God is not Great
Post Reply
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
19-03-2012, 05:46 PM
God is not Great
I wrote this for my blog and wanted to share it with my favorite forum Smile It isn't a work of art or anything, just what came immediately to mind when I read the book. Please feel free to comment here or on the blog, I really hope to get a few readers as I'm putting a lot of work in to it, and I hope to expand my discussion to include any and all of my interests at some point.


God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Christopher Hitchens

I began reading this book on the recommendation of my brother. I had never considered myself religious in my adult life, but I also did not go out of my way to read or immerse myself in agnostic and atheist literature. It seemed so self-evident and sensible to me that the world was so much more than the Bible or the Koran, or any other religious text ever made it out to be, that it didn’t seem necessary to me. I knew the names Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, and Sagan; I knew the theories of Einstein in relation to Physics but I never applied it to spirituality. In truth, ever since I was put back in the public school system, I couldn’t understand how anyone could believe in a god at all. Just look outside at the trees, grass, birds, insects and you would see a world of complexity far exceeding the limits of ancient texts.
It wasn’t until a profound and traumatizing event in my life that I really began to realize that it was not self-evident to everyone. There were people all around me that still bought in to the idea that some man in the sky when that idea had died for me along with Santa Claus. I began to question everything all over again, and I turned to the only person I knew understood what I was going through.
For Christmas, when I was still in high school, my brother gave me Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. I had always meant to read it, but I was a high school kid and had far more ‘important’ things to attend. So when I called him in tears after one of my college classes asking him what I should do, he gave me the title of two books: God is not Great by Hitchens and Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett. He had the honor of meeting Mr. Hitchens after his book came out and thanked him for writing it, and felt that it would help me reason through the trauma we were all going through. So I picked it up from the library and started reading as much of it as I could in my free time.

The first thing to note about the book is that Hitchens writes precisely the way he speaks: unapologetic and scathing. At first this was a jarring experience, as I had always thought it was important to recognize other spiritual ideas. As an anthropology student, I had been taught that all cultures were sacred and worth study, and to speak so condemningly about a person’s spiritual ideas was not something I was used to reading. But quickly I realized that it was not without reason or without justification. I found his criticisms opinion, and realized that I had once been a child exactly as he described in his chapter concerning indoctrination. I had gone to a school that did everything to shield us from the secular and teach us the truths of the Bible and the story of Jesus. I remember saying something terrible to someone I loved because I really did believe in hell and damnation. I was only six or seven, but I was so convinced he would go to hell if I didn’t show him the little book I made about salvation, that I spouted off what I had been taught, “well fine, go to hell then.”
I have long since accepted that I have difficulty reading anything without my anthropology glasses on. His chapter on the pig seemed funny to me and at the same time a bit frustrating. He focused on the absurdity of banning the consumption of an animal or the fact that they are so human-like. I guess it was hard for me not to see the topic as an issue of “Categorical Anomalies” as described by Mary Douglas when discussing pollution in a symbolic sense. I did find his argument funny and convincing if a bit simple, but at the same time Hitchens’ goal is not to study religion as a cultural phenomenon but rather a disease that plagues humanity and holds us back.
While I do not disagree with Hitchens’ point of view on the matter of religion and its detrimental effects on humanity, I find his methods only compelling to someone that already agrees with him. He does not seek to explain the happening of religion and ritual for its own sake, and illustrate why the whole thing is completely of human creation. I feel he oversimplifies much of what he argues and makes sweeping generalizations based on his personal experience. This does not, of course, discredit was he is saying—I find I agree and am compelled by his examples—but it increases the chances that the people who really need to digest what he is saying will instead scoff and throw it in a fire.
In the end, it is impossible for me to separate my opinion as a student of anthropology and anthropological theory from my reading of God is not Great, but does not mean I think it was a waste of time. Quite the opposite, Hitchens illustrates quite well the possible detriments of religion on youth, personal relations, and international policy. He indeed argues well that religion ‘poisons’ everything: thought, ideas, emotions, and actions. It can lead parents to reject their child, perhaps even sacrifice them to prove their ‘faith.’ Hitchens call to reject these ideas and to embrace in their place free inquiry and sharing of ideas across ethnic and ideological boundaries for the simple sake of self-betterment. That is an idea I can get behind whole-heartedly.

My Blog
[Image: 1z5qgiq.png]
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 3 users Like NeonMoment's post
Post Reply
Forum Jump: