Thursday, June 3, 2010

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Thomas Henry Culhane 

I will be able to know who my "real" facebook friends are by noting who continues to respectfully associate with me knowing that though I have deep religious convictions I find Hitchens' book a marvelous piece of polemics that I believe is of great heuristic value for all of us. Such friends, if troubled that I enjoye...d reading the arguments Hitchens makes so much, and will include them in my hermeneutics, rather than condemning me, would be those who take the trouble to read this book for themselves with orpen mind and heart.
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007) is a book-length critique of religion by author and journalist Christopher Hitchens. It was published in the United Kingdom as God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion.
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The title is provocative but the book is basically exploring how humans abuse the name of God and do stupid things supposedly in the name of God and approach religion as a "fossilized philosophy" that is still stuck in Medieval thinking. Reading it helps focus the mind on the fact that our human minds are simply too small and fallible to... See More think we can ever truly understand let alone act as if we can speak on behalf of God and cautions us to think for ourselves and develop our own relationship to the Universe and Creation rather than fall pray to other human beings whose interpretations of written words and traditions can be dangerously misleading.This should not make you feel sorry. Interestingly most of my fellow religious friends seem to get threatened whenever we explore the deeper meanings of our religions, as if we puny humans needed to defend an "almighty God" against "thought crimes" from other puny humans. The author points out that this would actually be an insult to God to assume we have to defend HIM. Also interestingly, none of my dis-believing and skeptical and scientifically minded friends seem to get threatened by much of anything. Instead they seem to accept that we wouldn't be able to claim to know the truth even if it were staring us in the face, and don't seem to get offended by anybody questioning, probing or thinking philosophically about the universe and our place in it. So I ask myself, why do people like us who claim to have "faith" and "believe" get so rattled and upset when asked to put our beliefs to the rigorous tests of reason? If I believe that an apple is round I don't get threatened when somebody says, "maybe it isn't, let's measure it". And if we find out it is really oblong we don't get upset by the discovery that its dimensions are not spherical, we celebrate the new knowledge. But for some reason everybody gets all bent out of shape when someone says, "let's test the hypothesis that certain legends associated with religion might be metaphoric rather than literal." The book at least gets one to ask, "how solopsist and insecure must we be to think that our faith can be shattered by the revelation that many of the so called miracles in our religions are parablesrather than facts. If one needs physical miracles in order to believe than one must not be very convinced to begin with." What I like about the book is that it suggests that a more mature faith would require no religion and no miracles at all, and certainly no need to try to convince others that God exists. It asks, "if you believe God is Great, why do you assume He needs you or anybody else to convince others of the fact?". So the title is saying "if you have to go around boasting all the time how great something is, you are actually implying it isn't really so great". For instance, would you trust somebody who came to sell you a car and kept insisting how great it was but forbid you to look under the hood or take a test drive and ask tough questions about its performance? This is why Hitchins says that many people who claim to be believers actually come across as insecure atheists. The person of great faith would feel no need to make any claims, feeling that something as great as God could make his own case for himself. 

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