Hitchens (2008). Chapter One: Putting It Mildly. (god is not Great: How religion poisons everything.)

Hitchens, C. (2008). Chapter One: Putting It Mildly. In god is not Great: How religion poisons everything. New York: Twelve.

[God decided to make Hitchens as he is …]

“… the unknowable and ineffable creator who—presumably—opted to make me this way.” (p 1)”

[Respect for disciplined literary study …]

“I can still do this, greatly to the annoyance of some of my enemies, and still have respect for those whose style is sometimes dismissed as ‘merely’ Talmudic, or Koranic, or ‘fundamentalist.’ This is good and necessary mental and literary training.” (p 2)

[“irreducible objections to religious faith” …]

“There still remain 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.” (p 4)

[Ethics and morals without religion …]

“We speculate that it is at least possible that, once people accepted the fact of their short and struggling lives, they might behave better toward each other and not worse. We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion.” (p 6)

[No need for inducements to behave …]

“Most important of all, perhaps, we infidels do not need any machinery of reinforcement.” (p 6)

[All prophets are in the distant past …]

“We shall have no more prophets or sages from the ancient quarter, which is why the devotions of today are only the echoing repetitions of yesterday…” (p 7)

[One’s vanity is exposed in the delusion of a deity’s personal attention; Civilization is hampered as a result of invented deities …]

“How much vanity must be concealed — not too effectively at that — in order to pretend that one is the personal object of a divine plan? … [page break] God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.” (p 7-8)

[Beauty can be appreciated; note DNA, and process of evolution, connection to other living things …]

“Not all can be agreed on matters of aesthetics, but we secular humanists and atheists and agnostics do not wish to deprive humanity of its wonders or consolations…. If you examine the beauty and symmetry of the double helix, and then go on to have your own genome sequence fully analyzed, you will be at once impressed … [page break] Now at last you can be properly humble in the face of your maker, which turns out not to be a ‘who,’ but a process of mutation with rather more random elements than our vanity might wish.” (p 8-9)

[Marx on religion …]

“… Marx… son of a rabbinical line took belief very seriously and wrote, in his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, as follows:

“‘Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.'” (p 9)

[Believers claiming certainty in their knowledge …]

“And yet — the believers still claim to know! Not just to know, but to know _everything_…. [page break] The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.” (p 10-11)

[Proselytizing is disrespectful and dangerous …]

“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…. 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.” (p 12-13)

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