Fascinating And Open Question

As I mentioned, I’m reading Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great”, after originally avoiding it as just part of the God vs Science hysterical debates of the past two years, but discovering I like what Hitchens has to say.

OK so GING is “the case against” religion, an unrelenting damnation that could easily offend his target audience. Hard for anyone to argue against the rehearsed arguments on metaphysics, design and revelation. The chapters unpicking the mono-theist texts, revealed by the key prophets and embellished by their priests, are almost too easy as to be boring, were in not for Hitchens style – clever, witty entertaining. I’m reminded of Clayton’s rhetorical put down of Dawkins “after all, he writes so beatifully“. But this is after all a war of wits.

Despite the unrelenting attack, Hitchens’ real quality does shine through. In Chapter 11 “The Lowly Stamp of Their Origin”: Religion’s Corrupt Beginnings, he focusses on the charlattans that have invented (and abandoned) new religions and cults for their own nefarious purposes – Mormons, and assorted perverted evangelist churches for example. After acknowledging Darwin’s “stamp” in the chapter title, and opening with a quote from the “simply divine” Gibbon

“The various forms of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people to be equally true, by the philosopher as equally false, and by the magistrate as equally useful.”

He acknowledges Dennett’s analysis of religion as a natural phenomenon, and following his section  on the Mormon fraudster Joseph Smith (and others) he concludes …

“In other words was he a huckster all the time, or was there a pulse [of greater but misguided good] inside him somewhere ? The study of religion suggests to me that, while it cannot possibly get along without great fraud and also minor fraud, this remains a fascinating and somewhat open question.”

Hooray. Good intentions can only ever be an excuse for bad decsions and actions, but believed intentions need to be understood, explained and made more likely to result in good decisions and actions in future. And what is good …

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