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Ch. 1: Putting It Mildly 
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Nevertheless, I still stand by my last paragraph.


That is your opinion and you are entitled to it

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In retrospect, such is the human race. Often it does seem such a pity that Noah didn’t miss the boat.


:laugh:

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Fri Mar 06, 2009 12:10 am
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Hitchens is a first-rate intellect and occasionally brilliant writer- perhaps one of the world's brightest minds engaging the public arena of culture, politics, literature and most things human...and he produces a mighty persuasive case against Religion, important and necessary and in some instances courageous and, yes, even brilliant. Religious abuses must be exposed, confronted and held accountable; and Hitchens' work is essential in this process.

And this is not the book, nor is Hitchens the place to go to get beyond the abuses: ie, the terror, ignorance and futility of Religion is all you get with Hitchens. I think it is a collosal error and sheer prejudice that sees only the abuse, and in its narrow minded, rigidly one-sided approach becomes abusive and destructive in its own way...reproducing the intolerance and bigotry it purports to fight against. The complexity and depth of Religion is completely lost in a struggle of black versus white, good versus evil, rational versus irrational puppets on a one-dimensional stage that exists nowhere beyond Hitchens' narrative...except in another similar guise and like-minded binary struggle fought by the same theocrats and fundamentalists he eviscerates across his pages.



Fri Mar 06, 2009 9:09 am
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This is the first book I've read by Hitchens ...

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Hitchens is a first-rate intellect and occasionally brilliant writer- perhaps one of the world's brightest minds engaging the public arena of culture, politics, literature and most things human...and he produces a mighty persuasive case against Religion,


Perhaps in another of his works I would like it .. I don't know. I do feel solidly that random examples and lots of nasty words do NOT make a rational case for his interpretations. That is my opinion. You don't have to agree with it nor must I agree with you.

Continuing the discussion of the chapter ... I think maybe religion's original appeal was that it provided means for which people could control their own destiny. In a world where rain and plagues and other natural phenomena were the primary cause of your success or failure in life it's very appealing to think that by saying a prayer or doing a dance that you can influence these events and somehow have a say in what your future will be. However as the times have changed, I think we're far past those concerns. In todays world people look to religion to tell them that they are personally important... that they are not lost in the sea of humans that roam any given society. You are recognized as an individual soul and you have value as such. It used to be your skills and craft had value to society and you were identified and valued by your work, which no one else or very few others could porform... but now, everyone is replacable.. no one person is essential to society... in religion they are given value for their souls.. and just by existing they have a purpose and function to perform in the greater scheme of things... even if that purpose and function remain hidden... it's good enough to know it's there...

What I am basically trying to say is that, I think today, religion is more about giving meaning to your life, and allowing people to have value for something other than their work and skills. Either in this life or the next.


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Fri Mar 06, 2009 9:33 am
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Hitchens is a take-no-prisioners polemicist, true. I have been trying to suggest, though, that he holds a softer, more tolerant view of religion than he admits explicitly. One indication is his fondness for some things associated with religion. Another is a remarkable statement (which I will try to find and quote later) that, in terms of the information available to them at the time, people who answered the questions of existence in terms of their religion were doing the best they could. This is statement I haven't seen before from atheist authors. It means that they could not have been engaged in error which, had they only chosen, they could have avoided.



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DWill wrote:
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Hitchens is a take-no-prisioners polemicist, true. I have been trying to suggest, though, that he holds a softer, more tolerant view of religion than he admits explicitly. One indication is his fondness for some things associated with religion.


I'm not bashing the guy. He has his beliefs. Great. All men and women should have something they believe in. However, in one example of his view it is demonstrated in Letters to a Young Contrarian , in which Christopher Hitchens writes: "I'm not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful."
If this were the fifteenth or sixteenth century where all was governed by the church, I would totally agree. But that is simply not the case. People have the right to believe what they want, how they want, and where they want. How on earth could this be harmful? Harmful to whom? Him? You? the entire population?
I fail to see the soft side in this quotation. However, I am trying to remain open minded and I am willing to see your point of view. I just don't and didn't see a soft side in the first Chapter, much less the entire book. And the above quote confirms my belief. Isn't it our right to choose, right or wrong?
Whose to say religion is harmful to those who pray only. That is all they do. They don't go to church, they don't read the bible, they don't have a specified religion, and yet they believe in a higher power and they prey. How is that harmful?
I think Mr. Hitchens makes assumptions without forethought.


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Thrillwriter: I do feel solidly that random examples and lots of nasty words do NOT make a rational case for his interpretations.

I don't think his work is reducible to simply random examples and derogatory language, but I agree he is not making a simply rational case against Religion. I think his attack against Religion is one stage in a larger war he is waging, and he knows enough about human behavior to understand that defeating an enemy requires much more than simply lining up good reasons and offering persuasive arguments. Part of defeating an enemy involves demoralizing their forces: as well as bolstering the morale of your own troops. Hitchens' violent rhetoric is traumatizing to his foes and invigorating to his allies. It is a propagandistic strategy meant to instigate a fight and humiliate an opponent. Hitchens is a warrior who understands the value of controlling the hearts and minds of an occupied population. He is part of a resistance/revolutionary force in a territory largely occupied by theocratic bullies and facists. There is enormous value in bullying the bully and slapping the tyrant (even if only rhetorically) especially when viewed in broad daylight by the bullied and tyrannized masses. His vitriol and nastiness spark the courage of those otherwise too frightened to speak out or stand up.

And, since his efforts are in denial of the anti-fascistic and liberationary dimensions of Religion...his venom and spite simply throw kerosene on an already apocalyptic fire.



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Thank you Dissident Heart.

That actually puts it in a much better perspective for me. I appreciate the time you took to phrase your case and provide an excellent command of the human language to explain it to me so that I can better understand the motive behind the words.

I feel I have a better understanding now. I am much appreciative.
I may even go back and read it again now with an enhanced understanding to the nature of the content of his work.


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Thrillwriter wrote:
Quote:
I'm not bashing the guy.

Please don't think that I think you are.
If this were the fifteenth or sixteenth century where all was governed by the church, I would totally agree. But that is simply not the case. People have the right to believe what they want, how they want, and where they want. How on earth could this be harmful? Harmful to whom? Him? You? the entire population?
I fail to see the soft side in this quotation. However, I am trying to remain open minded and I am willing to see your point of view. I just don't and didn't see a soft side in the first Chapter, much less the entire book. And the above quote confirms my belief. Isn't it our right to choose, right or wrong? /quote]
Though the quotation about harmfulness is not from our current book, I take it as representative of his views. "Harmful" is his opinion, I think , of the net effect of individuals practicing religion, an effect on society. His statements are indeed usually strong, but they are his opinions, which we all have the right to examine for their basis in reason. Is there such a basis, or is it all just his personal animus against religion? That's to be decided by each of us. Remember, though, that he doesn't dispute relgion in terms of anyone's right to practice it. He also says, "I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could." (p.12)

Something comes up here that has been mentioned frequently in our arguments about religion, and I think you touch on it indirectly in the last part of your post. We have this singular noun "religion" which allows us to speak as if it were unitary. But we all know it's not one thing essentially but composed of many different aspects. When we attack "religion", then, are we attacking all beliefs labeled as such, all beliefs not labeled as such but not falsifiable, all spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation, and all groups who practice a religion? It isn't very credible that all such things could be problems. Critics of religion should specify what they're objecting to, because otherwise the generality of their reference lessens their credibility a lot in my eyes. I thought one of the strengths of Richard Dawkins book was that he came right out and said that what he was naming as delusional was the standard Christian/Jewish concept of God. Other concepts that one might call God were not targets.

I would say that Hitchens does specify what exactly he doesn't like about religion. Whether he can provide support for "harmfulness" is another matter. And if everything associated with religion turns out to be harmful in his view, I think that would indicate a lack of balanced reasoning.



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Thrillwriter wrote:
I'm not bashing the guy.

Please don't think that I think you are.
Quote:
If this were the fifteenth or sixteenth century where all was governed by the church, I would totally agree. But that is simply not the case. People have the right to believe what they want, how they want, and where they want. How on earth could this be harmful? Harmful to whom? Him? You? the entire population?
I fail to see the soft side in this quotation. However, I am trying to remain open minded and I am willing to see your point of view. I just don't and didn't see a soft side in the first Chapter, much less the entire book. And the above quote confirms my belief. Isn't it our right to choose, right or wrong?

Though the quotation about harmfulness is not from our current book, I take it as representative of his views. "Harmful" is his opinion, I think , of the net effect of individuals practicing religion, an effect on society. His statements are indeed usually strong, but they are his opinions, which we all have the right to examine for their basis in reason. Is there such a basis, or is it all just his personal animus against religion? That's to be decided by each of us. Remember, though, that he doesn't dispute relgion in terms of anyone's right to practice it. He also says, "I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could." (p.12)

Something comes up here that has been mentioned frequently in our arguments about religion, and I think you touch on it indirectly in the last part of your post. We have this singular noun "religion" which allows us to speak as if it were unitary. But we all know it's not one thing essentially but composed of many different aspects. When we attack "religion", then, are we attacking all beliefs labeled as such, all beliefs not labeled as such but not falsifiable, all spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation, and all groups who practice a religion? It isn't very credible that all such things could be problems. Critics of religion should specify what they're objecting to, because otherwise the generality of their reference lessens their credibility a lot in my eyes. I thought one of the strengths of Richard Dawkins book was that he came right out and said that what he was naming as delusional was the standard Christian/Jewish concept of God. Other concepts that one might call God were not targets.

I would say that Hitchens does specify what exactly he doesn't like about religion. Whether he can provide support for "harmfulness" is another matter. And if everything associated with religion turns out to be harmful in his view, I think that would indicate a lack of balanced reasoning.[/quote]



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DWill wrote:
Thrillwriter wrote:
I'm not bashing the guy.

Please don't think that I think you are.
Quote:
If this were the fifteenth or sixteenth century where all was governed by the church, I would totally agree. But that is simply not the case. People have the right to believe what they want, how they want, and where they want. How on earth could this be harmful? Harmful to whom? Him? You? the entire population?
I fail to see the soft side in this quotation. However, I am trying to remain open minded and I am willing to see your point of view. I just don't and didn't see a soft side in the first Chapter, much less the entire book. And the above quote confirms my belief. Isn't it our right to choose, right or wrong?

Though the quotation about harmfulness is not from our current book, I take it as representative of his views. "Harmful" is his opinion, I think , of the net effect of individuals practicing religion, an effect on society. His statements are indeed usually strong, but they are his opinions, which we all have the right to examine for their basis in reason. Is there such a basis, or is it all just his personal animus against religion? That's to be decided by each of us. Remember, though, that he doesn't dispute relgion in terms of anyone's right to practice it. He also says, "I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could." (p.12)

Something comes up here that has been mentioned frequently in our arguments about religion, and I think you touch on it indirectly in the last part of your post. We have this singular noun "religion" which allows us to speak as if it were unitary. But we all know it's not one thing essentially but composed of many different aspects. When we attack "religion", then, are we attacking all beliefs labeled as such, all beliefs not labeled as such but not falsifiable, all spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation, and all groups who practice a religion? It isn't very credible that all such things could be problems. Critics of religion should specify what they're objecting to, because otherwise the generality of their reference lessens their credibility a lot in my eyes. I thought one of the strengths of Richard Dawkins book was that he came right out and said that what he was naming as delusional was the standard Christian/Jewish concept of God. Other concepts that one might call God were not targets.

I would say that Hitchens does specify what exactly he doesn't like about religion. Whether he can provide support for "harmfulness" is another matter. And if everything associated with religion turns out to be harmful in his view, I think that would indicate a lack of balanced reasoning.



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DWill

I suppose I was trying to explore the writer a little more by reading some of his other works. Sometimes it helps me to grasp the meaning behind the words if I have a little more to go on. God is Not Great was the only book I had read by this Author. Therefore, I was perplexed to say the least.

I believe I now have a better understanding and I am going to go back and re-read the book. I want to thank all of you for helping me see your points of view. One never learns anything when someone agrees with them. I feel I have learned quiet a lot through these discussions.

Thank you.


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You're very welcome. Please keep your strong opinions or reactions coming when you have them. That will make the discussion interesting. What will make it really successful is if people can say what they think and be met with responses that do not attack the person. I'm just saying this in view of this topic being one of those, along with politics, that can cause people not to like each other--and there's no excuse for that happening.



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I totally agree, Dwill. Thank you for being open minded and attentive. That is what I like about his forum.


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Hello, I read God is Not Great last year and really liked it, although I do think his definition of his targets is somewhat wrong, in that he defines religion as incorrect on principle.

Penelope recently mentioned Rickard Dawkins' short letter to his daughter on Good and bad reasons for believing in his book The Devil’s Chaplain. Last night as my wife and I were waiting to go see Slum Dog Millionaire I found this Dawkins book in Borders and read the letter. Dawkins says there that the only good reason for believing is evidence, while bad reasons are tradition, authority and revelation. In general this is a sensible outlook, and by and large this is what Hitchens is trying to defend in God is Not Great. However, this scientific outlook comes under pressure at the margins, as the shift to an evidence based society would require such a tremendous upheaval that some support for helpful mythic archetypes, for example the Easter Passion, is justified.

The thing I find attractive in religion, for which evidence is admittedly rather scanty, is the sense of unity in totality, and the idea that this unity can be manifest in our world. Science finds a unity in totality through Big Bang cosmology etc, but rejects the idea of worldly manifestation as requiring the illegitimate method of revelation. Essentially, when we seek an authentic spirituality we are seeking to connect to an underlying unity, but this project is rejected as defective by empirical atheism.

Some comments on previous posts
Wookie1974 wrote:
Taking the bible, (sorry, cannot bring myself to capitalize it,) as an example: who can believe that the religion based on this document can truly be a religion of compassion, forgiveness and the brotherhood of mankind, especially in light of the horrors of the old testament? Hitchens takes the christian apologists to task, as well as all others, and shows how, when everything is going well, religion can be used for good, but when its tenets are endangered, or its power base in doubt, it routinely goes the route of separating the sheep from the goats.
Hi Wookie, welcome to Booktalk. It is ironic that you mention the sheep and goats, as this story specifically states the sheep are those who do works of mercy while the goats are those who don’t. Christianity accepts that Moses’ morality of eye for an eye was wrong, and preaches forgiveness of sins and love of enemies. Of course, this is the Bible I am talking about, not the church.
DWill wrote:
we arrive at places through means that we may later look back at with abhorrence. This may be the case with religion. We want to repudiate it as we contemplate the ills we can attribute to its past, not realizing that, nevertheless, it had a large part in carrying us here.
DWill wrote:
only rarely, if ever, is anything in history wasted, coming to no account. Ideas can be carried forward along with religion, then lose their connection to religion and become part of our cultural heritage generally. This is a different way of looking at the record of religion than to say an opposing force had to expel it before any intellectual progress could be made. It is also different from the view that we ourselves have somehow freed ourselves, by declaration, from the influence of the religion of the past. We don't need to be apologists for religion to have an appreciation for its role in how we arrived at a current state which we preceive as more enlightened. There is a good analogy somewhere for what I'm trying to say, but I can't come up with it.
Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a standout example. Calvinism provided the framework, and the ladder was pushed away once America had climbed to the top. Giddy anyone?
Thrillwriter wrote:
Freedom of choice is one of the things we as Americans have always been proud of having. As I believe Mark Twain said, A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and he is turned out for what he knows.
Twain's comment on the tension between belief and knowledge is a key point about the error of religion, congruent with Dawkins’ suggestion above that we need to shift from belief in authority to belief in evidence.
Thrillwriter wrote:
I, for the most part, am a theist, though I yield such conclusion from taste rather than reason. However many here prefer a reason-based faith, an oxymoron if you ask me, than a simple and pure choice.
As one who argues for a reason based faith, I would say the claim it is an oxymoron is just a widespread error. A faith that is not compatible with reason is not a possible faith – meaning not that people can’t believe it but that it can’t be true.
Thrillwriter wrote:
People have the right to believe what they want, how they want, and where they want. How on earth could this be harmful?
If people believe things that are not true, they insert an insidious pathology into their community which has all sorts of harmful consequences. You may say belief in the Virgin Birth is harmless, but I would say the Roman Catholic Church has built a fantastic edifice on this sandy foundation, with all sorts of pathological consequences including clerical sexual perversion and assault, and twisted psychological advice to believers.
Dissident Heart wrote:
he is not making a simply rational case against Religion. I think his attack against Religion is one stage in a larger war he is waging, and he knows enough about human behaviour to understand that defeating an enemy requires much more than simply lining up good reasons and offering persuasive arguments. Part of defeating an enemy involves demoralizing their forces: as well as bolstering the morale of your own troops. Hitchens' violent rhetoric is traumatizing to his foes and invigorating to his allies. It is a propagandistic strategy meant to instigate a fight and humiliate an opponent. Hitchens is a warrior who understands the value of controlling the hearts and minds of an occupied population. He is part of a resistance/revolutionary force in a territory largely occupied by theocratic bullies and fascists. There is enormous value in bullying the bully and slapping the tyrant (even if only rhetorically) especially when viewed in broad daylight by the bullied and tyrannized masses. His vitriol and nastiness spark the courage of those otherwise too frightened to speak out or stand up.
And, since his efforts are in denial of the anti-fascistic and liberationary dimensions of Religion...his venom and spite simply throw kerosene on an already apocalyptic fire.
DH, this made sense to me until the “And” in the last sentence, where I thought you meant “But”. Hitch is a shock-trooper for reason. You seem to say he is clearing the ground for rational debate, opening a path for the positive liberators. Resistance to bullying is, however, a very different thing from adding kero to a fire. By critiquing his denial of liberationary dimensions you contradict your point about the enormous value in slapping the tyrant. Which do you mean?



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Wookie1974 wrote:
The basic premise he follows throughout the book, is that by dividing humanity into "us" and "them", religion predispositions people to commit all sorts of evil, and even allows them a certain leeway with themselves. (ex: Confession and absolution)


While I am only just getting started with the book I do appreciate your illumination of the general thesis. It gets me excited to dive into this text as I'm very aware of the divisiveness of organized religion. After reading your small handful of posts I sue hope you stick around. Maybe we'll invite Christopher Hitchens to a live chat session. :hmm:

Welcome to BookTalk.org. :smile:



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BookTalk.org is a free book discussion group or online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a group. We host live author chats where booktalk members can interact with and interview authors. We give away free books to our members in book giveaway contests. Our booktalks are open to everybody who enjoys talking about books. Our book forums include book reviews, author interviews and book resources for readers and book lovers. Discussing books is our passion. We're a literature forum, or reading forum. Register a free book club account today! Suggest nonfiction and fiction books. Authors and publishers are welcome to advertise their books or ask for an author chat or author interview.



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