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Fighting Faith with Facts

God Is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens Christopher Eric Hitchens (born April 13, 1949) is a British-American author, journalist and literary critic. Currently living in Washington, D.C., he has been a columnist at Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, The Nation, Slate and Free Inquiry (Atlantic, £8.99)

I remember being told a joke around the time of the fatwa fat·wa  
A legal opinion or ruling issued by an Islamic scholar.

[Arabic fatw
 against Salman Rushdie Noun 1. Salman Rushdie - British writer of novels who was born in India; one of his novels is regarded as blasphemous by Muslims and a fatwa was issued condemning him to death (born in 1947)
Ahmed Salman Rushdie, Rushdie
: it was that his next book would be called Buddha, You Fat Bastard You Fat Bastard is a 2 CD anthology by British electronic rock artists Carter USM. It was released on October 15th 2007.

Track list:

Disc 1
  1. Surfin' USM
  2. 24 Minutes From Tulse Hill
  3. After The Watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way)
  4. Rent
. It's not a very good joke, and only worked if you imagined that Rushdie was setting out to offend deliberately - and if you believed that Buddhists believed in peace above all other things.

So Christopher Hitchens is to be congratulated for pointing out, in chapter 14 of this book ("There Is No 'Eastern Solution'"), the murderous viciousness of Japanese Buddhism as it manifested itself before and during the second world war. As he quotes the united Buddhist leadership from those days: "We now have no choice but to exercise the benevolent forcefulness of 'killing one in order that many may live' (issatsu tasho)."

There can be something off-putting about anti-religious polemic. I once read Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian This article or section needs sources or references that appear in reliable, third-party publications. Alone, primary sources and sources affiliated with the subject of this article are not sufficient for an accurate encyclopedia article.  and it almost turned me into a Catholic. When Richard Dawkins Clinton Richard Dawkins (born March 26, 1941) is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science writer who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.  and Daniel Dennett propose that atheists call themselves "brights" a little part of me curls up and dies. (It turns out that Hitchens doesn't like that either.)

But this is of another order of polemic. You work this out early on when Hitchens recounts the story of what happened when a religious broadcaster asked him if he might imagine walking through a city at dusk, and coming across a large group of men. Would Hitchens feel safer, he asked, or less safe, if he knew that these men had come from a prayer meeting? Here is Hitchens's reply: "Just to stay within the letter 'B', I have actually had that experience in Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, Bethlehem and Baghdad. In each case I can say absolutely, and can give my reasons, why I would feel immediately threatened if I thought that the group of men approaching me in the dusk were coming from a religious observance."

Well, there you go. That's why Dawkins is quoted on the front cover of  this book as saying, "if you are a religious apologist Apologist

Any of the Christian writers, primarily in the 2nd century, who attempted to provide a defense of Christianity against Greco-Roman culture. Many of their writings were addressed to Roman emperors and were submitted to government secretaries in order to defend
 invited to debate with Christopher Hitchens, decline." ("Just to stay within the letter 'B' . . .") Not that that is quite the spirit of the book: it is, rather, all in favour of debate, of free intellectual enquiry, of anti-dogmatic thinking; of all the things that a certain religious cast of mind would stifle and persecute per·se·cute  
tr.v. per·se·cut·ed, per·se·cut·ing, per·se·cutes
1. To oppress or harass with ill-treatment, especially because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs.


This is fighting talk, and one wonders if he does not go too far at  times. One does not, for example, necessarily imagine the dear old Church of England Church of England: see England, Church of.  being the kind of institution which needs to be denounced in the terms which Hitchens reserves for the more zealous - or one did not, until the Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the main leader of the Church of England and by convention is also recognised as head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The current archbishop is Rowan Williams.  made his rather unhelpful comments about sharia law. At which point one realised that these people are all on the same side, and some kind of opposition is necessary. When Khomeini encouraged the murder of Rushdie, as Hitchens reminds us, "in considered statements, the Vatican, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the chief sephardic rabbi of Israel all took a stand in sympathy with - the ayatollah." And so, in 19 closely-argued, and beautifully written chapters, Hitchens demolishes the arguments of those who would say that religion makes you kinder, wiser and better. Rather the opposite. The book's subtitle is "How Religion Poisons Everything".

I would like to see a point-by-point refutation ref·u·ta·tion   also re·fut·al
1. The act of refuting.

2. Something, such as an argument, that refutes someone or something.

Noun 1.
 of this book by a religious figure - but it wouldn't be easy to do.  When Terry Eagleton scornfully tore into Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion ("What, one wonders, are Dawkins's views on the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus? Has he read Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope? Has he even heard of them?") he raised an important point - that those who attack religion often do so in happy ignorance of its most engaged theory. But Hitchens is careful to stick to the facts, the effects that religion has had on the world, and not the theory. Of course, it is highly selective: we hear a lot more about the bad news than the good news - but then this is one side of a debate, and not a bland overview. Even zealots Zealots (zĕl`əts), Jewish faction traced back to the revolt of the Maccabees (2d cent. B.C.). The name was first recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus as a designation for the Jewish resistance fighters of the war of A.D. 66–73.  - particularly zealots - should salute Hitchens's courage. It is also immensely entertaining. Even the Catholic Herald liked it. Well, sort of.
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Date:Mar 1, 2008
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