Attack of the Cranky Athiests
Another day, another cranky athiest. Christopher Hitchens, who is apparently a respected journalist, has published a book called God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
Here's what he has to say about his friends who are religious, as excerpted in Slate online magazine.
Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other. For this reason, I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could. Very generous of me, you may say. But will the religious grant me the same indulgence? I ask because there is a real and serious difference between me and my religious friends, and the real and serious friends are sufficiently honest to admit it. I would be quite content to go to their children's bar mitzvahs, to marvel at their Gothic cathedrals, to "respect" their belief that the Koran was dictated, though exclusively in Arabic, to an illiterate merchant, or to interest myself in Wicca and Hindu and Jain consolations. And as it happens, I will continue to do this without insisting on the polite reciprocal condition—which is that they in turn leave me alone. But this, religion is ultimately incapable of doing. As I write these words, and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments that I have touched upon. Religion poisons everything.
I would say somebody needs a hug, but I think he's past the point where a hug will help.
Check this out, though: he says he just wants his religious friends to leave him alone. Maybe he needs some new friends? Cause, like, I don't remember ever getting in the face of my atheist friends, and I have plenty of them. And I don't EVER remember accusing Atheists of "Plotting...the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments..."
Maybe I shouldn't take this personally, but it's kind of hard not to, because he is lumping me in with, like, suicide bombers.
Why do people do this--educated people who know which fork they are supposed to use for the main course and which one for salad at a formal dinner, I mean?
Well, I'm guessing Mr. Hitchens is really frustrated with a lot of bad things going on in the world. I don't blame him for that. And I don't blame him for wanting something or someone to blame. I'd kind of like to be able to blame the Soviets, or the Devil, or whatever. But the Soviets had to go and self-destruct on me, and I've found that there is some good and some evil in everyone, so blaming stuff on the Devil doesn't really give me much satisfaction. Bad stuff happens, and I'll be the first one to admit that the world's religions have not come up with a perfect, all-encompassing explanation for the problem of evil. I guess it could be because, as a religious person, I am in fact the answer to the question "What is the cause of the problem of evil?" but I don't really think so.
I guess in Mr. Hitchen's mind, religion is about answering the big questions, and he's right. But not all religious people think that religion has the answers to the big questions. I sure don't. I guess religion that claims to have all the answers has a lot of appeal in uncertain, scary times like ours. It doesn't have any appeal for me. It makes me really sad to see so many people settle for easy (if imperfect) answers to what the Garrison Keillor charactor Guy Noir calls "life's persistent questions," but right now I'm not in an angry place about that. If it wasn't religion claiming to have the answers it would be (and in many cases is) political parties or multinational corporations or Think Tanks or some other institutions. Institutions are run by and for humans, and like the humans that create them, they are flawed. This includes the institution of journalism, I'm sorry to tell poor Mr. Hitchens.
I do feel that it is important to wrestle with the big questions, to wrestle with them together in a like-hearted community with a spirit of compassion, because none of us has all the answers. That is what religion is about for me, and for a lot of other people too.