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David A. Schwinghammer

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God is Not Great (book review)
By David A. Schwinghammer
Last edited: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012

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Christopher Hitchens did not convert on
his death bed.

Recently deceased Christopher Hitchens was the best of the trio of best-selling agnostics and atheist writers. The title GOD IS NOT GREAT is a parody of the terrorists’ invocation “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) supposedly screamed when they crashed 747s into the Trade Center buildings.

Hitchens saves most of his ammunition for radical Islam. Mainly he argues they’re nothing but a bunch of copycats, going so far as to ban the eating of pork. Muhammad also reportedly used the Bible as an inspiration for the Qur’an and many of his hadiths. Hitchens also isn’t fond of the torture they put women through, mainly the mutilation of sexual organs and the sewing shut of the vagina, leaving only a small aperture for menstruating and urinating. Especially grating is the revelation that many of the terrorists who attacked the Twin Towers were virgins (having been isolated from women for most of their lives), and that their express motivation was martyrdom for the cause for which they would be rewarded with 70 virgins in the afterlife. Of course the Jewish custom of circumcision (adopted by Christians) also gets its share of derision. Perhaps Hitchens’ best argument here is his belittling of Intelligent Design. If God is so great, why do rabbis need to improve on his work?

Perhaps Hitchens second most derided belief is Catholicism. He especially reviles Pope Pius XII’s appeasement of the Nazis and the church’s later help in helping some of them escape. The Inquisition is touched upon only briefly, but the church’s treatment of Galileo is especially condemned.

Hitchens doesn’t have much respect for scientists and philosophers who hedge their bets. In the early stages of ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES, Charles Darwin tiptoed around the idea of nature being the sole source of human life. Other philosophers and scientists leave room for the possibility that a supreme being created evolution. Hitchens scoffs at the idea as being unnecessarily intricate. Evolution is a sloppy process with remnants of previous existence still around, such as a tail in humans. According to Hitchens the human eye is backwards. An all powerful God wouldn’t make that mistake.

Hitchens can be as vicious as Don Rickles. Here’s what he has to say about Tim LaHaye, who along with Jerry B. Jenkins, wrote the LEFT BEHIND series about the End Times and The Rapture. He says it was “apparently generated by the old expedient of letting two orangutans loose on a word processor.” Hitchens insists that religion “is not just amoral but positively immoral,” primarily for the hell it puts children through. He outlines five areas in which this is true :

1. Presenting a false picture of the world to the innocent and the credulous.
2. The doctrine of blood sacrifice.
3. The doctrine of atonement. (Atonement for what? Should a child be blamed for what his parents did?)
4. The doctrine of eternal reward and/or punishment.
5. The imposition of impossible tasks and rules.

Hitchens, as does Freud, cites fear of death and wishful thinking as the reason most people cling to religion. He also argues that for a group of people who emphasize faith they sure don’t have much. Muslims are outraged by cartoons making fun of Muhammad. Scientists are portrayed as converting on their death beds. Darwin was supposed to be perusing a Bible. He wasn’t. Einstein made it clear once and for all that he did not believe in God: “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as science can reveal it.”

Christopher Hitchens never ducked a debate with a religious proponent and usually came out ahead. Richard Dawkins adds a blurb to the front of the book: “If you are a religious apologist invited to debate with Christopher Hitchens, decline.” And no, Hitchens did not convert on his deathbed.

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Reviewed by Jansen Estrup
An unusual man, Hitchens. Well schooled, widely experienced and all his life a keen observer. You've captured his essence here, if not his love of language, good humor and sharp wit. The questions he raises have not been answered by anything except derision and fear that the snake oil salesmen will lose their rice bowl. Many thanks.
Yes indeed John Bidwell, a human of a kind, that possessed all the positive enlightened qualities, that we as a species can only dream of, or maybe in a million years. Bless ya!
Reviewed by John Bidwell
Of the big 3 Hitchens is the only one I haven't read, mostly because I learned what I need from the other 2 and don't need to learn it again.
My huge issue with all of them is the blaming of Jesus for Christianity.
If, in 30 to 50 years people started writing about Hitchens claiming he said and did certain amazing things- he would be in the same boat as Jesus. Jesus did not write or comission writings- he is NOT responsible for them.
When ever humans deify anyone we distance outselves from their reality, often to extreme degrees.
The fact that the people of his day HAD to define Jesus as God should be a central piece of evidence thinkers use to study the issue of his life and teachings.
Of course he was not God, but the people of his day could not find any other way to process what they experienced. This is not a reason to turn away from him. It is a reason to study the evidence.
A human Jesus is the only real one, but no less worth seeking because of that.


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