I have to admit I found this chapter entertaining as it points out the folly of a lot of religious beliefs in relationship to science. Having no respect for certain things religious myself when it comes to healthcare I found myself applauding at certain points. Hitchens take on the problem of vaccines, birth control, AIDS, sexual practices, circumcision, etc. all the way to the ideas of the end of the world. In the end he is trying to prove three things which he lists on page 52 of the chapter. It is these three ‘provisional conclusions’ I wish to address in the context of healthcare:
1) ‘Religion and churches are manufactured’ – I have no doubt this is true. The real question is by whom. Hitchens is pretty much assuming that they are all man-made with little influence from the divine. In the area of healthcare his proof is that often people believe that God has designed the world but then they try to at he same time fight that design. One doctrine he mentions that I would too is that people believe that human being are different from animals because human’s are created in god’s image and then want to turn to animal behavior to justify things like a stand against homosexuality. Sorry, if we truly are created in God’s image, human behavior and animal behavior might have little to do with each other. I would offer no defense against the idea that religion is manufactured because I believe it is too. The problem I have is saying this is always a problem. It is interesting that critics of religion often mention that religion believes that humanity is sinful and evil while they believe humanity is good. However, they flip-flop on this when good humanity does something religious. Now the critic certainly believes that humanity in religions is evil. I don’t think human involvement in creating religions is necessarily the problem. I think it is certain individuals grab power in religious systems and use that power for their own ends. This is actually no different that what happens in any human arena such as politics. Is religion manufactured? – yes. Is it always manufactured for evil? – no.
2) ‘Ethics and morality are quite independent from faith and cannot be derived from it’ – I have long held that the greatest problem with atheism is that they have no way of establishing universal ethics. They have no central authority that says – ‘do this, don’t do that.’ It is the age-old question when confronted by the statement – ‘you shouldn’t do that’. “Who says?” is the response. Now I am going to say that the first part of this is an arguable point on all sides. It might be that human morality and ethics could be found in the nature of the human conscience. However, the second part that ethics and morality cannot be derived from religion or faith is open to a great deal of challenge. It is a universal statement that ‘NO ethics or morality can be derived from religion.” All one has to do is show one example of good ethics and morality coming from religion and the phrase is shown false and I think that can be accomplished. All this second phrase really does is show Hitchens’ bias against religion no matter what is presented. For every health care woe he can show caused by religion, I can counter with doctors and nurses who make missionary trips to third world countries to administer medical care he would approve of motivated by their faith in Jesus Christ. Their ethics and morality are driven by this compassion derived from their faith. I don’t think the second part can be maintained although we can argue which foundation for ethics should be followed till the cows come home.
3) ‘Religion is – because it claims special divine exemption for its practices and beliefs – not just amoral but immoral’ Oh boy, I don’t know that all religions claim some sort of special divine exemption from being held accountable. Christianity makes a big deal about being accountable and obeying laws. Are there elements of all religions and certain theologies I find immoral? Absolutely, but I am not going to throw all of them out without proper examination which is seems Hitchens does not want to do. This is my problem so far with this book and it has been the universal claims. I find it interesting that Hitchens, who is noted for his logic and reason by many skeptics seems to be engaging so much in universal propositions. Anyone who studies argumentation knows that universal statements like “All religions are…” or ‘No religions are…’ are the easiest to refute. Yet, here is Hitchens making this universal claim that ALL religion is bad and lacking in morality. First, I want to know the standard of morality we are using and secondly, who says? That aside though, no matter what standard we would establish all I have to do with a universal negative like this is show one case of religion being moral by any standard and the propositional conclusion is false. One act of compassion or one religious view that does not conflict with science and medicine and this argument fails.
We get back to the main problem. The title of this book is “God is Not Great”. It is subtitled ‘How Religion Poisons Everything’. So far it is the subtitle that Hitchens has done a lot of ground work on proving but the Title has been for the most part untouched. I hope this changes but we will see.
I should note that this book covered a lot of ground that I have covered in my blog when it comes to sex, birth control and other subjects that are related to this that I have shown on this blog no less that religious beliefs have in large part not always agreed with the Bible. I for instance don’t go along with the idea that birth control is interfering with God’s plan because part of God’s plan to me is that human beings are not only free but that their ingenuity is part of God’s plan. For me it is bad theology to say everything is preordained by God because of his omnipotence but then rule out birth control as part of that plan if God has absolute sovereignty. Wouldn’t Birth control under this theology be just as God ordained as anything else? There were a lot of things like this in this chapter that I could have gone on and on about but I decided to deal with the main issues instead.
Next: The Metaphysical Claims of Religion are False