I had to laugh through this chapter as Hitchens is very funny and I found this one amusing. The chapter is short and the point is very singular being to give an example of how religion can distort our perception of reality. In particular he uses the issue of how religions have made pigs and ham an evil for the ages and have taken things to such and extreme that certain Islamic groups will not even allow things like Winnie the Pooh simply because of characters like Piglet.
The fact is pigs are not inherently evil and eating Ham will not send you to hell. The early church dealt with this issue when it came to the Gentiles in Acts 15 and even Jesus said it was not what a person eats that defiles him but what comes out of his heart. The text in one retelling of Jesus on this the writer mentions that by saying so Jesus had declared all foods to be clean. The thing is that I noticed Hitchens had to confine his criticism to the Jews and Muslims at this point because we Christians might have some dietary restrictions on certain days depending on what day of the week it is and your particular flavor of Christianity, most of us still will take down and BLT at a restaurant.
Honestly, the main thrust of this chapter is still dead on in that religion can blind you to reality, the problem is I don’t think it proves this is always the case. The issue is a one of my readers pointed out in a past post on Hitchens is that many societies founded some of their principles on religious ideas and lead to some very stable and productive societies. These kind of minor issues are not about misperception so much as control that sometimes religion tries to assert over its followers.
The prohibition against ham by the Jews has been long argued to be a health issue but I have never thought so. I simply think it was the Jews trying to make themselves different to those around them. It was a religious distinction things since most of the societies around them had an almost idolatrous attachment to the pig which Hitchens points out himself. Later on in Christianity this distinction is incompatible with the message of Christ being the salvation of all people, so bring on the pork.
Next: A Note On Health; to Which Religion Can Be Hazardous