Since you ask…

Rob asks:

I haven’t read Christopher Hitchens’s book – yet another book attempting to discredit religion and argue that there is no God (is anyone bored yet?)

Well, let’s see. A Pakistani government minister has just suggested that Salman Rushdie’s knighthood justifies suicide bombings. A creationist museum has just opened in Kentucky. The Catholic church has just told its members to stop supporting Amnesty International because they support the decriminalisation of abortion. And Hamas has just taken control of the Gaza strip.

I don’t think the subject has been exhausted quite yet.

4 replies on “Since you ask…”

You’ve got a point, Harry.

However, three out of four of your examples concern fundamentalist groups, and the Vatican’s attitude over abortion can be likened to fundamentalism. It seems to me that fundamentalists become so embroiled in an ideology that they disassociate from the world itself and the consequences their ideology might have on the world. Even actions that will bring great suffering can then be justified, as only the ideology counts – an ideology that ignores even the basic tenets of their religion – love, peace, reconciliation, justice, mercy etc. These people have lost grip on reality and even on their own faith(s).

I don’t think that’s the case with the vast majority of religious people, who generally want to have a beneficial effect on the world and usually do so – all the religious texts, except when twisted by the fundamentalists, call for greater love, charity, and good deeds.

None of this has any bearing on the existence or non-existence of God, which is unprovable.

To say ‘you can’t prove God doesn’t exist’ is true, but not exactly a ringing endorsement.

And while my examples aren’t necessarily typical of majority religion, they aren’t exactly negligible fringe movements either.

Whether, over the course of human history, the net contribution of religion has been positive or negative, and whether, in the world today, religion’s overall impact is positive or negative—well, that’s the question, isn’t it. I don’t think the answer is self-evident, myself. I think there’s an argument to be had, and that it’s an important argument. And that there’s enough material there for hundreds of books, not just half a dozen.

Yes, there is an argument to be acted out, no doubt about that. I’m suspicious of bandwagons, and the hyped “God-thumping” book seems rather prevalent at the moment. But I guess that’s how the book trade works and always has worked.

Well, if it’s just a one-off Summer Of Atheism centered on the personalities of Dawkins and Hitchens, then I agree it’s not achieving much. I’d like to hope it’s just the first wave of a broader movement in support of secularism and Enlightenment values, personally. Who knows.

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