’t argue further with you regarding the historical Jesus. His supposed divinity and resurrection is another story. It is preposterous.
    The fact that his resurrection is not mentioned in ALL of the gospels is puzzling, is it not? Wouldn’t such a singular event be the absolute banner headline of every tale regarding such a person?

    I have heard the argument regarding the # of people who died for their faith back in the day. People have died for any number of causes throughout human history, many meaningless and/or hopeless causes. Look at all the Japanese who died for their emperor, or all the Germans who died for their fuhrer. They believed whole-heartedly in their leaders and their countries. They were wrong, though, weren’t they? The death of the apostles for their faith is no evidence at all.

    Mysticism is entertaining for some, but to base one’s entire life on myth and magic is nonsensical, and a waste.

    There are NO miracles. Why do you think that only “true believers” are the ones who witness supposed miracles? I’ve never heard of a non-believer stepping up and claiming to have witnessed a miracle. Yet believers always have a veritable litany of witnessed miracles.

    The Declaration is NOT the Constitution. The Declaration was an impassioned statement designed to arouse a budding nation. The Constitution is the law of the land.

    I have great regard for our founding fathers, most of them anyway. I’m sure Mr. Hitchens does also. However, it is wishful thinking on the part of many christians to suppose that those men meeting in the heat of a Philadelphia summer intended that this country be ruled by biblical law. If so, why did they go through all the pain and strife of writing the constitution when all they had to do was raise up the bible and proclaim it the only true and necessary source of governance? Were they just bored, or perhaps, stupid? I think not.

    Oh, and lastly, yes, lastly. Science is anything BUT “nice and tidy.”

  • http://stevencarrwork.blogspot.com/ Steven Carr

    ‘What is even more interesting to me, though, is that many of these eyewitnesses to those events died brutal deaths defending what they had seen. ‘

    More myths and legends.

    Just how did these people die?

    Is there one piece of paper written in the first century which states how Peter or Paul died, and what they were accused of when they died?

    Paul actually was there, and he was an eyewitness to the fact that Christians were persecuted on the issue of circumcision, not resurrection.

    He also wrote that Christian leaders were happy to compromise their beliefs , and this avoided persecution.

    Galatians 6:12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.

    Of course, Paul was a nutcase who believed he had gone to heaven, and he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus had become a spirit.

    He was writing to early converts to Jesus-worship who simply scoffed at the idea that God would choose to raise a corpse…..

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Steven,

    You are better schooled than I regarding biblical scripture. I’m sure a close read would reveal any number of inconsistencies, contradictions and various shades of gobbledigook. I know some believe that Paul was, at times at least, a deslusional maniac. Just the kind of guy I’d want mentoring me in my day to day life.

    Again, the fact that people more than 2000 years after the fact still cling to the idiotic mish-mash of the aforementioned gobbledigook as being meaningful, relevant and the inerrant truth is beyond me. I believe a study of the collected works of say, Rob Schneider would be more coherent and revelatory than any of the supposed holy works. But that’s just me.

    Baritone

  • Leslie Bohn

    Derek:

    The writings of Paul and Peter – i.e. eyewitnesses to the events of the times – were there and reported on it.(sic)

    Derek, I hope it doesn’t test your faith, but your grasp of Christian mythology (and logical sentence structure) is a little loose.

    Paul, of course, wasn’t a witness to the events of Jesus’ life. He was visited by the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Acts 9 has the story. Also, Paul discusses this in 1 Corinthians.

    Opposite problem with Peter, who had great seats and backstage passes for “Crossfest 33,” but didn’t write about it. Unless, of course, you recognize the noncanonical “Gospel of Peter,” which differs pretty significantly from the 4 gospels.

    Sunday school is over.

    Amazing how many people who profess total belief in this bullshit don’t even know the basics.I’m a god-free liberal arts major, and even I know this crap. Sad, really.

  • Trent

    I’m suprised someone hasn’t brought up David Koresh or other more modern cult leaders as parallels to irrational religious thinking.

  • fred z

    So what who cares how we got here.Here we are.Did you know there is a waiting line to come to planet Earth? We did not come here by chance,we came here by choice.You and I wanted to come here to this Planet.So why not celebrate your creation with the attitude of gratitude.It can be a wonderful adventure.Do not allow this god routine to control your thinking.Become a spiritual anarchist. PAX

  • Derek

    Dear Leslie,

    What is amazing to me is how you “pseudo- intellectuals” are well…”pseudo-intellectuals.”

    I never said that Paul was an eyewitness to Christ’s life. I said he was an eyewitness to the “events of the times,” which would include his conversion on the road to Damascus. Correct?

    Secondly, Peter did write books that are in the Bible. That he didn’t write specifically about the cruxifiction is irrelevent, as he based his entire life on his experience with Christ. Obviously, Christ changed his life.

    Having a discussion with the Godless people is futile in most cases, since you are all not Spiritual people and do not understand. Your eyes have not been opened. It is not too late, though, so please keep an open mind.

    “Only fools say in their hearts,
    There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
    not one of them does good! Psalms 53:1

    Late…out!

    Derek

    p.s. You are right about one thing Leslie: That was poor sentence structure.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    If there’s one thing that’s sure to piss me off it’s the smug arrogance of faithists when they make remarks that categorise people who don’t believe in their cults as somehow lacking in spirituality and understanding. So, Derek, please take your smug attitude and shove it where the spirit takes you, thanks!

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    both sides and the basic stupidy exemplified in this thread are annoying me. Bad faith arguments all around. Do better or just don’t.

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Derek,

    You must have struck a nerve with Christopher. He’s usually not so hostile. However, I essentially agree with him.

    What makes people “pseudo-intellectuals” in the eyes of belevers is simply that we don’t believe.

    A bit of irony here in that it is my view it is believers who are beyond discussion; they the ones with the closed eyes, or more aptly, with closed minds.

    The fact is that most non-believers do not believe in the spiritual. Believing in a spiritual life, necessitates a belief in a duality of existence. I don’t.

    Christians and believers of other faiths generally take all their cues from a book, a book cobbled together from texts written literally thousands of years ago in the belief that these ancients were somehow wiser and in much closer contact with their respective god or gods than we are today. That is just bunk.

    Our world and the universe in which it is suspended is wondrous. What we humans have discovered about its various aspects is often very complex and, for many, difficult to comprehend, but we need no gods, or spirituality or any other worldly phantasms to appreciate it.

    There is no life beyond that which we have on this little planet. To spend that life worshiping a non-existent deity in the hopes of gaining ascendance into some kind of equally non-existent eternal paradise is a waste, a total waste of the brief time we have.

    As bad as we can be, on balance humans are far more moral, loving, fair and forgiving than your jealous, wrathful, ego-centric god. Perhaps he didn’t realize just what it was he had wrought with us humans. Maybe he has become a bit omni-impotent?

    Baritone

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Temple – “stupidy”? he he he

    Baritone – I’m not being hostile, it’s just these holy joes are all bonkers and do humanity, love and genuine spirituality a massive disservice.

    I’m not persuaded by the argument that spirituality “necessitates a belief in a duality of existence”. I see it completely the opposite, we live in a giant unity or singularity in which all life is inherently linked.

    I googled for the definition of the word and the top two results were the following:-

    # This term is defined quite differently by monotheists, polytheists, humanists, followers of new age, Native Americans, etc. A common meaning is “devotion to metaphysical matters, as opposed to worldly things.” Another is “Activities which renew, lift up, comfort, heal and inspire both ourselves and those with whom we interact.”

    An inner sense of something greater than oneself. Recognition of a meaning to existence that transcends one’s immediate circumstances.

    Neither definition needs or requires the existence of a deity and both imply a direct appreciation of and connection between all things, do they not?

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Temple,

    I’m truly devastated that you find this thread and the tenor of the discussion lacking.

    I have been found an unworthy, apparently inarticulate non-believer. I just hope god will find it in his heart to forgive me. I leave the floor to you Temp, the great master debater.

    Or not.

    Christopher,

    As I noted, I agreed with you in your comment to Derek.

    However, I know from that and other comments you have written, that you are very taken with spirituality – with a longing, it would seem.

    I just don’t buy it. I simply don’t believe that there is any such transcendence, any such connection.

    It certainly exists from a biological perspective. All life is linked. The human genome contains pretty much all the stuff of all life. Most of our genetic make up is useless to us. We have scads of genes that do nothing. But they are, in fact links to all life (on this planet, at any rate.)

    But I believe it is simply wishful thinking to accept the notion of some higher spiritual link between each of us humans and other life forms. There is no greater whole.

    I imbibed a few hallucinogens many years ago. They were touted as the great road to inner wisdom. By and large it was fun, but I came away with no great inspirations other than that we (my spaced out friends and I) determined that most cliches are true.

    But upon reflection what I did ultimately come to understand about the human mind is that we can make ourselves believe about any damn thing, no matter how ludicrous. In fact, the further “out there” something is, the more people are apt to embrace it. We can, in effect, mesmerize ourselves to all manner of states wherein we believe that we are, perhaps, touching the face of god, or literally swooping through the inner workings of our minds, our souls. It can all be pretty amazing and quite unsettling. But when we come back to ourselves, as it were, we are still just the same person we were before we went along “tripping the light fantastic,” only now maybe with a small pool of vomitus in our laps and a head that we are convinced will explode at any second.

    I know that most “new age” folks now eschew drugs, and rightly so. But it is that experience which was the seed for much of the so called “spiritual” movement of today – people who believe, if not in a god, then in an even more nebulous “higher power,” or as you say “something greater than oneself.” Again, I just don’t buy it.
    I am quite happy and complete with my flesh and blood self standing on this rock spinning through the universe holding on for dear, and the only, life I have.

    Baritone

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Baritone, I grok what you’re saying but surely the fact that all life forms are related to each other is something greater than oneself?

    Given that it seems increasingly probable that at least some part of what we now are came to Earth from space, I like the idea that life is the universe exploring itself.

    I’m totally down with your sentiment that happiness does indeed involve accepting that we are here on this planet. This is the one and only time the atoms that make up our bodies will come together in the particular configuration that is each unique individual, but those atoms will continue being incorporated into other structures many times after we are gone. That’s kind of cool!

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Christopher,

    I also understand what you’re saying. My question is, In what way does this connectedness affect our daily lives? How does it, or should it influence say, our decision making or our goals in life?

    We can acknowledge an elemental connection to the universe which may help us in understanding how it all works. But I don’t see anything spiritual about it. At this juncture we are in a sense a culmination of all that has gone before, but it is an ongoing process. Even given the possibility that, as some scientists who study such things believe, humans are NOT currently evolving owing to the effects of civilization and technology, the rest of the universe certainly is. Given the inexorable movement of time, that beings and all other things continue to interact, bouncing off of one another as it were, leaving a smudge here and a few molecules there, changing trajectories, even if only slightly, it is all a matter of chance.

    As sentient beings, we have what may be the unique opportunity to consciously plot our journey with the ability to recover if jostled, or change our path or our very destination if we so choose. But we do this as individuals, either alone or in concert with others through deliberate communication and assent.

    We may refer to a part of our lives, our journey as being “spiritual,” but I believe what we think of as spiritual is actually attitude, opinion and emotion. It is a part of our being. This “spirit” may be exhalted or devastated. It is what gives us courage or makes us cowards. It is an ineffable quality that, as far as we know, only we humans have. But it is not “greater” than what we are. It simply “is” what we are.

    Baritone

  • Derek

    All,

    Actually, although many of you don’t seem to judge my comments as worthy of anything, I enjoy some of the conversation. I don’t consider myself “smug” at all, but rather just a person who believes in God and is not ashamed of it.

    Since Mr. Hitchens book deals with this subject, why is it wrong to talk about God on this thread? Do you all enjoy simply agreeing with each other? What’s the fun in that?

    Temple and Christopher,

    Sorry if my arguments are not worthy of your level of debate, but they are not done in “bad faith” and, clearly, you are the smug ones of the group. “Shove it where the spirit takes you?” Come on my brotha’, you must be better than that.

    Baritone,

    I strongly disagree with your comment about believers – or me – using the term “pseudo-intellectual” as a description of non-believers, simply because they don’t believe. Actually, I used the term, because many of you seem to believe that you are the intelligent ones and those who believe are not. That is not smart in my book and the arrogance of it is boorish.

    Unless you all believe that you are more intelligent than every Christian on the planet, which I doubt even the most egomaniacal person in here would believe, then you must admit that “smart” people can just disagree about faith in God.

    If I am not mistaken, then I think Peter Hitchens – i.e. Christopher’s brother – is a believer. Do you all look at him as “the dumb brother” because he opposes Prince Christopher…and you? I am sure he has a few more IQ points than most, but he believes and, obviously, there are many like him. The bottom line is that faith is not a question of intelligence.

    Also, people who believe in God are not opposed to science. Let’s do away with that notion. Obviously, we believe that God created man’s brain, so why wouldn’t we embrace any and all scientific discovery? We do. Well, at least I do and can speak for all of my Christian friends.

    Please just admit that you either believe or don’t believe and that it is not a question of intelligence. And please stop minimizing the spiritual experiences of others just because you haven’t had them yourselves. I mean, really, how could you expect to if you don’t even believe in the first place?

    Lastly, have any of you ever read “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis? I think it might appeal to some of you. In my opinion, his arguments are interesting and sound and I think you might enjoy them.

    All the best,

    Derek

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Derek,

    Well, there is nothing wrong with talking about god here. That is the topic at hand. I don’t know what your experience is here at blogcritics, but these discussions do have a way of moving off the original subject. It’s just the nature of the beast. Also, this is not a place for the faint of heart. I wouldn’t characterize it as ruthless, but there are some pretty sharp knives ready to cut into anything and everything they read here.

    That being said, I don’t think the issue of religion and a belief in god is necessarily related to intelligence. There are obviously a great # of very intelligent and successful believers out there.

    The discussion often gets heated in this regard and fur and feathers may fly. That is, I believe because the stakes are pretty high. We’re not discussing the pros and cons regarding thin and thick crust pizza, or who really shot JR.

    Hitchens, and to a far greater extent Chris Hedges in his book American Fascists discuss the dangers of religious fundamentalism worldwide and including here in the US. As noted in some comments above, there is a concentrated effort by many radical fundamentalists to usurp the current US government and establish a christian theocracy. If they managed to realize that goal, life here and elsewhere would likely be very different, and not in a good way.

    Were it not for that issue, I suppose the intensity of this type of discussion would be far less heated. If belief or non-belief was regarded only as a personal choice with no particular repurcussions beyond, we probably wouldn’t be bouncing this issue around here.

    Baritone

  • Derek

    Baritone,

    Cool. I can handle the sharp knives, however, those wielding them are generally guilty of the same “smugness” they so loathe in others. Hypocritical in my book.

    I will end my participation here by saying that I can’t defend the church or other people’s actions. Obviously, man is often guilty of screwing up the message of Christ and turning it into something ugly.

    There is a fine line between sharing Christ’s message and “beating into someone’s head” and I think that is clear to any thinking person. There is no justification for it. Actually, Christ himself told the apostles to simply dust off their shoes and move on if people did not accept their message.

    Baritone, I admire your willingness to share your thoughts and opinions in an “intelligent” way. I wish you well in your search for the truth.

    Peace…out!

    Derek

    p.s. Thin crust is clearly better :)

  • OSCAR L GUZMAN

    BARITONE,

    You certainly have a proper name. Your baritonesque voice certainly is overwhelming about your “faith” in anti-theism; but you are simply a boring repetitive individual who parrots the same old disputations of a handful of wannabee philosophers since man began to speak. But in your desire to silence theists you engender in us the desire to speak up in defense of our faith.
    I mistakenly opened your blog, looking for an honest book critic, after having read GOD IS NOT GREAT, by Christopher Hitchens, (Who by the way should begin by changing his name: CHRISTOPHER), it does not fit him well.
    I was very, very disappointed at your book review. It’s not a book review, it is merely a summary, a paraphrase of a book. Surely you must know the difference. You are not a book critic. You are a parrot. You liked what you read, and you are simply borrowing the thoughts of an eloquent but incredibly ignorant writer and making those thoughts your own; who by the way are much, much less educated. You simply fed your hunger and hatred with the miniscule, absurd, irrelevant and ridiculous arguments by another angry man, such as yourself, and thus are attempting to poison the minds of others, which probably makes you feel better about yourself.
    Christopher is a ridiculous man, who, first of all misnamed his book, as it does not in the least describe what it portrays. GOD IS NOT GREAT??? This implies that there is a god, and I agree with him; but, I write it with a capital G.
    His attack is mainly against established religions. He portrays himself as an expert on ALL religions of the world. Funny, most people spend a lifetime learning one religion, but in his worthless 58 years of life, he appoints himself as an in incredibly brilliant mind, who has appeared on earth as a messiah to discover man’s foibles and ignorance; and as a knight of the Round Table of atheists, he is going to set the world straight. Unfortunately, he “preaches to the choir.” He indeed caters to people who only know religion superficially, and whose only knowledge derives from what they read in the papers. Who are, as he is, as you are, historical ignoramuses who love to vituperate those whom they disagree with.
    What a pitiful crock of superciliousness. This man exceeds pomposity, if that were possible. Yet he is your messiah. I feel sorry for you, because you are just as pitiful.
    My messiah has never taught me to harm others; has never taught me to rape, pillage, kill; my messiah has only taught me to turn my cheek, and to love my enemy.
    Please do us a favor, and get another job. You are a follower of Hitchens.
    REPEAT seven times:
    I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER. I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER. I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER, I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER. I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER. I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER. I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER…
    Now, do you feel better? NO? Ok, you have deluded yourself in believing you are one. What the heck. There are a lot of “believers” out there that are making a mockery of religion too. So don’t feel so bad.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Dearest Oscar,

    Goodness. For someone who contends that he has been taught to “turn the other cheek” you certainly spew your own brand of hatred with apparent ease.

    I’m not going to waste my time in countering your arguments beyond stating that you are very wrong and totally mis-informed as regards Hitchens, atheists in general, and myself in particular. You presume far too much.

    [personal attack deleted] I know of no atheists who rape, pillage or kill. I do, however, know of many people who have done just that in the name of your messiah.

    Perhaps my arguments are not new. That does not render them any less apt. Mr. Hitchens is not my “messiah.” I have none. I do respect him and his writing, although I disagree with his support of the Iraq war and his hatred of all things Clinton.

    Your anger betrays you. You are so incensed that anyone would have the temerity to challenge your beloved god. I’ll tell you what. If your god is all knowing and even marginally as powerful as all you true believers would have us believe, I’d say hesheit can take care of himheritself. He doesn’t need some sniveling submissive [personal attack deleted] defending himherit. You are irrelevant and unnecessary to any so called god.

    Oh, and if you don’t care for my “book review” talents, well, tough shit!
    B