Patrick Gibson's Reviews > God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
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May 05, 09

bookshelves: snorgasm
Read in May, 2009

God is not so good (if he/she/it exists at all).

Man(kind) eternally perverts God and the concept thereof (if man exists at all) to his own evil machinations.
Christians are whoremongers with a history of violence, deception, and generally all around evil (if evil exists at all) – but most major religions with God at the center are contributors to the subjugation and degradation of humanity.

This is a venal book, albeit humorous, intelligent and somewhat enjoyable considering it is loaded with arrogant pretentious crap.

We all know religion is dangerous to society—it always has been. The Crusades were picnics?

This must be written for the people of Middle Earth. The faithful will never get past the offensive fallacies (and they may not understand words longer than ‘transubstantiate’); to the Philistines this is preaching to the choir—they know it all already (and luxuriate in big words because it justifies their existence); that leaves the undecided in the middle—and I am not sure the arguments presented are clear enough to convert the pabulum addicted irrational double-wide half educated nit wits who consider a Chevy on cinder blocks a lawn ornament towards any particular argument.
Bill Mahar made the psychosis of religion at least palatable with ‘Religulous,’ which unfortunately will, once again, not be seen or read by the people who should. At least it is clever and witty, unlike this book which is dull and fatuitous, with a few clever little snarky bits. (Not enough snark for the buck, unfortunately.)

The author uses a scorched earth process which denigrates any arguments he tries to make. We get it. We know religion fucks things up. It’s important to bring examples to our attention, but why make us feel so dirty in the process? A little less arrogant perhaps? A few sentences in English instead of convoluted prosaic gobbledegoop? Ayn Rand reads better than this shit.

Christopher Hitchens is not so great.

But if he were . . . could he edit half the book to the bowels of hell and leave us with something worth reading?

Did I mention I have an opinion?
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message 1: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited May 05, 2009 10:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Hitchens can present his opinions (which he does), but they're no more likely to be true than the opinions of any other person on the planet."

But what basis do you make this judgement from? How do you measure the likelihood or unlikelihood of these things? Wouldn't you have to include your own judgements within the rest of the ones held by everyone else on the planet? My point is that this kind of epistemic relativism is self-defeating. In other words it falls into the totally contradictory quagmire of 'Everyone's ideas are equally true, even the idea that this idea itself is false.'

Ignoring Hitchens and deeper philosophical questions of knowledge for a moment, I have to say that they're certainly are very good arguments against the existence of various gods. In my examinations of the standard Abrahamic God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam I've found that this God is as false of a notion as 2+2=5. I've read all of the arguments that try to reconcile the presence of Evil with such a God and I'm confident that they range from Abject Failure to Abject Failure with Frills.

It's far too easy to just put one's hands in the air and say "We'll never know!" There are some ideas that are just logically impossible and I count an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent Creator of All Things as one of them. But even if this isn't accepted I think that the argument from implausibility when applied to disbelieving in supernatural entities such as god(s) is just as convincing and is what I use to reject logically possible gods like Zeus and Poseidon and the thousands of others that are more logically coherent than the monotheistic god of the big three monotheisms of the present day. I find the Flying Spaghetti Monster more likely to be real than the God of Abraham. At least spaghetti and flight are existant things that don't contradict one another. The FSM could exist and is extremely unlikely to actually exist now or later, but the 3-O God is not even a remote possibility. The strongest argument for this position is the argument from evil. "The Lord works in mysterious ways" or bluntly saying "God wanted us to have free will" does not dissolve this problem as both sophisticated and unsophisticated believers seem to imagine these responses do.

message 2: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited May 06, 2009 09:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio But what makes something a "matter of faith"? What is "faith"? I think faith (in the sense of "religious faith") is simply the excuse people give one another to believe things when there is no evidence. Whenever there are reasons present that people think support their religious beliefs they absolutely love to cite them, but when these reasons fail or simply are not there suddenly it becomes a matter of faith. This to me is something many humans have been slowly but surely conned or misled into giving credance to. Why can't I apply faith to something like racism or sexism? Why is faith that Jesus rose from the dead or Muhammed ascended to paradise on a winged horse any more legitimate than, say, a faith that the Holocaust never happend, or that little green men live in my blood stream or any other number of propositions about the nature of reality?

Some quotes from Sam Harris that sum up what I'm trying to get at:

"Where we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; where we have no reasons, we have lost both our connection to the world and to one another."

"The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive."

"It is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window."

And I don't think all religious ideas and truth-claims are equally (un)compelling. There's diversity there. For instance I think that the story of Mormonism is even more unlikely to be true than the typical tenets of mainstream Christianity. There is even less evidence (and more counter-evidence) of the historical claims it makes.

I don't think religion is a massive hoax either, I think it emerged from very genuine, noble and important human impulses to understand their surroundings and themselves, to create order and stability, etc. However, I think we've come to realize better ways of understanding the world in the last 400 years at least, and I see most religious beliefs and practices as unnecessarily maintaining ignorance and danger where better (secular) means of achieving the same noble goals (meaning, morality, reverence for life, etc) are readily available.

message 3: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited May 07, 2009 08:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Religious claims are not any different than the claims you just dismissed there. I could easily say that you don't believe in the existence of little green men in my bloodstream (and yours and everyone elses) because they're invisible and can only be discovered through the cultivation of one's faith and through reading the Book of Revelation while sitting on the toilet and praying faithfully to Zoroaster. Can you prove that this isn't so? No. Is there any good reason to think that it is, or is even remotely plausible? No. As is the same with every claim about supernatural events (many of these being religious/theistic claims) I've ever seen. The point is that there is little or no evidence or good argument for certain claims. These claims most people reject precisely for these reasons, but somehow (mainstream) religious claims get a pass. Why? Just as there is no good argument or evidence for the claim about the Holocaust, the little green men within, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the sky being green, etc, religious claims are equally and in many cases even more unsupported by good argument and evidence than those. It's an unjustifiable shift of the standards of evidence. And like I said in my first post I think that a god proported to be omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent is an impossibilty not just egregiously unlikely like a more logically coherent conception of god or the little invisible green men within. Most theologians admit that the problem of evil is incredibly daunting and I've read all of the clever theodicies (attempts to fend of the problem of evil) and they simply fail.

Your point about being raised with religion and it seeming more viable a view of reality doesn't give any points to the notion that these ideas are true or even good. It just shows that the minds of children incorporate the information they're surrounded with in a profound personality- and perception-shaping way.

message 4: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited May 19, 2009 12:19PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Yes, an all-knowing, all-powerful God that is not all-good could exist (I did say that a few times before)--and so could the little green men in my bloodstream (and a million other ideas), but there's very poor arguments based on little to no evidence for both. The idea of a creative intelligence as the source of Everything is not in itelf impossible it's just without evidence and doesn't really answer the question of why or how anything exists at all. It begs the question of why the creative intelligence exists at all. People often say "You think that all this could come from nothing?" and then insist that the only logical answer is that a creative designer of some sort had to poof everything into existence. If God can just exist, why can't the universe just exist? There's simply no adequate answer to this, people simply say that God is defined as the First Cause, but this is just more question-begging and logical fallacy. If you start with the premise that the thing you're trying to argue for existing is such and such a way then this is just a circular argument. I could just define the universe as uncaused in my premises too if it's acceptable to do this with god.

message 5: by Skyler (new)

Skyler I will pray for you.

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