Hitchens is not so Great

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Hardcover) by Christopher Hitchens Review:

Three stars for an interesting read. Let me say that I found Hitchens prose to be something of a page turner, with a desire to return to read what was next, so it qualifies as entertaining. His daunting vocabulary, interesting historical anecdotes, extensive reading, sense of humor and quotes from literature provide a backdrop of tantalizing tidbits. And then of course there are his opinions. Everyone has a right to their opinion and Hitchens is no exception. Were it not for that right there would have been no book. 

With considerable talent and awesome intellect (mired at times in a condescending ego) Hitchens skewers organized religion, scriptures, mythology, and the miserable state of anyone who would rely on such rubbish to guide their lives, their relationships and their contribution to society. It is right there that Hitchens fails to DO anything. His contribution is as absent as the evidence for the the existence of God, the birth of Jesus Christ, or the divinity of Mohammad. Of course in his defense and my condemnation of him, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  The fact that I don’t see what he has accomplished in this book that hasn’t been done in hundreds of other books, doesn’t mean there is no such contribution. I just don’t see it.

Likewise, he takes the contradictions and logical infirmities of the scriptures of various religions and combines that into a thesis that God does not exist. Like the proponents of any other faith, Hitchens’ faith is in atheism, of a fundamental nature giving rise to anger, lack of civility and dispute. Much the same could be said about the organized religions he despises. This rabid “us and them” mentality gave rise to near violence, as he himself reports, when he dismissed the notion that Jesus ever existed to a total stranger who never asked him his opinion on that subject. 

So let’s just take a dispassionate look at the this question of faith and the choices we can make. For people who lean towards the absurdity of literal meaning of scriptures that have been interpreted, re-rewritten, translated, and transliterated into English or any other modern language, allow me to offer this. Hitchens is right and so are you. Yet the correctness of that view is more like Newton in Physics than a superior understanding of the entire group of dimensions, universes, possibilities and probabilities that “reality” apparently holds, including the Heisenberg principle that we alter that which we measure or even observe. 

Newton was right, as was Euclid, within certain bounds that were considered useful in many circumstances. Yet neither one had the full story. There are things “out there” that don’t behave the way Newton predicted. And while Euclidean geometry is useful, there is virtually nothing in nature we can observe that actually, naturally, has the configuration that lie at the heart of his computations (the world is fractal and chaotic not triangular, spherical or rectangular). 

Thus, we can can define God as something not to “believe” in, or define God as an evolutionary product of our understanding of our reality, our lives and the meaning we grant to our existence. We can say there is no meaning, or we can say that we will give our lives meaning. 

If it takes a longer and broader view than Hitchens is able to see, so be it. The fact remains that there are forces, events, and meaning whose origins trace to billions of years ago, that what we do now will have some impact on what is perceived or experienced billions of years from now, and that we are in a constant process of evolution, grinding and mixing our way toward a creative understanding of that process through myth, literature, fiction, poetry, the arts, the sciences, and yes, religion. 


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