Thursday, April 26, 2007

Does Religion Poison Everything?

Christopher Hitchens, a most bilious British writer and commentator, has written a new book called God is Not Great, where he posits that religion poisons everything. He trots out some very old criticisms of religion: e.g., it induces violence, represses sexuality, and retards human happiness and scientific advancement. You can read an excerpt from this book here.

Hitchens makes several key errors in his attack on religion. The most egregious being that he paints with too broad a brush. Equating Christianity with Aztec human sacrifice is one example. Not all religions are equal. Some faiths promote violence, while others (e.g., Buddhism and Jainism) promote gentleness and non-violence, even toward animals.

Hitchens also ignores the fundamental role faith has had in establishing law, inspiring art and music (one immediately thinks of Bach), and restraining the evil angels of our nature. He also fails to mention the great minds of history such as Pascal and Newton who found faith to be compatible with science. Does faith really poison everything? Many billions would say otherwise, and assert that faith enriches everything, providing meaning and insight into life, the universe, and the mysteries of the human mind.

Finally, Hitchens, like most atheists, conveniently ignores the fact that the worst human atrocities occurred under atheist regimes. Hitler, Mao, and Stalin's crimes dwarf the misdeeds of a few unhinged religious radicals. When human life is divorced from the divine, and divorced from God's law, it loses its sacred value. Abortion, euthanasia, and genocide are the children of atheism. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" says the Good Book, and one's love of the Lord is the beginning of peace, joy unspeakable, and love for our neighbor. I have seen Hitchens on television, and he is not a happy man. He deserves our pity and our prayers.


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