Joined: Oct 2005 Posts: 5980 Location: Canberra
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Quotes from this chapter
not thrown off religion but never had it ... JS Mill ...Psalms ... unbelief ... must have been known ...credulous idiots ... odds rather favour the intelligence and curiosity of the atheists ... James Mill and Benjamin Franklin felt it advisable to keep their opinions private ... Doubt, scepticism and outright unbelief ...collision between our reasoning faculties and any form of organised faith ... trial of Socrates ... Philosophy begins where religion ends, just as by analogy chemistry begins where alchemy runs out, and astonomy [sic] takes the place of astrology. ... conscience is innate ..... dogmatic faithful can easily be outpointed and satirized ... confrontations over the right to free thought ... religious attempt to assert the literal and limited mind over the ironic and inquiring one. ... Lucretius anticipated David Hume ... time when irony would punish and confuse the literal and the fanatical ...Spinoza's definition of a god made manifest throughout the natural world comes very close to defining a religious god out of existence ...Einstein ... stating firmly that he believed only in 'Spinoza's god' ... Voltaire ... made it impossible for the newly literate classes to go on believing ... Kant ... overthrew the cosmological proof of god ... undid the ontological argument ... Priestley ... laboratory smashed ... Gibbon ... revolted by what he discovered about Christianity ...Hume warned him there would be trouble ... anticipates Darwin ... Paine ... no grand and noble deity should have such atrocities and stupidities laid to his charge ... frank contempt for organised religion ... Darwin ... between-the-lines encoded concealment ...autobiography ... did admit that he had no remaining belief ... did not arise from any intention but that of finding out the truth ... Newton ... giants upon whom I depend ... weak in the ... knees ... Einstein 'I do not believe in a personal God ... if something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world ... I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it ... Calvin and Torquemada ... Kach party
Joined: Jan 2008 Posts: 6706 Location: Luray, Virginia
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Although faith of one sort or another has been compulsory for most of history in most places, there have been exceptional people who asserted a rational alternative against it. These are heroes for Hitchens, and he tells us about them in this chapter. Foremost, and first in time, is Socrates, even though we can't be sure that what is recorded about him is historically accurate. Others are Epicurus, Lucretius, Spinoza, Kant, Voltaire, Hume, Paine, Franklin, Darwin, Russell, and Einstein.
Hitchens ends the chapter with an interesting account of an "absolutely tragic day in human history...the occasion that is now commemorated by the vapid and annoying holiday known as 'Hannukah'." The event the holiday rather mindlessly celebrates in order to have a Jewish counterpart to Christmas, was a local victory of Mosaic fundamentalists against cosmopolitan Jews who showed too much attraction to Greek civilization. Eventually, the Romans backed this fanatical sect, which led "to Christianity (another Jewish heresy) and thus ineluctably to the birth of Islam. We could have been spared the whole thing."
One of my favorite statements: "Lucretius anticipated David Hume in saying that the prospect of future annihilation was no worse than the contemplation of the nothingness from whcih one came."
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