This is a summary of one important argument made by Christopher Hitchens in God is Not Great
In a thousand years are people going to see my God the way I see Apollo or Zeus–as fictional characters from a religion that is now extinct? Romans and Greeks believed their Gods were real just as much as people today believe the Christian God is real. How can a person know if God(s) exists, let alone what God wants them to do?
God is Not Great offers counter arguments for many of the current arguments that there is a God.
Argument 1: Religion is the greatest moral teacher. Hitchens’ answer: Religion is immoral and damaging.
“We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion. And we know for a fact that the corollary holds true—that religion has caused innumerable people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic cleanser raise an eyebrow” (p.6, God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens)
“Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience” (p.57, God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens)
“We have no way to quantify the damage done by telling tens of millions of children that masturbation will make them blind, or that impure thoughts will lead to an eternity of torment, or that members of other faiths including members of their own families will burn, or that venereal disease will result from kisses. Nor can we hope to quantify the damage done by holy instructors who rammed home these lies and accompanied them with floggings and rapes and public humiliations.” (pp.55-56, God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens)
“Since religion has proved itself uniquely delinquent on the one subject where moral and ethical authority might be counted as universal and absolute, I think we are entitled to at least three provisional conclusions. The first is that religion and the churches are manufactured, and that this salient fact is too obvious to ignore. The second is that ethics and morality are quite independent of faith, and cannot be derived from it. The third is that religion is—because it claims a special divine exemption for its practices and beliefs—not just amoral but immoral.” (p. 52, God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens)
Many people claim that religion is the best source and teacher of Morality. Hitchens says that not only can people be perfectly moral without religion, but that religion is often immoral itself and it often justifies immoral behavior. Roman’s killed Christians because they didn’t worship roman Gods. Christians killed Muslims during the crusades. Christians, for long periods of time in many countries killed anyone who refused to convert. Aztecs performed daily human sacrifices to appease their Gods. Buddhists in Burma were sacrificing humans as late as the 1850’s. 2 million people were strangled in India to appease the Goddess Kali in the 1500’s. The witch hunts in the U.S. and the Inquisition in Europe were used as grounds for weeding out the unbelievers and killing them.
In modern times, this type of religious violence continues. Muslims kill Jews and Christians. Christians kill Muslims and Jews. Muslims kill other Muslims who live Islam differently. Catholics kill Protestants and vice-verse. Think Islamic Jihad. Think Christian sects warring in Ireland, Belfast, and Croatia. Think Muslim sects killing each other in Iraq. Think about the ethnic cleansing of the Tutsi in Rwanda because some Christian believed the Virgin Mary gave him visions that this slaughter would usher in the return of Christ. Even the eastern religions have not been free of this type of religious persecution. Think about it. Religious differences have been used as justification for murder throughout history, and this continues today.
Religious texts often justify immoral acts. The Koran outright promotes violence. The Old Testament contains rules for the buying and selling of slaves and the sale of one’s daughters. It contains a command to kill witches. It contains passages where God orders parents to kill their disobedient children. It contains multiple accounts of God commanding genocide in order to make room for his chosen people. If these passages hadn’t been used as justification for these very things, these passages might be excusable, but they have! Currently Christians use the Old Testament to justify denying marriage to homosexuals. Currently the Old Testament’s bestowal of a “promised land” is used as justification for continued wars in the Holy Land.
In the name of God people kill each other, alter the genitalia–even of babies–to prevent sexual pleasure, continue sexism and racism, fight against the use of condoms (thereby causing more cases of AIDS), fight against vaccinations against STD’s (saying it will create promiscuity or interfere with God’s will, all while people die unnecessarily). in the name of God ignorance is prospered above scientific advancements, even above health. In the name of God people control, manipulate and oppress each other. All this, in the name of whatever God they perceive is in control of this world.
On the other hand, on a pretty frequent basis I go to church and leave wanting to be a better, more loving person. People use religion to justify horrible things, but I don’t have to do that.
What are your thoughts?