pets endangered by possible book avalanche
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I don't know if this will make sense to anyone besides me, but when I was confronted with Christianity as an adult, my biggest puzzlement was why such great importance was being placed on so many things that were stated to have merely happened. This seemed to be not the foundation that anyone would want for a religion. Regardless of the truth or falsity of the events, why would it be so important that this or that event merely happened? A religion should have a much better claim to legitimacy than its insistence that its god has shown, by stepping into history, that it is the true god revealing the only truth. The claim should be based not on events that prove there is only one metaphysical truth, but on common ethical understandings--which all of the world's religions do in fact contain. The problem is that the matters that should be taken as peripheral are elevated far beyond their real importance, becoming things to die and kill for.
The problems with revelation begin with this pretense of having been blessed by a god that has intervened in history to hand out the one truth. It is therefore almost unnecessary to critique the particulars of any one set of such claims. They are fables, which is not such a problem in itself, only if their fictiveness is taken as real.
Hitchens admits that dredging the Old Testament can be tiring. He must know that few of his readers need convincing that, both logically and morally, the OT is wanting as any kind of handbook for a just and reasonable life. But still he does his yeoman's work with it. An advantage he points out is that all three monotheisms are treated in a single critique, since all originate in OT narratives.
Not knowing how much interest there is in talking about all the "nightmare" qualities Hitchens finds in the OT, I'll just take his first topic of the 10 commandments.
These commandments explicitly show their time-bound and thus manmade nature. The first several are the sort of "monarchical growling" with which a "Babylonian or Assyrian emperor might have ordered the scribes to begin a proclamation." Punishment for sins is not to be seen as limited to perpetrators, but will be exacted on descendents several generations down the line, in violation of all human notions of fairness. The commandments also share a quality with all religious edicts in demanding the impossible, which is not even to think about doing a bad thing. Obviously, this extension into minds expands the purview of religious authorities. Hitchens further details the desert nomad character of the commandments in remarking on what they omit: "protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide." Two of these offenses are in fact about to be "positively recommended" in succeeding verses: the conditons of buying and selling slaves, and the rules for selling daughters.
Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun.