Saturday, April 28, 2007

Hitchens on the politics of Hell-fire

Slate now offers, for the discriminating and non-sentimental sort of skeptic, excerpts from Christopher Hitchens' new book: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Hitchens/Slate/Xtians

"""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 ..."""

Mahster Hitchens raises an important if somewhat obvious point (obvious to anyone who ever bothered with the cliffsnotes to Hume) in opposition to those religious conservatives who suggest that without threat of Hell-Fire, society falls into decay or anarchy (of course that never stopped centuries of warfare waged by xtians, muslims, jews, etc.). CH however arrogant does have a certain gift for putting forth skeptical arguments in a coherent fashion (and quoting some of Hitchens' bon mots will generally piss off both biblethumping idiots and whiny-ass liberals). And whether you agree with him or not (or his politics) one might respect his courage (he, like his pal Rushdie, also lives under threat from the muslim nuts, if not from some zealous Catholics or fundies).

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