“God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens

I went to the book club meeting run by North Yorkshire Humanists in the week. I will outline by own take on the book and then describe how the meeting went.

Overall summary:

As I told the group I found the book very readable and was pleasantly surprised by this. I read it while I was staying in the B&B after my first week in my new job up here. I had a bad cold and was happy to get some entertainment. Hitchens argues his point well. I was only disappointed with the chapter on Buddhism as he did not question it from a theological perspective (as he did with the other main religions), but merely pointed out that Buddhists have committed crimes also. His last chapter calling for a new enlightenment was not up to the same level as the rest of the book also.

A rough summary , line by line of its chapters:

1. A good introduction to his confrontational style.

2. Religion sits on the fence, does not really stand up for the people.

3. Why all the fuss about pigs?

4. Religion is no moral guide, quite the contrary; Its sex obsessed and hypocritical, e.g Islamic extremists proposing a life of denial in hope for an after life of debauchery.

5. Reasoned philosophy from antiquity just an afterthought reprocessed by the church to complete with the Greeks; religion only appearing flexible nowadays as it does not have the upper hand any more.

6. Reality is more fascinating than anything the argument from design can come up with.

7. Old Testament God: what kind of guy are we dealing with? It’s a man made fable to oppress people.

8. New testament is just a rehash of the Old.

9. Koran is just a rehash of the earlier two books.

10. Church is frigging miracles as the evidence does not stand up (Mother Theresa); using divine intervention as an excuse for calamities just a method of targeting parties who do not agree with the church; there is more to be learned from other literature with regard to the argument from authority; Judas is an example of someone who has been written out of history of possible events.

11. It is a means of deception for gain where even the deceivers may begin to believe their own rhetoric, example of Mormonism; it may be easier to believe in something and that may be what gets people.

12. Look at the example of Sabbati, which whittled away without any martyrs to perpetuate a myth.

13. Looking at the Korans approval of slavery; humanism drives decency, not religious belief; Ghandis over emphasis on Hinduism stifling full Indian unity; current religions have only been fortunate due to good fortune, e.g Contantine and Christianity; the example of Waugh swayed badly by religion.

14. And Buddhists can behave badly too!

15. Abraham ready to sacrifice son counters reason. What are we atoning for (Christ)? Laws impossible to obey only intimidate (sex as forbidden idea).

16. Joyce anecdote of priest getting the intimidation in early; circumcision as an idea to impede sexual function.

17. Papal acquiescence in WW2;  Fascism thriving better in Catholic countries.

18.Socrates healthy scepticism and first cause; all overturned by fervour of early Christians (Augustine), Spinoza ostracized.

19. Everyone needs to thing for themselves.

Several other people in the group found the tone of the book a bit too judgemental, but accepted this is part of Hitchens’ style. He did seem to even have issues with people’s personal beliefs, which may found difficult. Generally the group agreed that religion may only be used as an excuse for social ills and if it did not exist, some other excuse would be used. Most people in the group seemed to be confirm atheists (I would would describe myself as more of an agnostic), though that did not seem to get in the way of my agreeing with the overall view. Generally a good meeting with nice people in a good atmosphere where its easier to listen and be heard.




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