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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 12:29amSanction this postReply
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Here is an excerpt from chapter one at slate.com

"To Put it Mildly"

...And here is the point, about myself and my co-thinkers. Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake. We do not hold our convictions dogmatically: the disagreement between Professor Stephen Jay Gould and Professor Richard Dawkins, concerning "punctuated evolution" and the unfilled gaps in post-Darwinian theory, is quite wide as well as quite deep, but we shall resolve it by evidence and reasoning and not by mutual excommunication. (My own annoyance at Professor Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, for their cringe-making proposal that atheists should conceitedly nominate themselves to be called "brights," is a part of a continuous argument.) We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books. Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and—since there is no other metaphor—also the soul. We do not believe in heaven or hell, yet no statistic will ever find that without these blandishments and threats we commit more crimes of greed or violence than the faithful. (In fact, if a proper statistical inquiry could ever be made, I am sure the evidence would be the other way.) We are reconciled to living only once, except through our children, for whom we are perfectly happy to notice that we must make way, and room. We speculate that it is at least possible that, once people accepted the fact of their short and struggling lives, they might behave better toward each other and not worse. We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion. And we know for a fact that the corollary holds true—that religion has caused innumerable people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic cleanser raise an eyebrow.

Most important of all, perhaps, we infidels do not need any machinery of reinforcement. We are those who Blaise Pascal took into account when he wrote to the one who says, "I am so made that I cannot believe."

There is no need for us to gather every day, or every seven days, or on any high and auspicious day, to proclaim our rectitude or to grovel and wallow in our unworthiness. We atheists do not require any priests, or any hierarchy above them, to police our doctrine. Sacrifices and ceremonies are abhorrent to us, as are relics and the worship of any images or objects (even including objects in the form of one of man's most useful innovations: the bound book). To us no spot on earth is or could be "holier" than another: to the ostentatious absurdity of the pilgrimage, or the plain horror of killing civilians in the name of some sacred wall or cave or shrine or rock, we can counterpose a leisurely or urgent walk from one side of the library or the gallery to another, or to lunch with an agreeable friend, in pursuit of truth or beauty. Some of these excursions to the bookshelf or the lunch or the gallery will obviously, if they are serious, bring us into contact with belief and believers, from the great devotional painters and composers to the works of Augustine, Aquinas, Maimonides, and Newman. These mighty scholars may have written many evil things or many foolish things, and been laughably ignorant of the germ theory of disease or the place of the terrestrial globe in the solar system, let alone the universe, and this is the plain reason why there are no more of them today, and why there will be no more of them tomorrow. Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago: either that or it mutated into an admirable but nebulous humanism, as did, say, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brave Lutheran pastor hanged by the Nazis for his refusal to collude with them. We shall have no more prophets or sages from the ancient quarter, which is why the devotions of today are only the echoing repetitions of yesterday, sometimes ratcheted up to screaming point so as to ward off the terrible emptiness...

...The argument with faith is the foundation and origin of all arguments, because it is the beginning—but not the end—of all arguments about philosophy, science, history, and human nature. It is also the beginning—but by no means the end—of all disputes about the good life and the just city. Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other. For this reason, I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could. Very generous of me, you may say. But will the religious grant me the same indulgence? I ask because there is a real and serious difference between me and my religious friends, and the real and serious friends are sufficiently honest to admit it. I would be quite content to go to their children's bar mitzvahs, to marvel at their Gothic cathedrals, to "respect" their belief that the Koran was dictated, though exclusively in Arabic, to an illiterate merchant, or to interest myself in Wicca and Hindu and Jain consolations. And as it happens, I will continue to do this without insisting on the polite reciprocal condition—which is that they in turn leave me alone. But this, religion is ultimately incapable of doing. As I write these words, and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments that I have touched upon. Religion poisons everything.



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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 3:28amSanction this postReply
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Wonderful wonderful review and glimpse, Ted.   I had to sanction both. Excellent.  I'll be buying sometime this summer.  Can't wait.



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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 11:32amSanction this postReply
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     My only problem with Chris, re this book, is its title. He should not really have mentioned 'God' in it (thereby causing others, like Sharpton, to raise pointlessly diverting red-herring arguments), but instead titled it "FAITH is not Great."

     Elsewise, though I've no need of the book, I probably will get it just to appreciate his thoughts on religions and 'faith.'

LLAP
J:D

(Edited by John Dailey on 6/06, 11:40am)




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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 11:55amSanction this postReply
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I agree with you John. It seems that all of these authors (Dawkins, Hitchens, and so on) miss the point. Faith in God is not the problem; the assumption that there is a God, now thats the problem. Their thoughts are great, but they always miss the mark.



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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 1:43pmSanction this postReply
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     Agreed. They ASS-u-me an overlooked aspect that's more basic (and, the raison d'etre for it) than the 'concept' distractingly argued about.

     Strange, these obvious brains overlooking something so...well...    : /

LLAP
J:D




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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 3:46pmSanction this postReply
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I'm about half through this book. It's very interesting. Instead of being an armchair approach to discussing god and religion, he backs it up with all kinds of supporting evidence and a huge scope of material to draw upon.

I want to disagree with those who think that God is not a problem, and that it's faith that's the problem. While I certainly agree that faith is a major problem, it isn't the only one. Just to give one example (my own, not from the book), because of the notions of heaven and hell (eternal suffering or bliss), every moral act is magnified by infinity. The result is that any moral choice can't be made by evaluations and comparisons of possible values. It means moral rules are context free, all moral values are intrinsic (and thus not able to be rationally compared), etc.

While you might trace this problem to faith, it's not a product of every form of faith. The god faith (or delusion) has it's own unique attributes, and unique problems.

And like it or not, religion is a major force in this world. It makes perfect sense to me for these people to be tackling it, instead of pretending that it is just one more example of irrational faith among many. While it may fit in the same category, it's sheer dominance throughout the world makes it especially important to target.



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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 4:05pmSanction this postReply
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I have to disagree with John and Steve.

If the book was about some other overwhelmingly popular, millennia old moral/cultural issue, with fictions or lies or ignorance at its foundation,  I don't think either of you would hold the same reservations.

Denying it doesn't change the fact that God is popular.  It "exists" to millions and millions of people, and I see this criticism from you both as a very odd bias against Hitchens.

There isn't an argument that can be formulated that won't be taken to task by some true believer somewhere.  And so what?  Who cares about them? I don't. Don't worry about the Sharptons, et al. They don't matter. If that debate was any kind of clue, Sharpton won't be able to win many converts. Anyone here think Sharpton was convincing?  Anyone here think Sharpton had more cerebral appeal?  Not.

Personally, I rather like the idea of someone like Hitchens taking on a lie like God the way he has.   I have no problem with it at all.

(I totally agree with Joe, who beat me to the post punch.)

(Edited by Teresa Summerlee Isanhart on 6/06, 4:10pm)




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Post 7

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 7:01pmSanction this postReply
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While I have yet to read the book, although I am greatly looking forward to it, I did find the following debate on Tuesday, June 5th, 2007, between Christopher Hitchens and pastor Mark D. Roberts on the Hugh Hewitt talk radio show to be particularly interesting.

transcript:
http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Transcript_Page.aspx?ContentGuid=2fbc257d-4761-43ff-adfd-279a3e01f69b

radio clips: (note: you may need to scroll down a bit)
http://www.townhall.com/talkradio/Show.aspx?RadioShowID=5

Needless to say, I thought Hitchens won the debate hands down.

Cheers,
Matt





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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 7:35pmSanction this postReply
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Joseph hath writ: ...  because of the notions of heaven and hell (eternal suffering or bliss), every moral act is magnified by infinity.
Brilliant.  Thank you!

Of course, there is Forgiveness.  So, if you are saved, then the moral errors do not result in hell, but, in fact, "forgiveness" (salvation through Jesus, or alternately God qua God) is another way to short-circuit thinking about moral issues.

But it is also not necessary to have Christian forgiveness smuggled into the concept of "God." Furthermore "god" does not have to be spelled with a capital G.  What does "divinity" mean?  It is only the superhuman.   Certainly, such creatures must exist.  I have no proof; but I have faith.  I believe in Carl Sagan's Contact.  The beings that taught us to use the wormholes did not build them.  How old is the perceptible "universe"?  10 billion?  8 billlion? Do you imagine what nothing important had happened until 7.999 billion years had passed and we came along?  Of course, there are gods! 

Did any of them create the universe?  No.
Is any of them all-powerful? No.
Is any of them all-knowing?  No.
Is any of them eternal? No.
Do they answer our prayers?  No.
(But they have received our telegraph messages, now a sphere with a radius of 160 lightyears.)
(They saw the atomic flashes.  They know we have spaceships.  They may even be here among us. They might appear to be "squids" or "whales" or "747s.")

Is "God" an old man in the sky who punishes us for not loving our neighbor more than ourselves? No.
(In fact, as the laws of praxeology apply to all volitional creatures, I expect just the opposite.) 
Was Jesus his son?  No. 
Was Mary the virgin mother of god? No.
Did Mohammed ascend into heaven?  No. 
Are people who believe these things wrong?  Yes!
Is it important to say these and other truths? Yes!




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Post 9

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 7:43pmSanction this postReply
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I think the rhetorical point of Hitchens' title is being missed. The text of the book is not an attack on God, but a treatise on the pernicious effects of faith and faith enforced. In this, Hitchens agrees entirely with Rand. He argues not based on skepticism or relativism, but solely on reason.

He might well have entitled the book The poison of Faith. And the one sentence he repeats throughout is that "Religion poisons everything." The title is nothing less than a challenge and retort to what he sees as the worst modern embodiment of faith - isl^m. The m^slims' cry as they attacked on 9/11 was all@hu akbar! literally, "God is great!" Hitchens doesn't go in for maudlin personal exhibits (nor is he a wilting flower in heated debate) and he only alludes to the death of Barbara Olsen, "someone he slightly knew" who was "flown into" the Pentagon. Hitchens in no way reserves his wrath merely for the bestial butchers of the Orient. He leaves no talmudic absurdity unnoticed and no evangelist bigotry unidentified. But isl^m gets the "pride" of place it deserves.

"god is not Great" has emotional impact and alliterative grace. It serves as Hitchens' vengeance and Hitchens' challenge to those who glorify killing in the name of all^h.

Ted Keer

(Edited by Ted Keer
on 6/06, 7:47pm)




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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 8:38pmSanction this postReply
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~ Presuming no 'Faith'...then what the worthwhileness of the concept of...Zeus (or Santa)?
~ More to my point: Scratch 'Faith'...in a supposed (TV/pulpit/etc) 'teacher' evangelizing about what they name/describe/personalize the cosmic-force as...then how would most even consider the 'concept' (if that's the right word) of  a 'god'?
--- (Ok: Aristotle did consider a 'Prime Mover', but, like, who came near his calibre of thinking without using his thought? Even there, we're talking 'philosophy', the 'handmaiden', not 'religion' per se.)
~ No 'faith' in any accepted charismatic 'sincere' guru = no 'faith' in...Ishtar.


LLAP
J:D




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Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - 8:56pmSanction this postReply
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To finish re my rant on 'faith' and 'con-artists/gurus':
~ The 'faiths' are really oriented to the self-styled Revelators ('original' ones only because of the 'presently-accepted' ones)...and NOT the 'being' they are revelating about. There's the Pope; Joseph Smith; Mohammed; Christ (or is it St. Paul?); Bin Laden; McPherson; Mother (!) Theresa; LRHubbard; and all contemporary proponents for them. How many 'etc's can be added?
~ Lack of 'faith' = No reason to accept-the-belief that Yahweh looks over all children, nor that Allah or the Easter Bunny or the Blue Fairy (or even Satan, Lilith, ad infinatum/imaginatarium) do such either.

LLAP
J:D




Post 12

Thursday, June 7, 2007 - 12:56pmSanction this postReply
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I am almost half-way through this book, and it is certainly Hitchens' best invective, and perhaps one of the smartest and funniest books I have ever read, almost a cross between Steve Martin's Cruel Shoes and Nietzsche's Antichrist.

This book has at least one quotable aphorism and two additional witticisms per page.  I must have looked a fool guffawing on the subway this morning.

I command all readers of this post to immediately purchase this great pearl.

Ted




Post 13

Thursday, June 7, 2007 - 6:59pmSanction this postReply
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Done. My arm is twisted thusly.

I will brave many many MANY orange barrels, and make my way to the huge Boarders Book store on my way home. Unless I have to pull another 12 hour shift, then it'll have to be Saturday.




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Post 14

Thursday, June 7, 2007 - 7:18pmSanction this postReply
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20% off coupon. No excuses now.

http://www.visitborders.com/index.php?c=A&o=

I reserved a copy of the unabridged audio version.  I am really really looking forward to listening to the book at work.




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Thursday, June 7, 2007 - 7:56pmSanction this postReply
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Oh, my, God!

Hitchens reading Hitchens!

I do believe that I have died and gone to heaven.






Post 16

Friday, June 8, 2007 - 9:55amSanction this postReply
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Not to mention that the title is better marketing - remember the main purpose of a title is to catch someone's attention and get them to buy it!



Post 17

Friday, June 8, 2007 - 7:32pmSanction this postReply
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Oh, my, God!

Hitchens reading Hitchens!

I do believe that I have died and gone to heaven. (Ted)

 


I'm with Ted...

I not only love Hitchens' arguments, I love to hear him state his arguments...

I will be getting this!




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Monday, June 11, 2007 - 10:26amSanction this postReply
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[This post is in reply to Ted from another thread but is appropriate here as well. -- Ed]

Ted -- About three years ago Hitchens spoke at our DC events on "What Are Western Values and Should We Return to Them?"

I'm half-way through his book "God is Not Great" and would like to either review it for TNI, interview him or perhaps set up another event at which he could speak.

By the way, I hope you've noticed that in the June 2007 issue of TNI I have a piece on Gingrich, God and the GOP; in the May issue I have a review of the two Sam Harris books; we have a review in the March issue of the Dawkins book; we have an interview with Michael Shermer in the Jan-Feb issue; we have a look at the James Randi conference in the April 2006 issue; and other such material in other issues.

(Hitch and Hudg)

Hitchens-02.jpg

(Edited by Ed Hudgins on 6/11, 10:28am)




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Post 19

Monday, June 11, 2007 - 6:07pmSanction this postReply
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I finished reading this yesterday. It is probably my least favorite of the recent atheism books. While the author displays a vast array of knowledge and familiarity with relevant literature, I didn't really care for the style. Thinking back, there wasn't much that stuck with me. He addresses many points, but it comes off as haphazard and disorganized. I felt like the book was intended to overwhelm people instead of communicate or argue ideas.

I'm left thinking that I can't really use the book as a source of intellectual ammunition. The God Delusion, on the other hand, had many interesting and insightful ideas that were explained in such a clear way that I would feel comfortable repeating those arguments and defending them myself.









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