Monday, March 23, 2020

God is Not Great-A Book Review by Sutton

GOD IS NOT GREAT: 
HOW RELIGION POISONS     
EVERYTHING

By
   Christopher Hitchens

Reviewed by
   Geoffrey W. Sutton




Hitchens begins his pungent polemic against religion by explaining how he came to question religious teaching as a child (chapter 1). Following a deconversion experience associated with a teacher's simplistic description of reality covered with a simple religious gloss, Hitchens reflects upon perceived oddities in scripture and child-abusing clergy. Next, Hitchens adumbrates his thesis as: 

four irreducible objections to religious faith:
1. that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original
2. error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism,
3. that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and
4. that is ultimately grounded on with-thinking. (p. 4)
Hitchens covers familiar grounds in his attack of religious faith with each chapter a blow x blow progression of what he sees as the evils of religion. Here's my quick reference to his chapters.

2. Religious groups have behaved violently toward each other in the name of their faith.
3. An essay on the religious views toward pigs
4. Religious groups have a history of anti-health policies
5. A challenge to metaphysical claims
6. A challenge to intelligent design

Next, are three chapters targeting the faiths of Judaism (7), Christianity (8), and Islam (9).

From my published review (Sutton, )
Next, we encounter five essays (chapters 10-
16) on related matters interrupted by an attack
on the failures of Asian faiths (chapter 14).
Among other things, Hitchens minimizes miracles,
harrumphs on hell, and opines on the onerous
doctrines of religion (primarily Christianity).
The final chapters (17-19) offer readers hope for a better worldview based on reason.


**********
The value of a set of essays like those presented by Hitchens is to identify the strangeness of various religious doctrines and practices considered by various groups of people as essential to their identity as well as their worldview. Indeed, people who identify as spiritual or religious consider those of another tradition to be strange. In getting to know people of another faith, it is possible to genuinely like them, but remain convinced that they are strange or worse, headed to eternal damnation unless they convert.

In a related manner, Hitchens takes aim at beliefs and practices where faith traditions are most vulnerable. So many fundamentalists who insist on living according to their interpretation of literal translations of ancient texts offer a firm basis for rejecting their faith tradition. I suspect this situation will always exist. Fundamentalists are often those who fund religious schools and organizations. Those with more progressive views are muzzled by self-preservation or anxious administrators in need of more and more donations to survive.

Serious religious people can also humbly admit it's true that members of their own religious group often behave in ways reflecting a lack of transformation into people who live virtuous lives worth emulating. Sadly, too few religious adherents demonstrate the classic virtues of humility, wisdom, love, forgiveness, generosity, and so forth. Instead, as Hitchens reminds us, we have too many willing to kill others and force others to submit to their moral and cultural beliefs.

Hitchens also reminds us of the history of opposition to science and good health practices throughout religious history. And of course, such opposition persists as those in my own profession (psychology) have often witnessed. Unfortunately, the manner in which Hitchens preaches is unlikely to evoke reflection. But perhaps that is not his point. Perhaps Hitchens is more about venting his frustration or perhaps bent on evangelizing the youth who would build a utopia on the foundations of reason.

The wave of anti-religious attacks came in the wake of 911. However, then as now, when faced with a threat, people turn to their faith for support. Slowly, religious restrictions have abated throughout the world and those in the West demonstrate more confidence in physicians than priests when it comes to illness and disease. 

Related Posts

The God Delusion

The Case for God

Caught in the Pulpit


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