The Subtle, Lethal Poison of Religion

On Sunday the New York Times reported on the recrudescence of “faith-based” teaching in Russian public schools: A teacher named … Continued

On Sunday the New York Times reported on the recrudescence of “faith-based” teaching in Russian public schools:

A teacher named Irina Donshina set aside her textbooks, strode before her second-graders and, as if speaking from a pulpit, posed a simple question:

“Whom should we learn to do good from?”

“From God!” the children said.

“Right!” Ms. Donshina said. “Because people he created crucified him. But did he accuse them or curse them or hate them? Of course not? He continued loving and feeling pity for them, though he could have eliminated all of us and the whole world in a fraction of a second.”

“Whom should we learn to do good from?”

“From God!” the children said.

“Right!” Ms. Donshina said. “Because people he created crucified him. But did he accuse them or curse them or hate them? Of course not? He continued loving and feeling pity for them, though he could have eliminated all of us and the whole world in a fraction of a second.”

This grisly vignette, which almost perfectly summarizes the relationship between sadism and masochism in Christian teaching, probably wouldn’t delight all those who think that morality derives from supernatural authority. After all, the Russian Orthodox Church was the patron of Czarist autocracy, helped spread The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the West, and compromised with the Stalin regime just as it had been allied with earlier serfdom and chauvinism. It is now part of Vladimir Putin’s sinister exercise in the restoration of Russian supremacism and dictatorship: an enterprise that got off to a good start when our President admired Mr. Putin’s crucifix and “looked into his soul”. (Question: has Putin ever been seen wearing that crucifix again, or did his cynical advisers tell him that the Leader of the Free World was such a pushover for the “faith-based” that he would never check?)

So, and as with Salafist madrassas, it’s easy to see how wicked it is to lie to children when it’s done in the name of the “wrong” faith. But Ms Donshina’s nonsensical propaganda is actually a mainstream statement of what the truly religious are bound to believe. Without god, how could we tell right from wrong, or learn how to do the right thing? I have never had a debate with a religious figure of any denomination, however “moderate, where this insulting question has not come up.

Yet is it not positively immoral to argue that our elementary morality and human solidarity derive from an authority that we must simultaneously (and compulsorily) love, and also fear? Does it not degrade us in our deepest integrity to be told that we would not do a right action, or utter a principled truth, were it not for fear of punishment or hope of reward? Moreover, we are told that we begin sinful and must earn our redemption from an authority whose actions and caprices (arranging a human sacrifice in Palestine in which we had no say, for example, and informing us that we are all guilty of it) were best summarized by Fulke Greville when he remarked ruefully that we are “created sick; commanded to be sound”. This abject attitude, of sickly love for the Dear Leader combined with dreadful terror of him, is in fact the origin of totalitarianism. And there is nothing ethical about that.

I should like, for the continued vigor of this discussion, to repeat the challenge that I have several times offered the faithful in print and on the air. Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever? I am still waiting, after several months, for a response to this. It carries an incidental corollary: I have also asked large and divergent audiences if they can think of a wicked action or statement that derived directly from religious faith, and you know what? There is no tongue-tied silence at THAT point. Everybody can instantly think of an example.

I don’t rest my case but I have stated it as concisely as I can and I look forward to reviewing, and replying to, anyone who might be good enough to respond.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist and author whose latest book is entitled “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.”

  • Mr Mark

    Welcome back. Mr Hitchens. I enjoyed your In Depth appearance on C-Span earlier this month.I don’t frequent this blog a soften as I used to, mainly because the rare glimpses of rationality that writers like yourself provide are few and far between. For all of the angel dancing of the religionist writers there’s little of interest and even less of intellect to be had in their fantasy-based musings.It’s good to have another succinct article from you, though I think that its simplicity and directness will be lost on the fantasy-ful (I refuse to call them the faithful) who form the majority of readers here. Don’t expect any of them to take up your challenge, either. They’ll most likely rant on about your habits and your stand on the Iraq War, rather than engaging in a discussion.One wonders how they manage to walk and breathe at the same time.

  • Thomas Baum

    TO CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Concerning the insulting question, ” Without god, how could we tell right from wrong, or learn how to do the right thing?” when religious figures bring this up for one thing they seem to forget that God Himself said I will write My Law on their hearts. Some people call it a conscience, you can call it whatever you like. Just because some people are so puffed up with spiritual pride and a sense of superiority because they know God’s Name does not mean that they know God or anything else about Him. By the way, “Fear of the Lord”, does not mean being afraid of God on the contrary it means being in awe of Him or even of His Creation. Whether you or anyone else believes that God created the universe, the fact is that the universe and what we know of it, to say the least, is rather fascinating, don’t you think so? Have you ever heard when people talk about repenting, a lot of times they go browbeating others, condemning others, judging others rather than looking at themselves. God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof. I’ve met God and He is a Being of PURE LOVE, I know that is hard to believe especially considering all the hatred being spewed out in His Name but nevertheless it is true and I tell you it is a good thing that I know it because I would never believe it listening to some of the people that call themselves christians. God is a Trinity and even though I use a male pronoun speaking of God, God is not a male, or a female or an it although God-Incarnate was a Man. Some of the simplest and truest things are what some of the learned throw away first. We are all brothers and sisters whether we like it or not, kind of one big unruly family, don’t you think? We do have a fallen nature and we do have free will and as I have said before it is important what we do and why we do it and also what we know. Take care. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • mhr

    Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and Hoxha etc.could certainly have mouthed the words, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” And?

  • Y Farris

    Typical Hitchens’ sophistry.”Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?” Of course not.Nor can he name an immoral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever? Those who do wrong have many excuses. Some take refuge in religion, others politics, some blame their parents, still others are so bereft of goodness that they need no excuse. Hitchens crusade against religion is tiresome. Is this all he has?

  • Atheist American Veteran

    You said it Chris. Keep up the good fight.

  • Chip

    I’ve always found the “love they neighbor as thyself” bit rather ironic in the context of a faith where people are taught to hate themselves so thoroughly, because they are worthless sinners from birth who must grovel for forgiveness. Self-loathing is a rotten foundation on which to build a sense of morality. To equate that with love is profoundly disturbing.

  • Claudius

    I wonder why Mr. Hitchens keeps up his attack on religion? Most people, in their hearts, if not in their minds and certainly not in their cowardly public statements really don’t believe in religion or the patent balderdash that their religions promote.So why keep fighting that battle? Why not move on to something more practical — like how to keep idiotic politicians from ruining the planet?Mr. Hitchens is obviously intelligent and energetic but I believe he is wasting his talents opposing religion — after all, being adamantly opposed to something silly just gives it more power. Religion is stupid and repetitive and dulls the intellect, so let’s ignore it or laugh and say “oh right, that’s the answer” when ever it is brought up in conversation.

  • Scott G (Ashburn VA)

    Mr. Hitchens, thanks for fighting the good fight. And Farris, thank god (!) **someone** is crusading against religion!

  • Claudius

    I wonder why Mr. Hitchens keeps up his attack on religion? Most people, in their hearts, if not in their minds, despite their cowardly public statements really don’t believe in religion or the patent balderdash that their religions promote.So why keep fighting that battle? Why not move on to something more practical — like how to keep idiotic politicians from ruining the planet? Or making the case for a more intelligent and humane way of living?Mr. Hitchens is obviously intelligent and energetic but I believe he is wasting his talents opposing religion — after all, being adamantly opposed to something silly just gives it more power. Religion is stupid and repetitive and dulls the intellect, so let’s ignore it or laugh and say “oh right, that’s the answer” when ever it is brought up in conversation.

  • worth

    Mr. Hitchens, your challenge is unanswerable due to the fact that morality itself, is a uniquely human trait that was instilled by God at the creation of Man (not homo sapiens/humans, but Man). Therefore, all mankind, whether or not possessing a belief in a higher power, is capable of morals-based decision making and action. I challenge YOU, sir, to name a single species of creation other than Man that is capable of morality as bestowed upon on us by God, of acting on anything beyond instinct or learned/domesticated behavior. The world anxiously (and faithfully) awaits your answer.

  • John Carter

    Pat Robertson forbade a hurricane from hitting Virginia Beach and that hurricane promptly turned right around and went back out to sea. Lets see you try that Hitchens!!!JC

  • John Carter

    Pat Robertson forbade a hurricane from hitting Virginia Beach and that hurricane promptly turned right around and went back out to sea. Lets see you try that Hitchens!!!

  • Claudius

    God? What is God? I challenge anyone to give a definition that makes any sense at all. It is just a word for an intellectual construct. Faith is the same — pure fantasy.

  • pkiwi

    Hi Chris. Loved your book and this post. Similar to the first poster I don’t come to this blog often. Indeed, not being in the US, I find it amazing the prominence that the WP gives to supernaturalism on its website through ‘On Faith’. But I guess that is the reason for the need for more reason from the likes of yourself.Thomas Baum above though highlights an aspect of religion not addressed by you, Dawkins, or Harris. That is, the god who has been ‘met’ or ‘experienced’ in some way, and now the believer, like falsely impanted memories under hypnosis, simply will not let reality implode on their hallucinatory-derived alternative. Of course this is a subtle route for god, much like why visiting aliens have to visit remote solitary hicks rather than create some more obvious evidence of their existence. Some more analysis of the nature of the belief experience (and its shaky foundations) would be useful. Particulalry when you have demolished every faith-based claim and then the believer just still says ‘but I believe/have seen..’ etc.

  • Dan Northrup

    I have not submitted comments to this or other forums at Washington Post before, and before I do, is there a blurb you can send me or point me to that assures confidentiality of my name and email address, or if can I post anonymously?Thanks,

  • Steven L.

    “Nor can he name an immoral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”How about “according to this Bible here, I have to execute my new bride because I’ve found out she is not a virgin.” Or, consider the recommended stoning of a person for the act of “blaspheming.” I have a lot of these.The larger point is, we actually know, separate from what religion tells us, what is actually moral and immoral (and it is is not absolute). This is clear from the fact that no one actually follows (without exception) laws as handed down by religious documents. Just read the Old Testament – I think we have a more evolved sense of morality than that which is written there. Because of this, we can say that our morality derives from us, not from the writings of ancient goat herders (or anyone else’s writings for that matter).

  • Andrew L

    Farris said:”Nor can he name an immoral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever.”This statement is not the same as Hitchens’ statement. Equating the two is a classic logical falacy: asserting the converse.Farris, go back to Hitchen’s original question and try to address it. If you’ve given up addressing it, then ask yourself: why should religion assert moral authority if it has none? This is indeed a pressing question (as opposed to your petty question of “how come aethiests can also be immoral?”). Its urgency is so great that it is hard to see, after months of silence from the theistic community, that aetheists have not already won the point. Morality does not spring from the divine.

  • Paganplace

    Personally, what I find tedious is atheist criticisms of *Abrahamic* religion, which accept the Abrahamic premise that the Abrahamic idea of religion *is* religion, and thus play right into the idea that one must accept Abrahamic premises in order to have ‘religion’ at all…They’ve been arguing with ‘atheists’ for centuries, and have the debate well-defined in their own quarters. The real questions are the effects of *certain* beliefs, not trying to say that *any* belief is like these abusive ones. We’re all spiritual, dreaming, thinking, perceiving, meaning-seeking creatures, and this cannot be undone. The premise that belief and reason must be in *conflict* is not one that liberates. Mr. Hitchens brings up a lot of valid criticisms of *certain* religious beliefs and practices, but in trying to use them to make the case ‘Religion is All Like This And just A Bad Idea,’ all he does is reinforce the idea how scary and empty it is outside certain sheep-folds, and cheese a bunch of people off. If one indulges the (religious and anti-religious) idea that these questions really *are* ‘All Or Nothing,’ then it may sell books, but resolves nothing. Some will take what they think is ‘All’ and some will take what they think is ‘Nothing’ and on and on it goes, without people really getting a sense of our common potential. What if in some ways, the question, ‘Can we say Does any God exist’ …isn’t the all-important question from which all goodness must depend?Maybe it’s just a way people make things both ‘simple’ and irreducible. What if there’s more to it. I think one may find there is.

  • Agnostic

    Q. “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”A. I would do Bad Action X, but I know that I am subject to final judgment, regardless of how clever I am in concealing my action.

  • EG

    Try this illustrative example of a moral action performed by a religious person that could not have been performed by an unbeliever. Maximilian Kolbe was a Catholic priest arrested by the German Gestapo and eventually transferred to Auschwitz. In July 1941, a man from Kolbe’s barracks vanished, prompting the camp commander to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men cried out, lamenting what would happen to his family should he be killed. Kolbe volunteered to take his place, and was executed with an injection of carbolic acid. It is improbable (though theoretically possible) that an unbeliever would have acted similarly. My question to you: How do you explain the persistent attraction of the Christian faith to all conditions of men and women down the centuries, including some of the most creative spirits within the Western Tradition: St. Augustine, Pascal, Newton, William Wilberforce, Samuel Johnson, Tolstoy, T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, Chesterton, and Malcolm Muggeridge, to name but a few. Were they all deluded?

  • trickster

    hitchens is a treat (especially when reading him out loud doing his wonderfully snobbish english pronounciation). unlike other atheists, i enjoy hitchens for his polemic approach to religion and any other statement that derives from unknowable ontological statements. so he’s an artist in his criticism and avoids the trap of circulating in a self-absorbing recitation of the virtues of reason, which – as popper pointed out – is in itself an ontological belief if it founds our very foundation of how we interpret our world. (i am thinking, mainly, of dawkins who as created his post-monoteistic god of rationalism that has in its centre: nothing – and hence is pretty much on a par with whatever god their might be to believe in).

  • Rojzen

    May the force (:^) continue to be with the inimitably brilliant Mr. Hitchens, whose honesty and intellect palpably elevate the quality of my life. This particular piece’s reference to the proselytization going on in Russian classrooms prompts me to mention a seriously bad development that is ongoing here in the U.S., affecting immigrants who have made it out of Russia. Well aware that many such immigrants were spared the idiocy of religious evangelism while growing up in the USSR or FSU, evangelists here have focused some absolutely predatory campaigns on them, once they arrive. Here in Baltimore, for example, ethnic Jews from Russia are regularly bombarded with aggressive Russian-language solicitations from the Lubavitcher sect of Chasidim. Russians not of Jewish origin are regularly being lured out of ESL classrooms and into churches, where their ESL-teachers-with-a-secret-agenda subject them (and often their Russian-speaking children) to mind-numbing catechisms. In my own family, marriages are being set asunder by such tactics, and so once again, I am reminded of how NOT harmless life peppered with a few “traditional religious values” can be. . .

  • Robert

    Mr. Hitchens,Well done. The lieing to children in the name of religion is, to me, its worst aspect.There are children around the world fearing eternal damnation for merely thinking and feeling normal human thoughts and emotions.How does that make the world a better place?

  • Elohist

    Dear Chris:Could you name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by an unbeliever, that could not have been uttered or performed by a religious person?

  • EG

    Try this illustrative example of a moral action performed by a religious person that could not have been performed by an unbeliever. Maximilian Kolbe was a Catholic priest arrested by the German Gestapo and eventually transferred to Auschwitz. In July 1941, a man from Kolbe’s barracks vanished, prompting the camp commander to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men cried out, lamenting what would happen to his family should he be killed. Kolbe volunteered to take his place, and was executed with an injection of carbolic acid. It is improbable (though theoretically possible) that an unbeliever would have acted similarly. My question to you: How do you explain the persistent attraction of the Christian faith to all conditions of men and women down the centuries, including some of the most creative spirits within the Western Tradition: St. Augustine, Pascal, Newton, William Wilberforce, Samuel Johnson, Tolstoy, T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, Chesterton, and Malcolm Muggeridge, to name but a few. Were they all deluded?

  • EG

    Try this illustrative example of a moral action performed by a religious person that could not have been performed by an unbeliever. Maximilian Kolbe was a Catholic priest arrested by the German Gestapo and eventually transferred to Auschwitz. In July 1941, a man from Kolbe’s barracks vanished, prompting the camp commander to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men cried out, lamenting what would happen to his family should he be killed. Kolbe volunteered to take his place, and was executed with an injection of carbolic acid. It is improbable (though theoretically possible) that an unbeliever would have acted similarly. My question to you: How do you explain the persistent attraction of the Christian faith to all conditions of men and women down the centuries, including some of the most creative spirits within the Western Tradition: St. Augustine, Pascal, Newton, William Wilberforce, Samuel Johnson, Tolstoy, T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, Chesterton, and Malcolm Muggeridge, to name but a few. Were they all deluded?

  • Paganplace

    ” Agnostic:Q. “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”A. I would do Bad Action X, but I know that I am subject to final judgment, regardless of how clever I am in concealing my action.”One would have to question if that’s truly a ‘moral’ statement, or simply perceived self-interest. There’s no real moral content to it… in fact, it implies that there is none, save for fear of punishment.

  • Kacoo

    I don’t understand what Hitchen has against religion. It is religion that has done the work of government for thousands of years. Seperating the morality of helping others from the violence of collecting resources is a relatively new invention.Yet Hitchens has such profound optimism for the future that he cannot envision a time in 30,000 years or 3,000 years or 30 years when humans will once again live in caves and paint their hopes for the hunt onto walls.Hitchens is self-deluded about the reality of life on earth.

  • Frank LaGrotta

    The good news for Hitchens fans (and his publisher) is that his provocative commentary on a subject he knows nothing about will help sell books.

  • Franklin

    Hitchen’s point is simply that believers and non-believers are all in the same boat, regardless of what nonsense they “believe”. To divide by religious and non-religious or believers and non-believers solves nothing.What we fervently believe may be all wrong and usually is. Why? Because belief is no proof of anything except gullibility and the load of prior indoctrination, culture, family pressure etc. An intelligent person learns to investigate, question and think for himself — not to “believe” in anything.

  • Frank LaGrotta

    The good news for Hitchens fans (and his publisher) is that his provocative commentary on a subject he knows nothing about will help sell books.

  • Frank LaGrotta

    The good news for Hitchens fans (and his publisher) is that his provocative commentary on a subject he knows nothing about will help sell books.

  • adil

    well if God, as you see and worship him, could help or harm anybody, he would have helped himself from the so called crucifixion!

  • jaimie t

    Too bad Hitch made the cult of George Bush Jr., and the debacle of Iraq, the objects of his devotion.

  • jaimie t

    Too bad that Hitch made Bushie and the debacle of Iraq HIS religion.

  • jaimie t

    Too bad that Hitch made Bushie and the debacle of Iraq HIS religion.

  • Anthony

    Mr. Hitchens, I just wanted to say thank you for all of your research and commentaries. I own two of your books (TJ and God is not Great) and love them both. Keep up the good work! I love continually learning from you, Mr. Dawkins, and Mr. Harris. You all are amazing atheist intellectuals. Take care!It’s funny to me when people call you “self-deluded” and “clueless” when they follow a religion with so many ridicilous stories and claim it as true. It always brings a good laugh.

  • jhbyer

    For the conceits of monotheism at long last to be challenged so well in the MSM is the undoing of powerful wrong Thank you, Mr. Hitchens.

  • MCVotaw

    Yikes. As scary as American schools in these here Southern United States.

  • MCVotaw

    Yikes. As scary as American schools in these here Southern United States. Where, while lethal, it is anything but subtle.

  • Mr. Arnold

    Mr. Hitchen’s view of god and relgion is, I beleive, correct. Many years ago based on a wide variety of life experiences, I reached the same conclusions as Hitchens about the pernicious effects of the god myth and the magic dellusional thinking on which relgions are based. In my own over 55 years of life, I’ve met a neligible number of unethical aetheists and a myraid of cruel and unethical Christian and Jewish people.What religious people don’t seem able to grasp is that ethical behavior best flows logically out of human empathy and understanding that as Satre said, “Any action is a vote for a type of world in which you yourself want to live.”Yes, Hitler and Stalin were in the terms of absolutism, which is the core of a belief in god and relgion, quite religious men. Their god was themselves and their religion was their respective political/social dogmas. Any study of Hitler shows that he used sacralization (the techinques of relgious persuasion) to spread his vile beliefs.

  • pkiwi

    EG asks: “Were they all deluded?”Short answer – Yes!

  • James

    While there are problems with the Kohlberg scale of moral development, it is clear to me that morality defined on the basis of obedience to an all-powerful authority figure (for the purpose of avoiding punishment) falls rather low on the scale.Then we notice that the most moralistic Christian groups are deep in bed with some of the most corrupt Republican politicians in Washington, who routinely flout ethical guidelines for personal gain. Why are the moralists not outraged about this type of immorality? Because THE BIBLE DOESN’T SAY, EXPLICITLY, THAT IT’S WRONG.I think the case against religion is oversimplified – I would say rather that the most vocal contemporary American religious practices are pitiable and decadent rituals that are as shallow as they are far-removed from what Jesus actually taught. As such, the failures of modern American religion can’t really be used as an indictment of Jesus’ spirituality, because modern American religion has turned away from that spirituality.In other words, the case against the religions that routinely embarrass themselves with historical illiteracy, fear-driven power-mongering and anti-Christian excess is self-evident, but the case against the deepest kind of humility has not even been made. Nor has it been proven that Christianity is incapable of this humility — that its loudest-mouthed practitioners don’t know the meaning of the word is no indication that all Christians are so stupid.hjh

  • B-Man

    Mr. Hitchens,You speak the truth yet again. Thank you for your comments.My only comment is that I do firmly believe that most religious teaching to children amounts to unadulterated child abuse. Period.

  • Agnostic

    Paganplace, thanks for the reply.Moral. adj. 1 concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour and the goodness or badness of human behaviour.With respect, I don’t see any qualification that morality must be completely self-generated. The challenge was to make a moral statement that a believer could make that an unbeliever couldn’t. A true atheist is constrained only by his own personal code of morality and by fear of man-made punishment. The fact a believer might add fear of other-worldly punishment doesn’t mean that it is no longer a “moral” decision.

  • Nick Harding

    I’m an atheist, but am also willing to admit that religion has also (however inadvertently) worked for secular freedom. Some political theorists trace the theory of a social contract back to Manegold of Lautenbach, who took the pope’s side against emperor in the 12th century. And didn’t Hobbes fear religion’s capacity to destabilize secular despotisms?Why even bother with religion’s connection to the state, when it can’t even live up to its own false teachings?

  • Nick Harding

    I’m an atheist, but am also willing to admit that religion has also (however inadvertently) worked for secular freedom. Some political theorists trace the theory of a social contract back to Manegold of Lautenbach, who took the pope’s side against emperor in the 12th century. And didn’t Hobbes fear religion’s capacity to destabilize secular despotisms?Why even bother with religion’s connection to the state, when it can’t even live up to its own false teachings?

  • Nick Harding

    I’m an atheist, but am also willing to admit that religion has also (however inadvertently) worked for secular freedom. Some political theorists trace the theory of a social contract back to Manegold of Lautenbach, who took the pope’s side against emperor in the 12th century. And didn’t Hobbes fear religion’s capacity to destabilize secular despotisms?Why even bother with religion’s connection to the state, when it can’t even live up to its own false teachings?

  • Mark

    Chip said:”I’ve always found the “love they neighbor as thyself” bit rather ironic in the context of a faith where people are taught to hate themselves so thoroughly, because they are worthless sinners from birth who must grovel for forgiveness. Self-loathing is a rotten foundation on which to build a sense of morality. To equate that with love is profoundly disturbing.”I think you’ve hit on something there! I never put those observations together, but they explain so much of the hatred rampant in the world today. Psychologists would agree with you – you really cannot love or accept others until you love and accept yourself.

  • robives

    hows about:”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”I am leaning on this as a “moral statement” because it establishes a premise for individual liberty and a personal right to seek one’s own light of happiness as the founding values of a nation. I believe that this is arguably a “moral statement”The statement imbeds a presumption that a Creator is involved, which requires a “believer” to make the statement if it is taken at face value. An unbeliever would be a manipulative cynic to sincerely assert this at face value.is this up to the challenge??

  • David Hartman

    Christopher Hitchens is one of my moral and philosophical heroes, even though I am a Christian minister and await–with longing–the spiritual recrudescence that I suspect (or hope) will eventually befall him, as it did Malcolm Muggeridge. I do believe, however, that on this particular crusade, or jihad, he is following the moral obligation of every journalist, scientist or honest person of faith, which is to follow the truth wherever it leads. Unless he has made a creed of his non-belief, in which case evidence is of no consequence, he will, in his journey’s due course, encounter that which even his massive and self-assured intellect will find shatteringly inexplicable; perhaps then his deep honesty will also compel him to ponder why other people of intellect and integrity found consolation in reaching radically different conclusions from his own. Re his challenge: a rabbi once said that all of Jesus’ moral teachings can be found in Pharisaism, except for one: “Love your enemies.” Can Mr. Hitchens cite an example wherein “Love your enemies” is a precept from any non-Christian system of belief? (I’m not saying we Christians practice it especially well–in fact, we’re generally abominable at it– but if we take Jesus seriously, we have to take his commandment seriously). By the way, he mentioned on C-Span that he is a godfather. What promises did he make on behalf of the child? One last thing I’ve pondered a lot: in personal and intellectual courage and integrity, I’ve thought him a Stoic; noting his appetites, I’ve also thought him a Sybarite. If stranded on a desert island and given a choice between Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations or a case of Dewar’s, would he choose the Roman notable or the Scottish potable? I await the answer with bated breath, and shall pay this man whom I authentically admire and respect the insufferable insult of praying for him.

  • David Rosenberg

    I believe that you are correct. But I would appreciate if you could write in a form that enables people with a smaller vocabulary to enjoy your thoughts. Keep the faith!!! David Rosenberg

  • Gordon Fraser

    While you’re right about faith’s power to oppress, I think your argument misses a larger point. Rabbis and priests and ministers and the like are really there to hold our hands when we die — because, for many of us, oblivion is too horrible to contemplate. Whether the divine will actually intervene in our lives, whether the divine even exists, is irrelevant. By acknowledging our smallness in the face of eternity, the universe, the big stuff, we are comforted. Faith makes me feel better.As for Putin using religion to oppress his people, I fear oppression in the name of religion and countless other ideologies (Marxism, capitalism, anything that ends in -ism) will continue for a long time to come. There’s something innate in the human psyche, I think, that makes us easy prey for autocrats and ideologues, whatever their brand of lies.As to an example of the faithful conveying a good that the atheists can’t provide? When a man is on his death bed, the faithful fill him with hope for the future. Atheists, by and large, don’t want to lie to him. Most people would rather hear lies.

  • Gordon Fraser

    While you’re right about faith’s power to oppress, I think your argument misses a larger point. Rabbis and priests and ministers and the like are really there to hold our hands when we die — because, for many of us, oblivion is too horrible to contemplate. Whether the divine will actually intervene in our lives, whether the divine even exists, is irrelevant. By acknowledging our smallness in the face of eternity, the universe, the big stuff, we are comforted. Faith makes me feel better.As for Putin using religion to oppress his people, I fear oppression in the name of religion and countless other ideologies (Marxism, capitalism, anything that ends in -ism) will continue for a long time to come. There’s something innate in the human psyche, I think, that makes us easy prey for autocrats and ideologues, whatever their brand of lies.As to an example of the faithful conveying a good that the atheists can’t provide? When a man is on his death bed, the faithful fill him with hope for the future. Atheists, by and large, don’t want to lie to him. Most people would rather hear lies.

  • some guy

    Hitchy – you’re the ginchiest!His point is about the commonly-held idea that all morality derives from religion. Many believe fear of God is the only thing keeping the world from devolving into Sodom. That human have no inborn sense of morality. Patently not true.I think the second question makes us wonder if society would in fact be more moral if there were no religion.

  • David Rosenberg

    I believe that you are correct. But I would appreciate if you could write in a form that enables people with a smaller vocabulary to enjoy your thoughts. Keep the faith!!! David Rosenberg

  • Cleveland Stubbs

    I have seen a man go from light to total darkness in just a few short years. And am wondering what could have caused such a destruction to one’s soul? Then I remembered, when it happened; It was during the debate about gays. That’s the straw that broke Mr.Hitchens back, it’s not God that he is angry with, it’s all who act in God’s name.But there is light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to want to find your way outCleveland

  • Bob

    I think the reason why religion attracts people is because we are in dark about life. People want to believe that life is more than what they see and experience and that there is something beautiful “out there”.

  • Gordon Fraser

    While you’re right about faith’s power to oppress, I think your argument misses a larger point. Rabbis and priests and ministers and the like are really there to hold our hands when we die — because, for many of us, oblivion is too horrible to contemplate. Whether the divine will actually intervene in our lives, whether the divine even exists, is irrelevant. By acknowledging our smallness in the face of eternity, the universe, the big stuff, we are comforted. Faith makes me feel better.As for Putin using religion to oppress his people, I fear oppression in the name of religion and countless other ideologies (Marxism, capitalism, anything that ends in -ism) will continue for a long time to come. There’s something innate in the human psyche, I think, that makes us easy prey for autocrats and ideologues, whatever their brand of lies.

  • mike l

    From the dawn of man’s intellect, he has believed in some higher power. Before nations man believed in something greater than himself and worshipped that deity, be it the sun, the earth, animals. Where did those beliefs come from if there were no organized religions? Mr. Hitchens, can you answer that question in response to your own? Who taught man to be righteous, to be civil, to be kind, to be moral?

  • yoyo

    I’m a big fan of yours Mr Hitchens,and it’s great that you take time out to post essays on these religious threads.As many of us have said here and elsewhere,non-believers have to speak up if for no other reason than to interrupt the groupthink madness called religion,which spreads best unopposed,hearing no other views.

  • cmurr

    Unfortunately, it seems that Mr. Hitchens has difficulty with simple prose as well as larger issues. He finds the description of a God that, “continues loving and feeling pity for them” rather than retaliating, to be frightening and sadistic. Perhaps that is why he continually brings up the Bible verses that he knows few Christians accept or take at face value as representing a highly developed two thousand year old tradition of faith. Perhaps this is why he formulates an impossible “test” of a statement or action that “could not be performed by an unbeliever” as “proving” there is no god. Since the phrase “could not” creates an impossible test, he has simply tortured logic to produce a a means to refute all religious faith. I am sure he knows as much about theology as he does quantum mechanics, so perhaps he will next find a way to disprove modern physics. CM

  • cmurr

    Unfortunately, it seems that Mr. Hitchens has difficulty with simple prose as well as larger issues. He finds the description of a God that, “continues loving and feeling pity for them” rather than retaliating, to be frightening and sadistic. Perhaps that is why he continually brings up the Bible verses that he knows few Christians accept or take at face value as representing a highly developed two thousand year old tradition of faith. Perhaps this is why he formulates an impossible “test” of a statement or action that “could not be performed by an unbeliever” as “proving” there is no god. Since the phrase “could not” creates an impossible test, he has simply tortured logic to produce a a means to refute all religious faith. I am sure he knows as much about theology as he does quantum mechanics, so perhaps he will next find a way to disprove modern physics. CM

  • Unatheist Apostate

    Paganplace was correct in the response to Agnostic. Agnostic defends with a definition of morality stating it is “concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour.”And that is where Agnostic’s example of a “moral statement or action” fails. A moral statement would claim that action X is wrong because, well it’s wrong. Morally wrong. Wrong on the principle of it. Not because it has negative consequences for yourself. Not because you’ll burn in hell if you do it. A person who decides not to rob a bank because of security cameras and possible jail time is not making a moral judgement that stealing is wrong!Religious people will say behavior X is wrong because it’s immoral, and it’s immoral because God said so – in a book, or a dream, or through God’s servant in the pulpit.If there were no God to give us morality, what moral pronouncements could we humans not come up with? Why is a deity a requirement for morality? I face this question from others in my decisions concerning my children’s upbringing. I hear that if they don’t receive religious training, they won’t know right from wrong. Why do people believe that?

  • daniel

    I remember reading Lord Jim as a boy and to this day I am struck by Jim’s need to alter himself, to overcome the act of cowardice which ate at him for the rest of his life. He overcame it as readers of Conrad’s book well know by giving up his life. The point is he had a higher conception of himself which has been driven since time immemorial by questioning what existence expects of ourselves–and what existence expects could only have been imagined by positing a supreme and intelligent force behind existence. Man does not easily conceive higher expectations of himself unless driven to such higher expectations. To answer Hitchens question directly–about of course believers naming a moral action, etc. etc.–the question really is not so much naming an action, etc. etc. as asking what will happen to man’s moral imagination in the absence of God. In fact as many have already pointed out, there is no standard of good at all without God–all becomes relative–and in fact without God to what really do we expect to progress? The entire concept of progress becomes meaningless without absolute good,–all the attributes people traditionally attribute to God. I assume Hitchens is honest enough to not quibble and to declare as a proper atheist that existence is accident if there is no God. But if existence is accident then it becomes ridiculous to speak of morality let alone moral improvement. Atheists believe all the above is nonsense? Then let them please design for us a society that is Godless and project it down the next five hundred years so we can see what a Godless world is like. It should not be that difficult to create for us if religion is so obviously bad for us…I can go on and on. Hitchens is silly. Another piece of his silliness: absence of evidence is evidence of absence (with respect of the existence of God). Do I really have to point out the illogic of that statement? I can go on and on. Any artist worth his salt will observe no artist worth speaking of goes through existence in denial of things let alone denial to the point of a preposterous atheism but rather seeks to encompass, synthesize, etc. and although often not traditionally religious, still aims at an always hopeful beyond–a hope which cannot exist unless there is belief in a beyond. The atheism which is given to us by people like Hitchens is a process of proceeding by negation rather than creation. But really why attack Hitchens? Once again, all atheists have to do is design for us a viable society without God. It should not be that difficult if there truly is a moral imagination without God. In fact go ahead and toss in science, art, morality, etc.–use all and describe all in a world without God. But I really see no reason why I write these words. No doubt atheists will quibble as they always do and define God as this or that as it suits them. I have yet to even hear of a consistent definition of what exactly they are denying (one minute they say no God exists but that reason, morality, etc. exist when…but why bother? Honestly, I am totally bored by the discussion. I mean that. Kid philosophy is what we have here.–And this is written by someone that belongs to no church, that has no great liking for organized religion).

  • Esther

    Dear Christopher,You ask (Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever)Whether an unbeliever can conduct himself in a moral fashion is not the issue. The difference is the unbeliever’s motivation. A thank you or pat on the back from the recipient of the good deed? Social accolades for being a good citizen? These motives only serve the unbeliever for they do not give the glory to God.

  • Esther

    Dear Christopher,You ask (Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever)Whether an unbeliever can conduct himself in a moral fashion is not the issue. The difference is the unbeliever’s motivation. A thank you or pat on the back from the recipient of the good deed? Social accolades for being a good citizen? These motives only serve the unbeliever for they do not give the glory to God.

  • Unatheist Apostate

    While “love your enemies” certainly has not been the dominant theme in humanity or its religions, it is certainly not original to or exclusive to Christianity.A simple Google search turns up:Do good to him who has done you an injury. – Taoism. Tao Te Ching 63Conquer anger by love. Conquer evil by good. Conquer the stingy by giving. Conquer the liar by truth. – Buddhism. Dhammapada 223A superior being does not render evil for evil; this is a maxim one should observe; the ornament of virtuous persons is their conduct. One should never harm the wicked or the good or even criminals meriting death. A noble soul will ever exercise compassion even towards those who enjoy injuring others or those of cruel deeds when they are actually committing them–for who is without fault? – Hinduism. Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda 115

  • Reeking Havoc

    There are no moral actions that could ONLY be done by a religious person! This I say as a confirmed Buddhist. I also agree that the “sacrificial lamb” scenario professed by a majority of Christians is bizarre and unnecessary, as well as inconsistent with the belief in a loving God.

  • Joan Hendrix

    How I wish everyone agreed with you (and me). It truly would be a different existence for us all.

  • daniel

    Oh, what the hell, I might as well get involved in this preposterous discussion. A question to counter Hitchen’s big question: Are we so sure the atheists uttering their moral statements and performing their moral actions which they believe rival or even surpass the religious could even begin to do so without all around them the thousands of years old traditions espoused by the religious? We are led to believe that atheists are as moral as believers, but they are so few in number, so embedded in a world of belief, that how can we even know they could have conceived the very morality they espouse in the absence of believers all around them? How creative are atheists is the question…

  • yoyo

    ClaudiusReligion took down the World Trade Center on 9/11.

  • Jane Curran

    Dear Mr. Hitchens — Delighted to see some rational words,in this case yours, on this rather silly rubric in the Washington Post. I usually avoid it, but read your piece having recognized your picture from the jacket of God is Not Great, which I just finished. Please keep speaking out against the damage organized religion has done and is still doing to the human race.

  • Jane Curran

    Dear Mr. Hitchens — Delighted to see some rational words,in this case yours, on this rather silly rubric in the Washington Post. I usually avoid it, but read your piece having recognized your picture from the jacket of God is Not Great, which I just finished. Please keep speaking out against the damage organized religion has done and is still doing to the human race.

  • daniel

    Things are worse than I thought on this site! Once again we have people confusing Buddhism–Eastern religions in general–with atheism.–Calling such atheism for defenses of morality, etc. without God! Preposterous! Buddhism has a quite fixed notion of good and evil, believes in the concept of Nirvana (analogous to God, endpoint, alpha and omega, etc.) and of course we have the concept of reincarnation. People, we need first an intelligent discussion of what an atheist is and of course an adequate definition of God or we just talk past each other…Let that be my view of the morality of atheists so far…Cannot even get some honest and working definitions of atheist and God to really get at the worth of “belief” in contrast to “unbelief” and vice-versa…

  • Matt

    Mr. Hitchens asks two questions. 1) Can you name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?With this question, Mr. Hitchens is simply pointing out that all people have an innate understanding of natural law. A fact acknowledged and discussed in detail by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century and other great philosophers long before him. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens should become more acquainted with philosophy of Aquinas. Also, religious persons do not always speak or act in accordance with the tenants of their religion. This fault is also found in unbelievers when they stray from their non religion based moral code. 2) Can you think of a wicked action or statement that derived directly from religious faith?Mr. Hitchens claims that this question is a corollary to the first and that everyone can instantly come up with an example. But is this second question really a corollary to the first? A more correct corollary second question would have been “Can you think of a wicked action or statement that derived directly from religious faith, that cannot also be derived directly from a secular belief system?” Perhaps some religion will come along that will catch up with the mass murder committed by communism, but I doubt it.Mr. Hitchens does himself no favor by using logical parlor tricks to support his positions.

  • Colin

    Jesus Christ, who I believe would be a religious person by any criteria, fulfilled his promise to die and yet rise again, overcoming death for all time. This has yet to be done by an unbeliever.

  • Phil C

    Colin – “Jesus Christ, who I believe would be a religious person by any criteria, fulfilled his promise to die and yet rise again, overcoming death for all time. This has yet to be done by an unbeliever.”yes it has – my friend Bob, an atheist, did that just last week. But I can’t prove it anymore than you can prove that Jesus did it.

  • Jim m

    There are two questions, although related which should be addressed separately- (1) Is there a god? and (2) If there is a god, does any religion on the face of this earth, past, present or future have a connection to this god. Most religions (I beleive all) claim a direct connection to god. The bible is the “word of god.” The book The End of Faith takes particular issue with organized religion, without addressing the existence of god. It is much easier to show the falacy and silliness of organized religion first before making a case for the non-existence of god. My opinion is that Hitchens would do better by, first and foremost, addressing the falacy that any religion has the authority to know god’s wishes and motives, if there is such a god.Some people, myself included, learn better by starting with the basics. I could not have handled intermediate accounting without having taken principles 101 first.

  • Verbatim

    Dan Northrup: Don’t expect an answer from the site, but here is what I can tell you:In general,though, there are no guarantees of confidentiality here or anywhere on the internet.

  • daniel

    I agree with Jim M who posted above. That was indeed a thoughtful and intelligent post.

  • patrick kelliher

    Hopefully those who disagree with Mr.Hitchens Patrick

  • Dolores D’Agostino

    What makes Hitchens an “authority” on God or no-God? Where does one engage in the years of study and reflection on experience that make one an expert or an authority on the question of God’s non-existence? Has Newsweek now canonized Christopher Hitchens and the darkness he represents?All of this is one more bogus media attempt to sell subscriptions. There appears to be no cesspool too stinking for Newsweek if it can use uses Hitchens to attack Mother Teresa. The editor – a bogus believer who spouts faith on Meet the Press (hypocrite) -whose true gods are the images of anyone with name recognition that will sell a magazine, is willing to spotlight Hitchens’ narcissism as something authentic. How disgusting can you get? Bogus religious faith by the editor and a bogus publication equals Newsweek.

  • Dolores D’Agostino

    What makes Hitchens an “authority” on God or no-God? Where does one engage in the years of study and reflection on experience that make one an expert or an authority on the question of God’s non-existence? Has Newsweek now canonized Christopher Hitchens and the darkness he represents?All of this is one more bogus media attempt to sell subscriptions. There appears to be no cesspool too stinking for Newsweek if it can use uses Hitchens to attack Mother Teresa. The editor – a bogus believer who spouts faith on Meet the Press (hypocrite) -whose true gods are the images of anyone with name recognition that will sell a magazine, is willing to spotlight Hitchens’ narcissism as something authentic. How disgusting can you get? Bogus religious faith by the editor and a bogus publication equals Newsweek.

  • Dolores D’Agostino

    What makes Hitchens an “authority” on God or no-God? Where does one engage in the years of study and reflection on experience that make one an expert or an authority on the question of God’s non-existence? Has Newsweek now canonized Christopher Hitchens and the darkness he represents?All of this is one more bogus media attempt to sell subscriptions. There appears to be no cesspool too stinking for Newsweek if it can use uses Hitchens to attack Mother Teresa. The editor – a bogus believer who spouts faith on Meet the Press (hypocrite) -whose true gods are the images of anyone with name recognition that will sell a magazine, is willing to spotlight Hitchens’ narcissism as something authentic. How disgusting can you get? Bogus religious faith by the editor and a bogus publication equals Newsweek.

  • Dolores D’Agostino

    What makes Hitchens an “authority” on God or no-God? Where does one engage in the years of study and reflection on experience that make one an expert or an authority on the question of God’s non-existence? Has Newsweek now canonized Christopher Hitchens and the darkness he represents?All of this is one more bogus media attempt to sell subscriptions. There appears to be no cesspool too stinking for Newsweek if it can use uses Hitchens to attack Mother Teresa. The editor – a bogus believer who spouts faith on Meet the Press (hypocrite) -whose true gods are the images of anyone with name recognition that will sell a magazine, is willing to spotlight Hitchens’ narcissism as something authentic. How disgusting can you get? Bogus religious faith by the editor and a bogus publication equals Newsweek.

  • Dolores D’Agostino

    What makes Hitchens an “authority” on God or no-God? Where does one engage in the years of study and reflection on experience that make one an expert or an authority on the question of God’s non-existence? Has Newsweek now canonized Christopher Hitchens and the darkness he represents?All of this is one more bogus media attempt to sell subscriptions. There appears to be no cesspool too stinking for Newsweek if it can use uses Hitchens to attack Mother Teresa. The editor – a bogus believer who spouts faith on Meet the Press (hypocrite) -whose true gods are the images of anyone with name recognition that will sell a magazine, is willing to spotlight Hitchens’ narcissism as something authentic. How disgusting can you get? Bogus religious faith by the editor and a bogus publication equals Newsweek.

  • Dolores D’Agostino

    What makes Hitchens an “authority” on God or no-God? Where does one engage in the years of study and reflection on experience that make one an expert or an authority on the question of God’s non-existence? Has Newsweek now canonized Christopher Hitchens and the darkness he represents?All of this is one more bogus media attempt to sell subscriptions. There appears to be no cesspool too stinking for Newsweek if it can use uses Hitchens to attack Mother Teresa. The editor – a bogus believer who spouts faith on Meet the Press (hypocrite) -whose true gods are the images of anyone with name recognition that will sell a magazine, is willing to spotlight Hitchens’ narcissism as something authentic. How disgusting can you get? Bogus religious faith by the editor and a bogus publication equals Newsweek.

  • Dolores D’Agostino

    What makes Hitchens an “authority” on God or no-God? Where does one engage in the years of study and reflection on experience that make one an expert or an authority on the question of God’s non-existence? Has Newsweek now canonized Christopher Hitchens and the darkness he represents?All of this is one more bogus media attempt to sell subscriptions. There appears to be no cesspool too stinking for Newsweek if it can use uses Hitchens to attack Mother Teresa. The editor – a bogus believer who spouts faith on Meet the Press (hypocrite) -whose true gods are the images of anyone with name recognition that will sell a magazine, is willing to spotlight Hitchens’ narcissism as something authentic. How disgusting can you get? Bogus religious faith by the editor and a bogus publication equals Newsweek.

  • Dolores D’Agostino

    What makes Hitchens an “authority” on God or no-God? Where does one engage in the years of study and reflection on experience that make one an expert or an authority on the question of God’s non-existence? Has Newsweek now canonized Christopher Hitchens and the darkness he represents?All of this is one more bogus media attempt to sell subscriptions. There appears to be no cesspool too stinking for Newsweek if it can use uses Hitchens to attack Mother Teresa. The editor – a bogus believer who spouts faith on Meet the Press (hypocrite) -whose true gods are the images of anyone with name recognition that will sell a magazine, is willing to spotlight Hitchens’ narcissism as something authentic. How disgusting can you get? Bogus religious faith by the editor and a bogus publication equals Newsweek.

  • Dolores D’Agostino

    What makes Hitchens an “authority” on God or no-God? Where does one engage in the years of study and reflection on experience that make one an expert or an authority on the question of God’s non-existence? Has Newsweek now canonized Christopher Hitchens and the darkness he represents?All of this is one more bogus media attempt to sell subscriptions. There appears to be no cesspool too stinking for Newsweek if it can use uses Hitchens to attack Mother Teresa. The editor – a bogus believer who spouts faith on Meet the Press (hypocrite) -whose true gods are the images of anyone with name recognition that will sell a magazine, is willing to spotlight Hitchens’ narcissism as something authentic. How disgusting can you get? Bogus religious faith by the editor and a bogus publication equals Newsweek.

  • Dolores D’Agostino

    What makes Hitchens an “authority” on God or no-God? Where does one engage in the years of study and reflection on experience that make one an expert or an authority on the question of God’s non-existence? Has Newsweek now canonized Christopher Hitchens and the darkness he represents?All of this is one more bogus media attempt to sell subscriptions. There appears to be no cesspool too stinking for Newsweek if it can use uses Hitchens to attack Mother Teresa. The editor – a bogus believer who spouts faith on Meet the Press (hypocrite) -whose true gods are the images of anyone with name recognition that will sell a magazine, is willing to spotlight Hitchens’ narcissism as something authentic. How disgusting can you get? Bogus religious faith by the editor and a bogus publication equals Newsweek.

  • Anonymous

    Dolores D’Agostino: You’re a nasty, mean little christian aren’t you? Thanks for the example.

  • James Robertson

    Mr. Hitchin’s ‘challenge’ probably shouldn’t be answered in a religious or atheist context; virtually any concept can be transmitted by one human to another with varying degrees of comprehension and intent (note intent) by that person. Human ideas in many categories have been transmitted in the last century with an increasing requirement for accuracy and religion is no exception. The problem is that a personThe argument here described can be misleading. If a person is developing a moral basis for his existence, how is it that the is not entirely a process of HIS consciousness and spirituality? If the person is spiritually self aware, why would the ‘challenge’ matter? Mental coherence and awareness isn’t something for sale and might not even be a phenomena that can be communicated (see modern linguistic psychology studies) to others. Religious memes or idea progressions change constantly, as do memes of four dimensional or atheistic idea progressions. The ‘challenge’ might not have meaning until

  • James Robertson

    Mr. Hitchin’s ‘challenge’ probably shouldn’t be answered in a religious or atheist context; virtually any concept can be transmitted by one human to another with varying degrees of comprehension and intent (note intent) by that person. Human ideas in many categories have been transmitted in the last century with an increasing requirement for accuracy and religion is no exception. The problem is that a personThe argument here described can be misleading. If a person is developing a moral basis for his existence, how is it that the is not entirely a process of HIS consciousness and spirituality? If the person is spiritually self aware, why would the ‘challenge’ matter? Mental coherence and awareness isn’t something for sale and might not even be a phenomena that can be communicated (see modern linguistic psychology studies) to others. Religious memes or idea progressions change constantly, as do memes of four dimensional or atheistic idea progressions. The ‘challenge’ might not have meaning until

  • James Robertson

    Mr. Hitchin’s ‘challenge’ probably shouldn’t be answered in a religious or atheist context; virtually any concept can be transmitted by one human to another with varying degrees of comprehension and intent (note intent) by that person. Human ideas in many categories have been transmitted in the last century with an increasing requirement for accuracy and religion is no exception. The problem is that a personThe argument here described can be misleading. If a person is developing a moral basis for his existence, how is it that the is not entirely a process of HIS consciousness and spirituality? If the person is spiritually self aware, why would the ‘challenge’ matter? Mental coherence and awareness isn’t something for sale and might not even be a phenomena that can be communicated (see modern linguistic psychology studies) to others. Religious memes or idea progressions change constantly, as do memes of four dimensional or atheistic idea progressions. The ‘challenge’ might not have meaning until

  • Mike

    What makes a statement or action moral? For a religious person, it is God. For Mr. Hitchens, it appears to be the individual, or society. The immorality he cites comes not from religion, but people, religious or not, who are by nature immoral. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to be something more. But I suspect Mr. Hitchens, like so many others in today’s society, is seeking to capitalize on pissing people off to sell books. God bless America!

  • Mike

    What makes a statement or action moral? For a religious person, it is God. For Mr. Hitchens, it appears to be the individual, or society. The immorality he cites comes not from religion, but people, religious or not, who are by nature immoral. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to be something more. But I suspect Mr. Hitchens, like so many others in today’s society, is seeking to capitalize on pissing people off to sell books. God bless America!

  • Ariel

    Mr Hitchens,

  • Ariel

    Mr Hitchens,

  • Dan Donovan

    It is terrifying to think that anyone over the age of eight years old could believe this drivel, thanks for putting it so well.The vast majority of these “christians” are prey for parasitic leaches.

  • Esther

    Dear Christopher,You ask (Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever)Whether an unbeliever can conduct himself in a moral fashion is not the issue. The difference is the unbeliever’s motivation. A thank you or pat on the back from the recipient of the good deed? Social accolades for being a good citizen? These motives only serve the unbeliever for they do not give the glory to God.

  • Bugs

    “Jesus Christ, who I believe would be a religious person by any criteria, fulfilled his promise to die and yet rise again, overcoming death for all time.”Prove it.You can see where there might be some disagreement on this point.

  • James Robertson

    Mr. Hitchin’s ‘challenge’ probably shouldn’t be answered in a religious or atheist context; virtually any concept can be transmitted by one human to another with varying degrees of comprehension and intent (note intent) by that person. Human ideas in many categories have been transmitted in the last century with an increasing requirement for accuracy and religion is no exception. The problem is that a person with a negative intent could say the same thing as one with a positive intent for the purpose of the intent only, not for any ‘spiritual’ value and a very large number of people over the centuries have done exactly that with devastating consequences for any enhancement of human spirit. If the intent is to prevent someone else’s moral existence from increasing, then the un-believer’s religious statements could easily be communicated as his reality. The argument here described can be misleading. If a person is developing a moral basis for his existence, how is it that the is not entirely a process of HIS consciousness and spirituality? If the person is spiritually self aware, why would the ‘challenge’ matter? Mental coherence and awareness isn’t something for sale and might not even be a phenomena that can be communicated (see modern linguistic psychology studies) to others. Religious memes or idea progressions change constantly, as do memes of four dimensional or atheistic idea progressions. The ‘challenge’ might not have meaning until moral values or their absence can be detected as neurological patterns on a functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI). Remember, there is a requirement for increasing the accuracy of what is being perceived by anyone and only that would resolve Mr. Hitchin’s challenge.

  • kst

    Dr. Hitchens

  • KennyBoy

    I have grown up with a religious education and had the opportunity to discuss religion and morality with learned scholars and devout believers. This has left me with the unshakable knowledge that when someone states that there can be no moral code without the authority of a devine being- they are really saying that they would cut your throat for pocket change if they didn’t fear eternal damnation.

  • kst

    To: Concerned The Christian Now Liberated:It will be useful to read about a religion before criticising it; especially the cliche propagated by eager missionaries of proselytizing religions. Caste system is an aberation in Hinduism; it belongs as much to Hinduism as aparthied belongs to Christianity. Cow is known as mother cow since cow norishes us with milks just as mother nourishes us with milk. Again it is missionaries who coined “holy cow”. There is no such expression in Sanskrit.

  • wow….

    You are out of your intellectual mind. Please understand that your human mind, with it’s creative theories, will not and cannot undermine God, His Glory or His plans. I am praying for you…

  • kst

    To: Concerned The Christian Now Liberated:It will be useful to read about a religion before criticising it; especially the cliche propagated by eager missionaries of proselytizing religions. Caste system is an aberration in Hinduism; it belongs as much to Hinduism as aparthied belongs to Christianity. Cow is known as “mother cow” in Hinduism since cow nourishes us with milk just as mother nourishes us with milk. Again it is missionaries who coined “holy cow”. There is no such expression in Sanskrit. It will be very useful to read the translations of Hindu texts by such Hindus as: Eknath Easwaran, Paramhans Yoganand, Swami Ranganathanand and others. You may get a much less biased picture.

  • Phil C

    ” Please understand that your human mind, with it’s creative theories, will not and cannot undermine God, His Glory or His plans.”So how does your human mind know the mind of God?

  • Dennis Daniels

    In matters of faith, I always turn to you. You say it best.Despite my admiration, I must point out that if you wish to quote the word moderate, you really should close it, not just place it before the m.I am pleased that you will not close your case. We need you to continue to point out the absurdity of those who continue to justify what you rightly conclude is the “origin of totalitarianism.”

  • Dennis Daniels

    In matters of faith, I always turn to you. You say it best.Despite my admiration, I must point out that if you wish to quote the word moderate, you really should close it, not just place it before the m.I am pleased that you will not close your case. We need you to continue to point out the absurdity of those who continue to justify what you rightly conclude is the “origin of totalitarianism.”

  • yoyo

    Thinking people long ago rejected the god hypothesis .

  • Reader

    Ironic that Atheist American Vet and Scott G. both quote the apostle Paul completely unawares. Guess they work in mysterious ways, too.

  • Louis Massano

    Mr. Hitchens is slicing his baloney thicker and thicker. More and more he discredits himself as a humane man of the world as he ignorantly defames the world’s religions with his “torch-and-pitchfork” atheism. Sometimes I wonder if he is secretly “on the take” from the Vatican – he may not be recruiting new Catholics, but he is certainly causing tens of thousands to return to the fold, as he repeatedly illustrates in inane, life-hating outlook of the primitive atheist. Hitchens’s bigoted, hate-filled diatribes against religion remind me of a saying of Jonathan Swift: “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.”Just what lies were told, I wonder, to Christopher Hitchens – in the home or out of it – at an impressionable age – lies it would be futile to try to “reason him out of” ? Hitchens is a man with the clamped-shut intellect of a confirmed dogmatist: I doubt he’ll ever ever ask himself such a question for the remainder of his life.(“An unexamined life is not worth living.” said Socrates. But we’ll have to ignore him -won’t we? Socrates was too much a mystic and definitely not an atheist….)I read the New York Times article too, and winced. It posed the re-introduction of religion into Russian schools as some kind of threat. The New York Times has many readers who must have thrown the paper down in disgust on reading such an intolerant article. The Times’s circulation keeps plunging and plunging – and its clueless, insulated editorial board seem to keep scratching their heads collectively and wondering why.I first started reading the New York Times too long ago to admit without blushing – the year had to be 1962. Each issue seemed a revelation not only of what was going on in the world that was viewed as a threat our national security or to a threat to world peace – but there were also articles about countries beyond our insulated U.S. borders that made their customs seem interesting, even possibly valuable in such a way that we in the States might want to emulate those customs.No more. In 2007, the New York Times – the newspaper of what is supposed to be the paper of the United States’ most cosmopolitan city – can only report long standing customs and cultural developments of other countries as if they are freakish and weird and very unsettling — and of course, potentially threatening.The paper in its current pathetic state seems only ble to smear other ways of life, as it desperately tries to bail out its sinking journalistic ship by feeding a longstanding, and very primtive, all-American appetite for xenophobic reports of the world outside our borders. To the New York Times, the British all have bad teeth – and even if they don’t, according to the Times’s correspondent Sarah Lyall, they are a nation of eccentrics. Ditto the Japanese, the Germans, the French – and of course, the Italians – they’re all weird just because they are not like us Americans – or because they aren’t friendly with Israel. Over the summer a New York Times headline on a trash collectors’ strike in Naples blared “Garbage Reigns in Naples.” But back to the topic: I have many friends and acqaintances who have been through the Catholic Schools -even to the college level – and left full-blown atheists. Remember too that some of the most famous atheists of the French enlightenment, like Diderot, were products of a single Jesuit school, La Fleche. The reason I attribute mainly to the fact that it is the home environment which is the primary formative influence on children’s religious development. And, to educate children in the modern world is to give them a powerful alternative to the basic religious narrative – a scientific narrative, which causes the brighter among them to react against a narrow-minded religious indoctrination (though not necessarily to become atheists: there are many examples of profoundly religious people among the greatest scientists of the last 200 years) . Still, for centuries, and also in the modern era, young people have had parents who believed that religion was a fairy story for adults and that their children should just ignore what their religion teachers say. I have no doubt the same thing is occurring – after generations of atheistic indoctrination by Russian communists – in contemporary Russia. It is not well known that Albert Einstein – a thoughtful, even poetically philosophical atheist, not an atheistic bigot like Christopher Hitchens and all the rest of the “New Atheist” crowd – was educated at a Catholic school in his home city of Ulm, Germany starting at the age of six. Read, for example this excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s recent book on Einstein (much of which is cribbed from more interesting works on Einstein, but which is nevertheless a decent popularization): Einstein later, as an adult, said he was interested and charmed to find out about the myths Catholics live by (I paraphrase here from memory). Einstein’s most potent influence was his freethinking, culturally stimulating homelife. As to teaching children “lies” – every culture on earth has never missed the chance offered by the sensitivity of children and their active imaginations and emotions to indoctrinate them with its founding myths. So too would any society designed along the lines recommended by Christopher Hitchens’s chif intellectual “culture hero,” the atheist Leon Trotsky. And every culture on earth has its myths – which can qualify as “lies” to many misinformed, “activel ignorant” people like Hitchens (or Trotsky).In a sense, to teach a children one’s own native language in preference to another is an indoctrination.

  • H. S. Dugan

    You write predominantly (exclusively?) of salvation religions requiring faith in supernatural entities. Eastern religions have a different focus, while often mystical and also faith-based, the faith is in an amorphous universal reality attainable by practices and right living.

  • yoyo

    WOWWhich God are you referring to? Would that be Apollo? Or Krishna? Zeus maybe?

  • aresalter

    Great argument about morality and religion — stated by Bertrand Russell long ago, but still good today and best said as often as possible. WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN, where the great Bertie makes that argument, is must reading–he writes even better than the marvelous Hitch, though at a lower pitch.

  • Mark from Houston

    Mr. Hitchens,Your shallowness of thought shines a brilliant spotlight on the weakness of your arguments. You and few other atheistic yapping chimps continue to attempt to convince the populous of the dangers of people of faith. What a shameful exercise of your intellect. In the Bible it is clearly taught that there are two types of people in this world – children of Satan and children of God. I suppose you believe that you are neither.

  • André Noël Tremblay

    Christopher Hitchens reach stupidity trying to look smart and mist the point by an infinitum. The question is not if every body is doing wrong or doing rigth all the time or most of the time, but how to decide what is wrong and what is right. No religion, except humanistic like Hitchens, said that they do right all the time. Christianity said that every body is a sinner.So, this proove that the request of Christopher Hitchens to be the one to decide what is wrong and what is right is an insulte to the intelligence and any sense of fairness that he lack completly to make himself interresting by any way.

  • Phil C

    “Ironic that Atheist American Vet and Scott G. both quote the apostle Paul completely unawares”How do you know they’re “unawares?” Are you God?

  • Mark of Houston

    Mr. Hitchens,Your shallowness of thought shines a brilliant spotlight on the weakness of your arguments. You and few other atheistic yapping chimps continue to attempt to convince the populous of the dangers of people of faith. What a shameful exercise of your intellect. In the Bible it is clearly taught that there are two types of people in this world – children of Satan and children of God. I suppose you believe that you are neither.

  • John Booth

    Amen, Brother Hitchens!

  • Graham S

    Dear Chris,They must be maddening to be totally correct and yet see that you have little impact on the world. I love the style of your book; I find the substance of Dawkins, Dennett and others to present arguments are more convincing to my scientific mind.I write from Kiev, where the communists tried for seven or eight decades to erase Christianity. No luck whatsoever. Not only are the Orthodox churches still in business, but the evangelicals are getting started. The young people with whom I speak here have a rather European attitude toward God. Though they don’t go to church, they believe. Which brings me to “Religion Explained” by Pascal Boyer a couple of years ago. It is a cultural artifact I don’t think you’re going to erase. In fact, it keeps popping up in new guises such as environmentalism and diversity, secular concepts that are embraced with an unthinking fervor and allowed to trump whatever else might be considered good in the world.I think a more fruitful line of pursuit might be to ask the question, given that people are credulous and they’re going to believe something, what should they believe? I personally find old-line Christian churches to be as innocuous and toothless as any institutions you could imagine. Why not endorse them?

  • C. Youngdahl

    Humans use and abuse many things, religion no less than the rest. Fixating on the abuses isn’t rational. You’re usually quite rational, so this comes as a bit of a surprise. In the blind men describing the elephant story there was probably one man standing directly behind the elephant, unspoken in the telling, who got the very worst impression of the beast. That doesn’t mean he was any more correct than the others. There must be some reason, other than reason, for this visceral distaste of faith. What is it ?

  • Darden Cavalcade

    Can you think of a moral action or act performed by an unbeliever that wasn’t said or performed first in a community of faith, Mr. Hitchens? If not, could secular morality derive from simple imitation? As for your corollary, can you think of a wicked action or statement that derived directly from secular principles, ideologies, or politics? Human beings are deeply flawed, and regardless of their intentions much of what they do will have negative consequences.Can the principles and products of the scientific method lead to evil outcomes? Can scientists practicing their discipline do wicked things? If so, does the scientific method poison everything?

  • steve

    “I will lift up my eyes to the Lord, from whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” the Psalms Is the previous statement from the soul of an unbeliever? Mr. Hitchens – Yes, there has been, will and continue to be tyranny in all the major religions. John Locke, your countryman in the 17th century provided the basis for our American founding fathers to separate the tyranical (political) from the spiritual (the individual and collective expression of God within the hearts of men.) For that, the world should be eternally grateful. It’s not God’s fault that men use religion for their own petty gain. Don’t confuse God with relgion, they are two separate entities.Lastly, you’ve seem to have made quite a name for yourself and a good living I might add by bashing God and religion in all forms. Good for you! It’s nice work if you can get it! However, aren’t you guilty of the same sins that you yourself rail against 1) moral (secular) superiority 2)intolerance (of any religion or belief in a higher power) and 3)Inability to live and let live? You are no different than Jerry Falwell was or Pat Robertson is, just the other side of the same coin. A Hypocrite!

  • colin nicholas

    Mr HitchensI was a fence sitter you might say,when I read your book ‘God Is Not Great’.

  • coprogirl

    “Gordon Fraser: Oh give me a break! I’m a nurse, and I’ve held plenty of dying hands with my little atheistic self: dying people just need to be held. The pastors are usually there for the family to perpetrate the illusion that there is eternal life and theoretically make them feel better. Some people seem to need ritual.

  • TK

    Belief in a supernatural God is irrational? Who would have thought? Perhaps there is more than just being rational. What does it mean to be rational? It would be irrational for me to not be a believer, considering what I have experienced. Atheists can be just as moral as religious people; therefore, religion is bunk? Perhaps there is something more than just being moral.

  • Carol

    There are few responses by believers to your question, and it’s not because they are stumped for one. The lack here is a result of the assumptions made about religious people in framing the question. As a believer, it never would occur to me that atheists would be either more or less morally courageous than religious people. Many of the Russian dissidents who willingly sacrificed their careers and went to prison on principle were atheists, for example, as were the KGB careerists who put them there. The black families who sent their children to Little Rock High on this 50th anniversary were Christian just as the Arkansas Governor who tried to stop them was. Because the assumptions about believers are petty so is the question.

  • Hayward Blake

    It is fun and educational to read your columns. As an long timeLike you have said there are a lot of us atheists out there. It is fun to nod in agreement w/you,Harris, Dawkins, etc.Best regards, Hay Blake

  • Hayward Blake

    It is fun and educational to read your columns. As an long timeLike you have said there are a lot of us atheists out there. It is fun to nod in agreement w/you,Harris, Dawkins, etc.Best regards, Hay Blake

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    EG,You asked: “My question to you: How do you explain the persistent attraction of the Christian faith to all conditions of men and women down the centuries, including some of the most creative spirits within the Western Tradition: St. Augustine, Pascal, Newton, William Wilberforce, Samuel Johnson, Tolstoy, T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, Chesterton, and Malcolm Muggeridge, to name but a few. Were they all deluded? As noted earlier by another commentator. Yes!!!!With added comment:These individuals typically suffered ,as many of us have, from the three B’s i.e. they were Bred, Born and Brainwashed in a flawed Christianity. To reiterate the flaws once again:1. Abraham founder/father of three major religions was probably a mythical character. If he was real, he was at best a combination of at least three men. 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis have relegated Abraham to the myth pile along with most if not all the OT.2. Jesus, the illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter possibly suffering from hallucinations, has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth. Analyses of his life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, On Faith panelists)via the NT and related documents have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus’ sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects. The 30% of the NT that is “authentic Jesus” like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus’ case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics. 3. Luther, Calvin, Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley et al, founders of Christian-based religions, also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of “pretty wingy talking flying fictional thingie” visits and “prophecies” for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immaculate conceptions).

  • Anonymous

    OH NO! IT’S NOT YOU….AGAIN, NOW, IS IT HITCHENS? HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU HAVE TO COME BACK HERE (under your own, and assumed screenames) TO FLACK YOUR BOOK, HUH? SALES NOT DOING TOO GOOD, OR SOMETHIN’? PLEASE GIVE US A BREAK! I’M TIRED OF YOU ALREADY! What are you, BFF with Sally Quinn? Yeah, I THINK so! Perhaps when you learn to easily balance your so-called “atheism” with a greater comprehension of the meaningfulness of other religious viewpoints (something that Massimo Cacciari, the extraordinary philosopher/mayor of Venice, has managed to do with aplomb-he’s an atheist too, you know, yet, Pope Ratzinger asked HIM, a politician/philosopher! to flack HIS new book on Jesus of Nazareth last spring-even as Massimo was criticizing the church the day before the book’s debut for its stance on domestic partnerships-announcing publicly that “the Church has erred” YET, the next day he’s sitting up there on the dais in Rome, giving his expansive and positive review of Jesus the man, along with the Cardinals and the Vatican public affairs people! And you know what he says, Hitchens? Massimo Cacciari says “if I had a student who knew everything about the German philosophers, but nothing about the Gospels, I would flunk him immediately; the Gospel must be known, understood, and spread to the people so they may consider the word, its impact and application on their vision of the world.” Yeah, that’s right. There aren’t too many people on this earth (in fact, none, I think!) who can manage what Massimo does (and so deftly!) but at least we can say this: Christopher Hitchens simply shows his true sophistic mentality when he espouses shunning all forms of religion-he is, in effect, an atheist “fundamentalist” which is just as bad as the alternative on the OTHER side of the spectrum, the murderous religious zealot. There are thoughtful, alternate viewpoints between those two equally unrealistic and non-meaningful extremes. Hitch, though, ain’t man enough, or expansive enough, to see that though. In that regard, try another reading of one of your fellow Brit authors, the brilliant GK Chesterson. You might learn something there about Chesterston’s use of paradox to expose the intellectually dishonest thinking of those who label themselves as atheists-such as you do. But being intellectually honest about the power of faith is something your book misses, or dismisses, without comprehension.

  • Anonymous

    TKActually TK it would be sensible for you not to believe.

  • a different point of view

    Dear Mr. Hitchens,I agree with your basic premise that religion creates a lot of foolish ideas that people blindly follow without examining them critically.However, I believe your question is misphrased. You ask whether there is something a religious person would say or do morally that a non-believer could also say or do. Since believers and non-believers are both human with the same capacities, I believe that any utterance or deed that one could do, the other could as well.I believe the more relevant question is whether there is a moral position that a believer would take that a non-believer would not, i.e., would belief in God lead one to believe that something was just that is different than what those who did not believe in God. In other words, I think the proper question is whether there is a moral issue whose resolution would be different if resolved in a way consistent with a belief in God vs. consistent with a belief in no God.If you are willing to concede that as the appropriate question, then I believe there is a valid response. Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandes Gandhi are both considered believers and their existence is not in dispute (the Bible says Jesus behaved this way, but one may dispute the validity of the Bible).Both practiced the morality of non-violence and responding to physical attack with love rather than counterattack. Gandhi said that there are causes that he was willing to die for but none that he was willing to kill for. By extension, this means that if his family were under attack and would die unless he killed his attacker, he would be willing to accept death for himself and his family. I believe this morality is possible only because a faith in God.Compare an atheistic point of view, perhaps one based on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Evolution does not require God and is based on the notion of passing along genes through reproduction. If there is no God, it does not make sense for a person to sacrifice his own life and those of his family for the principle of non-violence. This would result in the end of his genetic lineage. Hence, moral obligation to one’s family would dictate taking the life of the attacker in order to save the lives of the family. Preservation of one’s life and lineage would outweigh preservation of one’s character since character is meaningless without life. On the other hand, if one believes in God and believes that there is an afterlife, then sacrificing one’s family to preserve morality is a valid choice as the family will exist in the afterlife and one would want to retain, rather than sacrifice one’s character. I believe this example meets your challenge as it is an example of a moral decision that is consistent with belief in God but inconsistent with a lack of such belief.There are other examples as well that can be derived based on premises of afterlife/reincarnation vs. no God/one life only. The general principle driving these are based on the notion of self-sacrifice for others vs. maximizing own gain/preserving own life. If there is one life only, which is consistent with the no God position, then self-preservation seems to be the ultimate moral mandate. However, if we are all one in God, then altruism is the ultimate moral mandate.I would be delighted to discuss these issues with you. I believe that you have made the mistake that many atheists have done: thrown the baby out with the bath water. You have allowed man’s foolish religious beliefs convince you that there is no God. However, God and religion are independent. Just as foolish religious beliefs need to be debunked so should faulty atheistic reasoning. Invalidation of religious tenets is not the same as invalidation of God.

  • Gwen Bolton

    What comes to mind is the Father/child relationship of yesteryear when you think of the God/man relationship. In a way my father created me, since, I am flesh of his flesh just as God the Father is my father who created me to have fellowship with him. God my Father loves me unconditionally just as my earthly father loved me unconditionally but when I didn’t obey him by disobeying his rules he punished me. Mind you it was lovingly for my disapline’s sake but he knew I needed correcting or I wouldn’t understand there were consequences for not being obedient thereby training me up in the way I should go. That is exactly what God does with those he loves, his children. It is the fear of the consequences of not obeying him that often keeps us inline with his plan for our lives. Knowing that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom keeps us on the same page as our Heavenly Father just as obeying our earthly father kept us in his good graces and taught us how to live sucessfully. This isn’t cruel and unusual punishment rather it is the loving care of a personal God whom I have a relationship through His Son Jesus Christ who said “whoever has seen me has seen the father” as well as “whoever believes in me shall not perish but shall inherit eternal life”. That is not religion it is having a relationship with my creator and knowing that he loved me so much that he sent his only begotten Son to die for me and is going to forgiving my wrong doing and accepting me into heaven based on my faith in his Son whose blood was shed for me obtaining my salvation. This punishment was given on my behalf and was accepted by God not only for me but for whoever will come to the Father since this was the great love he had for the whole world showing us a way to atone for our sins that we couldn’t do for ourselves. All I had to do was to say I was sorry for disobeying him and ask him to forgive me. He says that he will forgive and forget just as my earthly father forgave me and forgot what I did when I disobeyed him looking at me through the eyes of love. Not what I can do to save myself but what Jesus did for me on the cross. This is also the unfailing love talked about by David in the Bible lived out by Jesus the Messiah. Some may not have had this kind of father here on earth but that is a characteristic of our heavenly father who always loves us and is full of mercy, always willing to forgive those who come to him in true repentance. This is the God of the Bible not just a set of rules we must obey but a person revealed not only in his creation but in his Son Jesus Christ who came, died, arose and is coming again. As a bridegroom comes for his bride the church who is watching and waiting for his return. Then we will see him as he is and know him in the flesh for he said as he returned to his father in heaven “as you have seen me go up into heaven so will I also come”. So as a bride looking for her bridegroom we serve him gladly and look forward to his return as he has promised to do. God the father is always faithful and true and will do as he promised. I can have a faith in this God who is the maker of heaven and earth showing himself the same yesterday, today and forever. He is coming again this time for the church his holy blood washed bride made up of every believer who has trusted in him. Even so come Lord Jesus!

  • William Pai

    Chrisopher Hitchens is my hero. Ecrasez l’infame!

  • Gwen Bolton

    What comes to mind is the Father/child relationship of yesteryear when you think of the God/man relationship. In a way my father created me, since, I am flesh of his flesh just as God the Father is my father who created me to have fellowship with him. God my Father loves me unconditionally just as my earthly father loved me unconditionally but when I didn’t obey him by disobeying his rules he punished me. Mind you it was lovingly for my disapline’s sake but he knew I needed correcting or I wouldn’t understand there were consequences for not being obedient thereby training me up in the way I should go. That is exactly what God does with those he loves, his children. It is the fear of the consequences of not obeying him that often keeps us inline with his plan for our lives. Knowing that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom keeps us on the same page as our Heavenly Father just as obeying our earthly father kept us in his good graces and taught us how to live sucessfully. This isn’t cruel and unusual punishment rather it is the loving care of a personal God whom I have a relationship through His Son Jesus Christ who said “whoever has seen me has seen the father” as well as “whoever believes in me shall not perish but shall inherit eternal life”. That is not religion it is having a relationship with my creator and knowing that he loved me so much that he sent his only begotten Son to die for me and is going to forgiving my wrong doing and accepting me into heaven based on my faith in his Son whose blood was shed for me obtaining my salvation. This punishment was given on my behalf and was accepted by God not only for me but for whoever will come to the Father since this was the great love he had for the whole world showing us a way to atone for our sins that we couldn’t do for ourselves. All I had to do was to say I was sorry for disobeying him and ask him to forgive me. He says that he will forgive and forget just as my earthly father forgave me and forgot what I did when I disobeyed him looking at me through the eyes of love. Not what I can do to save myself but what Jesus did for me on the cross. This is also the unfailing love talked about by David in the Bible lived out by Jesus the Messiah. Some may not have had this kind of father here on earth but that is a characteristic of our heavenly father who always loves us and is full of mercy, always willing to forgive those who come to him in true repentance. This is the God of the Bible not just a set of rules we must obey but a person revealed not only in his creation but in his Son Jesus Christ who came, died, arose and is coming again. As a bridegroom comes for his bride the church who is watching and waiting for his return. Then we will see him as he is and know him in the flesh for he said as he returned to his father in heaven “as you have seen me go up into heaven so will I also come”. So as a bride looking for her bridegroom we serve him gladly and look forward to his return as he has promised to do. God the father is always faithful and true and will do as he promised. I can have a faith in this God who is the maker of heaven and earth showing himself the same yesterday, today and forever. He is coming again this time for the church his holy blood washed bride made up of every believer who has trusted in him. Even so come Lord Jesus!

  • Dobre

    Christopher Hitchens, my athiest Assclown friend! As an FYI, baboons dont exist in foxholes. You can’t understand that now, but on your deathbed, it will make sense. Enjoy poking fate and the Almighty in the eye. But the fun won’t last forever. Matthew 25:13.

  • Dobre

    Christopher Hitchens, my athiest Assclown friend! As an FYI, baboons dont exist in foxholes. You can’t understand that now, but on your deathbed, it will make sense. Enjoy poking fate and the Almighty in the eye. But the fun won’t last forever. Matthew 25:13.

  • Dobre

    Christopher Hitchens, my athiest Assclown friend! As an FYI, baboons dont exist in foxholes. You can’t understand that now, but on your deathbed, it will make sense. Enjoy poking fate and the Almighty in the eye. But the fun won’t last forever. Matthew 25:13.

  • Fred

    To the question raised: Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?The real question is not whether unbelievers COULD utter or perform these acts (of course people can do lots of things), but rather DO they perform these acts. The evidence suggests that religious people tend to give more to charity as well as perform more acts of charity and selflessness than unbelievers. Whatever their motivations are, the net result is undeniably good. I for one am glad there are selfless people like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day in the world, who were animated by religion to do good in the world. Organizations like St. Vincent de Paul, Oxfam and Catholic Relief Services do a huge service to humanity, and are animated by faith. To dismiss the acts of these people and organizations is foolish.

  • victoria

    the first thought that i had in answer to that question – is prayer. adding the word statement to that sentence doesnt change anything. i guess if anyone ever thought to ask (or cared) what great social construct have atheists come up with? for all the bashing of religions, still many societies have used their philosophies to build societies of some value.

  • James Colvert

    Mr. Hitchens: Thanks for your fine book and for columns like this. James Colvert

  • Anonymous

    Whether religion is good or bad is irrelevant if in fact there is no god and no supernatural world in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    Victoriathe above post on religion bashing was intended for you.

  • Walter Plywaski

    I am clearly in full agreement with your thesis! I’ve proposed for many years to my friends and acquaintances 10:1 odds bet up to five hundred dollars which they can win it they can provide me with just one well-documented case of a war which was stopped by religion.

  • Brian

    I think the author misses the point. Of course he’s right, any person can be good…religious or not, but how does that discredit the existance of God? Religion is what is flawed, not God. I believe all people are connected by something intangible. I believe all people know right from wrong and what is truly right, whether they are “religious” or not. Because it doesn’t come from worldly religions which are interpretations of God, but from God directly. Each one of us has a soul…or something inside us….from somewhere (I choose to think it is God) that links us, that guides us….whether or not we listen to it. So in general people or religions don’t teach me about God, so much as God speaks to me through my conscience. People/Church/Religion reaffirm what I believe or help me work through issues I may be struggling with but ultimately true religion is a one-on-one experience with God. At the end of the day you won’t have to worry about anyone else, it’ll just be you and your life and you have to live with your choices. I’ve done tons of wrong things in my life, and I know they are wrong and selfish, etc. That doesnt mean I shouldnt try to be a better person, for whatever reason. I don’t feel I know right vs. wrong from a church, but it is from something that originates somewhere else (since most people share the same basic beliefs) but comes through me…something most if not all people have…and I believe that something is God.Some people do bad things because they disregard their conscience more than others. I do it quite often to be honest, and I know I am doing the selfish thing. The biggest problem with religion is not the core beliefs or ideas, its the fact that they are carried out by humans. Flawed humans that we all are in that we are selfish, arrogant, whatever and that gets put directly into how worldly “religions” act. The Christian church is very hipocritical, but because of the people in it, not the tenets of Jesus. I’d like to know where the author thinks this right vs. wrong or good vs. evil moral standard that seems to exist throughout the world in all nations, religions, etc. come from? If we share a generally universal moral code…then how did we get it?

  • Daniel La Dolce

    Keep up your abililty to communicate so well the obvious!!Luigi Cascioli was interesting! “The Fable of Christ”.

  • JD

    But Christ, the ONLY Good that is eternal is God. You can’t handle that can you? I hate those who hate God. Thats Godly Chris. Can you deal with that?

  • Joe

    A more basic question than as to the existence of a God or Gods is, “Is there a real spiritual aspect to life?” By this I mean an area of human development distinct from the physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, even the moral dimensions, that religion (behind all the mythology) points to. Stripping away all those myths, beliefs, dogmas – conceptual garb of all sorts – might we find the spark of something astounding, unique, and important there?

  • Gordon Shank

    It is too bad that you do not address the most relevant issue. Everything you say here is clearly true. No reasonable person can argue with it. However, to me it is all irrelevant compared to the most appalling aspects of Christianity. That is that you should be punished for what you believe, or don’t believe. I thought America was all about not being punished for what you believe? You are cast into hell for eternity? And, this is for simply not believing in an abstract concept. It seems a little too harsh for a altruistic compassionate supernatural being.

  • cph500

    I have always appreciated Mr. Hitchens’ provocations. I even felt I learned something reading his “devil’s advocate” position against Mother Teresa’s canonization. Still, as has been alluded to, I am curious what Mr. Hitchens thinks is the source for the enduring human longing for a just society and for an unimpeachable “code” by which to live. The OT calls is “eternity in the hearts of [people]” and Pascal labeled it a “God-shaped hole” in our hearts.I concede that other writings of his, with which I may not be familiar, might address his views. If so, please point me in the right direction. I would find such writings an immensely worthwhile flipside to the views expressed in this piece.

  • George Evanick

    Mr. Hitchens,As a Christian I want to thank you for openly sharing your thoughts and concerns. When I read or listen to commentary from you, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Susan Jacoby, Thomas Hume, Karl Marx, etc., it strengthens my faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.Apparently there are numerous religious people in the world, but from my perspective there doesn’t seem to be as many faithful believers. A great majority of people in my daily life do not attend church; seldom pray if at all and even question the existence or holiness of God. My guess is that many people, to include regular church-goers, are just agnostic.Nevertheless, it is the non-believers, agnostics and pretenders that contribute greatly to the deepening of my faith in Jesus Christ.I must say; if there were hardly a trace of murder, slander, greed, boasting, lust, sexual immorality, self loving and deceit in today’s human race, it would shake my faith. However, today’s world is just as the New Testament states it would be.I’m middle class, average intelligence, a husband, a father, and a sinner in need of redemption and I found that in Jesus Christ.The epiphany of the human condition is that we all live by faith and we all are sinners and very capable of demonstrating the worst forms of evil – which leads to one important question. Is there any hope? I believe there is; and although we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, history continues to demonstrate we won’t find it solely in each other.Again, thank you and may God richly bless you and keep you safe. I will keep you in my prayers.George Evanick

  • Anonymous

    dec.21,2007.GOD returns to rule

  • Phil

    I do not have faith but I figure it is probably like romantic love or LSD. It may sound silly or crazy to the uninvolved but when it hits you understand. Also it can both be deeply rewarding or very dangerous.

  • Andrew McCarthy MD

    Your question was answered by Kierkegaard in his book Fear and Trembling. It is an amazing answer that Kierkegaard gives. He discusses what Abraham was asked to do. Only a completely humbled believer, only a man of utter faith would have done what Abraham did. A nonbeliever or a rationalist would have acted just as you act in this piece. You would have revolted from your very being in that what was asked of you for it would have broken every ‘ethical’ maxim that you, rational and angry man, could think of, in this world of perceptual sensation. And thus what good are you with a view of rational goodness that is faulty? Do we really understand our own creation as we think we can? It would do you good to read it and I suspect that the whole treatise will upset you as it upset everyone in Kierkegaard’s day, Christian as well as non-christian, and nonbeliever.

  • arrabbiato

    “Provocations” are right-Hitchens is beginning to sound like a first-class TROLL-”Subtle, Lethal, Poison of Religion” WHAT CRAP!-GO AWAY TROLL, AND COME BACK WHEN YOU HAVE SOMETHING MEANINGFUL TO ADD TO THE DISCUSSION, RATHER THAN RANK MINDLESS PROVOCATION!

  • steedr

    Mr. Hitchens question is a clever one. I’m a religious person and as such I must admit that it’s a frustrating question. Upon a little reflection, I’d be very surprised if a religious person is able to provide much of an answer, and if they do I imagine that Mr. Hitchens, or his apparently numerous followers, could not easily discount. I could suggest some of the acts of Jesus as a response, but I’d rather not, because of my differing underlying assumptions and considering the likely reception such comments would receive. Even though I won’t answer your question, I would like to add to things to the discussion. First, despite the challenging tone, Mr Hitchens’ question could be looked at on another level as optimistic. Whether we are religious or not, live a life of immorality or morality or whatever, we can still wake up tomorrow and do something moral – for some it may be harder than others, but we all have that potential. Second, I’d like to suggest that people look at religion a little differently, by using an analogy. This likely has some holes in it, but hopefully will spark some thought, religion is like a hammer. If I have a particular hammer (that I think is quite good) I can pound in a bunch of nails. Having a hammer, of course, does not ensure that I will pound any nails in – I may not use it at all or may use it improperly. If I have the perfect hammer, does that make me a perfect carpenter? Just because me and some of my friends all have the same hammer does that mean that no one else can hammer in nails? Really, if I’m trying to build a house, wouldn’t I just be happy with how many people were trying to pound in the nails rather than worry about what tools they use? Of course, life is more complicated than hammering nails and in reality religion (or any other philosophy) is like a tool belt. Some of the tools of religion have no interest at all to the irreligious / non-believing (such as things relating to an afterlife) but others are hopefully seen as valuable. Mr. Hitchens will likely never receive an answer to his question/challenge that he can’t easily discount, which probably tells a lot more about how clever he is than anything about religion. In the future, I hope he is able to express his ideas, which I respect, with a little more kindness.

  • Speed123

    Are you still milking this topic for cash, Hitchens?? Newsweek as well, it seems….Why not write about your cheerleading up to and during the Iraq war??? This evil was not created by religion…..it was created by secular political philosophers i.e. NEO CONS like yourself…..You are a shameless blowhard, a lout and a drunk.Do you feel the guilt of the hundreds of thousands of lives wasted/destroyed in your Iraqi social experiment? Of course you dont…..you neo-bolshevik scum….

  • David Peters

    Mr Hitchens continues to be an erudite, if a tad ascerbic, critic (in the true sense of the word) of religion, and rightfully so. To think that it requires an invisible sky-wizard looming over our heads, threatening us with dire and eternal consequences for acting in accordance with the natural urges and proclivities he (and it is inevitably a he) so perfectly imbued us with, to do good is an insult to free-thinking and moral people everywhere. And to have such tripe forced down our throats by a society hell-bent (words chosen carefully) on marginalizing atheists or the plain ole’ secular humanists is pretty painful for those of us who continue to do good and assist society not because a domineering father-figure out there in the way-way beyond insists that we do, but because we logically and morally can figure out what is right.

  • Fred

    Speed 123,thank you for a balanced, polite, thoughtful, constructive, open-hearted contribution to the discussion!Potential killers are usually the religionists like you, not the atheists who try to shed superstition by just thinking about its premises and showing people the results of their considerations, which may be true or false, like Hitchens.In thought police (Gestapo, e.g.) you would make a reliable, high-ranking inquisition officer. Hopefully the US doesn’t slide still farther down this path, although I am not sure. Your career, however, is guaranteed.

  • Mark Specht

    Mr. Hitchens. -Mark Specht

  • Patrick

    “I have also asked large and divergent audiences if they can think of a wicked action or statement that derived directly from religious faith, and you know what? There is no tongue-tied silence at THAT point.”Why does Mr. Hitchens not phrase this follow up point in the same what he does his “challenge”? Can anyone think of a wicked action derived from an avowedly atheist ideolody? Naziism and communism instantly come to mind– though that’s hardly the complete list.

  • GeorgiaSon

    My congratulations to Christopher Hitchens for continuing to pose logical questions to those who swim in the religious (or religiosity) culture without thinking. He’s bearing the torch of the Enlightenment, and we Americans are children of the Enlightenment. Our Founding Fathers conceived a nation based on the idea that it should be populated by citizens whose minds were freed of the shackles of religious dogma and cant. The idea that they wanted to create a “Christian nation” is pure poppycock. How anyone could witness the moral implosion of the political party that claimed to be the embodiment of moral values in America and not see the hypocrisy and lies inherent in the right-wing fundamentalist movement boggles the human mind. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, in particular, would have been appalled.

  • candide

    Hitchens is right! The sado-masochism of Christianity is at the heart of the evil in man. Christianity exploits this passion and makes it even more horrific.

  • Gerry

    Nobody in his right senses would today INVENT a story of a scapegoat offering (an atavistic ritual) to wipe away our “sins” or be punished by Katrina plus eternal (ever ponder what that means?) hellfire, or a fairy tale of anybody “flying into the sky on a Pegasus” or similar stories. To find such stories we must resort to antiquity. For the symbolic value of such stories we have the poetry of the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Anderson and a lot of other enlightened authors, but certainly nobody would ask to take Snow White and the seven dwarfs at face value – he would be derided even by the most fanatical religionists, ironically.To me, the primitive belief in a god or other “supernatural” entities means a DESECRATION of the inscrutable, awe-inspiring fact of our own existence and the existence of the cosmos, its vastness and miraculous dynamics. Abraham et alii had no possibility to correct their world view by looking at Google Earth.When evidence about “the world” was limited to the “dome” of the sky (putting an imaginary “heaven beyond that blue cloth, and “hell” below the flat earth), people were actually forced to invent stories which to a certain degree of plausibility might explain all those things that were unexplainable at the time.I fail to understand how people resort to such archaic ideas, when a lot of evidence about reality is available, which was unavailable then. Of course, the human brain is extremely plastic, since we learn by impressions and not by logic (an important fact in modern pedagogy!). Modern neurophysiology shows how even abstract thoughts are intertwined with emotions. And if you teach a child highly emotional nonsense, it will stick, and it sure takes a lot of “spiritual” work to get rid of it when maturing. As a boy of about 12 years, I invented stories and told them to my friends. One day a father of a friend came to my father complaining about me, wanting to have me even punished for telling such stories. The other boy couldn’t sleep anymore and was stricken with fits of fright, since, of course, my stories were rather juicy. I remember my father asking me to stop inventing such stories, since he wanted to stay in good terms with the other father.And I applaud people like Hitchens for their honesty to think without fear, neither of hell nor of being mobbed.

  • Mar Patalinjug

    Religion is the execrable fraud foisted by clever and designing men on a humanity which, unlightened, impressionable,and insecure, could only explain lightning–among other natural phenomena–as the act of a supernatural being whom people later called god, or God.Starting with the Renaissance, when people started to think, rationally, logically–and scientifically–people started to challenge religion-based orthodoxy.The earth was no longer flat. It was no longer the center of the Universe.Secularism had started to gain a foothold in the minds of thinking men.Ultimately, eventually, even such a “saintly” human beiong as Mother Teresa had to come to the very painful (for her) conclusion that because she had done her God’s works on earth, and was therefore entitled to some godly reward, but was denied even this, God did not exist.

  • Mar Patalinjug

    Religion is the execrable fraud foisted by clever and designing men on a humanity which, unlightened, impressionable,and insecure, could only explain lightning–among other natural phenomena–as the act of a supernatural being whom people later called god, or God.Starting with the Renaissance, when people started to think, rationally, logically–and scientifically–people started to challenge religion-based orthodoxy.The earth was no longer flat. It was no longer the center of the Universe.Secularism had started to gain a foothold in the minds of thinking men.Ultimately, eventually, even such a “saintly” human beiong as Mother Teresa had to come to the very painful (for her) conclusion that because she had done her God’s works on earth, and was therefore entitled to some godly reward, but was denied even this, God did not exist.

  • Mar Patalinjug

    Religion is the execrable fraud foisted by clever and designing men on a humanity which, unlightened, impressionable,and insecure, could only explain lightning–among other natural phenomena–as the act of a supernatural being whom people later called god, or God.Starting with the Renaissance, when people started to think, rationally, logically–and scientifically–people started to challenge religion-based orthodoxy.The earth was no longer flat. It was no longer the center of the Universe.Secularism had started to gain a foothold in the minds of thinking men.Ultimately, eventually, even such a “saintly” human beiong as Mother Teresa had to come to the very painful (for her) conclusion that because she had done her God’s works on earth, and was therefore entitled to some godly reward, but was denied even this, God did not exist.

  • Mar Patalinjug

    Religion is the execrable fraud foisted by clever and designing men on a humanity which, unlightened, impressionable,and insecure, could only explain lightning–among other natural phenomena–as the act of a supernatural being whom people later called god, or God.Starting with the Renaissance, when people started to think, rationally, logically–and scientifically–people started to challenge religion-based orthodoxy.The earth was no longer flat. It was no longer the center of the Universe.Secularism had started to gain a foothold in the minds of thinking men.Ultimately, eventually, even such a “saintly” human beiong as Mother Teresa had to come to the very painful (for her) conclusion that because she had done her God’s works on earth, and was therefore entitled to some godly reward, but was denied even this, God did not exist.

  • Mar Patalinjug

    Religion is the execrable fraud foisted by clever and designing men on a humanity which, unlightened, impressionable,and insecure, could only explain lightning–among other natural phenomena–as the act of a supernatural being whom people later called god, or God.Starting with the Renaissance, when people started to think, rationally, logically–and scientifically–people started to challenge religion-based orthodoxy.The earth was no longer flat. It was no longer the center of the Universe.Secularism had started to gain a foothold in the minds of thinking men.Ultimately, eventually, even such a “saintly” human beiong as Mother Teresa had to come to the very painful (for her) conclusion that because she had done her God’s works on earth, and was therefore entitled to some godly reward, but was denied even this, God did not exist.

  • Mar Patalinjug

    Religion is the execrable fraud foisted by clever and designing men on a humanity which, unlightened, impressionable,and insecure, could only explain lightning–among other natural phenomena–as the act of a supernatural being whom people later called god, or God.Starting with the Renaissance, when people started to think, rationally, logically–and scientifically–people started to challenge religion-based orthodoxy.The earth was no longer flat. It was no longer the center of the Universe.Secularism had started to gain a foothold in the minds of thinking men.Ultimately, eventually, even such a “saintly” human beiong as Mother Teresa had to come to the very painful (for her) conclusion that because she had done her God’s works on earth, and was therefore entitled to some godly reward, but was denied even this, God did not exist.

  • Gerry

    Supplement:

  • Randall De Trinis

    It is sad that this fellow thinks that belief belongs only to organized religion with set rules and tenets. Belief has nothing to do with such nonsense. The Christian churches for the most part are indicative of Gilbert Chesterton’s view that ‘Christianity has never been tried’ [sic]. There are pockets of true belief that avoid organized religion like people avoid pain. It is no wonder that athists cannot get it. Personally, no matter my beliefs, I prefer an honest athiest to a hypocritical believer.

  • Alan Centa

    Off hand, one.Thou shalt love the LORD thy god, with all thine heart, and all thy soul, and all thy strength.This has been pointed to as the basis of religion and a moral act. I am not absolutely sure that an agnostic cannot carry out such an act.We could go further, but you were succinct and deserve a short answer for starters.

  • Robert Johnson

    I am assuming that by “moral” Mr. Hitchens means to say that the statement or action he is seeking would be a “good” one, in the sense of being morally laudable by (a majority of?) persons of good will, and (generally?) acceptable moral rectitude. The expectation being, or course, that Mr. Hitchens and any reasonable agent would agree that said statement or action was “good”.By the act of asking the question in this way, Mr. Hitchens shows that this is an impossible task: any action that a believer and an atheist would agree is good shows that said action/statement is, by definition, a common good: one that both parties would concede is morally laudable, thus accessible to any person. Any action/statement not in a mutual recounting of “good” actions or statements would be instantly rejected by the “opposing” party as irrelevant because it would not be mutually valued. This sort of intellectual shell game delights the masses, who love the low theater of sophistry and put-downs (as it seems to have thrilled many replying to this blog). It puzzles others, however, who can sense something is amiss with the question, but cannot identify the problem. If one charitably assesses the situation, one may assume that Mr. Hitchens simply did not know any better, and unknowingly put this tawdry intellectual parlor-trick forward to give himself an “easy win.” Let us hope that he did not cynically believe himself incapable of being exposed, and thus able to increase his standing by means of academic fraud.The acid test is not if a person – believer or not – can perform a moral action. I cannot imagine a thinking person who would deny the possibility of morally acceptable action to any human being. The question that Mr. Hitchens should want the answered is if religion makes individuals more or less likely to do morally good things beyond simple chance.I know of only a couple of religious faiths that would say that following their path makes one perfect in present life (which is all one can reasonably discuss, isn’t it?). The rest, including the most-followed Western faiths, freely admit that their adherents are and remain imperfect human beings throughout their lives. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens will become truly courageous in his next book, and wrestle with the ambiguities presented by real people, and the actual faiths believed in by billions, and not satisfy himself by knocking over straw-men he has named for his own personal religious demons.

  • Joe Yohka

    Bravo!

  • Robert Johnson

    I am assuming that by “moral” Mr. Hitchens means to say that the statement or action he is seeking would be a “good” one, in the sense of being morally laudable by (a majority of?) persons of good will, and (generally?) acceptable moral rectitude. The expectation being, or course, that Mr. Hitchens and any reasonable agent would agree that said statement or action was “good”.By the act of asking the question in this way, Mr. Hitchens shows that this is an impossible task: any action that a believer and an atheist would agree is good shows that said action/statement is, by definition, a common good: one that both parties would concede is morally laudable, thus accessible to any person. Any action/statement not in a mutual recounting of “good” actions or statements would be instantly rejected by the “opposing” party as irrelevant because it would not be mutually valued. This sort of intellectual shell game delights the masses, who love the low theater of sophistry and put-downs (as it seems to have thrilled many replying to this blog). It puzzles others, however, who can sense something is amiss with the question, but cannot identify the problem. If one charitably assesses the situation, one may assume that Mr. Hitchens simply did not know any better, and unknowingly put this tawdry intellectual parlor-trick forward to give himself an “easy win.” Let us hope that he did not cynically believe himself incapable of being exposed, and thus able to increase his standing by means of academic fraud.The acid test is not if a person – believer or not – can perform a moral action. I cannot imagine a thinking person who would deny the possibility of morally acceptable action to any human being. The question that Mr. Hitchens should want the answered is if religion makes individuals more or less likely to do morally good things beyond simple chance.I know of only a couple of religious faiths that would say that following their path makes one perfect in present life (which is all one can reasonably discuss, isn’t it?). The rest, including the most-followed Western faiths, freely admit that their adherents are and remain imperfect human beings throughout their lives. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens will become truly courageous in his next book, and wrestle with the ambiguities presented by real people, and the actual faiths believed in by billions, and not satisfy himself by knocking over straw-men he has named for his own personal religious demons.

  • Robert Johnson

    I am assuming that by “moral” Mr. Hitchens means to say that the statement or action he is seeking would be a “good” one, in the sense of being morally laudable by (a majority of?) persons of good will, and (generally?) acceptable moral rectitude. The expectation being, or course, that Mr. Hitchens and any reasonable agent would agree that said statement or action was “good”.By the act of asking the question in this way, Mr. Hitchens shows that this is an impossible task: any action that a believer and an atheist would agree is good shows that said action/statement is, by definition, a common good: one that both parties would concede is morally laudable, thus accessible to any person. Any action/statement not in a mutual recounting of “good” actions or statements would be instantly rejected by the “opposing” party as irrelevant because it would not be mutually valued. This sort of intellectual shell game delights the masses, who love the low theater of sophistry and put-downs (as it seems to have thrilled many replying to this blog). It puzzles others, however, who can sense something is amiss with the question, but cannot identify the problem. If one charitably assesses the situation, one may assume that Mr. Hitchens simply did not know any better, and unknowingly put this tawdry intellectual parlor-trick forward to give himself an “easy win.” Let us hope that he did not cynically believe himself incapable of being exposed, and thus able to increase his standing by means of academic fraud.The acid test is not if a person – believer or not – can perform a moral action. I cannot imagine a thinking person who would deny the possibility of morally acceptable action to any human being. The question that Mr. Hitchens should want the answered is if religion makes individuals more or less likely to do morally good things beyond simple chance.I know of only a couple of religious faiths that would say that following their path makes one perfect in present life (which is all one can reasonably discuss, isn’t it?). The rest, including the most-followed Western faiths, freely admit that their adherents are and remain imperfect human beings throughout their lives. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens will become truly courageous in his next book, and wrestle with the ambiguities presented by real people, and the actual faiths believed in by billions, and not satisfy himself by knocking over straw-men he has named for his own personal religious demons.

  • Robert Johnson

    I am assuming that by “moral” Mr. Hitchens means to say that the statement or action he is seeking would be a “good” one, in the sense of being morally laudable by (a majority of?) persons of good will, and (generally?) acceptable moral rectitude. The expectation being, or course, that Mr. Hitchens and any reasonable agent would agree that said statement or action was “good”.By the act of asking the question in this way, Mr. Hitchens shows that this is an impossible task: any action that a believer and an atheist would agree is good shows that said action/statement is, by definition, a common good: one that both parties would concede is morally laudable, thus accessible to any person. Any action/statement not in a mutual recounting of “good” actions or statements would be instantly rejected by the “opposing” party as irrelevant because it would not be mutually valued. This sort of intellectual shell game delights the masses, who love the low theater of sophistry and put-downs (as it seems to have thrilled many replying to this blog). It puzzles others, however, who can sense something is amiss with the question, but cannot identify the problem. If one charitably assesses the situation, one may assume that Mr. Hitchens simply did not know any better, and unknowingly put this tawdry intellectual parlor-trick forward to give himself an “easy win.” Let us hope that he did not cynically believe himself incapable of being exposed, and thus able to increase his standing by means of academic fraud.The acid test is not if a person – believer or not – can perform a moral action. I cannot imagine a thinking person who would deny the possibility of morally acceptable action to any human being. The question that Mr. Hitchens should want the answered is if religion makes individuals more or less likely to do morally good things beyond simple chance.I know of only a couple of religious faiths that would say that following their path makes one perfect in present life (which is all one can reasonably discuss, isn’t it?). The rest, including the most-followed Western faiths, freely admit that their adherents are and remain imperfect human beings throughout their lives. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens will become truly courageous in his next book, and wrestle with the ambiguities presented by real people, and the actual faiths believed in by billions, and not satisfy himself by knocking over straw-men he has named for his own personal religious demons.

  • Rob J

    Views on religion aside, your piece today sounds like an excerpt from a lonely man’s manifesto. Does anyone remember Ted Kaczynski??? You should think about focusing on your own problems first before “saving” the world from religion and God. Your wrtings and actions speak like those of an alcoholic, food obsessed, chain smoking lout whose parents somehow disappointed you.I don’t really understand why you are putting so much energy into attacking religion. Seems like life is too short to be angry and confrontational.Maybe you need to find God? Oh wait, you already have….We shall call your god(s) “Jack Daniels, Lucky Strike and Steak Au Poivre”.

  • Robert Johnson

    I am assuming that by “moral” Mr. Hitchens means to say that the statement or action he is seeking would be a “good” one, in the sense of being morally laudable by (a majority of?) persons of good will, and (generally?) acceptable moral rectitude. The expectation being, or course, that Mr. Hitchens and any reasonable agent would agree that said statement or action was “good”.By the act of asking the question in this way, Mr. Hitchens shows that this is an impossible task: any action that a believer and an atheist would agree is good shows that said action/statement is, by definition, a common good: one that both parties would concede is morally laudable, thus accessible to any person. Any action/statement not in a mutual recounting of “good” actions or statements would be instantly rejected by the “opposing” party as irrelevant because it would not be mutually valued. This sort of intellectual shell game delights the masses, who love the low theater of sophistry and put-downs (as it seems to have thrilled many replying to this blog). It puzzles others, however, who can sense something is amiss with the question, but cannot identify the problem. If one charitably assesses the situation, one may assume that Mr. Hitchens simply did not know any better, and unknowingly put this tawdry intellectual parlor-trick forward to give himself an “easy win.” Let us hope that he did not cynically believe himself incapable of being exposed, and thus able to increase his standing by means of academic fraud.The acid test is not if a person – believer or not – can perform a moral action. I cannot imagine a thinking person who would deny the possibility of morally acceptable action to any human being. The question that Mr. Hitchens should want the answered is if religion makes individuals more or less likely to do morally good things beyond simple chance.I know of only a couple of religious faiths that would say that following their path makes one perfect in present life (which is all one can reasonably discuss, isn’t it?). The rest, including the most-followed Western faiths, freely admit that their adherents are and remain imperfect human beings throughout their lives. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens will become truly courageous in his next book, and wrestle with the ambiguities presented by real people, and the actual faiths believed in by billions, and not satisfy himself by knocking over straw-men he has named for his own personal religious demons.

  • Robert Johnson

    I am assuming that by “moral” Mr. Hitchens means to say that the statement or action he is seeking would be a “good” one, in the sense of being morally laudable by (a majority of?) persons of good will, and (generally?) acceptable moral rectitude. The expectation being, or course, that Mr. Hitchens and any reasonable agent would agree that said statement or action was “good”.By the act of asking the question in this way, Mr. Hitchens shows that this is an impossible task: any action that a believer and an atheist would agree is good shows that said action/statement is, by definition, a common good: one that both parties would concede is morally laudable, thus accessible to any person. Any action/statement not in a mutual recounting of “good” actions or statements would be instantly rejected by the “opposing” party as irrelevant because it would not be mutually valued. This sort of intellectual shell game delights the masses, who love the low theater of sophistry and put-downs (as it seems to have thrilled many replying to this blog). It puzzles others, however, who can sense something is amiss with the question, but cannot identify the problem. If one charitably assesses the situation, one may assume that Mr. Hitchens simply did not know any better, and unknowingly put this tawdry intellectual parlor-trick forward to give himself an “easy win.” Let us hope that he did not cynically believe himself incapable of being exposed, and thus able to increase his standing by means of academic fraud.The acid test is not if a person – believer or not – can perform a moral action. I cannot imagine a thinking person who would deny the possibility of morally acceptable action to any human being. The question that Mr. Hitchens should want the answered is if religion makes individuals more or less likely to do morally good things beyond simple chance.I know of only a couple of religious faiths that would say that following their path makes one perfect in present life (which is all one can reasonably discuss, isn’t it?). The rest, including the most-followed Western faiths, freely admit that their adherents are and remain imperfect human beings throughout their lives. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens will become truly courageous in his next book, and wrestle with the ambiguities presented by real people, and the actual faiths believed in by billions, and not satisfy himself by knocking over straw-men he has named for his own personal religious demons.

  • Robert Johnson

    I am assuming that by “moral” Mr. Hitchens means to say that the statement or action he is seeking would be a “good” one, in the sense of being morally laudable by (a majority of?) persons of good will, and (generally?) acceptable moral rectitude. The expectation being, or course, that Mr. Hitchens and any reasonable agent would agree that said statement or action was “good”.By the act of asking the question in this way, Mr. Hitchens shows that this is an impossible task: any action that a believer and an atheist would agree is good shows that said action/statement is, by definition, a common good: one that both parties would concede is morally laudable, thus accessible to any person. Any action/statement not in a mutual recounting of “good” actions or statements would be instantly rejected by the “opposing” party as irrelevant because it would not be mutually valued. This sort of intellectual shell game delights the masses, who love the low theater of sophistry and put-downs (as it seems to have thrilled many replying to this blog). It puzzles others, however, who can sense something is amiss with the question, but cannot identify the problem. If one charitably assesses the situation, one may assume that Mr. Hitchens simply did not know any better, and unknowingly put this tawdry intellectual parlor-trick forward to give himself an “easy win.” Let us hope that he did not cynically believe himself incapable of being exposed, and thus able to increase his standing by means of academic fraud.The acid test is not if a person – believer or not – can perform a moral action. I cannot imagine a thinking person who would deny the possibility of morally acceptable action to any human being. The question that Mr. Hitchens should want the answered is if religion makes individuals more or less likely to do morally good things beyond simple chance.I know of only a couple of religious faiths that would say that following their path makes one perfect in present life (which is all one can reasonably discuss, isn’t it?). The rest, including the most-followed Western faiths, freely admit that their adherents are and remain imperfect human beings throughout their lives. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens will become truly courageous in his next book, and wrestle with the ambiguities presented by real people, and the actual faiths believed in by billions, and not satisfy himself by knocking over straw-men he has named for his own personal religious demons.

  • Kacoo

    The Hitchens Challenge:”Name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever.”A prayer to God for the health and well-being of Christopher Hitchens is a moral action performed by a religious person that cannot be performed by an unbeliever. Since Hitchens uses the word “unbeliever,” should we assume that his enemy is Christianity and/or Judaism and/or Islam rather than religion generally? Shinto religions don’t specify a diety to believe or not believe in, so there are no unbelievers as such. Yet many who practice Shinto faiths are capable of moral acts. Why doesn’t Hitchens use the word “atheist?” Does atheism have such a profoundly negative connotation to people that its use would prejudice the reader against his rhetorical objective?

  • Robert A. Johnson

    I am assuming that by “moral” Mr. Hitchens means to say that the statement or action he is seeking would be a “good” one, in the sense of being morally laudable by (a majority of?) persons of good will, and (generally?) acceptable moral rectitude. The expectation being, or course, that Mr. Hitchens and any reasonable agent would agree that said statement or action was “good”.By the act of asking the question in this way, Mr. Hitchens shows that this is an impossible task: any action that a believer and an atheist would agree is good shows that said action/statement is, by definition, a common good: one that both parties would concede is morally laudable, thus accessible to any person. Any action/statement not in a mutual recounting of “good” actions or statements would be instantly rejected by the “opposing” party as irrelevant because it would not be mutually valued. This sort of intellectual shell game delights the masses, who love the low theater of sophistry and put-downs (as it seems to have thrilled many replying to this blog). It puzzles others, however, who can sense something is amiss with the question, but cannot identify the problem. If one charitably assesses the situation, one may assume that Mr. Hitchens simply did not know any better, and unknowingly put this tawdry intellectual parlor-trick forward to give himself an “easy win.” Let us hope that he did not cynically believe himself incapable of being exposed, and thus able to increase his standing by means of academic fraud.The acid test is not if a person – believer or not – can perform a moral action. I cannot imagine a thinking person who would deny the possibility of morally acceptable action to any human being. The question that Mr. Hitchens should want the answered is if religion makes individuals more or less likely to do morally good things beyond simple chance.I know of only a couple of religious faiths that would say that following their path makes one perfect in present life (which is all one can reasonably discuss, isn’t it?). The rest, including the most-followed Western faiths, freely admit that their adherents are and remain imperfect human beings throughout their lives. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens will become truly courageous in his next book, and wrestle with the ambiguities presented by real people, and the actual faiths believed in by billions, and not satisfy himself by knocking over straw-men he has named for his own personal religious demons.

  • Robert A. Johnson

    I am assuming that by “moral” Mr. Hitchens means to say that the statement or action he is seeking would be a “good” one, in the sense of being morally laudable by (a majority of?) persons of good will, and (generally?) acceptable moral rectitude. The expectation being, or course, that Mr. Hitchens and any reasonable agent would agree that said statement or action was “good”.By the act of asking the question in this way, Mr. Hitchens shows that this is an impossible task: any action that a believer and an atheist would agree is good shows that said action/statement is, by definition, a common good: one that both parties would concede is morally laudable, thus accessible to any person. Any action/statement not in a mutual recounting of “good” actions or statements would be instantly rejected by the “opposing” party as irrelevant because it would not be mutually valued. This sort of intellectual shell game delights the masses, who love the low theater of sophistry and put-downs (as it seems to have thrilled many replying to this blog). It puzzles others, however, who can sense something is amiss with the question, but cannot identify the problem. If one charitably assesses the situation, one may assume that Mr. Hitchens simply did not know any better, and unknowingly put this tawdry intellectual parlor-trick forward to give himself an “easy win.” Let us hope that he did not cynically believe himself incapable of being exposed, and thus able to increase his standing by means of academic fraud.The acid test is not if a person – believer or not – can perform a moral action. I cannot imagine a thinking person who would deny the possibility of morally acceptable action to any human being. The question that Mr. Hitchens should want the answered is if religion makes individuals more or less likely to do morally good things beyond simple chance.I know of only a couple of religious faiths that would say that following their path makes one perfect in present life (which is all one can reasonably discuss, isn’t it?). The rest, including the most-followed Western faiths, freely admit that their adherents are and remain imperfect human beings throughout their lives. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens will become truly courageous in his next book, and wrestle with the ambiguities presented by real people, and the actual faiths believed in by billions, and not satisfy himself by knocking over straw-men he has named for his own personal religious demons.

  • michael svehla

    it is so interesting to me that so many smart people want to get rid of G.. and i assume that i’m too stupid to see their point?

  • Robert A. Johnson

    My apologies for the multiple posts! My browser kept telling me the server was busy and to try again. So I did!!!

  • Robert A. Johnson

    My apologies for the multiple posts! My browser kept telling me the server was busy and to try again. So I did!!!

  • Stephen von Pfahl

    Mr. Hitchens,Please help me understand why a moral statement or action uttered or preformed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or preformed by an unbeliever, is significant. What is the value of finding such an act or utterance? Are you suggesting somehow that if such an act or utterance exists it proves something?In the words of my very sharp wife, “And your point is”?Stephen von Pfahl

  • Ted Baines

    It should be a crime to teach children religion.Budhha was a very moral person who did not believe in or teach about God.

  • John

    To me the proof of religious “truth” is in the pudding. Western Christian civilization has given us all the concepts of tolerance, respect for fundamental human rights, freedmom of speech, democracy, rule of law, etc. that Hitchens no doubt would applaud. By contrast, Islam gives us burkahs, car bombs, and Osama Bin Laden, Asian religions gave us Mao, Pol Pot, and Tojo, and athiesm/paganism gave us Stalin and Hitler.

  • ted Baines

    JohnUntil recently the religious oppression in Europe was no less than in Muslim countries. The freedom in Europe is there because Europeans fought against the church and our Founding Fathers fought against Christian oppression. When the Church was made irrelevant the West prospered.

  • Silence Dogood

    Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?The Hitchens’ challengeThe answer comes in the form of a moral statement: And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (sic, of SIN).Unbelievers do not believe in blood atonement and would not utter such a passage, yet the writed of the book of Hebrews knew it to be true in both Testaments of the Bible and he uttered/performed it.For the believers, it’s at Hebrews 9:22

  • Andy

    Religion = Control

  • Ted Baines

    The problem with God is that humankind has yet to create the perfect God. We create God in our own image. Since we are still highly imperfect the God we have created is imperfect. Once we become perfectly moral and lose all fear of the hereafter, however much imaginary, then perhaps our Creation, God, will be perfect or at least nearly so.

  • Fred

    John,and religion gave you Bush.

  • Steve Meyerhoff

    In answer to the challenge by Mr. Hitchens to name a moral statement or action uttered or performed by a religious person that could not be uttered or performed by an unbeliever, I would respond by saying that moral responses are but one measure of true religion, not the only one. The Bible grants in many places that “the wicked” are able to duplicate the actions of “the righteous” (remember Moses before Pharaoh – the 10 plagues and Pharaoh’s religious leaders’ ability to duplicate what happened under Moses’ command). On this one measure (outward morality), perhaps Mr. Hitchens is correct (although I would like to think a bit more about this before conceding the point entirely). The Bible speaks of another measure of morality – relationship with God, that is valued more highly (see Matthew 7:21-23) than mere outward moral expressions. Discussions about morality should touch not only issues of outward action but also of inward motivation. When it comes to the latter, the motivations of the believer and unbeliever are quite distinct and meaningful.

  • Dennis Arom

    Why don’t we make Atheism a religion and have all the believers join it and be done with it?

  • Andy

    Dr. Hitchens,You have asked if there is “a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?” It’s a good question and leads to a ready distinction between mere religious moralism (which I understand to be bad) and devotion to the God of Scripture (which I understand to be good). When Jesus was asked a somewhat similar question about humanity’s greatest moral obligation, he replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The more familiar synthesis that follows, to “love your neighbor as yourself” is presented as subordinate and derivate to this primary God-ward obligation.Certainly if God does not exist then this is all nonsense and no such obligation to God exists. We needn’t even agree on that, however, to have a simple conversation about logic. Logically if he does exist then this whole-hearted love for God might naturally be the supreme moral obligation of all his sentient creations and the one which determines the “goodness” of all other resulting actions. And, by simple adherence to non-contradiction, it would be a “moral statement” and a moral “action” that an unbeliever by definition cannot do. One cannot wholeheartedly love a God whom you believe doesn’t exist.Of course, there’s a lot more one could say as implications of this fact. But I hope you will recognize that this is one of the many reasonable answers to your “unanswerable” question. It’s my hope that given that it was so easily dismissed (and by someone no more intelligent than me) might encourage you, in humility, to consider that there may be many other reasonable answers to your other “unanswerable” objections just waiting to be discovered.With all my best hopes for you and kind regards.

  • Stan

    Y Farris: “Hitchens crusade against religion is tiresome. Is that all he has?”Buddy, if you are finding this tiresome now, better get some sleep. The movement to rid our public discourse of religious assumptions and motivations has only just begun. Religion has been a massive, dominant, overwhelming force for many hundreds of years and you find a few books espousing another point of view “tiresome”? Atheists are tired of the assumption of supernatural agency having such a central place in public life. Having to listen to people who believe they are qualified to be president of the most powerful nation on earth tell us how their belief in invisible imaginary flying monsters leads them to act in one way or another. Religion uses fear and guilt to control people and we need to have the courage to look it in the eye and declare ourselves free.You ain’t heard nothin’ yet. The “crusade” (no irony there) against religion will continue to gather steam. Better get used to it.PS. You mean Hitchens’s (or at least Hitchens’).

  • prenduzal

    The position that you can’t have morality without God, and that the execution of a Jewish carpenter was necessary to save humanity, ought to be be viewed as so patently absurd as to be beyond argument. Sigh!

  • smccoub

    Is Cal Thomas drunk, retarded, or just too lazy to actually address Hitchens’ point?

  • Stuart Wilder

    From the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a:Once there was a gentile who came before Shammai, and said to him: “Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot. Rabbi Shammai pushed him aside with the measuring stick he was holding. The same fellow came before Hillel, and Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”No where does any writing in Judaism say that you must be Jewish, or even believe in any other principles of Judaism, to follow the rule reiterated by Rabbi Hillel. No unbeliever would say this because he or she looks at religion as a collection of trees which cannot be cut down, rather than a forest to be enjoyed and revered.If your post today is the measure of your understanding of religion, I will avoid it like I avoid a high dive into a child’s wading pool. All groups have their fanatics and moron: do atheists exalt the mass murderers and cult leaders Mao, Stalin, and Hitler? I do not believe their existence and followers are the definers of atheism, whatever that is. Hell, Hitch, I’ll venture to guess that beyond having a pint and a smoke with them, you’d have little more to do with them. Unless of course they were your friends, whom you so like to stab in the back with your poison pen.

  • Wayne Folta

    Mr. Hitchens’ challenge to name a moral statement uttered by a believer that could not have been uttered by an unbeliever strikes me as naive grandstanding.First, it makes the assumption that unbelievers could exist in this world with absolutely no influence from believers. Not personally, not in their family, not in their tribe or community or region. Not ever, even in the distant past.In a world that had never had believers, would someone have uttered “Love your neighbor as yourself”, or “Bless those who curse you”? Nature seems to say no. At best, it might say “Love your kinsman as yourself, if that’s the best way to pass on your genes.”But that’s counting angels on the head of a pin. It’s trying to extrapolate from a world full of belief to a world that had never been “tainted”.Second, it appears that Mr. Hitchens lumps all belief systems together. (I have not read his book, and perhaps he makes distinctions there.) Lumping believers who believe that their god requires them to burn their baby alive to avert disaster with those who believe their God humbled himself to the point of being tortured to death for our sakes… rather silly if that’s the case.I gather that Mr. Hitchens objects to God because so many bad things are done in his name. Again, it’s an important distinction as to which god you are talking about. But more than that, it’s not surprising that evil-doers would appeal to high ideals to justify their plans and to motivate others to follow.You might as well blame motherhood, apple pie, love, truth, loyalty, freedom, and a whole host of high ideals for wars and all kinds of evil. Perhaps unbelief, being a bit more nebulous and only recently gaining much of an audience, has been used less often but it certainly has its vociferous supporters who are certainly haters of believers, and one wonders what they might actually do if they were to achieve the power to eliminate the problem of belief.So I will nominate “Love your neightbor as yourself” and “Bless those who curse you” as two things that would never have been uttered by unbelievers who had absolutely no influence — no matter how remote — by believers. Mr. Hitchens will disagree, no doubt, and will thus believe that his grand challenge is unanswered and thus unassailable.

  • Mary

    This is what I was taught in church as a child and even now. Tell me if it’s so wrong:I was taught that God is love and that we should all love each other, even those who don’t agree with us.I was taught that people can never quite get it (suprise, we’re not perfect!) but that God had given us Jesus so we wouldn’t HAVE to be perfect.I was taught that God’s love is like that of a parent, a parent that will welcome me back if I stray. So my motivation for being a good and moral person is not fear of hellfire and damnation but rather trying to live out God’s best plan for me. If God thinks it’s possible for me to do the right thing than I also belive it and work for it.I was taught that no matter how “good” I am I cannot earn my ticket to heaven. God gives it as a gift, I am grateful.The idea that every christian denomination teaches fear of hell as a motivation for believing and behaving, and that every christian tries to scare little kids into not squirming during their lessons using God’s wrath as punishment is just silly.I agree, non religious people can be moral and religious people can be misled, greedy, power hungry, self absorbed and just plain wrong. I think we all are guilty of all of those things at one time or another in our lives. We’re all just people. But when I make a mistake I am challanged to make it right with the people I’ve harmed, ask forgiveness from God (and recieve it!), and start fresh (in other words, let go of the guilt). Is that SO bad?

  • Sully

    Andy,What new thing in God’s word had man not in various societies already discovered without a belief in God? What the Hebrews, and others who formed religions, did was to formulate their moralities and ascribe a God. Loving your neighbor as yourself has been practiced for eons. I have a dog who loves our family members and neighbors, not because he believes in God but because of his inate morality, that all creatures have, including man. Man however has a large enough brain to imagine a God, and there lies the distinction between man and dog.I guess to put Hitchen’s question another way:What morality derived from God does not exist in those who do not believe in God? Is charity unique to the believers? Is love of strangers/neighbors unique? And more importantly I think, are unbelievers less moral? Do they commit more crime, perform less charity, love less, or do more harm? I think, when you talk to and live with unbelievers you will find that their morality is superior because they are not living in fear, they do not consider themselves to be inately bad and they take responsibility for their actions instead of ascribing bad behavior to the devil or some human weakness. One only has to watch the latest preacher crying to his congregation that he has sinned and is redeeming himself to know that love of God does not always keep us moral and it has an opposite nature, the belief that doing wrong can be blamed on an evil of a spiritual nature and not oneself. Unbelievers find this to be a moral weakness, relying on the supernatural for our good and bad actions, instead of ourselves, and so bad actions happen but are justified and require little accountability within.

  • Dolores

    It’s interesting that the people who turn against religion become even more virulent in their speech than the people and churches they accuse of extremist talk and opinions. What are they really afraid of? That somehow they are wrong?

  • Barton Keyes

    Hitchens’ apparently finds a root cause for dictatorship, wicked actions in history, and for the evil man commits against his fellow man in man’s belief in an all powerful and fearful God.

  • DG

    “What moral statement or action can be uttered or performed by a religious person that could not be uttered or performed by an unbeliever?” Dr. Hitchens, you were not raised in a vacuume. You admit yourself to being exposed to Christianity as a young child. As much as you would like to believe that every moral precept you hold is your own original idea, it is not. You claim that God is not great. I claim that you are not great. Goodness, mercy, charity, compassion, forgiveness, were not invented by you, or by your fellow unbelievers. You adopted those concepts (if you hold them), whether you admit it or not. And from where? Where did these ideas originate? In a Godless society? No! Every one of these have their foundation in some sort of religion, somewhere in time. It is only now, after thousands of years, people toss God out and say, “oh yeah, love, people invented that, we also invented toasters. Aren’t we great!” Christ said “love your enemies”. To give you an idea of how radical that was, his own family thought he was insane. Is this a concept that human beings would come up with on their own? Of course not! And my proof is that it is rarely practiced! You are an unbeliever. You claim that all your morality comes from your own vast personal resevior of knowledge and widsom. Wow. Now do us all a big favor and get out there and save the planet.

  • An Agnostic

    It would seem that Mr. Hitchens, in his question, confuses the issue of the origin of morality. In both Eastern and Western religions the question of whether or not moral action can be taken by a non-believer is irrelevant, since all humans are endowed with moral ability. Western religions especially and the big three particularly recognize that morality originated from God, not from one’s belief in him. Since it was God who created all of humankind, it follows then that all of humankind would possess equally a knowledge of morality; regardless of their adherence, or lack thereof, to His ethical code. Religions the world over also recognize the fallability of humanity and that people will inevitably fall short of ideal morality. So asking whether or not one can name evil acts committed by believers is also irrelevant, since it is quite obvious to anyone who has sat through a history class that even to this day, the non-religious are committing horrible acts that rival the worst of the religious’ crimes. I would pose this question however: Can anyone find an atheist equivalent to Ghandi(Hindu), Desmond Tutu(Anglican), MLK Jr.(Protestant), and the Dalai Lama(Buddhist)?

  • William Kelleher

    Mr. Hitchens,You raise a number of good points about the “evil of religion”. I don’t want to defend religion particularly not it’s “truth”, but I’m afraid your argument is rather too facile.First, you suggest that the fundamental antagonism between sadism and masochism comes (exclusively?) from religion. That is clearly false. It isn’t difficult to build a very compelling argument that it comes from our natures as social (masochism) individuals (sadism) which evolution has built into our natures. Religion is merely an expression of that nature, which I think is the point the Dennet is trying to make.You also argue that no moral principles come from religion and therefore morality cannot be used to justify religion, but the conclusion does not follow. Let’s agree that human morality comes from human nature, not religion, and that as a matter of fact there are many “good” atheists who have a very well developed sense of integrity and responsibility. I can still argue that the role of religion is to help transfer the best moral principles we as a group have developed to assist the individual to develop personal responsibility and integrity. I would argue that your “question” is the wrong question. You can’t ask whether religion offers ethical principles we can’t derive elsewhere. You should ask whether religion has given someone an ethical principle that he would (in fact, not in principle) not have derived himself. I think that are innumerable candidates for positive answers to that question.If in fact religion is derivative from human nature, that it is not intrisically wrong. Nor would it be reasonable for us as a group to continue to search for the best ethical principles we can find and teach them to our children. You could argue that most religions today have failed and are not improving our ethical principles but are holding us back. The arguments in the episcopal church over treatment of gays is a perfect example. That suggests that we need to find a way to let religion become a force for growth, not a force for repression of better ethics. But that is an entirely different argument.William

  • Anonymous

    Looking just at Christianity… Most liberal democracies are either Christian or post-Christian. The new commandment to “love your neighbor” and Christian “equal worth teachings” gradually impacted civilization over many centuries (as the faith impacts spread). Students of Western Civilization have studied the positive Christian impacts: justice, social services, democracy, Reformation, Enlightenment, all of which culminate into the emergence of human rights (e.g. womens, black, gay) in the 19th and 20th centuries. Human-centered 20th century Atheism by contrast has given us Fascism and Communism (tens of millions dead) and unrestrained Materialism and Liberal immorality (e.g. abortion, pornography etc.) Mr. Hitchens is wrong. We need more Christian faith in this world not less.

  • Susan

    Morality comes from within a person, not from God. Christopher, you are right on the mark. Plus, there are no God(s). All religions promote hate and fear.

  • dvb

    The metaphysics of William James speaks to the point. James’ theory of empirical radicalism posits lower-case “deity” (higher power) as a natural and necessary function of human consciousness – distinct from yet dependent upon human consciousness – potent, finite, and amoral. One must follow James’ arguments in order to entertain this as a rational conceit. I conjecture, though, that any successful apostate whom has experienced ego fragmentation through psychological trauma or other means, has acquired the prerequisites for intuitive acceptance of such a notion of “higher power.”Such acceptance is as far removed from Mr. Hitchens’ stark and strident reactivity as it is from the cruel torture of innocent children by preachers and nuns. Perhaps this is incrementalism, but it hangs on no cross.

  • Ezra Jude

    Aside from my deeply held religious beliefs, I agree with you. In other words, your analysis is logical, and your contempt generally appropriate. Were any one religion’s teaching in fact correct, you would necessarily be right in your thoughts about all religions save that one. So, I support you and hold contrary beliefs. I do wish to point out one error in reasoning that DOES NOT taint your entire position. There is no hyposcrisy in loving and fearing G-d. Of course, people can arrive at notions of good and evil without religion. Morality sans reliance on a deity still shows the importance of kindness, especially when the kind actor has the power to be cruel or destructive. Justice Robert Jackson stated at Nuremburg that the world was witnessing the powerful and mighty acting with dignity, administering justice to the evil and defeated. It was not mercy, but it was rule of law despite the ability to destroy. This was humanity at its most moral — meeting out punishment without vengeance. Envisioning such actions from G-d or a parent, for that matter, is not sado-masochistic (although you are right that some sects may take it to that). It is human morality.

  • The Rev

    Where to begin, what to say Chris? Your question is unintelligible logically speaking. It is a question with little depth and no weight at all. That humans have crapped up the religion part of faith is a straw man in the argument about faith. Emotions cannot be the arbiters of observed fact. Faith may be at the root of many of your so called secularly initiated good deeds. A person who has left religion because they hate things the church has done may nevertheless do good because of the faith that was taught. Fact is, the same person will usually disallow a religious motivation for the good deed. As for the second question, it is not a corollary of the first, but is carefully and differently worded to elicit the required answer. Either you are disingenuous or you are stupid. The honest wording of the second question would be – If they can think of a wicked action or statement that derived directly from religious faith which could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever? You should be ashamed for bothering us with your bigotry or you ignorant prattle – you chose.Perhaps religion has not done such a good job of teaching faith. Certainly seems so, but as a mechanism, it still beats keeping quiet about faith.Religion began in unremembered ancient times – before Catal Huyuk rose from the Anatolian plain – as a process to make certain that the priest/king was obeyed in full. Faith began even earlier as a response to the understanding – from pondering the sky – that humans are small compared to the immensity of creation. Humans made the connection between faith and religion – not God. Religion – the organized practice and conveying of faith – is a human contrivance. We observe the world and attempt to define God in those (observed) terms. That we are unable to rise above our humanity doesn’t obviate the existence or love of God. We are all guilty of Jesus’ death? Metaphor. perhaps not taught as such, but metaphor nevertheless. Jesus as sacrifice is not biblical. If a person truly believes that God punishes the wicked and rewards the good, they have not been paying attention to either world history or their own lives. Anyone who lives in fear – as you do of religion – has some serious issues.Do I fear God? No. Am I in awe of God? Yes. Do I think I can tangle with God? Sure. Truth is, you don’t always win that bout, but the Hebrew scriptures include stories where humans tangled with God and God showed mercy or the fight was a draw. But God listened. As regards sadism and masochism; aberrant behavior is found everywhere – in any organization. Where better to hide than in plain sight with the excuse that God made me do it? On one implied point you are correct. To ignore the world around you and accept as truth only teachings which belie the facts, is one definition of insanity. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing – do some serious studying; not like the teacher you abjure, but with an open mind. Perhaps beyond bigotry there can be enlightenment.

  • David Allshouse

    Of course, to your first question, the answer is the cross.

  • Anonymous

    “when you mock GOD be prepared for HIS anger.”What happened to the all-loving God whose son died for our sins?“Thou shalt love the LORD thy god, with all thine heart, and all thy soul, and all thy strength.“A prayer to God for the health and well-being of Christopher Hitchens is a moral action performed by a religious person that cannot be performed by an unbeliever.”This is a request, not a moral action, and presumes belief in an invisible supernatural being.

  • Sully

    Mary wrote: “The idea that every christian denomination teaches fear of hell as a motivation for believing and behaving, and that every christian tries to scare little kids into not squirming during their lessons using God’s wrath as punishment is just silly.”Mary, I survived Catholic school. Don’t tell me God’s wrath and hellfire are not used to keep kids sitting still at their desks. It was used in almost every aspect of our discipline. I used to feel sad for the kids who did some childish act that got the nun’s attention and thrashing, then was told to get on their knees and pray for their souls and promise God not to do it again. It seemed nutty then and it seems nutty now. In my non-believing view of the world, the more inwardly religious a person is, the more they act like they are mentally ill. For example, there was a girl on my daughter’s soccer team who was rude and rough. She used to get mad and act it out physically. Once she shoved our daughter right into the ground causing a cut knee and scraped face. This was while walking back to the cars after the game! When we asked the parents to do something about it the first thing out of their mouths was “Well, the christian thing to do is to feel sorry for our daughter”. Now you might think that is as wrongheaded as I do, but the point is these people who were deeply religious were not helping their daughter and her problem, they were enabling it, using their religion as a reason to ignore responsibility, just, as Hitches’s explains, the church aided Stalin and the nazis, and supported slavery in its time and the inquisition in its time. Any behavior can be rationalized under religion since the authority is devine. Only unbelievers understand that immoral actions are a personal responsibility that require accountability and self adjustment, not out of a fear of God but out of a love of oneself.

  • Michael Brown

    Mr. Hitchens is a man who takes out his unfortunate rearing on religion. He is typical of those who have had early family traumas and blame God.

  • Stefan

    Congratulations – you and your fellow professional atheists like Dawkins and Harris have achieved a marketing coup. You have identified and are exploiting a previously untapped demographic in our society: people who resent, fear, or despise religion. As your books sales show, this is a sizable group with considerable resources, and it has excellent growth potential. Of course, to keep your demographic loyal, you have to tell them what they want to hear. Thus you have to sound intellectual (this crowd thinks of itself as well-educated) but the arguments have to be middle-brow (get too scholarly or complex, or delve too deeply into history, and you will lose most of them, and perhaps yourself as well). The arguments must also be repetitive, so your fan base can recognize and applaud familiar and comforting themes. This approach dictates that you keep your view of religion as simple as possible and that is exactly what you do. Publically, you equate all religious people with fundamentalists, delusionaries, hallucinators, fanatics, or imbeciles — a danger to civilization! This pleases your demographic and it is a grand strategy for manufacturing celebrity and making money. Too bad it is irrelevant to the truth – whatever the truth might turn out to be. Religious and secular fundamentalists are alike in their indifference to truth – they are both much too busy winning meaningless debates, generating propaganda, and calling each other names to bother much with looking for it.

  • Stefan Caunter

    Hello: Just a short note to thank you. I’ve not read any of the (now 240) comments on this (yet), but I just wanted to let you know how much more pleasant I find life without a ‘god’ or ‘church’ and to express my gratitude for your intelligent and plain spoken example.

  • Anonymous

    Deliberately getting on a cross to die.

  • Stefan Caunter

    Hello: Just a short note to thank you. I’ve not read any of the (now 240) comments on this (yet), but I just wanted to let you know how much more pleasant I find life without a ‘god’ or ‘church’ and to express my gratitude for your intelligent and plain spoken example.

  • Chris

    First, a quick thanks to all of those who have left postings, some of the comments have been quite thoughtful and provocative. Thank you all!Second, I would like to single out an entry one third of the way into the discussion board (after reading a hundred entries I can’t seem to find it!) that suggested that human beings needed god(s) for a sense of humility. If men truly create their own morals, and morality is a kind of fictitious guideline, then morality is a profoundly limited idea. If it is just what one individual believes is right at a given time and a given place, then there’s nothing powerful about that. It’s disconnected, limited, and isolated. If someone disagrees, then it’s simply another opinion. There is no rule or standard to compare different interpretations, so everyone is essentially cut off from each other, devising their own sense of morals independently.For many Christians, God is the answer to this problem. God has designed our universe with certain rules and principles which men can discern through reason and experience. Morality is not isolated; morality is universal. It’s true for everyone. Just people are just because their behavior and characteristics reflect that of God’s laws. Even if other people disagree with you, you know in your heart that they are wrong. Whether you show tolerance to their beliefs is up to your interpretation of these morals. It is this kind of theorizing which Hitchens appears to disagree with. It also justifies indoctrination, because if you can select good teachers that have a deep knowledge of God’s chosen morality, then they should spread their understanding to the impressionable (especially the young!).That said, there are other viewpoints, some of which adopt a religious attitude, some of which do not. Ancestor worship or simply a profound respect towards one’s ancestors forces a person to live up to the standards and principles of one’s ancestors (there is a lot of this in China). I maintain that a superior attitude towards morality is one that is neither limited nor absolute. Humans are extremely complex beings, and our identities are inextricably linked to other humans, to nature (animals, weather, food, environment), to language, to the past, present, and future, to an infinity of things I’ve forgotten, as well as ourselves. We only exist in relation to all of these things, and morality is produced (or discovered) by the universe contemplating itself. God or no God, us or no us, universe or no universe, no opinion or position truly exists by itself, but it is a connected and mediated one through a host of experience.In a very real sense, this comment is not mine alone, but an infinitely complex relation between my thoughts and feelings and everyone elses (through your lovely postings). Morality should be both inspiring and humbling. Our attitude towards morality must be more sophisticated than a simple absolute or limited one, and it should be a subject of inquiry for believers and non-believers alike. Education then is the difference between a shallow and a deep understanding of morality. Indoctrination is shallow, because there is no debate, no discourse, only a dim awareness of what is understood to be good by people. Proper discourse is give and take, argument and counter-argument, where everyone learns from each other.Keep searching, friends, goodness is earned through inquiry, discussion, practice, and reflection. Which is why everyone who thinks Christianity (or religion in general) is for the weak-minded should read Kierkegaard. And why everyone else should keep reading what challenges our beliefs about morality.

  • J Green

    I just thought I’d add my words of support. Great things has mankind done for itself, all have come from questioning and seeking new and better answers in the here and now. Learning from our mistakes is key to our continued existence. God is one of those many mistakes! Onwards to the truth.

  • Dr. Athonu Chatterjee

    Christpher Hitchen’s writing is almost completely convergent with my views on the topic. But also, I do believe that belief in God, in a large part, is necessiatated by the fact that there are countless things around us that testify to the existence of something similar. In other words, the belief is an antidote to ever-decreasing human ignorance; or the folly of the mankind.

  • Dee Wayte

    We need more people to stand up and say things like this more often, more loudly, to more people and to not stop!

  • Steve Walker

    Ha! What a setup. I’m with The Rev – Your “question” is little more than rhetorical. You have set the stage by postulating a Russian second-grade teacher as the authority on religion’s relationship to morality. Of course, her take is extremely simplistic and to make her words truly reprehensible, she’s even indoctrinating defenseless second graders. Who could possibly defend this? And how hard is it for you to win such a contrived argument?C’mon Chris, be somebody. She doesn’t represent sane, intellegent “religion” any more than the Pharosees did. I for one would be interested in your response to The Rev above. I think he got you. I also think you’re smart enough to realize when you’re simply stacking the deck by exemplifying the most foolish representatives of religion, then asking a rhetorical “question”. We’re not all dumb enough to swallow it.

  • Orin Hollander

    Do you think we may be on the verge of a broad-based turn away from superstitious behavior and towards rationalism, or is the current upsurge in assertiveness by atheists a temporary phenomenon?One can hardly expect the entrenched religious leadership and institutions to yield without a fight, and a nasty one at that.

  • Orin Hollander

    Do you think we may be on the verge of a broad-based turn away from superstitious behavior and towards rationalism, or is the current upsurge in assertiveness by atheists a temporary phenomenon?One can hardly expect the entrenched religious leadership and institutions to yield without a fight, and a nasty one at that.

  • Rune

    Although I am a fan of Mr. Hitchens, I have never found this particular challenge very convincing. After all, religious people may answer that God gave morality to everyone, believer and non-believer, so why should atheists not be moral?I should like to ask a different question:Can religious people commit moral acts?We often say that “morality is what you do when no one is watching”. If we follow this logic, I would carry out a moral act when I choose not to steal something in a situation where I knew I could get away with it. But since religious believers think that god is always watching them, it would seem to follow that they never really have the chance to act morally.

  • Bill Petrarca

    I would like to add to Christopher Hitchins comments of Sept 26th in your “On Faith” column wherein he asks:My contribution to this discussion is based on the works of Antonio Damasio, author and Van Allen Distinguished Professor at the University of Iowa Medical Center, in his recent book “Looking for Spinoza.” Damasio writes of (Benedictus) Spinoza’s 17th century works in which Spinoza describes the “relentless endeavor of each being to preserve itself.” (Spinoza termed this striving as conatus.)Damasio expresses Spinoza’s notion of conatus in biological terms.Damasio further connects this hard-wiring of every living cell toward self-preservation as the neurobiological foundation for a system of ethical behaviors, a foundation based on the human capacity to preserve its self, rather than the revelation of a prophet. Damasio concludes:Damasio paraphrases Spinoza’s principles in deeply American terminology:I see much of Spinoza’s conatus principle and Damsio’s deduction of a neurobiologically-based ethical foundation as bases for Mr. Hitchins “case” against organized religions.

  • Sully

    DG wrote: “You adopted those concepts (if you hold them), whether you admit it or not. And from where? Where did these ideas originate? In a Godless society? No! Every one of these have their foundation in some sort of religion, somewhere in time.”You have no proof of that I am sure. What we do know of ancient religions is that some were what we would call good, others not so good. One only has to understand that in Aztec society, seeing the skulls of your enemies piled high and seeing their blood run down the steps of the temples was cheered as pleasing to the gods and would bring good crops. Not so different from treasures promised by christianity or even Santa. In that society, not brutally killing and torturing your enemies was considered wrong. Certainly Hitchens, as all of us, was affected by his upbringing. But just how much of that was due to christian belief and how much to natural morality? When a child hits his mother because he’s mad, does the mother consult the bible or remember what a preacher said to do in that situation? When you see a person at the beach drowning do you ignore the situation or do you want to help? Do you feel that way because you went to church, grew up learning to save people’s lives, or is it something else, something innate. I remember watching a Nature program where a researcher who was researching gorillas had found a dead mother gorilla, its hands cut off to be sold by the poachers, and a baby gorilla sitting nearby. The reasearcher picked up the baby to take back to be cared for. On the way they crossed paths with a male and female gorilla. The situation was tense. The female gorilla was very agitated. The male stood his ground confronting the researcher clutching the baby gorilla. Finally, in a very fast move, the male gorilla roared and charged the researcher. As he instinctively fell to the ground the male gorilla grabbed the baby gorilla from his arms and quickly retreated. Now that male gorilla knew men killed gorillas. His hesitation proved that. He was scared yet he risked his life to save the baby gorilla, at least in his mind. Once he got the baby he gave it to the female who quickly cuddled it. Now you can talk of morality and instinct. I see little difference.

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  • Stephen Alvania

    Your arguement is certainly more lucid and rational than the convoluted, legalistic interpretations of the Bible you hear from religious leaders. I’m neither a believer nor a non-believer; I just don’t care if there is or isn’t a god since it doesn’t seem to make any difference anyway.I have a feeling that the strong reaction to your writing by religious people is not so much that they think what you’re saying is wrong, it’s that deep down in their highly suppressed reasoning brain they know you’re RIGHT! And that’s what they do not dare admit to themselves or anyone else.

  • Ima Atheist

    We definitely need more atheists to stand up and speak like Christopher Hitchens. In the U.S. we might be close to 20% of the population (hard to tell exactly because the questions the pollsters ask are always wrong, don’t ask about religion, ask about belief in god, and the result is typically close to 80%). But because there are SO many atheists who are fearful to speak out, or are deluded into thinking that “nonsensical propaganda” is somehow good for the public, we appear to be a very tiny minority. And lately there’s been an attempt to embarrass us into submission by labelling us “angry”. Well god damn it, I AM angry, I’m angry at having to listen to religious bullsh*t day in and day out. I’m sure the mainstream religious cultists would go nuts too if they had to listen to the 24×7 rantings of, say, people who believe that sparkly unicorns created the universe and watch over our every move.

  • tehseen

    “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever? I am still waiting, after several months, for a response to this.”What a profound question, an utterly grotesque, steamy and wet orgy of words like sitting through your first pornographic movie, tense skin, heart pumping, face red, sweaty palms, none of it makes sense but senses titillating with constant blood rush. It all ends with a few quick strokes and settles like foam settles after a long piss.Some kind of organized religion got us where we are today, how can you, at this point in time, in comforts of kalorama district, can separate the sanity from the insane? Unless of course it is a lengthy dirty joke of your that you are so famous for.And o by the way, I have seen few pictures of Putin wearing his famous cross, when he is on a some sort of fishing trip with his daughters.tehseen

  • Alex Pohl

    It would make for interesting data to find out just what percentage of convicted felons behind bars are professed atheists and how many profess to believe the Bible or the Koran.

  • Andy

    Sully,You may be surprise to know that I basically agree with most of what you wrote in your response to my earlier post. I don’t think the Bible offers an utterly unique understanding of human morality. In fact, the Bible’s own internal narrative makes that point in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans.However, the point of Christianity (I don’t pretend to fully understand other “religions”) is not to put forward a new moral frame work. Jesus was very clear on that in Matthew chapter five. Rather, it is for a morally perfect God, in mercy, to justly deal with the moral rebellion of creatures like you and me by taking their punishment upon himself (in Christ) so that everyone who would now turn away from their rebellion and trust in Christ might be rescued from the judgment we deserve. No new moral teaching is required…that’s exactly the point…we all have rebelled at some point against the naturally-evident moral obligations we each already recognize. That’s part of what makes his universal judgment “just.”As for my earlier comments, they were predicated on the fact that you cannot understand a Christian moral frame of reference without understanding its order of obligations….with God being supreme on that list.Certainly if you choose now to exclude that God-ward obligation then the question becomes “unanswerable” in a sense. Just as one could render the question “what is 2 + 2?” an “unanswerable” question if one added “and you can never refer to the number 4.” However, such a formulation would say a lot more about the author’s desperate desire to avoid the answer than it would about the reality of the answer itself. (I’m sure some mathematician could take this analogy apart, but you get the point.)Of course you probably don’t think loving God is a real moral obligation; if you did you would very likely be a religious person. But I just hope you can see that if that organizing obligation is excluded the question becomes not “unanswerable” but “nonsensical,” at least from a Christian’s perspective.I could write more, but in honor of the God who was so merciful to me, I’ll be merciful, too! :)

  • Ronald Jacobs

    Mr. Hitchens.

  • Mark Rice

    I have often read with disappointment your support of the Bush administration`s war effort in Iraq, but I must admit I have great respect for your undaunted enthousiasm in confronting the dogma of religious right. It is truly frightening to me how religious faith is seen as a required prerequisite for any public office candidate in so many western democracies. I guess we should be thanful that so many are simply hippocrites who only use it to get elected. When a true believer gets into a powerful position, the potential for disaster is enormous. I suppose that God will command the leader of the new world to bomb Iran as well….

  • DD

    Dear Mr Hitchens,First of all, as a Christian, I quite agree that ‘religion’ is more often than not evil (in the traditinal sense and in the sense you discuss). Jesus was crucified by the religious leaders of his day – as they perveived him as a threat to their power.Christianity, or as the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer suggested, “Historic Christianity”, is about a one-to-one *relationship* with God. Most religious systems provide nothing other than tradition and while all traditionas are neither inherently evil or good, they are also not authoritative when used as a basis for so many other issues.It can also be said that athiesm is a religious system in that it has doctrines and covenants and traditions. But that would be a discussion for another day I’d think. :)’True religion’, James says is to take care of the fatherless and widows, etc.. In other words, profound enough to cause one to impel good (moral) behavior. But the larger issue is where do morals come from anyway?Religion is from the outside in and relationship is from the inside out. Communism, as well as socialism, and ALL other ‘faiths’ always try to go from the outside in – and they ALWAYS fail. One cannot change human nature by the imposition of one’s will upon another. Persuasion is the best route – and engagement with respect is the only way I know of – other that prayer. :)Now, as to your question:”I should like, for the continued vigor of this discussion, to repeat the challenge that I have several times offered the faithful in print and on the air. Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever? I am still waiting, after several months, for a response to this.”If you can accept the notion that Jesus fulfilled the true definition of ‘religion’, he stated that he was going to rise from the dead by his own power (he did). He healed the blind, raised the dead and fed the multitudes – all moral actions. I’ll be happy to send you two fish and some bread if you think you can do the same. :)I cannot state that I can feed thousands from a small starting point with a straight face. Of course, with respect to statements, sure, anyone can say anything – so your premise is a bit ‘loose’, don’t you think? :) It’s all proven by the doing of the action. “It carries an incidental corollary: I have also asked large and divergent audiences if they can think of a wicked action or statement that derived directly from religious faith, and you know what? There is no tongue-tied silence at THAT point. Everybody can instantly think of an example.”Oh, good grief. Sure, I can think of MANY wicked and evil actions and statements coming from ‘religious’ people – and many religious systems. How’s about Islam allowing for the killing of those who refuse to be forceably converted (and you could say exactly the same thing for the Inquisition). But that doesn’t prove the corrolary whatsoever. All it proves is that humanity is prone to evil – incidentaly reinforcing the notion of sin.The problem is in your presuppositions – many of which are incorrect. The oldest trick in the book – define the end by the ‘rules’. But who made you the arbiter of said rules? You? Phhtt. Whoop-dee-doo. You have no more claim to right and wrong than anyone else does – except you hold to yours with enough ferocity that you become stubborn in your thinking. At that point logic flees and you are yet abother individual who is attempting to convert others by the dint of your (so called) persuasive arguments. At the end of the day all you have is intellectual bellicosity. The first lesson to learn about learning is that you -can- be wrong. Here’s a challenge to you – With a sincere heart and a willingness to be proven wrong – ask God to show you His love. You might as well go straight to the source, don’t you think?Warmest regards,DDPS – Would love to have a private dialog with you but only if you promise to be totally honest with yourself.

  • Petras Vilson

    Re: The Subtle, lethal, poison of religion… Looking just at Christianity… Most liberal democracies are either Christian or post-Christian. The new commandment to “love your neighbor” and Christian “equal worth teachings” gradually impacted civilization over many centuries (as the faith impacts spread). Students of Western Civilization have studied the positive Christian impacts: justice, social services, democracy, Reformation, Enlightenment, all of which culminate into the emergence of human rights (e.g. for women, blacks, gays) in the 19th and 20th centuries. Human-centered 20th century Atheism by contrast has given us evil Fascism and Communism (tens of millions dead) and unrestrained Materialism and Liberal immorality (e.g. abortion, pornography, sexualization of children etc.) Mr. Hitchens is wrong. The subtle, lethal, poison is atheism. We need more Christian faith in this world not less.

  • WarisNotHealthy.com

    I haven’t done enough reading to know Hitchen’s thoughts about this but having grown up in a well-known bigoted, southern, evenagelical, fundamentalist religion, I know the damage it can do.I now know, after reflection, study, reason, critique, etc I also learned some moral lessons from it (although I concede, these could have been learned in many ways — and combined with more knowledge, history, education, reflection, many other life lessons I have been able to transform and sort the irrational from the conscientious and thoughtful) — i.e., the question for me has been how to sort the universal humanistic and spiritual priniciples from the fear-based, ignorant, rigid, dehumanizing part that is religious belief, religious system invoked and used to dehumanize, disempower, cower and scare people.Which brings me to the question about whether Hitch understands/believes there is a difference between religion and spirituality? I don’t pretend to know all the nuances nor all the historical, cultural or philosophical treatises on the matter.I learned some new things at some point along the way — while I was the most adamantly opposed to religion in any form (I’ve relaxed a bit myself — it’s case by case and contextual for me now — obviously there’s a big difference between many progressive religion-based/influenced groups like American Friends Service Committee/the Quakers and the fascist totalitarian bigots like the Taliban or James Dobson/Falwell/Robertson type groups) — but I digress.One of the concepts I learned from both 12-steppers and Native American teachers that I have had is:Religion is for people afraid of hell, spirituality is for people who’ve already been there.Is there room for spirituality in a Hitchens-conceived rational world? Not that it makes any difference to me personally, but I’m curious since I personally don’t find many traces of a spiritual being or anything appealing in Mr. Hitchens as a person — he may be smart but he’s not very likeable and that’s okay. I don’t have to like someone to learn from them or to be interested in reading/hearing some of their thoughts.And so acknowledging my own bias of dislike for his abrasive personality while agreeing with some of what he writes/asks, I have to acknowledge that is just me reacting to someone who, while very bright and obviously striving to be a strictly rational, reasoned intellectual isn’t a very appealing/likeable person to me. Not someone I will automatically agree with either. Not someone I want to spend much time around, which isn’t an option anyway.Also, just because someone is supposedly very smart doesn’t mean they’re wise or compassionate or a great humanist (after all he is also a warmonger — violence is not a very appealing or edifying quality to me), but it doesn’t mean they can’t teach us all some wise lessons. Just because someone is religious doesn’t mean they’re not smart, nor does it mean they’re spiritual and wise either. Nor compassionate or merciful.Religion has caused much harm, violence, exploitation — thus have humans in all of history. Humans have used religion to oppress, as well as a tool of freedom…….The question for me is how do we transcend our worst attitudes, actions, manipulations and behaviors and transform ourselves and our world into one which edifies, uplifts, educates, feeds, houses, clothes, cares for, and through our actions and priorities actually values, respects and loves our selves, others and the earth that we are all here together to either care for or neglect and destroy, thus ensuring our own demise.So, all that to say, for me it’s more complex and nuanced than

  • noleander

    Mr. Hitchens: Thanks for the great points you raise. I enjoyed your book “God is Not Great”. You and Dawkins are doing a wonderful service for humanity.I view most religion as simply a superstition, often harmless, but sometimes hurtful or worse.It is hard to express such sentiments in public these days (due to backlash or ostracism), but with your help it is becoming easier.Thanks!

  • Amanda

    Want to put my 2 cents worth in. First off, religion is man-made. It is not God-made. Man made religion so they could validate their rituals and rules and say that God said so. Case in point – Some religions believe that women are sinning if they wear make-up or pants. Some say don’t go to the movies because that is a sin too.I have to agree that religion has caused many tragedies in the world including most wars. All for the sake of a religious belief or tradition.Also, many religions make God out to be some kind of dictator or an unloving and fear-inducing being that is out to destroy or punish the nonbeliever. This is not correct. He gave us a mind to choose to live or die. It is called Free Will (I know you athiests don’t want to hear about that). They way you live is by having a relationship with him, not being religious. That is what God wants in a nutshell. He wants us to choose him. Christians/Religious people who condemn people to hell for not believing the way they do is what gives Christianity a bad name. I try to live according to God’s Word not church policy and belief. I tell my 6 year old son there is no such thing as Santa Claus, there is no tooth fairy, there is no Easter bunny. Many Christians lie so they can play what they consider “childhood” games. It is wrong. I refuse to give in to deceitfulnees that many christians partake in. These are all Christian traditions they are not biblical. I myself am a Christian but I do not affiliate myself with a denomination. I do attend a denominational church but can tell you I disagree with many of the things they teach and preach because they are religious traditions created by man. I am not a baptist, methodist, catholic, lutheran. I am a person that has a relationship with Christ. “Christians” need to focus more on their relationship with God and less on their traditions and beliefs. Remember most Christian religions (baptists, lutheran, methodists) were founded by falliable man. Christian means to be Christ-like and that is what I am, a follower of Christ. Who do you want to follow? Man-made religion or God? Because that is what most christians do, follow their man-made belief.

  • noleander

    Mr. Hitchens: Thanks for the great points you raise. I enjoyed your book “God is Not Great”. You and Dawkins are doing a wonderful service for humanity.I view most religion as simply a superstition, often harmless, but sometimes hurtful or worse.It is hard to express such sentiments in public these days (due to backlash or ostracism), but with your help it is becoming easier.Thanks!

  • Brent

    One thought missing from this thread but expressed rather eloquently in Hitchens’ book is, indeed, the impetus for his much of his sentiment: Religion and the faithful would be fine if they would just leave the rest of us alone. But organized religion and its adherents don’t leave us alone; they proselytize on street corners, accost us in our homes, take over our school boards and force “creation science” on our children and, periodically, blow up our abortion clinics, skyscrapers and military bases. With few exceptions, religion relies on indoctrination and conversion of non-believers (or other-believers) to perpetuate itself. Faith practiced by an individual is not the target of Hitchens’ wrath, but rather what religion as a whole does to the rest of us – like innocent schoolchildren, being told how lucky they are that God doesn’t snuff them out on a whim.

  • Anonymous

    Stephen Alvania wrote: “I have a feeling that the strong reaction to your writing by religious people is not so much that they think what you’re saying is wrong, it’s that deep down in their highly suppressed reasoning brain they know you’re RIGHT!”I find defense of religion to be based more on loyalty than anything else, like watching two people argue that THEIR football team is better. It has little I think to do with the substance but instead on ownsership. MY religion is better than yours (because it is mine). I mean, why do christians have christian parents, buddist’s have buddist parents, etc? Its not in the DNA and if it is all being rationalized you’d expect all children to grow up and adopt one of the many religions around the world. But for some reason that is rare, just as it is rare for a Cowboys fan to root for the Redskins, and visa versa, even though the team players are traded around the NFL each year. Its the colors we cheer for and the players wearing those colors, not the players per se. Coaches come and go but we stay with our team. And so we stay with the religion we are raised in, ignoring its faults, cheering its triumphs, and saying its better than all the others. Rah Rah Rah, Go Lutherans!

  • Ying Pestien

    Majority of the Chinese people believe in Confucius, who was only a human, how do the Christians deal with that fact.

  • Jay

    GO COWBOYS! GOD’S FAVORITE TEAM!!

  • Jay

    GO COWBOYS! GOD’S FAVORITE TEAM!!

  • Joe

    Ignorance spreads lies. From the original article the teacher of these kids exclaimed :”Because people he created crucified him. But did he accuse them or curse them or hate them? Of course not? He continued loving and feeling pity for them, though he could have eliminated all of us and the whole world in a fraction of a second.”Jesus didn’t create anyone? The faithful believe God did. Jesus also didn’t have the power to eliminate us all. God did. Someone call Russia and help clear up her ignorance. Its spreading lies. Also, love the teaching through fear “he could have eliminated all of us and the whole world in a fraction of a second.” If I was 7 I would be scared into beliefve.

  • James R Hilsabeck

    Mr. Hitchens,Thank you very much for this piece in the WP and your last book. Raising awarness even a few degrees may eventually cause these foolish mammals to abandon the Gawd Quest; i seriously doubt they will go quietly but go they must. Jim Hilsabeck

  • Marilyn Mounger

    Thank you for saying so compellingly what so many of us have known. There is nothing in history that has caused so much pain, guilt, fear, oppression, discrimination, and so much death in the name of religion. Keep up the good work.

  • Ernest

    GO COWBOYS!! GOD’S FAVORITE TEAM!!

  • John Randall

    First let me state that I love your work, though I often don’t agree with your positions I feel compelled to read them for no other reason then the fact that they seemed principaled. Unlike some people who prostitute themselves to controversey, i.e. Ann Coulter, youseem very sincere in what you believe. For too long religion has been used or should I say misused by men to obtain or keep power. I am a christian. I believe if alive Christ would be appalled at the state of the church, or religion for that matter. The true message of Christ, I believe, was that you don’t need organized religion to speak God. I’m not smart enough to tell you what God think’s or wants. True an unbelier can say or perform the same acts as a beleiver, however, the difference is that more often tahn not, one of the two usually stands by his/ her convictions.

  • mark lawrence

    “Moreover, we are told that we begin sinful and must earn our redemption from an authority whose actions and caprices”.Here’s the flaw in your point sir, that in Christianity, at least true Christianity that bases it’s beliefs directly from the infallible word of God, the Bible, we are NOT commanded to EARN our redemption. The Bible says faith is a gift from God, we could never be ‘good enough’ to earn our own redemption, he saves us on faith alone, ALONE.Just out of curiosity, I am failing to see where your ‘ethics’ or ‘morality’ comes from if not from a good God. Is it nothing more than a social construction? If so, morality would change daily, there’s no absolutes.I’d appreciate a response, thank you.

  • noleander

    Ying Pestien asks: “Majority of Chinese people believe in Confucius … how do Christians deal with that fact”As an American athiest that has asked many Christians that question, I can tell you: they ignore it. When you ask a Christian about the huge numbers of Hindus or Confucians in the world (Are the evil? Are they going to hell? Why is god letting them live full, happy lives without being exposed to Christ?) the Christians will not give you a direct answer. They change the subject, or come up with some vauge thing like “it is all in Gods great plan, and we are too insignificant to understand it”.Same response when you ask Christians other rational questions such as the flood; why did the church imprison Galileo for saying the earth went around the sun; why is the church so afraid of evolution, etc.

  • noleander

    Ying Pestien asks: “Majority of Chinese people believe in Confucius … how do Christians deal with that fact”As an American athiest that has asked many Christians that question, I can tell you: they ignore it. When you ask a Christian about the huge numbers of Hindus or Confucians in the world (Are the evil? Are they going to hell? Why is god letting them live full, happy lives without being exposed to Christ?) the Christians will not give you a direct answer. They change the subject, or come up with some vauge thing like “it is all in Gods great plan, and we are too insignificant to understand it”.Same response when you ask Christians other rational questions such as the flood; why did the church imprison Galileo for saying the earth went around the sun; why is the church so afraid of evolution, etc.

  • Ralph Mavrogordato

    I completely share yur views about religion and the utter implausibility of a personal God. I distrust anybody who is absolutely sure about the origin of morality and the nature of the universe. There are so many mysteries relating to our existence including, but not limited to, our ability to pose and analyze the type of questions you pose and the fact that we are sentient. Our understanding of ourselves and of the universe is somewhat akin to that of an amoeba in an ocean attempting to analyze the nature of our planet.

  • Elizabeth Renant

    You know, Mr. Hitchens, I do believe I remember that several years ago I saw you on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” voicing your support for George Bush – I distinctly remember you saying regarding the next president of the United States, “. . .who I hope will be George Bush.” Mr. Bush, as you know, has not made any bones of his belief that he has been chosen by the Almighty to bring freedom to poor unfortunate sods elsewhere (by force if necessary), especially ones living in countries loaded with oil (the poor sods in Darfur, you will note, have not merited a single American bullet). Then, of course, there was his disgraceful religious posturing surrounding the Terry Schiavo case, the rhetoric around a Constitional amendment barring homosexual marriage, a comment last year by Bush that he felt “Creationism” should be taught alongside evolution in the schools, and his ever present base, the evangelical Christians whose support played a large part in fulfilling your fervent wish that he become president. I wonder, then, given your distaste for religiosity (a distaste I share, by the way, only it bothers me as much in George Bush as in the return of Russian orthodoxy or in Osama bin Laden’s orations), that you supported Bush so strongly in earlier days. Do you still support Mr. Bush?

  • noleander

    Ying Pestien asks: “Majority of Chinese people believe in Confucius … how do Christians deal with that fact”As an American athiest that has asked many Christians that question, I can tell you: they ignore it. When you ask a Christian about the huge numbers of Hindus or Confucians in the world (Are the evil? Are they going to hell? Why is god letting them live full, happy lives without being exposed to Christ?) the Christians will not give you a direct answer. They change the subject, or come up with some vauge thing like “it is all in Gods great plan, and we are too insignificant to understand it”.Same response when you ask Christians other rational questions such as the flood; why did the church imprison Galileo for saying the earth went around the sun; why is the church so afraid of evolution, etc.

  • echidna1

    Moral words a nonbeliever couldn’t utter:God is love.A nonbeliever might think that a sick joke given human failings in appropriating God’s sanctioning for their behavior. Others might think only love is God, in a carnal way.Paul, in one of the pithier things he said, calls faith “foolishness to the Greeks”, by which he meant not those ethnically so, but those who prided themselves on rationality and yet surrounded themselves with a hundred petty gods, both in statue form and not.Believers look for love, for hope, despite tragedy and cruelty – a belief not gotten thru a proof text. It is an important perspective, pronounced and held often in the face of horrifying experience offering only loss and chaos: that overarching all “creation” (things, for the secular) there is purpose and reconciliation and acceptance.It is an extraordinarily practical help when so viewed in getting thru the crap of life, crap that nonbelievers and believers alike acknowledge is there. There are many shades of things behind that affirming conviction of faith for people of faith, so many ontologies of what people believe is the mechanism for that faith – an aspect that never appears in your all-condemning cariacatures of religion. Edison discovered there are many ways to make a light bulb. You can pick fights arguing over ways to do it, or you can be grateful for the light, however it gets here.

  • jean claude Richard

    Hello,I cannot but fully adhere to that statement.I only hope that this obscurantism will not last more than the few seconds it will have occupied in the history of mankind.What is two thousand years of bigotry, hate of the other and staging of ridiculous disguisements against what we can and will hopefully achieve some day.I mean the capacity of accepting our fate and, so doing ,to manage by ourselves the real goal of mysticism which is to live and not die together.

  • Chris V

    September 27, 2007 9:26 AMJust wanted to clarify that my previous post and this one are not by Christopher Hitchens.In response to the Spinoza / Damasio entry, I’m greatly impressed by the references to such a great philosopher as Spinoza (oftentimes underappreciated I feel) and to a recent philosopher specializing in mind / body issues. But, I disagree quite strongly with how you characterize the movement by the conatus and human brains towards self-preservation. I’m a little rusty on my Spinoza (let alone Damasio), but I find it hard to believe what you’ve typed. Surely there is something greater to morality than self-preservation and personal well-being? As you have described this, morality is limited to our SELVES. You describe a process but you are only seeing a small part of the overall movement. It is not just the self, and it is not just the brain, but the relationships that connect people to other people, animals, and things in our shared experiences. Morality is not a localized phenomenon, and it is certainly not a scientific phenomenon. Morality, like all lived experiences, is characterized by increasingly complex relations between people, animals, things, by which I mean the perceptions of these things. Reducing morality to a neurochemical or neurobiological process is a kind of determinism. In fact, it’s an incredibly complex process that far exceeds most everyone’s (certainly my) ability to explain. It’s not that we can’t see the physical process of learning in the brain – in many ways we can. It’s that we can’t make sense of what’s really happening in the mind from a biological / brain perspective.Please see my previous post for my views on this. I’d be delighted to read a response to my entry!

  • mark lawrence

    “Moreover, we are told that we begin sinful and must earn our redemption from an authority whose actions and caprices”.Here’s the flaw in your point sir, that in Christianity, at least true Christianity that bases it’s beliefs directly from the infallible word of God, the Bible, we are NOT commanded to EARN our redemption. The Bible says faith is a gift from God, we could never be ‘good enough’ to earn our own redemption, he saves us on faith alone, ALONE.Just out of curiosity, I am failing to see where your ‘ethics’ or ‘morality’ comes from if not from a good God. Is it nothing more than a social construction? If so, morality would change daily, there’s no absolutes.I’d appreciate a response, thank you.

  • noleander

    Ying Pestien asks: “Majority of Chinese people believe in Confucius … how do Christians deal with that fact”As an American athiest that has asked many Christians that question, I can tell you: they ignore it. When you ask a Christian about the huge numbers of Hindus or Confucians in the world (Are the evil? Are they going to hell? Why is god letting them live full, happy lives without being exposed to Christ?) the Christians will not give you a direct answer. They change the subject, or come up with some vauge thing like “it is all in Gods great plan, and we are too insignificant to understand it”.Same response when you ask Christians other rational questions such as the reality of the flood; why did the church imprison Galileo for saying the earth went around the sun; why is the church so afraid of evolution, etc.

  • Jeff McQuary

    Hitchens’ question misses the point. The message of the Gospels is not a list of rules. Yes, Hitchens is correct that anyone can come up with a list of moral commandments that would make life a little more orderly. But the Christian message is something completely different. That message is that God loves us even though we are imperfect, do not follow His commandments, and will never be able to live up to the standard of His moral commandments or anyone elses.

  • galb

    Were I not an atheist myself, I might reasonably conclude from the above that a lack of faith has poisoned everything for Mr. Hitchens, who seems to have a permanent scowl on his face.

  • Kristen Blount

    I suspect we’re approaching this questions from opposite angles, but for the sake of argument:God does not teach us right from wrong. A variety of covenants were made through Judeo-Christian history to help people live well and rightly. Can you really argue with the 10 Commandments? Finally, Jesus was the ultimate example of living righteously, given that we might choose to follow.Free will is the ultimate gift of humanity. Each human being can choose to live well or not. God loves us undeniably and unconditionally – often likened to a parent’s love in Scripture. In living a life in love and lovingkindness, we gain a hope of eternal life. But, mostly, it’s working to improve life here on earth before we can hope for heaven.Love is hard! It’s not Hallmark and cheap sentiment. It’s sticking in the hard times and believing in the good of humanity. It’s believing that the nature of humanity is not base, but beautiful.The teacher in your article missed the point. It’s not only about the pain and suffering. It’s also about why Jesus (and others) offered himself as a sacrifice. Salvation in NOT earned! Salvation was purchased and given to us by Christ on the Cross, and we can only hope to worthy of the love expressed by that gift.The gift is always there to be opened… it’s each individual’s choice whether to accept it. It’s a gift that, necessarily, that comes with obligations. How else do you say “thank You?”Our choices lay in responses to that love. So, we have a history full of horrors as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and priests molesting children. We have far more good examples, such as St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Dominic, St. Bernadette, the children at Fatima, Mother Ann Seton, Oscar Romero, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta. (and I offer all of these last examples as an answer to your challenge!)Could someone without faith have done as they did? Maybe. But, I think the point is that these good people, and countless others, acted BECAUSE of their faith and love of God. Their love of God brought them to a love of humanity and God’s world, and so they acted as their beliefs demanded. To quote St. Paul: “Love does not insist on its own way; it does not rejoice in the wrong, but is happy in the right; … it endures all, it knows no fading of hope.”A.M.D.G.

  • Sully

    Andy wrote: “Certainly if you choose now to exclude that God-ward obligation then the question becomes “unanswerable” in a sense. Just as one could render the question “what is 2 + 2?” an “unanswerable” question if one added “and you can never refer to the number 4.”I think math is a good analogy for this discussion but would say that religion is the “fudge factor” we use to justify good and evil, morality and immorality. Certainly, among the Aztecs, who spilled blood daily, 2 + 2 added up to 5 not because 4 was not allowed to exist but because 5 was the intended answer and religion allow it to happen. It allowed the killing of people to be linked to a bountiful harvest just as Islam allowed people to kill other people to attain immortality, paradise and 72 virgins. Now I’ve heard many who do not link “religion” with “God” and I understand that, the first being man-interpreted and the later being a perfection. But in either case it is the individual who, in their mind, is interpreting constantly and at times using their belief system to justify their actions. Who says the guys in the planes on 911 did not understand God better than you? Because of the results? In their minds they were doing what was right, according to God and Islam. Remember it was god fearing christians who swept westward in American ethnically cleansing the west for the god-fearing Americans. And they prayed constantly for their lives and the death of the Indian. In short, with religion at its highest level of power, man still did great immorality. With God in their hearts, they were not detered from immorality but instead were emboldened and felt justified and ignored their innate feelings of disgust because their beliefs, their love of God, made it all ok.

  • Steve Blevins

    September 27, 2007Dear Mr. Hitchens,Your argument runs parallel to that of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins — that moral instincts are innate. Yet, often those instincts remain latent if not elicited by individuals or institutions with an interest in moral advancement. One can easily posit that our ability to appreciate the Beethoven string quartets is innate, yet only a tiny fraction of the world’s population enjoys them. As a practical matter, we should focus not on the origin of our moral instincts, but on the institutions we charge with eliciting them. Can secular institutions do so? Perhaps. But until they demonstrate success, we must remain doubtful. Our public schools have failed to nurture moral instincts. And I see no secular institutions dedicated to moral progress beyond the confines of single-issue ideology. A world ruled by reason might be worth our longing. But where is the proliferation of Aristotelian minds among the faithless? As long as the avatar of atheism remains the drug-addicted, thrice-divorced Hollywood nihilist, you can count on me joining my fellow provincials in church. Steve Blevins

  • Walt Flanagan

    Hitchens is a genius. Religious people always try to attack the integrity of the atheist rather than defend the evil parts of their faith.

  • Kenneth Cauthen

    Christopher Hitchens has a dilemma: If he says that all religion is bad, he goes against the facts, since religion provides meaning and comfort to some people and inspires works of love, compassion, and mercy in meeting the needs of others. If he admits that some religion may sometimes produce good results, then his tirade is not against religion but only against bad religion. Everybody can be against that.

  • Joe

    What is his problem? Why can’t he just leave those who happen to believe in God alone? We can all go on our merry way, leave this hyperbole behind, and do our own thing. Talk about an odd combination of intellectual self-righteousness and intolerance.

  • Esther

    Look, the great violent antisemitism derived not from Christian Orthodoxy or Catholicism, but the most modern Protestantism.Moreover the anecdote Christopher uses is about all humanity.Lastly all monotheism is intolerant and violent. Monotheism reason d’etre is vilifying the other. That is why the first genocides are committed by non other than the Israelites.Christoper, what is with the “Elders of Zion”? Why not just go to the ORIGINAL hate speech and blood laible text: The Hebrew Bible

  • galb

    Were I not an atheist myself, I might reasonably conclude from the above that a lack of faith has poisoned everything for Mr. Hitchens, who seems to have a permanent scowl on his face – there is far more substance in this bitter man’s emnities than in his love. As regards the actions of Christians, one example: I am hard pressed to believe that Irish atheists will ever surpass the goodness, and usefulness to humanity, shown by Irish nuns in African hospitals over the past one hundred years.

  • Mark S

    Worth,How about all “moral” action being instinctual up to the point of resource scarcity. A human may go into a burning house to pull out their children, but a cat will do the same thing. Humans may adopt abandoned children, while a dog will adopt abandoned cats, monkeys and children. A person may share his food, while every animal in a pack is ensured to eat. Swans mate for life. Now ask yourself, how to the religious authoritarians act? They are selfish, not giving food to the poor (that would be socialism), they beat their families into submission to “the lord”, they could not possibly treat another species as their own child. I’ll take the instinctual morality that a dog has to that of a right-wing authoritarian moralist any day. The dog does what is right by nature, the right-winger is infused with so much of the totalitarianistic control associated with his religion that it kills the instinct inside him to do the right “moral” thing. The right-wing authoritarian religious person even tries to sell his religion to others based on the selfishness of “life after death in paradise” not in what the impact is on the real, material world around them of what they do. This allows him to subjugate all around him, and to feel that god wants him to do it. Authoritarian Control-Based Religion destroys moral action, it does not support it!

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Hitchins,I recently read The God Delusion and it has made me very skeptical about the existence of god. I was raised a Roman Catholic and have routinely prayed to god, lit candles, blessed myself with holy water, and so forth. Now I am reluctant to perform these actions. I have forced myself to follow these rituals out of indoctrination and guilt, not divine faith. Therefore, I feel that I have been a hypocrite.I am on my library’s waiting list for your latest book; many people are ahead of me, so I might not get my hands on a copy before then. At any rate I look forward to reading your thoughts on the subject of god.Sincerely,Ellen O’Neill

  • Daniel

    I am a Christian, and do you know what Christopher Hitchens reminds me of?He reminds me of alot of Christians I know, with the scowl on his face, and his harsh and bitter tone. For that reason alone, I cannot help but understand and like him a little.Some of the comments here have been along the lines of “why can’t atheisits leave us alone, and let us believe as we wish?”But he is not “doing” anything to anyone; he is expressing his opinions. And his opinions are a reaction to anti-atheistic Christians who will not leave atheists alone.I would not be suprised if this whole essay, and his whole attitude in general towards relgion, is just an ironic parody, and not his true feelings at all.

  • Brian Flanagan

    His mind is clear, but his soul is mad.”Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”Uh… love God?”I have also asked large and divergent audiences if they can think of a wicked action or statement that derived directly from religious faith, and you know what?”You mean like, “Love one another, do good to those who injure you”?

  • BSH

    “This abject attitude, of sickly love for the Dear Leader combined with dreadful terror of him, is in fact the origin of totalitarianism.”This is manifestly, patently, and completely false. Are we to believe that Hitchens never read Machiavelli? Totalitarianism might, in some instances, take advantage of religious tolerance and obeisance, but almost always is established, led, and driven by people who are non-theistic, or who distort and misrepresent religious teachings solely to their own benefit. Of all the tyrants we can name off the top of our heads, how many were motivated by religious fervor? Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, King George III, any of the emperors of China or Rome? Next to none. More people have died at the hands of atheists than theists, and that’s just counting our 20th century communists. As for Hitchens’ challenge, to find a moral statement or action that could have not been uttered by a non-believer, that’s only relevant to the question of whether atheists are capable of morally just action. It has nothing to do with the validity or value of religion. It’s a bit of misdirection.

  • Anonymous

    The basic points are simple. Nothing supports the primacy of any one God. The truth of any one religion requires the untruth of all others. Therefore, we can invoke the truth of one faith, above all others, or another, or another, with no factual basis to provide a resolution of the truth. Or, we can consider the fact that nothing that we see or know requires the existence of a God, and assume that there is no God. The latter argument is simpler and more elegant.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Mr. Hitchens for helping me sort out my own conflicted view of my own religion, Catholicism. I remember I gave up on the concept of Hell in 1967 when I heard a Protestant Bishop say that if there were a hell, Christ would be there because he could never be happy if he knew people were suffering (I am paraphrasing). The terrible sexism of my church, the love of the fetus, but not the child, and the belief from the latest pope that Catholicism is the only true religion has set us back a century. Keep inspiring us to reject totalitarianism. Now, if you could only see the immorality of the war in Iraq and this administration. Rose Sebouhian

  • csm

    The important thing about all religions is that they are human institutions and as social and spiritual constructs they are fallible and susceptible to great errors (as well as heroic and selfless actions). The advantage of religion is that it presents, for the most part, an ideal set of ethical and moral behavior (rarely met by all adherants), but an ideal nevertheless. The belief in souls as well as a higher power, are universal aspects of human behavior. But denying this should also be an unrestricted freedom. I think that being an atheist does not necessarily doom one to eternal punishment, it just makes things a lot harder. Knowing that at the end of our days that we ultimately have to account for our kindness or lack thereof, our arrogance and deceit, etc.–a universal moral code if you will–surely will effect our decisions while alive. Many fundamentalists get this wrong and adhere to ideology rather than morality, with dreadful consequences.Hitchens is playing a well-known role here and there is nothing new or especially profound in what he says. It is basically attention seeking behavior, playing Pecks Bad Boy. If he succeeds in challenging people to think more about their own beliefs, or lack thereof, then his grandstanding may actually be for the good.

  • Colin Nicholas

    The atheists are reacting, for better or worse, against religion that so clearly makes the world a less good place in which to live. Perhaps the atheists are simply pointing out the obvious, that in the name of God, innumerable evils have been and continue to be committed. The atheists have the courage to ask and suggest. I can understand that this upsets the religious who have been taught to accept and deflect. Perhaps the great problem is the atheists’ refusal to allow a clear set of fairy tales to dominate their beliefs and attitudes. Show me a church than can admit to the foolishness of its past and irrationality of its most absurd premises before you tell me how sad and wrong those who raise logical objections must be.

  • Rose Sebouhian

    Thank you Mr. Hitchens for helping me sort out my own conflicted view of my own religion, Catholicism. I remember I gave up on the concept of Hell in 1967 when I heard a Protestant Bishop say that if there were a hell, Christ would be there because he could never be happy if he knew people were suffering (I am paraphrasing). The terrible sexism of my church, the love of the fetus, but not the child, and the belief from the latest pope that Catholicism is the only true religion has set us back a century. Keep inspiring us to reject totalitarianism. Now, if you could only see the immorality of the war in Iraq and this administration. Rose Sebouhian

  • Mark E. Rondeau

    I remain permanently puzzled why anyone considers Christopher Hitchens an authority on anything. Here is a man who thinks Mother Teresa was a fraud and the Iraq War a great idea. With thinkers of such deep insight available, who needs people who actually know what they are talking about?

  • Wayne

    I find it both amusing and sad that people like Mr. Hitchen spend so much effort to deny the existance of God. There is so much in the Universe that we cannot explain, and it is simple matter, energy and space, which God transcends completely. On the other hand, God, who created us, the planet we walk on, and all that we can see, comprehend and experience, does not need our belief to exist. Mr. Hitchen will understand this one way or another, when he steps across the veil of death, as we all will, and come face to face with God. I cannot but shake my head and chuckle at the chutzpa that it will take for Mr. Hitchens at that instant to shake his fist and say to God himself “You do not exist!”. We can only imagine what God will do, but I doubt He will laugh, and I also doubt that Mr. Hitchens will be laughing much either.

  • Mark E. Rondeau

    I remain permanently puzzled why anyone considers Christopher Hitchens an authority on anything. Here is a man who thinks Mother Teresa was a fraud and the Iraq War a great idea. With thinkers of such deep insight available, who needs people who actually know what they are talking about?

  • Wayne

    I find it both amusing and sad that people like Mr. Hitchen spend so much effort to deny the existance of God. There is so much in the Universe that we cannot explain, and it is simple matter, energy and space, which God transcends completely. On the other hand, God, who created us, the planet we walk on, and all that we can see, comprehend and experience, does not need our belief to exist. Mr. Hitchen will understand this one way or another, when he steps across the veil of death, as we all will, and come face to face with God. I cannot but shake my head and chuckle at the chutzpa that it will take for Mr. Hitchens at that instant to shake his fist and say to God himself “You do not exist!”. We can only imagine what God will do, but I doubt He will laugh, and I also doubt that Mr. Hitchens will be laughing much either.

  • Wayne

    I find it both amusing and sad that people like Mr. Hitchen spend so much effort to deny the existance of God. There is so much in the Universe that we cannot explain, and it is simple matter, energy and space, which God transcends completely. On the other hand, God, who created us, the planet we walk on, and all that we can see, comprehend and experience, does not need our belief to exist. Mr. Hitchen will understand this one way or another, when he steps across the veil of death, as we all will, and come face to face with God. I cannot but shake my head and chuckle at the chutzpa that it will take for Mr. Hitchens at that instant to shake his fist and say to God himself “You do not exist!”. We can only imagine what God will do, but I doubt He will laugh, and I also doubt that Mr. Hitchens will be laughing much either.

  • Kenneth Cauthen

    I don’t doubt that unbelievers can make moral statements that match in excellence any moral statement made by a believer. But what is the point?Can believers make statements that are morally bad? Yes. Can non-believers make statements that are morally bad? Yes.My morality is based on a religious foundation, but I would not argue that one can have excellent moral beliefs or live a life of virtue only on the basis of religion.I judge moral beliefs and actions on their own merit not by what their philosophical or religious basis is. All moral beliefs rest on some set of assumptions, but good morality does not necessarily require reference to God, but it may.I am a religious person but seldom find myself included in your objections to religion. I don’t belief much of what you condemn. I am a liberal Baptist Protestant theologian, just for the record. A survey of your latest book contained no reference to any modern Christian theologian I read in seminary or ever put on any of my reading lists for courses I taught for forty years, although I found a few references to Popes and to Protestant fundamentalists.Do you condemn all religion or just bad religion? If the latter, I am on your side and have argued against bad religion for half a century. If the former, you and I have a difference.

  • dalloway

    I find your politics abhorrent, Mr. Hitchens, and I agree with you about exactly nothing — except this. I also commend your courage for saying it in print.

  • Rob Bailey

    Mr. Hitchens, you’re a pretty smart fellow though I am a Christian and strongly disagree with you on matters of faith.I notice you have debated some second rate apologists–you were in Raleigh not long ago debating some no name guy and I see you debated Al Sharpton too. C’mon! Al Sharpton??I’d like to see you go up against Dr. William Lane Craig. I think he’d bull-doze you. Are you afraid? Ever heard of R.C. Sproul? I think he’d be more than a match for you too. I appreciate your stance on the Iraq war.God BlessRob Bailey

  • Paul Young

    Mr. Hitchens,I thought you might be interested in knowing about my book, The Nature of Information. It defines information and the fundamental creative force in the universe in entirely mass-energy terms, mind and consciousness as wholly material phenomena, thereby solving, conceptually, the so-called brain/mind-mind/body problem, and describes a mass-energy universe that operates with its own immanent creative and control mechanisms, without the use of or need for any metaphysical or supernatural force to explain them. The review of the book by the Australasian Journal of Philosophy (Vol. 68. No. 2) reads, in part:”Mind, self-consciousness, and other such obstreperous rebels against the creeping materialist hegemony are cajoled into peaceful co-existence with science, by turning them into sophisticated patterns of flow of form…The doctrine that…mind is just matter is taken not as demeaning mind, but as ennobling matter…Materialism takes on the mantle of evangelical deep ecology.”Sincerely,Paul Young

  • Rob Bailey

    Mr. Hitchens, you’re a pretty smart fellow though I am a Christian and strongly disagree with you on matters of faith.I notice you have debated some second rate apologists–you were in Raleigh not long ago debating some no name guy and I see you debated Al Sharpton too. C’mon! Al Sharpton??I’d like to see you go up against Dr. William Lane Craig. I think he’d bull-doze you. Are you afraid? Ever heard of R.C. Sproul? I think he’d be more than a match for you too. I appreciate your stance on the Iraq war.God BlessRob Bailey

  • Rob Bailey

    Mr. Hitchens, you’re a pretty smart fellow though I am a Christian and strongly disagree with you on matters of faith.I notice you have debated some second rate apologists–you were in Raleigh not long ago debating some no name guy and I see you debated Al Sharpton too. C’mon! Al Sharpton??I’d like to see you go up against Dr. William Lane Craig. I think he’d bull-doze you. Are you afraid? Ever heard of R.C. Sproul? I think he’d be more than a match for you too. I appreciate your stance on the Iraq war.God BlessRob Bailey

  • Paul Young

    Mr. Hitchens,I thought you might be interested in knowing about my book, The Nature of Information. It defines information and the fundamental creative force in the universe in entirely mass-energy terms, mind and consciousness as wholly material phenomena, thereby solving, conceptually, the so-called brain/mind-mind/body problem, and describes a mass-energy universe that operates with its own immanent creative and control mechanisms, without the use of or need for any metaphysical or supernatural force to explain them. The review of the book by the Australasian Journal of Philosophy (Vol. 68. No. 2) reads, in part:”Mind, self-consciousness, and other such obstreperous rebels against the creeping materialist hegemony are cajoled into peaceful co-existence with science, by turning them into sophisticated patterns of flow of form…The doctrine that…mind is just matter is taken not as demeaning mind, but as ennobling matter…Materialism takes on the mantle of evangelical deep ecology.”Paul Young

  • Paul Young

    Mr. Hitchens,I thought you might be interested in knowing about my book, The Nature of Information (www.thenatureofinformation.com). It defines information and the fundamental creative force in the universe in entirely mass-energy terms, mind and consciousness as wholly material phenomena, thereby solving, conceptually, the so-called brain/mind-mind/body problem, and describes a mass-energy universe that operates with its own immanent creative and control mechanisms, without the use of or need for any metaphysical or supernatural force to explain them. The review of the book by the Australasian Journal of Philosophy (Vol. 68. No. 2) reads, in part:”Mind, self-consciousness, and other such obstreperous rebels against the creeping materialist hegemony are cajoled into peaceful co-existence with science, by turning them into sophisticated patterns of flow of form…The doctrine that…mind is just matter is taken not as demeaning mind, but as ennobling matter…Materialism takes on the mantle of evangelical deep ecology.”Paul Young

  • Rudy Dalpra

    I do not personally act morally because I feel it is a pathway to a life hereafter, so I may be reinforcing Mr. Hitchens’ point.On the other hand, I can not discount that my having a typical Christian upbringing did not influence my approach to personal morality.

  • arrabbiato

    Are you still milking this topic for cash, Hitchens?? Newsweek as well, it seems….Why not write about your cheerleading up to and during the Iraq war??? This evil was not created by religion…..it was created by secular political philosophers i.e. NEO CONS like yourself…..You are a shameless blowhard, a lout and a drunk.”You know, Speed has got some VERY valid points here with his post-Hitchens was one of the prime cheerleaders for the Iraq war, and him being an “atheist” and all, went on every media outlet I can think of to flack for the Iraq war and Bush-and SO, HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THAT HITCHENS???, THE IRAQ WAR WAS PREMISED ON THOSE ILLUSIONARY WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION WHICH YOU RAH-RAHED TO THE HILT….AND YOU CAN TURN TO YOURSELF AS ABSOLUTELY BEING ONE OF THOSE WITH BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS, BECAUSE YOU AIDED AND ABETTED THE WHITE HOUSE IN THEIR DECEPTION…WHAT WAS IT, YOUR “ATHEISM” THAT MADE YOU DO IT? HA! HA! HA!And as for you being “a shameless blowhard, a lout and a drunk.” That’s actually quite well documented. But you see, most Americans don’t read the English press, and you, who are molly-coddled to death in this country, get a far chillier, and critical reception in your own-because THEY KNOW YOU FOR WHAT YOU ARE.Yeah, that’s right! Americans always treat smooth-talking Brits like royalty, the charletans and con artists alike!

  • Rahul

    Great points, Christopher. Humans always credit their faith and God for doing good things but how come they do not credit their God for bad things they do (except Muslims who always say they are blowing up people in the name of their Allah).

  • john nelson

    It has always puzzled me as to the true poison. Is it god-based religion per se, faith itself for any big “moral” idea such as religion, or the willingness or tendancy of we humans to place our faith and resultnat actions that follow in leaders or purneyors of these ideas.

  • Lane

    Well done, Mr. Hitchens. When examined in a critical light, the basic tenets of all religions I’ve looked at, or, at one time, practiced, are really pretty ridiculous. IMO, goodness and rightness come from the heart and the brain, not from books written by men 1300+ years ago who invented one or more gods to explain phenomena that we now understand as normal, natural events.

  • Bill Leland

    Of course if you insist on a take it or leave it definition of ‘religeous,’ you win the argument hands down. But what if you admit “God” as shorthand for our “better angels” and the latter a shorthand for civilization itself?Every childs first word is “NO” and her second is “WHY”? Can any of us be blamed if we invoke a hierarcy of authority from “because I said so” to “almighty God of whom there is non greater” for the complex, historical, and nuanced answers that comprise “civil behavior?” For some time now, humankind has been at the top of the food chain. We humans define “good,” “evil,” “base,” and “devine.” But of course you know all this. And you know that many difficulties arise at the margin of “my” and “your” definition of civil behavior; ex.(Johny’s mom says he can). You may say that tribalism is rooted in a lie named “God,” but do you propose that every one of us, indidvidually, in every generation re-examine every premise personally before deciding what to do next?My “God?” man, who will take out the trash?

  • Gene Claburn

    How can anybody doubt that there is very little overlap between religion and morality or ethics? However, as regards religion’s instigation of so much cruelty and destructiveness, there may be a problem over what is cause and what is effect.

  • Mike Kelley

    To Mr. Hitchens: Thank you for expressing my feelings about religion better that I can. Good luck on getting a coherent answer.To “Concerned The Christian Now Liberated:” Would you please stop posting your rant about your 5Fs crap. We’ve seen it enough, you’ve had your say, now please try to write something original instead of copying and pasting the same tired BS.To all the Anonymouses: Own up, dudes, and at least give yourselves a usable name of some sort. I believe Dumb Ass is available.

  • Ken

    “I should like, for the continued vigor of this discussion, to repeat the challenge that I have several times offered the faithful in print and on the air. Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”Why this challenge? It is utterly irrelevant. It is as easy to inhabit and interact within a moral universe as it is within a physical one without acknolwedging any transcendental authority. The existence of that transcendental authority is not dependent on ones’ awareness of it. It must be argued for or against with other means.No one argues that atheists are incapable of making moral judgments. In fact, Mr. Hitchens feels free to turn his moral judgments against religion in general and Christianity in particular. What he wilfully ignores (because he is not stupid enough not to understand) is that there is no way to account for moral valuations in an entirely materialistic world view.No matter how you peel the onion of atheism and its consequent material reductionism, it renders moral valuations of mere entities logically impossible. You cannot infer a should from an is. Emergent properties of moral consciousness and the proposed evolutionary advantages of altruism are only more sophisticated ways of connecting the mechanical dots. It still reduces down to the chance collisions of atoms in the brain. There is no way to extract moral values from that mere ontology. The delightful inconsistency of atheists whose wolrd view is unable to explain their moral intuition is the achilles heel of atheism. If Christians cannot satisfactorily explain how a good and all powerful God allows suffering, atheists are compelled to admit that there is more on heaven and earth than is dreamed of in their philosophy.

  • Shrieking Violet

    Dear, dear Mr. Hitchens. It’s always a pleasure to see you vent your spleen.”Yet is it not positively immoral to argue that our elementary morality and human solidarity derive from an authority that we must simultaneously (and compulsorily) love, and also fear? Does it not degrade us in our deepest integrity to be told that we would not do a right action, or utter a principled truth, were it not for fear of punishment or hope of reward?”This is probably the best, most succinct representation of your case against religion that I’ve yet seen. I certainly do agree that totalitarianism and fundamentalist religion both share the same roots in this pathological melange of reverence and fear. And I’m not the right person to answer your challenge, being as my own faith is lukewarm on a good day. I can only muster the shopworn rebuttal that this disturbing element of the human psyche has been amply abused by the irreligious as well as the faithful, and atheists such as Stalin and Pol Pot have abused the human soul to an extent that flawed, but usually well-intentioned Christian Churches have rarely approached.What I don’t see is an explanation for how a rejection of the totalitarian kernel of religious faith leads one inexorably to atheism– a categorical denial that any higher power exists. Why should it not lead to a more mature, sophisticated faith that embraces both reason and doubt? Or a Deist appreciation for the fact that the universe is far greater and more powerful than we can ever hope to understand?The most valuable element of faith, often neglected by its most zealous advocates, is humility. This, more than anything else, is what’s missing in humanism, and what is sorely lacking in your own writing, your own certitude, and everything you and your political bedfellows have said and done since 9/11.I don’t claim to have the answers to all the troubles in the world or all the mysteries of life, but I’m quite sure that you don’t either.

  • M. Burke

    Right on Mr. Hitchens. Religion is brainwashing pure and simple.

  • Henry Martyn

    Mr HichensHow about, “I forgive you!”I am truly able to forgive because I have been divinely forgiven, something an unbeliever cannot possibly be morally able to do outside of God’s grace.henryM

  • DZ

    I am an atheist. I was raised as an atheist, and, at age 60, I still am one. In terms of seeking true religious freedom – something we do not have in this country – I am a militant atheist. BUT, Hitchens and Harris are disgusting warmongering, torture supporting scum. They wouldn’t know morality if it kicked them in the face. Personally, I will support any Christian, Jew, Muslim, Wiccan or other who opposes preemptive war and torture over any atheist who supports such filth.Just my $1.00

  • M. Burke

    Right on Mr. Hitchens. Religion is brainwashing pure and simple.

  • Fred

    Arrabiato, aka speed123, is a beautiful example of what Hitchens is talking about.

  • Pete

    I must say that I agree with Mr. Hitchens on all his points. I can’t, for the life of me, see how seemingly intelligent people, with the power of reasoning, just submit blindly to religious dogma without any critical review.I grew up going to Sunday school and church and having this dogma forced upon me as a child, and whenever I questioned something that didn’t make sense to me, I was always admonished in the most forceful way. One of my favorite questions was: “did a snake really talk?” If the bible would have said a primate tempted Eve, it would have been more plausible to believe. I think Marx was correct–religion is the opium of the mind. P.S. I enjoyed the book “god is not Great.”

  • Steve Carr

    Dear Mr. Hitchens,Perhaps what you perceive as “tongue-tied silence” is, in fact, a lack of interest on the part of religious intellectuals to engage someone who is so caustic. Intellectual bigotry is not the exclusive purview of religious hypocrites.Why the fevered pitch in your search? Has this tenor become your brand, i.e., are you driven by economic remuneration? That seems unlikely to me. Most persons, whether of faith or no, can recall myriad examples of holy pagans and despicable preachers. The silence you hear after offering your challenge might also be a product of boredom with the question, not fear. In my view, it’s far more compelling to study dramatic changes wrought by conversions–how do we explain those? Sincerely,

  • Leo

    Chrisopher,What can you expect of peoples who celebrate the torture and murder of their God, believe that eating his flesh and drinking his blood is holy and beneficial, who believe in “Virgin” births, divine revelation in subway stains, doughy twists in cheese sandwichs and shadows in a windows. etc.??Any religion worthy of the name would at least see some benefit in appreciating a God that walked the Earth, lived the common live, and died a human death; but all Christians are obsessed with death and follow the most venal of men!

  • Henry Martyn

    Mr HichensHow about, “I forgive you!”I am truly able to forgive because I have been divinely forgiven, something an unbeliever cannot possibly be morally able to do outside of God’s grace.henryM

  • Ramon Wals

    The Secular created the Holy. Therefore there is nothing that separates each others actions.

  • Henry Martyn

    Mr HichensHow about, “I forgive you!”I am truly able to forgive because I have been divinely forgiven, something an unbeliever cannot possibly be morally able to do outside of God’s grace.henryM

  • Ramon Wals

    The Secular created the Holy. Therefore there is nothing that separates each others actions.

  • yoyo

    Religious thinking is by definition thinking inside the box.The bigger picture is outside the box.

  • Joe Parks

    “arranging a human sacrifice in Palestine in which we had no say, for example, and informing us that we are all guilty of it”I had forgotten all about this!!!When I became an adolescent and my thoughts became even more “sinful” I completely lost hope for my spiritual life. I eventually discovered Buddhism – by attempting to disprove it! Through Buddhism I eventually regained the empowerment to perceive myself as a living spiritual being.I do not believe Religion is so much the problem. It is the application of Religion that can either help or hinder. If the Religious purpose is to support our spiritual lives – without damning our physical aspects – then Religion can be great.I believe that Religions are only a problem to the extent that they attempt to diminish or to deny the reality of our every day existence.I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to discover and enhance the spiritual aspect of my every day existence. Thank you for your writing. You have helped me to exhume the core of the problem that I suffered as a child. Now I will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to completely vaporize this most core delusion of my childhood.Thank you very much again!

  • Tybalt

    Dear Mr Hitchins,

  • Joe Parks

    “arranging a human sacrifice in Palestine in which we had no say, for example, and informing us that we are all guilty of it”I had forgotten all about this!!!When I became an adolescent and my thoughts became even more “sinful” I completely lost hope for my spiritual life. I eventually discovered Buddhism – by attempting to disprove it! Through Buddhism I eventually regained the empowerment to perceive myself as a living spiritual being.I do not believe Religion is so much the problem. It is the application of Religion that can either help or hinder. If the Religious purpose is to support our spiritual lives – without damning our physical aspects – then Religion can be great.I believe that Religions are only a problem to the extent that they attempt to diminish or to deny the reality of our every day existence.I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to discover and enhance the spiritual aspect of my every day existence. Thank you for your writing. You have helped me to exhume the core of the problem that I suffered as a child. Now I will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to completely vaporize this most core delusion of my childhood.Thank you very much again!

  • Ramon Wals

    The Secular created the Holy. Therefore there is nothing that separates each others actions.

  • Daniel S. Mathews

    “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”How about this: “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you shall not have life within you”?Mr. Hitchens, your search for an answer to your pointless question is over. Perhaps now you can focus your philosophical attention on finding out the true meaning and purpose of your life, instead of endeavoring to force your radical secularism down the throats of the unwilling.

  • Boy Buxton the Younger

    Mr. Hitchens: First of all, let me congratulate you on your wonderful first name. I am guessing that you did not choose it for yourself, but that maybe you were given it by those you hold dearly. Is that why you still employ it and surely not for any religious connotation? I now will take three of your quotes, hopefully not out of context, and provide responses.1. Christopher Hitchens Quotation: “Without god, how could we tell right from wrong, or learn how to do the right thing? I have never had a debate with a religious figure of any denomination, however, ‘moderate’, where this insulting question has not come up” In the Roman Catholic moral theological training to which I subscribe, I was taught that it IS possible to tell right from wrong through the employment of human reason, but that the ability for one to choose what is right and avoid what is wrong depends upon cooperation and participation with God. Read how Paul of Tarsus explains his condition in the letter to the Romans: “In fact, this seems to be the rule, that every single time I want to do good it is something evil that comes to hand. In my inmost self I dearly love God’s law which my reason dictates. This is what makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Chapter 7, Verses 21-24, The Jerusalem Bible translation)I can easily relate to Paul’s words, as have many others throughout history. I am very happy for you if are always able to choose what is good and avoid what is evil. However, that might be easy for you if you consider yourself to be the sole determinant of what is right and wrong.2. Christopher Hitchens Quotation:“Does it not degrade us in our deepest integrity to be told that we would not do a right action, or utter a principled truth, were it not for fear of punishment or hope of reward?”Response: In the Roman Catholic moral theological training to which I subscribe, I was taught that it was primarily the fear of offending a person, and secondarily “for fear of punishment or hope of reward” that wrong actions were to be avoided. Here is the actual quote taught to Roman Catholics penitents when they are going to individual confession before a priest:“Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins because of your just punishments, but MOST OF ALL BECAUSE THEY OFFEND YOU, MY GOD, WHO ART ALL GOOD AND DESERVING OF ALL MY LOVE.”Mr. Hitchens, If you are married, then I am certain that you avoid things like adultery, not” for fear of punishment or hope of reward”, but because you do not wish to hurt your wife and children. As you can see in the penitential rite, Roman Catholics are taught to see God in a similar way.3. Chistopher Hitchens Quotation:In strict logic, the answer is no, since all human beings are capable of uttering or performing seemingly identical moral statements and actions. However, examine the following statement and reflect upon its consequences in human history:“I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.” (Gospel of John, Chapter Six, Verse 53)Any human being could say these words, but if taken seriously, the utterer would have to be considered either insane or divine. The Roman Catholic Church’s understanding of what Jesus Christ actually meant as it pertained to the sacred word and action at his last supper would provide the most performed rite and ritual of a newly created organization that would eventually outlast an ancient Roman civilization and be the basis upon which a new Western civilization was built. Today that organization, continuing the rite and ritual that incarnates the above quotation of Jesus Christ, is the largest provider of health care in the world, with a great deal of it given to the poor for free without consideration for race, gender, or religion.Can you name any unbeliever who could utter these words and produce the same historical consequences nearly two thousand years later? Perhaps you could, Christopher?Are you up for a discussion on the Trinity?

  • Daniel S. Mathews

    “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”How about this: “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you shall not have life within you”?Mr. Hitchens, your search for an answer to your pointless question is over. Perhaps now you can focus your philosophical attention on finding out the true meaning and purpose of your life, instead of endeavoring to force your radical secularism down the throats of the unwilling.

  • Piggly Wiggly

    “When a man is on his death bed, the faithful fill him with hope for the future. Atheists, by and large, don’t want to lie to him. Most people would rather hear lies.”…and most atheists as well. I suppose you are unfamiliar with Marxist propaganda but I suggest you visit any university library where there are serious tomes dedicated to this topic.

  • Sully

    God’s existence can be proven by his continual meddling in the last 2 minutes of every Redskins game.

  • M. Burke

    The OT should be taken for what it really is. It is a written record by a sect describing their myths and legends and possibly some of their history. I see nothing divine in it. As for its utterances on morality etc., one has to look at that in the context of the times when it was written. If I were living two thousand years ago, I would probably also believe in all this nonsense and also believe in the NT, since the OT and NT provided the only rational explanation of the world available in those days.

  • maran antha

    “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”How about this: “Unless you eat of my body and drink of my blood you shall not have life within you”?Mr. Hitchens, your search for an answer to your pointless question is over. Now perhaps you can devote your philosophical energies to finding the true meaning of your life, and a higher purpose than squandering your formidable intellectual talents on the force-feeding of your radical secularism down the throats of the unwilling.

  • Jed Rothwell

    Message from a member of the Nitpicker Brigade. You forgot to close quotes in this sentence:I have never had a debate with a religious figure of any denomination, however “moderate, where this insulting question has not come up.

  • maran antha

    “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”How about this: “Unless you eat of my body and drink of my blood you shall not have life within you”?Mr. Hitchens, your search for an answer to your pointless question is over. Now perhaps you can devote your philosophical energies to finding the true meaning of your life, and a higher purpose than squandering your formidable intellectual talents on the force-feeding of your radical secularism down the throats of the unwilling.

  • moses

    moses here. there was originally only 1 commandment that had to do with how deep the soil should be plowed. even the smart people had problem with plowing depths. but then i had to come up with 10 new ones for the dumb people. even my asses shrugged their shoulders.

  • Rich Hunter

    Why is Hitchens all over the place? I can’t stand to read him anymore. I read his attack on Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Newsweek — now Newsweek’s subsidiary the Washpost has to give him space too. If you want to see a response from the Pope’s preacher Fr Cantalameesa, check out Zenit:”An English reviewer (J. Cornwell of The Tablet) has compared the author of this book to ‘a tired old prizefighter throwing weary punches at an inert punching-bag while the true champ he’d like to duff up is absent from the gym.’ He does not demolish the true faith, but a caricature of it. Reading the book, I was reminded of the sport of clay pigeon shooting: The ready-made targets are hurled into the air, and the marksman, aiming his shots with fine precision, blasts them to bits effortlessly.”By the way, if you look at the lives of most infamous atheists — e.g.,Nietzsche — they had serious and often tragic problems with their parents. I don’t know what Hitchen’s father did to him, but I won’t read Hitchens taking it out on Our Father in Heaven.In fact, most well-known atheists are insane — which makes sense, because the Church has always taught that a belief in a supreme being can be arrived at through human reason, without need of divine revelation (which was required for Christians to come to believe, for example, that God consists of three divine persons). Let us hope that those still professing this faddish belief from the late 1800s will be able to reconnect with their human reason.

  • Rich Hunter

    Why is Hitchens all over the place? I can’t stand to read him anymore. I read his attack on Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Newsweek — now Newsweek’s subsidiary the Washpost has to give him space too. If you want to see a response from the Pope’s preacher Fr Cantalameesa, check out Zenit:”An English reviewer (J. Cornwell of The Tablet) has compared the author of this book to ‘a tired old prizefighter throwing weary punches at an inert punching-bag while the true champ he’d like to duff up is absent from the gym.’ He does not demolish the true faith, but a caricature of it. Reading the book, I was reminded of the sport of clay pigeon shooting: The ready-made targets are hurled into the air, and the marksman, aiming his shots with fine precision, blasts them to bits effortlessly.”By the way, if you look at the lives of most infamous atheists — e.g.,Nietzsche — they had serious and often tragic problems with their parents. I don’t know what Hitchen’s father did to him, but I won’t read Hitchens taking it out on Our Father in Heaven.In fact, most well-known atheists are insane — which makes sense, because the Church has always taught that a belief in a supreme being can be arrived at through human reason, without need of divine revelation (which was required for Christians to come to believe, for example, that God consists of three divine persons). Let us hope that those still professing this faddish belief from the late 1800s will be able to reconnect with their human reason.

  • yoyo

    Piggly WigglyThe death bed argument is like the ‘no atheists in fox holes’ argument.

  • moses

    moses here. there was originally only 1 commandment that had to do with how deep the soil should be plowed. even the smart people had problems with plowing depths. but then i had to come up with 10 new ones for the dumb people. i could only shake my head. even my asses shrugged their, uhm, shoulder like shoulder things up they have.

  • Rich Hunter

    Why is Hitchens all over the place? I can’t stand to read him anymore. I read his attack on Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Newsweek — now Newsweek’s subsidiary the Washpost has to give him space too. If you want to see a response from the Pope’s preacher Fr Cantalameesa, check out Zenit:”An English reviewer (J. Cornwell of The Tablet) has compared the author of this book to ‘a tired old prizefighter throwing weary punches at an inert punching-bag while the true champ he’d like to duff up is absent from the gym.’ He does not demolish the true faith, but a caricature of it. Reading the book, I was reminded of the sport of clay pigeon shooting: The ready-made targets are hurled into the air, and the marksman, aiming his shots with fine precision, blasts them to bits effortlessly.”By the way, if you look at the lives of most infamous atheists — e.g.,Nietzsche — they had serious and often tragic problems with their parents. I don’t know what Hitchen’s father did to him, but I won’t read Hitchens taking it out on Our Father in Heaven.In fact, most well-known atheists are insane — which makes sense, because the Church has always taught that a belief in a supreme being can be arrived at through human reason, without need of divine revelation (which was required for Christians to come to believe, for example, that God consists of three divine persons). Let us hope that those still professing this faddish belief from the late 1800s will be able to reconnect with their human reason.

  • Anonymous

    “As a christian I believe that jesus the christ died in Judea about 2000 years ago, and then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. His was not a moral utterance/ action; it was a salvific one. It is for salvific reasons I follow jesus the christ. I accept that mr hitchens does not believe in the veracity of that event. That is his right. However since he was not in Judea 2000 years ago, I shall for the present content myself with the accounts of the eyewitnesses who were”Wow that is incredibly insightful!!!. I guess you would also believe that the world is flat and the sun revolves around the earth. Since your eye-witnesses also believed that. Oh and I am glad you believe in a bodily ascent defying gravity. Let me challenge you. Go to a cliff and then go over the edge carefully holding to a branch to prevent you from falling. Now pray to God and let go the branch. Do you believe that you will be suspended in air? According to your eye-witness sources that should happen.

  • yoyo

    Piggly WigglyThe death bed argument is like the ‘no atheists in fox holes’ argument.

  • yoyo

    Piggly WigglyThe death bed argument is like the ‘no atheists in fox holes’ argument.

  • Rich Hunter

    Why is Hitchens all over the place? I can’t stand to read him anymore. I read his attack on Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Newsweek — now Newsweek’s subsidiary the Washpost has to give him space too. If you want to see a response from the Pope’s preacher Fr Cantalameesa, check out Zenit:”An English reviewer (J. Cornwell of The Tablet) has compared the author of this book to ‘a tired old prizefighter throwing weary punches at an inert punching-bag while the true champ he’d like to duff up is absent from the gym.’ He does not demolish the true faith, but a caricature of it. Reading the book, I was reminded of the sport of clay pigeon shooting: The ready-made targets are hurled into the air, and the marksman, aiming his shots with fine precision, blasts them to bits effortlessly.”By the way, if you look at the lives of most infamous atheists — e.g.,Nietzsche — they had serious and often tragic problems with their parents. I don’t know what Hitchen’s father did to him, but I won’t read Hitchens taking it out on Our Father in Heaven.In fact, many of the well-known atheists were insane — which makes sense, because the Church has always taught that a belief in a supreme being can be arrived at through human reason, without need of divine revelation (which was required for the Church to believe, for example, in the Trinity). Let us hope that those still professing this faddish belief from the late 1800s will be able to reconnect with their human reason.

  • Elizabeth Renant

    Dear Ms. or Mr. Antha – how typical of the righetous believer to equat stating an opinion in a newspaper column with “force-feeding of your radical secularism down the throats of the unwilling.”Did someone force feed this column down your throat? Or is it your opinion that the mere voicing of opinions that you don’t like constitutes “force-feeding” while the airings of your own opinions come under the heading of “free speech”?And while we’re on the subject of higher purposes, how about a nice discussion about all those nice Christians who perpetrated the Holocaust and the Inquisition in Spain and burned upwards of a million people over three hundred years on witchcraft charges?What I see in your comment is the underlying assumption that any opinions other than yours on this topic are worthy of a hearing, but the airing of those who disagree with you constitute “force-feeding”.If you’re unwilling, all you had to do was not read the column.

  • Anonymous

    “As a christian I believe that jesus the christ died in Judea about 2000 years ago, and then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. His was not a moral utterance/ action; it was a salvific one. It is for salvific reasons I follow jesus the christ. I accept that mr hitchens does not believe in the veracity of that event. That is his right. However since he was not in Judea 2000 years ago, I shall for the present content myself with the accounts of the eyewitnesses who were”Wow that is incredibly insightful!!!. I guess you would also believe that the world is flat and the sun revolves around the earth. Since your eye-witnesses also believed that. Oh and I am glad you believe in a bodily ascent defying gravity. Let me challenge you. Go to a cliff and then go over the edge carefully holding to a branch to prevent you from falling. Now pray to God and let go the branch. Do you believe that you will be suspended in air? According to your eye-witness sources that should happen.

  • Rich Hunter

    Why is Hitchens all over the place? I can’t stand to read him anymore. I read his attack on Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Newsweek — now Newsweek’s subsidiary the Washpost has to give him space too. If you want to see a response from the Pope’s preacher Fr Cantalameesa, check out Zenit:”An English reviewer (J. Cornwell of The Tablet) has compared the author of this book to ‘a tired old prizefighter throwing weary punches at an inert punching-bag while the true champ he’d like to duff up is absent from the gym.’ He does not demolish the true faith, but a caricature of it. Reading the book, I was reminded of the sport of clay pigeon shooting: The ready-made targets are hurled into the air, and the marksman, aiming his shots with fine precision, blasts them to bits effortlessly.”By the way, if you look at the lives of most infamous atheists — e.g.,Nietzsche — they had serious and often tragic problems with their parents. I don’t know what Hitchen’s father did to him, but I won’t read Hitchens taking it out on Our Father in Heaven.In fact, many of the well-known atheists were insane — which makes sense, because the Church has always taught that a belief in a supreme being can be arrived at through human reason, without need of divine revelation (which was required for the Church to believe, for example, in the Trinity). Let us hope that those still professing this faddish belief from the late 1800s will be able to reconnect with their human reason.

  • yoyo

    Piggly WigglyThe death bed argument is like the ‘no atheists in fox holes’ argument.

  • DZ

    Rich HunterI’m sorry, but large chunks of your post are pathetic drivel. Nietzsche had no problems with his parents until he rejected Christianity and became an atheist at age 20. His mother was the one who took greatest offense at this change. Also, he didn’t become insane until age 45, and it was syphillis that caused that.Where is your evidence for the obscene statement that “most well-known atheists are insane”? What disgusting anti-intellectual nonsense.BTW, it is not possible to believe in the existence of God through human reason because there is not one shred of evidence. You are free to believe what you wish, but believing in something for which there is no evidence is the antithesis of human reason.

  • Brian

    Though I agree with much of what Hitchens says, I do think he asks the wrong question. He wants to know if there is any moral act that a religious person could do that a non-religious person could or would not do. As he knows, the answer is no.I think the more interesting question is probably whether there are any moral acts that a religious person would be more LIKELY to do than a non-religious person. If there are some (and I don’t know if there are), this would at least give religion a kind of utilitarian foothold which might at least partially offset the fact that it is filled with historical inaccuracies and metaphysical absurdities.

  • castanea

    “What makes a statement or action moral? For a religious person, it is God. For Mr. Hitchens, it appears to be the individual, or society.”You are wrong. What makes a statement or action moral for a religious person is the individual, or society, but they try to make it sound God’s words. That’s the key that religious folk don’t realize–that the moral direction they claim comes from God in fact comes from their fellow men.

  • Steve

    I think you are exactly right.Organized religion is nothing more, and has never been anything other than a control mechanism for those in power or those trying to gain power over the masses. We humans are a simple lot for the most part, easily cowed into submission by bright lights, smoke, and voodoo. It has always be thus, and shall remain so until we evolve or perish. I have my money on the latter, but then I am a nattering nabob of negativism. Perhaps a good Billy Graham revival meeting will buck up my spirits, but I doubt it.

  • Steve

    I think you are exactly right.Organized religion is nothing more, and has never been anything other than a control mechanism for those in power or those trying to gain power over the masses. We humans are a simple lot for the most part, easily cowed into submission by bright lights, smoke, and voodoo. It has always be thus, and shall remain so until we evolve or perish. I have my money on the latter, but then I am a nattering nabob of negativism. Perhaps a good Billy Graham revival meeting will buck up my spirits, but I doubt it.

  • yoyo

    I apologize for the multiple posts,

  • Sully

    Two points were made in postings way up in the list that I think are important. One was: “I am hard pressed to believe that Irish atheists will ever surpass the goodness, and usefulness to humanity, shown by Irish nuns in African hospitals over the past one hundred years.”Another asked: where are the athiest equivalents to Ghandi, MLK, Mother Teresa, Tutu, and other great leaders of faith who brought about moral awareness on a truly grand scale.I think these are worth considering, whether you think God exists or not, because it shows that religion has the ability, through organization and the power of a shared belief system, to do very good things on a grand scale that without religion can only be done on a smaller scale. For example, I’m sure there were athiests among the firefighters who risked their lives on 911 in NY. I’m sure there are very moral athiests who work daily to improve the lives of many people. But without something like religion, good is very hard to spread. You need a liked mindedness to convince people not only to agree with you, but to pick up the cause and fight for moral change with you. Now the Peace Corps is a good example of providing people of any religious or non-religious background the ability to go out and do moral things, and its managers work hard to reinforce its secular mission. But this type of secular force for good is rare, and it rarely stands up in the face of injustice. There are others: Amnesty Intl., Doctors Without Borders, and others that do great moral work, but I think religion is unique at getting into people’s minds to change their moral compass. So I would ask all of you and Hitchens, setting aside the question of whether God exists? Is religion worth keeping around as an organizational institution whose mission it is to push for peace, justice and equality? A place of refuge in dark times, a organization that can pull together many people to work on issues guided by a code of morality that has been honed over centuries. In other words, is the existence of God really the issue or is it the existence of religion that is what is really important, and should religions accept the non-believers into their organizations to work toward common moral goals? I know many athiests who work with churches and synogagues because they want to do good and they are good place to volunteer for such morally inspired work. But most keep their atheism closeted.

  • Steve

    I think you are exactly right.Organized religion is nothing more, and has never been anything other than a control mechanism for those in power or those trying to gain power over the masses. We humans are a simple lot for the most part, easily cowed into submission by bright lights, smoke, and voodoo. It has always be thus, and shall remain so until we evolve or perish. I have my money on the latter, but then I am a nattering nabob of negativism. Perhaps a good Billy Graham revival meeting will buck up my spirits, but I doubt it.

  • Clinton

    This quote from Blake’s Everlasting Gospel implies that Christians place morality at the center only when they have lost their religion: If moral virtue was Christianity

  • yoyo

    I apologize for the multiple posts,

  • johnnormansp

    What you are saying is that the super-ego cannot differentiate between the highest patriotic power (the commander and chief, provided he identifies himself with the religion) and the highest religious power, i.e. Jehovah. Right on.

  • Steve

    I think you are exactly right.Organized religion is nothing more, and has never been anything other than a control mechanism for those in power or those trying to gain power over the masses. We humans are a simple lot for the most part, easily cowed into submission by bright lights, smoke, and voodoo. It has always be thus, and shall remain so until we evolve or perish. I have my money on the latter, but then I am a nattering nabob of negativism. Perhaps a good Billy Graham revival meeting will buck up my spirits, but I doubt it.

  • Greg

    Can’t we all just get along. Over the last year or so the Post has hosted this constant harangue of believers vs. non-believers. It has at times been enlightening and frightening. Certainly, I have witnessed in the words of these posts ugliness and thoughtfulness, as well as hate and love. Why is all this so necessary? Well, b/c someone will write , the other side is so bad, and so wrong, blah, blah, blah. Can’t anyone seem to get that the entire issue is one of the nature of human beings, not God. Humans harm and help each other. If you believe (I do) then you acknowledge that free will exists and we all choose our own actions. God does not control our behavior. If you believe, and you act badly, it is you, not God. If you don’t believe, and you act good, it is you, not God. He gives you free will to act — you act. If you interpret His Word and use it to harm another, you act, not Him. Read the Gospel and tell me where Jesus ever uttered a word of hate or greed or selfishness. Tell me where He suggested we harm another person. He preached love and hope and concern for one another. Remember He told us to love one another as ourselves. He directed us to act a certain way if we believe and seek salvation — If you choose to believe, fine, if not, OK as well. But if anyone, religious or not acts badly, its not Him, its not religion, its not a lack of religion. In the end, whether you believe or not is not the cause of poor, boorish or bad behavior — it is you. I believe that following Christ’s words and deeds would make a better world — and calling me names for doing so doesn’t improve things, just like directing vitriol at those who don’t believe fails. Can’t we all just get along?

  • johnnormansp

    What you are saying is that the super-ego cannot differentiate between the highest patriotic power (the commander and chief, provided he identifies himself with the religion) and the highest religious power, i.e. Jehovah. Right on.

  • gary

    Why doesn’t the Post retitle the “On Faith” corner as “Against Faith”, or maybe “Your daily atheist”. While I find the secularist point of view interesting, isn’t it a bit overrepresented (it seems that I see at least 1 or 2 atheists rants a week), considering that atheist/agnostics are a rather small minority in this country? I do find it interesting that atheists/agnostics seem to spend a lot more time thinking about religion than your average professed believer.

  • johnnormansp

    What you are saying is that the super-ego cannot differentiate between the highest patriotic power (the commander and chief, provided he identifies himself with the religion) and the highest religious power, i.e. Jehovah. Right on.

  • Ray

    If what we do to our children in the name of religion isn’t child abuse, I don’t know what is. Just look at the current polygamist trial happening in Utah; if I, a secular person did that, I would be in jail for a verrrrry long time, no? But because religion is involved, there is some doubt as to this animal’s guilt.

  • T Boyer

    One of the most persuasive sections of Hitchens’ book is the chapter arguing that religious education is inherently coercive and cruel. It is the one chapter Christians ought to consider even if they otherwise reject his arguments for atheism.To teach small children that they had better behave because they might be headed to the fiery furnace of Hell is of course threatening and barbaric. To teach them the notion of original sin, let alone predestination, is ludicrous.But even the most benign and reassuring teaching, “Jesus Loves You,” has unsettling implications for children, because it so quickly leads to “Jesus is keeping track of your every move,” or “Jesus knows your thoughts,” or “Jesus is disappointed in you every time you mess up.”Adults can decide how to literally to take these ideas, but children just take it as fact, as they do the Easter Bunny. Many churches don’t allow children to officially join a congregation until 13 or 14. So maybe that is the age before which children shouldn’t even be introduced to supernatural religious notions.So what to do, if we don’t want to abolish Sunday School? Let me propose an alternative Christian education, basically leaving the supernatural out of it. Don’t ask children to believe anything on pain of eternal damnation.For the tots and pre-teens, teach Albert Schweitzer Christianity. Teach Christ as a teacher, teach the example, teach the ethics, the self-control, the compassion. Teach Christian love, teach about law and the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. But scrupulously stay clear of asking the very young to carry the burden of an omniscient God watching and judging.Would this be the end of Christianity? Or might it be truer to Christ’s example as we know it.

  • T Boyer

    One of the most persuasive sections of Hitchens’ book is the chapter arguing that religious education is inherently coercive and cruel. It is the one chapter Christians ought to consider even if they otherwise reject his arguments for atheism.To teach small children that they had better behave because they might be headed to the fiery furnace of Hell is of course threatening and barbaric. To teach them the notion of original sin, let alone predestination, is ludicrous.But even the most benign and reassuring teaching, “Jesus Loves You,” has unsettling implications for children, because it so quickly leads to “Jesus is keeping track of your every move,” or “Jesus knows your thoughts,” or “Jesus is disappointed in you every time you mess up.”Adults can decide how to literally to take these ideas, but children just take it as fact, as they do the Easter Bunny. Many churches don’t allow children to officially join a congregation until 13 or 14. So maybe that is the age before which children shouldn’t even be introduced to supernatural religious notions.So what to do, if we don’t want to abolish Sunday School? Let me propose an alternative Christian education, basically leaving the supernatural out of it. Don’t ask children to believe anything on pain of eternal damnation.For the tots and pre-teens, teach Albert Schweitzer Christianity. Teach Christ as a teacher, teach the example, teach the ethics, the self-control, the compassion. Teach Christian love, teach about law and the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. But scrupulously stay clear of asking the very young to carry the burden of an omniscient God watching and judging.Would this be the end of Christianity? Or might it be truer to Christ’s example as we know it.

  • [email protected]

    “The most valuable element of faith, often neglected by its most zealous advocates, is humility. This, more than anything else, is what’s missing in humanism, and what is sorely lacking in your own writing, your own certitude, and everything you and your political bedfellows have said and done since 9/11.”I don’t claim to have the answers to all the troubles in the world or all the mysteries of life, but I’m quite sure that you don’t either.”Quite so, Shrieking Violet. And to that I would add, provocation, (such as Hitchen’s alluring, red-flag-before-a-bull-like title) for provocation’s sake, is simply, well, boring! It does not inform, or add anything to the dialogue whatsoever!

  • yoyo

    I apologise for the multiple posts back there..

  • DZ

    I am an unbliever, but I support the gist of your post. However, as a Christian, are you willing to stand up and demand that the Christian crap be removed from our money and our Pledge? Are you willing to stand up and oppose property tax exemptions for churches that force secular Americans to subsidize that which we find deeply offensive? If yes, count me in. If not, then your post is just more of the SOS.

  • Phil C

    Dan mathews: “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you shall not have life within you”Barf – since when is cannibalism moral? Please, stuff “radical secularism” “down my throat” any day!

  • farkdawg

    I have an answer to your riddle, oh lord of elocution, earl of imbibery, and count of contrarianism (or read as count on contrarianism).Mother Teresa could not have done that she did had she not felt an apparantly desperate, desperate desire to remove the cloud of doubt which hung over her internal soul! Obviously, you wrote a book about a self-serving Mother Theresa who took from tyrants to buy a way into heaven, so you may argue that her work was not so benevolent. HOWEVER, you can not escape the fact that she helped thousands of the most impoverished and down-trodden souls in the world. She did so to serve the lord. She may have been trying to prove something to herself or to achieve something, personally, but those things were because of religion, plain and simple.A non-religious person does not dedicate their life with the same zeal that one does when serving a higher power.

  • Louis

    Awesome. Thanks for reminding me that not everyone are sheep.

  • Paralogos

    The habit of mindless obedience is certainly taught by both religions and totalitarian states, and established religion has long been the handmaiden of temporal power. But I think Mr. Hitchens is missing something here: Both religion and totalitarianism play on a common, human, vulnerability, one that is probably genetically programmed: The parent/child bond. Both totalitarian and religious leaders insert themselves, or their gods, in the place of the big, powerful, all-protecting parent of infancy. They thrive by reducing adults to an infantile state, which can be a win-win relationship: The infantilized citizen feels less doubt and stress, and the state and church need fewer carrots and sticks to obtain the behavior they want.

  • Burt Patricks

    According to Immanuel Kant and his ‘categorical imperatives’ to lead a moral life it is not necessary to turn to divine sources for moral instruction.

  • Kathy Coles

    You do realize that your “corollary” isn’t truly a corollary. First off your “challenge” to name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever? This is frankly silly. Of course many things done and said by religious leaders could also have been done or said by non-believers- We are all born with a conscience- Now why don’t you show me a “non-believer” meaning someone who is an atheist who has the track record of Mother Theresa? Her compassion and work for the poor is unparalleled and it came from her desire to follow Christ.

  • patel

    You are right.Takecare…

  • Kathy C

    You do realize that your “corollary” isn’t truly a corollary. First off your “challenge” to name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever? This is frankly silly. Of course many things done and said by religious leaders could also have been done or said by non-believers- We are all born with a conscience- Now why don’t you show me a “non-believer” meaning someone who is an atheist who has the track record of Mother Theresa? Her compassion and work for the poor is unparalleled and it came from her desire to follow Christ.

  • patel

    You are right.Takecare…

  • Dru

    Ok, now I get it…..it’s the whole “higher power” thing that’s keeping Chris out of AA. It all makes sense now. Still, if the guy had even three friends in this city, someone would have forced an intervention by now…..

  • Rick

    Basically true,Morality, based on fear of what happens if you get caught, is not morality, only self-interest; yet that appears to be the basic argument most commonly utilized by fundamentalists everywhere proselityzing their version of the faith .Regarding being “created sick.” There is some truth in that description in that we are created, born into a Darwinian world which operates to all appearances as based on nothing more than survival of the fittest. Plants, animals, bacteria, viruses, and all people to some extent, some people to every extent, seek to benefit themselves regardless of the well being of others, their victims in many cases. Acting in accordance is most probably the most natural state of every living creature, man included. If this is “original sin,” and it can be thought of as such, then rising above it is a function of morality, and this morality can be equated with God, whether one presumes that God created man, or that man created God, morality exists and it is readily observable in the actions of people every day. In knows no geographic or temproal boundries, and arises spontaneously in so many people in so many places. So, on balance, and on a very deep level, the question may inherently be a matter of semantics.It is a question of semantics, because if one accepts God as the spiritual embodiment of morality, nothing else much matters. Agrument over such semantical differences seems pointless. You can call such morality divinely created and accepted by man, as a person of faith might, or created by man, as an athiest might, but the reality, and the spiritual nature of morality, can be seen everywhere, in actions in disregard of self interest, by people, and dare I say it, even some animals, everywhere in the world. Clearly we do not fully, or even minimally, yet understand the full nature and effect of this phenomena, this morality and the inherently spiritual nature to which it conforms, and perhaps we are incapable of doing so, limited by our senses and are intellectual capacities. Perhaps this view gives little comfort to those who need faith, and the divine intervention it seeks, as support for continuing the daily struggle of life, as we all do at certain times, but it is based on reason, however limited or defective, rather than suppression of disbelief, or by willful self delusion. It requires more courage, in that it recognizes that however it was created, the actions and effects of the spiritual nature of morality, call it God’s will, are brought into this world by our actions, and not likely by direct intervention of supernatural power.

  • ungeziefer

    I’m always amazed that religious people seem not to understand this very simply point.How do you know if what a religion teaches is good or bad?How do you know the values Jesus taught are good values?What if Jesus had said “Give all your money to the poor, and put to death all wealthy people”? (It’s not THAT far off — he DID say rich people go to Hell…)You use your OWN morality to decide what religion to follow in the FIRST place, no?

  • Sam Cooper

    Studies have shown basic trait of ‘morality’ exist in communities of primates. These traits are necessary for species that live in groups to survive. The human idea of ‘morality’ is nothing but safety mechanism for group survival. You don’t steal all the food and I won’t either; we can all survive. Group dynamics require these social norms. The idea that ‘morality’ came from god is simply a ‘default’ for something that humans have long struggled to understand. Somethings are so ingrained in our behavior that we fail to recognize their true purpose.

  • Joe Ciani-Dausch

    Christopher,Your challenge and its corollary are bogus. If the challenge is “name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever,” then the corollary should be “name a wicked action or statement, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever.” I would suggest that you would have a hard time coming up with an answer for the latter. After all, murder, violence, and hatred are perpretrated by unbelievers the world over.If you would like to use the formulation of your corollary (actions or statement that “derived directly” from belief), then you must use the same for the original challenge: name a moral action or statement that “derived directly” from religious faith. I suspect you would find a substantial loosening of tongues at that point.

  • Sam Cooper

    Studies have shown basic trait of ‘morality’ exist in communities of primates. These traits are necessary for species that live in groups to survive. The human idea of ‘morality’ is nothing but safety mechanism for group survival. You don’t steal all the food and I won’t either; we can all survive. Group dynamics require these social norms. The idea that ‘morality’ came from god is simply a ‘default’ for something that humans have long struggled to understand. Somethings are so ingrained in our behavior that we fail to recognize their true purpose.

  • Cal Gal

    Although I have strongly disagreed with some of your political positions, I absolutely love what you’re doing for the cause of rationality as a bulwark against the superstition of mainstream religion.I would enjoy someday hearing what you have to say about more philosophical “religions” like Taoism and Buddhism.

  • Diego Rivero

    Your hyperemotional outburst, Mr. Kitchens, is it not the acting out of certain fears? Beyond your appeal to the pedestrian by offering a false challenge, are you not in effect tilting at windmills in the hope that the opponents are manifestations of the Great Spaghetti Monster? You do not get any points for arguments from caricature.

  • Diego Rivero

    Your hyperemotional outburst, Mr. Kitchens, is it not the acting out of certain fears? Beyond your appeal to the pedestrian by offering a false challenge, are you not in effect tilting at windmills in the hope that the opponents are manifestations of the Great Spaghetti Monster? You do not get any points for arguments from caricature.

  • Joe Ciani-Dausch

    Christopher,Your challenge and its corollary are bogus. If the challenge is “name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever,” then the corollary should be “name a wicked action or statement, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever.” I would suggest that you would have a hard time coming up with an answer for the latter. After all, murder, violence, and hatred are perpretrated by unbelievers the world over.If you would like to use the formulation of your corollary (actions or statement that “derived directly” from belief), then you must use the same for the original challenge: name a moral action or statement that “derived directly” from religious faith. I suspect you would find a substantial loosening of tongues at that point.

  • R.H. Joseph

    I’m afraid Mr. Hitchens is overlooking a deeper issue: the epistemological relationship between the act of faith and the experience of sin.

  • Jay

    Bravo Chris!!! There will be no peace in the world until we start to think reasonably – and reasonable thought is impossible when weighed down by delusions and the ‘otherness’ created by those delusions. Keep it up!!! Thank you!

  • Robert Baer

    re: “The Challenge”Mr. Hitchens, Is this not an example of a “challenge” that is impossible to meet? Or if so decends immediately into wordplay? One might argue as to what makes a statement “moral”. To a religious minded sort the declaration “I believe in God” is a moral statement that could not be made by an unbeliever. If one accepts that premise then your challenge has been met. Perhaps a more interesting line of thought is whether there has ever been a culture that has not had some set of “external/internal” beliefs that from a reason based viewpoint cannot be proven. If not, then one might make the supposition that some type of non-provable set of “beliefs” are essential to the development of the human species. Right or wrong, good or bad, is irrelavent. Is it essential? What say you, wordsmith?Bob Baer

  • Harold

    Mr HitchensI am always insulted by the notion too that in order to be good, you need to be “religious”. To me there is no correlation at all between being religious and being of sound moral character. There is no other cause other then religion that has so universally justified the killings of millions of people. The native people of the Americas had to be converted to Christianity or be murdered by the thousands. All made easier because they were “godless savages”. THe flow of religion around the world is driven by the explorers that brought a religion with them. At no time did Christianity exist in the New World before it was brought here by Europeans. Religion equals culture. There is no outside validation for any religion. Only within a religion is it validated. In other words, there aren’t many Muslims who have had a vision of the Virgin Mary. This clear association between culture and religion would make it easier, I would hope, for people to be more tolerant. Instead, religion breeds intolerance and has been the root cause of more misery in mans history then any other single cause.

  • Joe Ciani-Dausch

    Christopher,Your challenge and its corollary are bogus. If the challenge is “name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever,” then the corollary should be “name a wicked action or statement, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever.” I would suggest that you would have a hard time coming up with an answer for the latter. After all, murder, violence, and hatred are perpretrated by unbelievers the world over.If you would like to use the formulation of your corollary (actions or statement that “derived directly” from belief), then you must use the same for the original challenge: name a moral action or statement that “derived directly” from religious faith. I suspect you would find a substantial loosening of tongues at that point.

  • Robert Baer

    re: “The Challenge”Mr. Hitchens, Is this not an example of a “challenge” that is impossible to meet? Or if so decends immediately into wordplay? One might argue as to what makes a statement “moral”. To a religious minded sort the declaration “I believe in God” is a moral statement that could not be made by an unbeliever. If one accepts that premise then your challenge has been met. Perhaps a more interesting line of thought is whether there has ever been a culture that has not had some set of “external/internal” beliefs that from a reason based viewpoint cannot be proven. If not, then one might make the supposition that some type of non-provable set of “beliefs” are essential to the development of the human species. Right or wrong, good or bad, is irrelavent. Is it essential? What say you, wordsmith?Bob Baer

  • michael shimansky

    free will Mr baum??? Regardless of what the 10 comandments say, “thou shalt or thou shalt not” takes away the “free will” gift. Of course we shouldnt kill or covet, but “thou shalt” still takes away. I have been living by the teaching of six people for many years now. I am a good person. Spike Lee: Do the right thing The Beatles: All you need is LOVE and last but not least Jesus: LOVE each other. Try these guys You might like them Michael

  • Robert Baer

    re: “The Challenge”Mr. Hitchens, Is this not an example of a “challenge” that is impossible to meet? Or if so decends immediately into wordplay? One might argue as to what makes a statement “moral”. To a religious minded sort the declaration “I believe in God” is a moral statement that could not be made by an unbeliever. If one accepts that premise then your challenge has been met. Perhaps a more interesting line of thought is whether there has ever been a culture that has not had some set of “external/internal” beliefs that from a reason based viewpoint cannot be proven. If not, then one might make the supposition that some type of non-provable set of “beliefs” are essential to the development of the human species. Right or wrong, good or bad, is irrelavent. Is it essential? What say you, wordsmith?Bob Baer

  • Joe Ciani-Dausch

    Christopher,Your challenge and its corollary are bogus. If the challenge is “name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever,” then the corollary should be “name a wicked action or statement, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever.” I would suggest that you would have a hard time coming up with an answer for the latter. After all, murder, violence, and hatred are perpretrated by unbelievers the world over.If you would like to use the formulation of your corollary (actions or statement that “derived directly” from belief), then you must use the same for the original challenge: name a moral action or statement that “derived directly” from religious faith. I suspect you would find a substantial loosening of tongues at that point.

  • holly

    FYI Liz

  • john gilmore

    Right on, Hitchens.

  • holly

    FYI Liz

  • holly

    FYI Liz

  • holly

    FYI Liz

  • Matt

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? Like Chris you’ve made some big point in your question. I think, rather, you miss the point. The WHY we behave makes a difference to whether we connect to something larger then ourselves is the issue. Bach tied into this force (called God) and made beautiful music. What’s radical is Jesus themes in History, -note pre-Jesus times were a time when life was universally less respected. Would the Holocaust been as shocking and evil in 100 A.D.?

  • yoyo

    Catholic parents beget Catholics, Protestant parents beget Protestants. Jewish parents beget Jews. Mormon Parents beget Mormons. Muslim parents beget Muslims. Wiccan parents beget Wiccans. Atheistic parents beget Atheists.Imagine if a Catholic couple ended up with a Protestant baby,or worse,if a Shia couple had a Hindu baby.It would never work.Mark Twain looked at the above and saw the obvious implications of it all,that people simply believe what they are raised to believe.Which also means that the only reason we believe it is because mom and pop and our community told it was so.And they believed it because their mom and pop told them it was so,which is what they were told by their parents,and repeated back for 70 generations or more.Would that others could see it as clearly as Mr Twain.It shouldn’t take a genius to figure it out.

  • jay s

    “I do find it interesting that atheists/agnostics seem to spend a lot more time thinking about religion than your average professed believer.”Yes, I find that interesting also. Why is that? Could it be because atheists/agnostics spend more time thinking, period? Or because they are a minority in a majority theistic world and are striving to understand where these other people are coming from in their thinking? Or because they have seen what radical religious belief has done in recent years and find it alarming?The Templeton Foundation has recently completed a survey that shows religious belief in the US is all over the map in terms of what attributes a believer gives to his deity. The diversity of god concepts is such that one might come to the conclusion that god is entirely in the head of the believer. There are a remarkable number of deistic believers in the US, something like a quarter or more of the population, which suggests that the micromanager god concept is not nearly as widespread as many of us supposed.Here’s a question: If the US has a significant number of deistic believers … who are not atheists, but don’t believe that god in any way intercedes in our lives … the notion that morality comes from god would seem to be weaker than many followers of the Abrahamic faiths might think. A deist and an atheist are not that different when it comes to the idea that morals are human-made, not god-made.

  • Charles R. Gies

    The claim that moral capacity derives from religious belief involves a little confusion of cause and effect. Both our moral capacity as humans and our tendency to want to worship were put into us by our Creator. Neither depends upon the other. Therefore, it is perfectly possible for an atheist to be morally upright; and it is likewise perfectly possible for a devoutly religious person to be extremely wicked.

  • Matt

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? Like Chris you’ve made some big point in your question. I think, rather, you miss the point. The WHY we behave makes a difference to whether we connect to something larger then ourselves is the issue. Bach tied into this force (called God) and made beautiful music. What’s radical is Jesus themes in History, -note pre-Jesus times were a time when life was universally less respected. Would the Holocaust been as shocking and evil in 100 A.D.?

  • Dean Stilphen

    I have seen you many times on the tube and have read your pieces in Vanity Fair. I seldom agree with you but always listen to you and read your scrivenings with a dictionary at my side- dimwit that I am.I must confess that I can’t determine if your miniscule is a well-written, well-honed tautology or a well-written, well-honed non sequiturial bit of sophistry– or is that a distinction without a difference.You set a bit of a straw man at the top with the example of the school teacher, Ms. Donshina and “But Ms Donshina’s nonsensical propaganda is actually a mainstream statement of what the truly religious are bound to believe. Without god, how could we tell right from wrong, or learn how to do the right thing? I have never had a debate with a religious figure of any denomination, however “moderate, where this insulting question has not come up.”The example you gave does not provide much support for that statement. After all, the women asked “Whom SHOULD we learn to do good from?” (emphasis added), not whom MUST or whom is the ONLY entity to learn do to good from.However, I can see your point. A religious person or a religious leader, and I make a distinction, of the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim faith making this assertion might want to go back and read their holy book. They need only start at the beginning and proceed a short way, for the story of creation comes early on.Their own canon states, to paraphrase, that God created everything and towards the end of his labors created man and woman. They were created butt-arse naked. They did not know that this was right or wrong until they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In short, this omnipotent, all knowing God, when he or she had the chance, decided to withhold this information. Man and woman got this info on good and evil from a fruit, so a religious leader or person practicing this faith ardently arguing that God is the only source of knowing about good and evil could be construed as insulting. But I must confess you take offense rather easily for a person in the public eye.More troubling from the those professing to practice this religion is their insistence on the belief, after having been cast out from Eden for acquiring knowledge, that if we only turn our back on knowledge, turn our back on continuing to learn, we will get back into Eden. That they insist on this for themselves is troubling, that they insist it for me is beyond insulting.I know some are saying that the teacher was using Yeshua ben Joseph as an example, and in this the Christian insistence that Christ’s way is the only way to salvation, into heaven, is insulting only if they insist it for others and not just for themselves. Besides, Mr. Hitchens is writing about all religions, so starting with an example about God when talking about the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths seems like a better starting point.As far as naming “a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever”, I think faith healing would be such an act. An unbeliever at the first instance of performing or attempting to perform a faith healing would become a believer of sorts- a successful faith healing might leave them in a state of panic or, at least, a weakened belief in non-belief.

  • ThinkAboutIt

    To Robives,Born equal physically does not apply because some babies are born horrifically deformed. (Believers must accept the Deity wanted babies to be born deformed.)Babies are also not born SOCIALLY equal – with some starving soon after birth.

  • Charles R. Gies

    The claim that moral capacity derives from religious belief involves a little confusion of cause and effect. Both our moral capacity as humans and our tendency to want to worship were put into us by our Creator. Neither depends upon the other. Therefore, it is perfectly possible for an atheist to be morally upright; and it is likewise perfectly possible for a devoutly religious person to be extremely wicked.

  • Blanche

    I won’t go into a prolonged or pompous eruditation on morality or theology, but defend Hitchens’ thesis. Religion is often toxic and manipulative. It is myopic myth created by man. The fanaticism it inspires seeks to excuse hatred, intolerance, and violence. Religion can be self-serving, self-absorbed, and self-righteous. Faith is something apart from religion. Goodness is inherent in many species. We haven’t got a lock on it. Life is the ultimate leap of faith. No one knows with any certainty what lies ahead.

  • Matt

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? Like Chris you’ve made some big point in your question. I think, rather, you miss the point. The WHY we behave makes a difference to whether we connect to something larger then ourselves is the issue. Bach tied into this force (called God) and made beautiful music. What’s radical is Jesus themes in History, -note pre-Jesus times were a time when life was universally less respected. Would the Holocaust been as shocking and evil in 100 A.D.?

  • Mark S

    Religion destroyes natural morality which all animals display without the pretense of having to “be saved.” Kids are taught not to share, and instead to own. A cat will risk its life going into a burning building to save its young long after people would stop. Pack animals ensure that even the D members eat, conservative “christian” humans let others starve. Morality and doing no harm are natural, yes a tiger takes a zebra for food, but it does not take 20 to stick on its wall. The conservative brand of authoritarian religion drives the gluttony that destroyes morality in humans. Yes, other animals do not have religion or gluttony. Just a cooincidence? I don’t thinks so!

  • Blanche

    I won’t go into a prolonged or pompous eruditation on morality or theology, but defend Hitchens’ thesis. Religion is often toxic and manipulative. It is myopic myth created by man. The fanaticism it inspires seeks to excuse hatred, intolerance, and violence. Religion can be self-serving, self-absorbed, and self-righteous. Faith is something apart from religion. Goodness is inherent in many species. We haven’t got a lock on it. Life is the ultimate leap of faith. No one knows with any certainty what lies ahead.

  • Matt

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? Like Chris you’ve made some big point in your question. I think, rather, you miss the point. The WHY we behave makes a difference to whether we connect to something larger then ourselves is the issue. Bach tied into this force (called God) and made beautiful music. What’s radical is Jesus themes in History, -note pre-Jesus times were a time when life was universally less respected. Would the Holocaust been as shocking and evil in 100 A.D.?

  • Blanche

    I won’t go into a prolonged or pompous eruditation on morality or theology, but defend Hitchens’ thesis. Religion is often toxic and manipulative. It is myopic myth created by man. The fanaticism it inspires seeks to excuse hatred, intolerance, and violence. Religion can be self-serving, self-absorbed, and self-righteous. Faith is something apart from religion. Goodness is inherent in many species. We haven’t got a lock on it. Life is the ultimate leap of faith. No one knows with any certainty what lies ahead.

  • Matt

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? Like Chris you’ve made some big point in your question. I think, rather, you miss the point. The WHY we behave makes a difference to whether we connect to something larger then ourselves is the issue. Bach tied into this force (called God) and made beautiful music. What’s radical is Jesus themes in History, -note pre-Jesus times were a time when life was universally less respected. Would the Holocaust been as shocking and evil in 100 A.D.?

  • Charles R. Gies

    The claim that moral capacity derives from religious belief involves a little confusion of cause and effect. Both our moral capacity as humans and our tendency to want to worship were put into us by our Creator. Neither depends upon the other. Therefore, it is perfectly possible for an atheist to be morally upright; and it is likewise perfectly possible for a devoutly religious person to be extremely wicked.

  • Brian

    Though I agree with much of what Hitchens says, I do think he asks the wrong question. He wants to know if there is any moral act that a religious person could do that a non-religious person could or would not do. As he knows, the answer is no.I think the more interesting question is probably whether there are any moral acts that a religious person would be more LIKELY to do than a non-religious person. If there are some (and I don’t know if there are), this would at least give religion a kind of utilitarian foothold which might at least partially offset the fact that it is filled with historical inaccuracies and metaphysical absurdities.

  • jonny

    Hitchens’ post and the subsequent brouhaha only serve to illustrate the monumental and tragic waste of time and human effort engendered by magical thinking.All this piddling around about Great Supernatural Ooga-Boogas is way past due for the trash heap.

  • thinkabout it

    To David Hartman:In Matthew 24:27, Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”A little analysis:

  • senlin

    Re: “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”I think if the word “love” or “romantic relationship” is replaced with “religion” in Hitchens arguments, their goofiness becomes clear. Is there anything a person in love can do that a person who has never been in love can’t say or do? No. (Sex can be had without love.) As Edna St. Vincent Millay said, “Love is not all; it is not meat nor drink… Yet many a man is making friends with death, even as I speak, for lack of love alone.”Lastly, I don’t personally know even one serious religious person today who is religious out of fear of punishment. When I went to Jewish day school, I was never told to focus on God being a punisher, on each sin being a strike against me. Instead, we were to focus on doing the good and positive.Hitchens’ description of God as the distant, overbearing, Fearless Leader who must be feared himself, I’m sure, sounds like nonsense to most serious religious people. It certainly does to me, as God is not something or someone “out there,” but something “in here.” But Hitchens is obviously insistent on destroying not God, but a straw man, a shadow of Him.

  • Matt

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? Like Chris you’ve made some big point in your question. I think, rather, you miss the point. The WHY we behave makes a difference to whether we connect to something larger then ourselves is the issue. Bach tied into this force (called God) and made beautiful music. What’s radical is Jesus themes in History, -note pre-Jesus times were a time when life was universally less respected. Would the Holocaust been as shocking and evil in 100 A.D.?

  • charles belenchia

    A large percentage of our problems with our southern border can be layed on the door step of the Catholic Church..They have consistently preached go out and multiply to the point Mexico can’t sustain itself therefore ,,we in the United States must pay the PIPER to help these exploited people…Mexicans are for the most part a very gentle people and hard working folks,,but they listen too much to the church’s propaganda and should spend more time and effort in building a network of Planned Parent-hood clinics,,,The news media never mentions this fact,,they know the reaction this would cause with the CHURCH and churches,,it’s time for this policy to come to an end ,, these insane policies of vast over-population…………………….Charles Belenchia…..Plymouth,, Mich.

  • Shawn Marie Simmons

    Hi Christopher — Your “challenge” is an empty and meaningless one, because the influence of religion-based ethics goes so far back in history that non-believers are part of it whether they acknowledge it or not. None of us are original in thought or deed. That being said, basic human nature is demonstrably the source of cruelty and violence, not the excuse (religion, politics, etc.) we try to cloak them in. Striving toward a divine source of good is hugely liberating — I have a feeling that after all of your kicking and fussing, you will eventually find this out. God bless you.

  • Matt

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? Like Chris you’ve made some big point in your question. I think, rather, you miss the point. The WHY we behave makes a difference to whether we connect to something larger then ourselves is the issue. Bach tied into this force (called God) and made beautiful music. What’s radical is Jesus themes in History, -note pre-Jesus times were a time when life was universally less respected. Would the Holocaust been as shocking and evil in 100 A.D.?

  • charles belenchia

    A large percentage of our problems with our southern border can be layed on the door step of the Catholic Church..They have consistently preached go out and multiply to the point Mexico can’t sustain itself therefore ,,we in the United States must pay the PIPER to help these exploited people…Mexicans are for the most part a very gentle people and hard working folks,,but they listen too much to the church’s propaganda and should spend more time and effort in building a network of Planned Parent-hood clinics,,,The news media never mentions this fact,,they know the reaction this would cause with the CHURCH and churches,,it’s time for this policy to come to an end ,, these insane policies of vast over-population…………………….Charles Belenchia…..Plymouth,, Mich.

  • Greg

    I am an atheist, I read your book and I like your arguments. You do a great job with the “who” “what” and “how” parts, but I would like to read something that dives into the pyschology and sociology of believer to figure out “why” they are such suckers. And here I think you do get a bit astray. You seem to have an idealistic tendency to give too much power to the leaders and not enough to the followers. You tend to blame and hold accountable and fight a dirty fight on enemy territory. I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it can win. Instead, remove emotion, free will, and subjectivity from the equation. Look at religion like an alien would – that’s its manmade. Focus on why it exists despite its falsity. When people understand why what they are doing is irrational, they are far more apt to fix it than if they are told that what they are doing is immoral.You do both, but I think only one can ultimately destroy religion. BTW, Paglia’s comment was ridiculous. There are too many non-religious expressions of meaning and beauty to count, and there would be far more if religion didn’t suck most of the oxygen out of the room.

  • Matt Turner

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? Like Chris you’ve made some big point in your question. I think, rather, you miss the point. The WHY we behave makes a difference to whether we connect to something larger then ourselves is the issue. Bach tied into this force (called God) and made beautiful music. What’s radical is Jesus themes in History, -note pre-Jesus times were a time when life was universally less respected. Would the Holocaust been as shocking and evil in 100 A.D.?

  • Brent Poirier Attorney

    I suggest that’s the wrong question. Naming isn’t the point, performing is. On balance, religion reforms character and causes good deeds more broadly and more often than personal, non-Deistic ethics does.

  • Greg

    I am an atheist, I read your book and I like your arguments. You do a great job with the “who” “what” and “how” parts, but I would like to read something that dives into the pyschology and sociology of believer to figure out “why” they are such suckers. And here I think you do get a bit astray. You seem to have an idealistic tendency to give too much power to the leaders and not enough to the followers. You tend to blame and hold accountable and fight a dirty fight on enemy territory. I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it can win. Instead, remove emotion, free will, and subjectivity from the equation. Look at religion like an alien would – that’s its manmade. Focus on why it exists despite its falsity. When people understand why what they are doing is irrational, they are far more apt to fix it than if they are told that what they are doing is immoral.You do both, but I think only one can ultimately destroy religion. BTW, Paglia’s comment was ridiculous. There are too many non-religious expressions of meaning and beauty to count, and there would be far more if religion didn’t suck most of the oxygen out of the room.

  • Shawn Marie Simmons

    Hi Christopher — Your “challenge” is an empty and meaningless one, because the influence of religion-based ethics goes so far back in history that non-believers are part of it whether they acknowledge it or not. None of us are original in thought or deed. That being said, basic human nature is demonstrably the source of cruelty and violence, not the excuse (religion, politics, etc.) we try to cloak them in. Striving toward a divine source of good is hugely liberating — I have a feeling that after all of your kicking and fussing, you will eventually find this out. God bless you.

  • Lori Newman

    Also, I think the people who are staunch believers in religion, what ever it is, are gullible. If they can believe in that far fetched stuff, they’ll believe ANYTHING, including what ever Pres. Bush says. They lack some kind of intellect.

  • Lori Newman

    Also, I think the people who are staunch believers in religion, what ever it is, are gullible. If they can believe in that far fetched stuff, they’ll believe ANYTHING, including what ever Pres. Bush says. They lack some kind of intellect.

  • Shawn Marie Simmons

    Hi Christopher — Your “challenge” is an empty and meaningless one, because the influence of religion-based ethics goes so far back in history that non-believers are part of it whether they acknowledge it or not. None of us are original in thought or deed. That being said, basic human nature is demonstrably the source of cruelty and violence, not the excuse (religion, politics, etc.) we try to cloak them in. Striving toward a divine source of good is hugely liberating — I have a feeling that after all of your kicking and fussing, you will eventually find this out. God bless you.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? As though, Mr. Hitchins, you’ve made some big point in your question. I mean makig love and just having sex can look no different to the observer.

  • Matt Turner

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? As though, Mr. Hitchins, you’ve made some big point in your question. I mean makig love and just having sex can look no different to the observer.

  • Joe

    Well, Hitch, drop off that hitchhiker, and hitch up your ol’ hoss to the hitchin’ post, Hitch, hitch up those pants, and go out and take a hitch pass. (Even your name is a hint that maybe, God is poking a bit of fun at you)… It seems that there is possibly a hitch in your logic. Let’s see you prove that God Doesn’t exist! And we all know that you will spin out Cosmology, Darwinism, Logic, mathematics, string theory, Physics, Einstein, Mandelbrot, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Mike Shermer, etc, etc, etc, but at the end of the day, Hitch, YOU STILL CANNOT PROVE THE NON-EXISTENCE OF GOD…Could you possibly be wrong? NAH. Ol’ Hitch, wrong? How could that be, with Hitch’s superior intelligence…and those stupid Ol’ Christians, lacking any brains, credentials, and especially, having such a humble attitude, how could they be right?

  • Shawn Marie Simmons

    Hi Christopher — Your “challenge” is an empty and meaningless one, because the influence of religion-based ethics goes so far back in history that non-believers are part of it whether they acknowledge it or not. None of us are original in thought or deed. That being said, basic human nature is demonstrably the source of cruelty and violence, not the excuse (religion, politics, etc.) we try to cloak them in. Striving toward a divine source of good is hugely liberating — I have a feeling that after all of your kicking and fussing, you will eventually find this out. God bless you.

  • Matt Turner

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? As though, Mr. Hitchins, you’ve made some big point in your question. I mean makig love and just having sex can look no different to the observer.

  • Brent Poirier Attorney

    That’s the wrong question. It’s not naming, it’s performing. On balance, religion transforms character and causes more people to perform good deeds than non-theistic personal ethics does.

  • Freestinker

    “So to the current crop of “atheists” who are busy destroying idols, I say: bravo. Just don’t attack those of us who already know God.”If you mean to say you “believe” (as a matter of faith) as opposed to “know” (a matter of fact), then we have a deal.If you claim that athiests are lesser in some way because we don’t believe what you believe, then no deal.If you use your beliefs to manipulate and control others (especially children), then no deal.If you admit that your beliefs are merely your beliefs and you promise to leave it at that, then we have a deal!

  • Joe

    Well, Hitch, drop off that hitchhiker, and hitch up your ol’ hoss to the hitchin’ post, Hitch, hitch up those pants, and go out and take a hitch pass. (Even your name is a hint that maybe, God is poking a bit of fun at you)… It seems that there is possibly a hitch in your logic. Let’s see you prove that God Doesn’t exist! And we all know that you will spin out Cosmology, Darwinism, Logic, mathematics, string theory, Physics, Einstein, Mandelbrot, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Mike Shermer, etc, etc, etc, but at the end of the day, Hitch, YOU STILL CANNOT PROVE THE NON-EXISTENCE OF GOD…Could you possibly be wrong? NAH. Ol’ Hitch, wrong? How could that be, with Hitch’s superior intelligence…and those stupid Ol’ Christians, lacking any brains, credentials, and especially, having such a humble attitude, how could they be right?

  • Matt

    It’s not that belief (or non belief) would make a difference in the PROCESS of your actions, but in the meaning of them. Sure, we might not kill so as to avoid punishment or out of a evolutionary angle that expects a “rule of law” to govern, verse the believer who does it out of a respect for life based on a higher force (e.g., God). The process of living is the same, but the reasons are very different. I say, so what if the process is the same? As though, Mr. Hitchins, you’ve made some big point in your question. I mean makig love and just having sex can look no different to the observer.

  • Pastor Bernie Diaz

    Respectfully, Mr. Hitchens tirade of extremist atheism is quite tragic actually. It is amazing that a “thinker” of his reputation could so easily miss the forrest for the trees.His line of logic must equate with the idea that because some tainted Tylneol led to several deaths years ago, ALL pain releivers must be tainted and risky. Rather than argue the factual claims of the great monotheistic faiths of the world, which resonate with so many millions, he paints with the broadest brush possible, not even bothering to contextually understand the theology and orthodoxy of religion before attacking it.What is amazing is that any thinking skeptic would be influenced by such inflammatory tripe, void of any philosophical or intellectual substanbce whatsoever.

  • Pastor Bernie Diaz

    Respectfully, Mr. Hitchens tirade of extremist atheism is quite tragic actually. It is amazing that a “thinker” of his reputation could so easily miss the forrest for the trees.His line of logic must equate with the idea that because some tainted Tylneol led to several deaths years ago, ALL pain releivers must be tainted and risky. Rather than argue the factual claims of the great monotheistic faiths of the world, which resonate with so many millions, he paints with the broadest brush possible, not even bothering to contextually understand the theology and orthodoxy of religion before attacking it.What is amazing is that any thinking skeptic would be influenced by such inflammatory tripe, void of any philosophical or intellectual substanbce whatsoever.

  • Jim

    I once read of a professor of Religion who routinely asked his atheist students to describe the god they didn’t believe in. Without exception, he found they described a god he didn’t believe in either. While the few clips I’ve read by Mr. Hitchens do not provide any clear, well thought out, coherent conception of God, they do hint at a god I could never believe in either.God remains the ultimate mystery. Nobody has conducted an interview with God and come back with a trip report. “Our doctrines are not photographs of Reality. They are the attempted descriptions of heavenly things by means of the hints and guesses which earthly things provide.” –From “Tensions” by H.A. WilliamsMr. Hitchens needs to read some of the more coherent “hints and guesses” and put the square pegs in the square holes and the round pegs in the round holes. Maybe then he would find a god he could believe in.

  • trippin

    “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”Sure. “Mission Accomplished.” To the extent one considers the invasion of Iraq as a moral action, of course.Only one vain enough to believe that some invisible omnipotent father figure living in the sky, creator of the entire universe, would have nothing better to do than watch their every move in order to decide whether to reward or punish them for eternity after they’re dead could possibly make that statement — a statement so consumed by that vanity as to be totally disconnected from reality. This is from a man who speaks to Jesus and claims Jesus is actually answering him, a condition most would seek medication to keep in check.Unless you’re making Bush out to be a simple schoolyard liar, that is. But we’ve seen no collaborating evidence of that, have we?

  • David Shander MD

    Hurrah for Christofer Hitchens!!!

  • senlin

    Re: “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”I think if the word “love” or “romantic relationship” is replaced with “religion” in Hitchens arguments, their goofiness becomes clear. Is there anything a person in love can do that a person who has never been in love can’t say or do? No. (Sex can be had without love.) As Edna St. Vincent Millay said, “Love is not all; it is not meat nor drink… Yet many a man is making friends with death, even as I speak, for lack of love alone.”Lastly, I don’t personally know even one serious religious person today who is religious out of fear of punishment. When I went to Jewish day school, I was never told to focus on God being a punisher, on each sin being a strike against me. Instead, we were to focus on doing the good and positive.Hitchens’ description of God as the distant, overbearing, Fearless Leader who must be feared himself, I’m sure, sounds like nonsense to most serious religious people. It certainly does to me, as God is not something or someone “out there,” but something “in here.” But Hitchens is obviously insistent on destroying not God, but a straw man, a shadow of Him.

  • senlin

    Re: “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”I think if the word “love” or “romantic relationship” is replaced with “religion” in Hitchens arguments, their goofiness becomes clear. Is there anything a person in love can do that a person who has never been in love can’t say or do? No. (Sex can be had without love.) As Edna St. Vincent Millay said, “Love is not all; it is not meat nor drink… Yet many a man is making friends with death, even as I speak, for lack of love alone.”Lastly, I don’t personally know even one serious religious person today who is religious out of fear of punishment. When I went to Jewish day school, I was never told to focus on God being a punisher, on each sin being a strike against me. Instead, we were to focus on doing the good and positive.Hitchens’ description of God as the distant, overbearing, Fearless Leader who must be feared himself, I’m sure, sounds like nonsense to most serious religious people. It certainly does to me, as God is not something or someone “out there,” but something “in here.” But Hitchens is obviously insistent on destroying not God, but a straw man, a shadow of Him.

  • Dan

    I’m not surprised that you have had no takers. Your argument is irrefutable.

  • somalitrade

    Christopher Hitchens:Religion is not about coming up with new moral values, as they are instilled in us, both good and bad moral values. The question is who instilled these values (equally) in all of us? Religious people have an answer, and that’s God. Even with you claiming that unbelievers and believers know these values, yet they divert in their behavior. The role of religion was NEVER to teach people new things but to bring them back on a straight path. A path that never changed from day 1 till today. Perhaps “brining people to the straight path of rightousness” is the one moral that neither you or any of the unbelievers would offer to humanity. In some sense, you are helping people stir a new debate and reconnect with their believes. Me, as a Muslim, claim a monopoly over the truth since, for me, it is quite easy to see where others have gone wrong. It is enough to search the history of other religions to see how they “invented” their faith and to read the old and the new testaments to figure out why people should move on to a better place. I think you feed your energy off of the christian ideology because it is human based. Their straight path is your energy caravan, where you can snap a thought anytime. I would imagine that “your straight path” would be the 100% freedom to do anything and everything under the pre-text that God is not out there. Then I have to chose between two paths: one which leads to a meaningful life and one that leads to all kinds of troubles (sexual tendencies, alcohol, lost causes and meaning of life, ..etc).

  • WarPimps

    Shander: “Many people ascribe Naziism to atheism but the Holocaust was undeniably the direct out come of 2000 years of Christian dogma.”Wrong, Nazism borrowed from a variety of sources….including SCIENCE for its ideas of racial superiority.As for Communism, an ideology that killed 20x the number of people that Nazism killed, it used ATHEISM as a major tool in stripping the people of their individual rights and gaining power/influence of the masses.Atheism was made for collectivism! PS – it seems to be quite the coincidence that there were extremely high percentages of atheistic jews (like Hitchens who also is a trotskyite) within the early communist party….go figure

  • Luther E. Franklin

    Thanks for so ably voicing viewpoints that many of us hide around most of our neighbors and/or friends.

  • Prof.s.Divakaran

    My dear Hitchens,

  • m hyman

    Nu, lighting shabbas candles when it was dark…

  • m hyman

    Nu, lighting shabbas candles when it was dark…

  • E Favorite

    Pastor Diaz, you mention, “..the factual claims of the great monotheistic faiths of the world….”Could you name some? Then provide the evidence? After all, evidence is needed for factual claims.Turns out there’s no evidence for Exodus – considered a fact in the foundation of the three monotheistic religions. Did you know that? It’s no secret, There are respected books and articles about it. It’s widely accepted in scholarly circles and published in the latest edition of the conservative Jewish paryer book, found in every Conservative temple. I saw it there myself. But word is getting out slowly to the public. I’ll post a couple of links for you to get your facts straight. “The Bible Unearthed” by archeology scholars Finkelstein and Silberman. Here’s the first paragraph of it’s Amazon description: “The Bible Unearthed is a balanced, thoughtful, bold reconsideration of the historical period that produced the Hebrew Bible. The headline news in this book is easy to pick out: there is no evidence for the existence of Abraham, or any of the Patriarchs; ditto for Moses and the Exodus; and the same goes for the whole period of Judges and the united monarchy of David and Solomon.”And here’s a link to an article about how this information has been included since 2002 in the “Tree of Life” books found in all Conservative Jewish temples:

  • Elliott

    As usual, Christopher Hitchens shows that he’s smart and articulate. I have basically one comment. Like many people who argue against religion Hitchens makes a sort of standard “prove it” challenge. Fundamentalists always do the same thing with various pieces of evidence which, supposedly, “prove” that their religon is true. This discussion of proof is should be left out of both sides of the arguement.For one, you’ll never get anyway with it. Either side can easily come up with example and counter example, and people like me looking for discussion will get bored pretty quickly. But, most importantly, it’s beside the point. The entire concept of faith is that you don’t need the evidence. You feel your spirtuality. You can’t argue about its importance in you life or in the world.Hitchens always has interesting things to say, but here he should leave out the “challenge.”Elliott

  • Jim

    As I live my life in the bible belt, I am consistently amazed by the extreme religious beliefs espoused publicly in both government and even the media. You will certainly here of the District Attorney’s personal comments at the end of today’s “Jena 6″ press conference at which he stated that certain tragedy was diverted at the protests in that city last week only because of the prayers to Jesus Christ who then influenced his minions to remain peaceful. A black minister took immediate issue with the DA because of the implicit suggestion that the white community’s prayers prevented the mostly black protestors from rioting. Man, religious people are just plain crazy and don’t mind demonstrating it publicly on an ever increasing basis. It is a true “blessing” that there are persons such as you who are educating the vast majority of believers of the foolishness of the premise underlying their faith.

  • jimbo56

    “I am the way, the truth and the life”, John 8;12.I have read several of your pieces and finding your arrogance amazing. You refer to yourself as a critic of Mother Teresa. How can a lady who devoted her life to caring for the sick and poor actually have a critic? Regardless of your Athiestic mentality, no rational person can find fault with her life’s work. Yet, you are a critic.You seem to confuse humans who use God’s name to committ evil as God himself being evil. An analogy would be a Math teacher who erroneously calculates an equation as somehow disproving the Math Theorem all together.I will pray for you and those like you.

  • D. Macdonald

    Thanks for a rational look at an irrational concept – religion. Only when people think beyond biblical dogma will they realize that they are worthy, humanistic and capable human beings who can create the only heaven there is right here on earth.

  • jimbo 56

    Never mind the humaness of any organized religion.For all the “enlightened Athiests” out there I have a couple of questions.Since you don’t believe in God, do you believe thar miracles do happen? If not, have you ever heard of people who were terminally ill with something like cancer and have had a complete recovery without logical explaination?Never mind the miracles that Jesus performed, your argument would be simply “prove that they aren’t just fiction”. Can you explain miracles that are present today? Explain the tilma from Our Lady of Guadaloupe.Do you believe in Ghosts or apparitions? How do explain that to those who have encountered such things?There are many more questions to be answered by those who don’t believe as opposed to those who do.

  • Myronh

    I am overwhelmed by the stupidity that prevails about right and wrong. People question where morals come from, if not from religion/God. The answer is as plain as the nose on your face. Any normal child soon learns not to touch something that is hot. In other words “don’t do anything to other’s such as killing them or running off with their spouse”, that you wouldn’t want done to you.I can’t think of any immoral or vicious act that is not covered by just plain common sense and the “Golden Rule”. Religion, unfortunately, provides the violater with a good lawyer, Jesus, who just say’s believe in me and your terrible acts are forgiven. That was one smart violater that had that revelation.

  • R. Russell

    Faith exists and God exists. Denial of this is only to limit one’s choices. So what if man invented it, you can hardly overlook the evidence of thousands of churches that exist at this moment. This doesn’t necessarily mean that morality derives from God or faith, actually quite the opposite. Morality is in the domain of knowledge and reason, not faith. Certainly there are ridiculous religions and theological propositions, but it doesn’t mean there is absolutely no value to faith or religion, nor that at some time the perfect religion will come into being.

  • David Shander MD

    Congratulations Christofer Hitchins!!

  • Richard Harris

    To conclude that ethical statements can be made in a vacuum completely devoid of all forms of faith is a sterile intellectual conclusion. How often do you, Christopher Hitchens, open up your carton of milk to inspect that it’s really milk while waiting in line at the supermarket? Assuming that you do your own shopping, I would guess that you have faith that the milk you buy is milk..based on probabilities. But isn’t this belief the parent of “all things will be what they appear to be unless evidence to the contrary arises?” We are all believers.I concur that religion is the first implement of budding fascist movements every time. As to ethics, where on the scale of moral behaviour do you put the profiteering by Halliburton and others from the Iraq war? If you did not reside in this country during the Eisenhower and Kennedy years you have missed the best of what America was and what it could have been had the country followed the path of vigilance against those in our own government who would unlease the dogs of war without a measured effort to ameliorate problems through other means. (see: Kennedy/Soviet missile standoff).

  • Scott

    Right on!Gutsy and insightful analysis.Thx

  • Scott

    Right on!Gutsy and insightful analysis.Thx

  • jay s

    It seems the theists are more diverse in their opinions in what constitutes the basis of their beliefs than are the atheists, which suggests that much of god belief lies in the head rather than in heaven. God-believers are all over the place in terms of what their deity is. Check out these results from a Templeton Foundation-funded study at Baylor University. Note the fairly high percentage of deists in this country (which I’m happy to see, given our Founders were largely deists). In terms of divine intervention, the deists are essentially atheistic.Highlights of Baylor’s analysis (excerpted from USA Today):• The AUTHORITARIAN GOD (31.4% of Americans overall, 43.3% in the South) is angry at humanity’s sins and engaged in every creature’s life and world affairs. He is ready to throw the thunderbolt of judgment down on “the unfaithful or ungodly,” Bader says. Those who envision God this way “are religiously and politically conservative people, more often black Protestants and white evangelicals,” Bader says. “(They) want an active, Christian-values- based government with federal funding for faith-based social services and prayer in the schools.” They’re also the most inclined to say God favors the USA in world affairs (32.1% vs. 18.6% overall).•The BENEVOLENT GOD (23% overall, 28.7% in the Midwest) still sets absolute standards for mankind in the Bible. More than half (54.8%) want the government to advocate Christian values. But this group, which draws more from mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews, sees primarily a forgiving God, more like the father who embraces his repentant prodigal son in the Bible, Froese says. They’re inclined (68.1%) to say caring for the sick and needy ranks highest on the list of what it means to be a good person. This is the group in which the Rev. Jeremy Johnston, executive pastor and communications director for his father’s 5,000-member Southern Baptist congregation in Overland Park, Kan., places himself. “God is in control of everything. He’s grieved by the sin of the world, by any created person who doesn’t follow him. But I see (a) God … who loves us, who sees us for who we really are. We serve a God of the second, third, fourth and fifth chance,” Johnston says.•The CRITICAL GOD (16% overall, 21.3% in the East) has his judgmental eye on the world, but he’s not going to intervene, either to punish or to comfort. “This group is more paradoxical,” Bader says. “They have very traditional beliefs, picturing God as the classic bearded old man on high. Yet they’re less inclined to go to church or affiliate seriously with religious groups. They are less inclined to see God as active in the world. Their politics are definitely not liberal, but they’re not quite conservative, either.” Those who picture a critical God are significantly less likely to draw absolute moral lines on hot-button issues such as abortion, gay marriage or embryonic stem cell research. For example, 57% overall say gay marriage is always wrong compared with 80.6% for those who see an authoritarian God, and 65.8% for those who see God as benevolent. For those who believe in a critical God, it was 54.7%.•The DISTANT GOD (24.4% overall, 30.3% in the West) is “no bearded old man in the sky raining down his opinions on us,” Bader says. Followers of this God see a cosmic force that launched the world, then left it spinning on its own. This has strongest appeal for Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jews. It’s also strong among “moral relativists,” those least likely to say any moral choice is always wrong, and among those who don’t attend church, Bader says. Only 3.8% of this group say embryonic stem cell research is always wrong, compared with 38.5% of those who see an authoritarian God, 22.7% for those who see God as benevolent and 13.2% who see God as critical but disengaged.

  • Jack

    Dear Chris:

  • Tampa

    “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?” To me, that the answer to this questions is “no” doesn’t prove Hitchens to be correct. Why? Because I view religion and faith as a means to an end, and not an end itself.So, if person A gets to the same moral endpoint as does person B, but person A gets there through organized religion and person B gets there by some other means, what difference is there? I submit there is no difference. What matters to me is where we each end up, not the path taken to get there. I know this puts me in the minority of believers, but it makes sense and even seems rational.(I haven’t read all the 500+ posts, so I don’t know if this has been said before.)

  • David Hares

    Dear ChristopherIn responding to your question “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?” – may you perhaps not have asked a right question? If it is indeed the case that we are the creatures of a loving God then it should be no surprise that we encounter moral statements or actions which are, to whatever extent, of a piece with, in line with the character of, that creative Love. This would be – I would say, is – a consistent outcome regardless of whether any particular individual, so created, recognised it to be so or no. Kind regardsDavid (Hares)

  • Jim

    I’ll take a stab at your question, although we can quickly get tied up in semantics.First what do you mean by an unbeliever? Are you merely talking about someone who does not believe in an anthropomorphic diety? That leaves the door open for some other type of metaphysical state.For the sake of clarity, I’ll define an unbeliever as someone who believes that we and everything in the universe is nothing more or less than a collection of atomic and sub-atomic particles, for lack of a better term, bumping into each other.In that case, there is no such thing as “right” and “wrong”, or “principled” or “unprincipled”. It’s just merely action or inaction. True, an unbeliever can make (and believe) any kind of statement that we as a society would consider to be “moral”, but in a purely physical world, “moral” is essentially a meaningless word.This then gets to reason for an unbeliever’s action. In my opinion, it is entirely irrational for an unbeliever to act fully in what we would consider to be a purely “moral” manner, with all the self-sacrifice that implies. Rather, the most rational thing for an unbeliever to do would be to give the appearance of morality, while doing whatever they can get away with to advance their self. I guess I’m not really answering your question except to say that while an unbeliever can believe in any of what is commonly believed to be “moral” actions and statements, they would be succumbing to a different form or irrationality than what you say the “believer” succumbs to.My general opinion is that there are very, very few true “believers” and very, very few true “unbelievers”. Most of us move around in the broad spectrum in between.

  • Tom Peeler

    Dear Sir: In response to your challenge: “I should like, for the continued vigor of this discussion, to repeat the challenge that I have several times offered the faithful in print and on the air. Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”I would like to respond.Of course I cannot name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever (I assume you mean an atheist). Unbelievers can do anything believers can do and vice versa. What I would suggest, however, is that you HAVE NO ULTIMATE REASON for saying or doing “those things.” You have no ontological grounds for “being good” or “moral” or “decent.” Bully for you if you are but my question to you would be WHY? For what reason would you be motivated to be “a good guy,” a “moral guy,” a “decent guy?”The old canard that “natural selection” made us this way doesn’t fly, by the way. Because the words “good,” “moral,” and “decent” have a component in them that you cannot account for with “natural selection” and that is OUGHT. Some things I OUGHT to do and some things I OUGHT NOT to do. Ought, the last time I checked, does not reduce to physics. So how do you account for that? Do you deny the existence of any OUGHTS? I think the word that describes that person is sociopath. What is the source of “your deepest integrity?” What does that even really mean within the context of your world view? Why would it matter a whit if I possessed “integrity” since, after all, I am only a couple of pounds of dirt suspended in a really cool bag of water that winks into and out of existence in cosmic time with no eternal consequences, no eternal accounting, no nothing, just oblivion. So why should I care about anything if that is true? Other than getting all that I can as fast as I can in any way that I can from anyone that I can and damn the expense to you or anyone else. How could you or I be any different in the long run from Adolf Hitler? We’re all dead, right? And who cares what any of us did during our glimmer of sentient existence? WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE IN THE LONG RUN IF I’M “MORAL” OR IF I SLAUGHTER MILLIONS? WHO CARES? In your universe, that is.I’d like for you to give me a really good reason to be good, moral, and decent. Because society says so? Because I’ll go to jail if I get caught? Because I’ll be happier if I’m good, moral, and decent? Because people will care about me after I’m gone? Because I’ll have the good will of my fellow cosmic accidents? NONE OF THOSE THINGS matter. If I live to be a 100 that is literally the blink of an eye in cosmic time. And I’m an accident anyway? Right? I mean, evolution has no ends in mind because it has no mind. Evolution (natural selection) is the blind watchmaker, right? Evolution doesn’t care about anything much less whether or not I’m kind to my fellow human beings. All “natural selection” cares about is that my genes survive. I don’t quite get that either, by the way. Why should “natural selection” care about whether life exists or not or whether or not I pay my taxes or help feed the poor or hell, if I’m just rude to waiters? The idea that “natural selection” has somehow given human beings a moral compass is beyond hilarious. Natural selection doesn’t really even mean anything other than that “I’m alive.”The irony of this, which I don’t imagine you will appreciate, is that you are making a MORAL argument for the non-existence of God. How funny! You are taking the position that God does not exist because, well, I need for you to run that by me again. I’m not sure that I can even really begin to understand that kind of rationale but I’ll try if you want to convince me. But for now I just really need a reason for doing “good” in your universe. Which, if you’re a proper atheistic materialist pretty much leaves the laws of physics to explain everything that matters to human beings as well as everything that doesn’t. While you are trying to explain morality to me in terms of physics, you may as well go ahead and cover consciousness, purpose, design, reason, information, mathematics, love, well, you get the point. Go for it.Regards,

  • Hans

    Christopher,I’ve read God Is Not Great and, I hope, every smaller piece you’ve written on the same theme. I’m a huge fan. But here’s the best response, I would think, to your challenge. I can of course believe, for plenty of reasons having nothing to do with God, that you shouldn’t kill people, shouldn’t steal the property of others, and should operate with a baseline level of respect for the rest of the world, including future persons. But I think the point the believers want to urge isn’t an ethical point; rather, it’s a METAethical point that morality can’t be normative–can’t be binding, that is–unless its demands are the edicts of, in your words, a celestial dictator. For example, if I think it’s wrong to murder because (as Judge Posner tells us) allowing murder would lead to all kinds of social inefficiencies, I might have no problem knocking someone off who has gotten to a remote campsite in the Grand Canyon that I’d like to have for the night. Or, I might just say “Inefficiency Schminefficiency” and pull the trigger on a crowded bus. So yes, we non-believers can reason our way to the very moral conclusions that the believers do, but the argument on the other side is that the believers’ conclusions have a metaethical status that yours and mine don’t, and as such, have a much weightier pull on their conscience. They have moral beliefs; we have moral preferences.

  • DuckPhup

    daniel wrote (September 26, 2007 8:15 PM): “A question to counter Hitchen’s big question: Are we so sure the atheists uttering their moral statements and performing their moral actions which they believe rival or even surpass the religious could even begin to do so without all around them the thousands of years old traditions espoused by the religious? We are led to believe that atheists are as moral as believers, but they are so few in number, so embedded in a world of belief, that how can we even know they could have conceived the very morality they espouse in the absence of believers all around them? How creative are atheists is the question…”Well… you might try chewing on this tidbit for a while, Buckwheat. Christians make up about 75% of the US population and 75% of the US prison population. No big surprise there. Atheists, on the other hand, make up about 10% of the US population… but they only make up 0.2% of the US prison population. Now, isn’t THAT a surprise? That means that on a per-capita basis, atheists are FIFTY (50) times LESS LIKELY to be incarcerated than Christians. Pretty strange, huh, for a group that has no god-given guiding moral principals?I can only think of two possibilities that might reasonably be said to account for this discrepancy:1. Atheists are of a higher ethical and moral caliber than Christians, and thus are less prone to do the same kinds of nasty things that land so many Christians in the slammer; OR,2. Atheists are, overall, a lot smarter than Christians and thus, they are less likely to get caught in the course of their transgressions.It’s GOT to be one or the other… take your pick.(Statistics from US Bureau of Prisons, 1997)

  • Spencer

    I find it interesting that the Panel, with the exception of course of Mr. Harris, to a person throw up pseudo-intellectual obstacles to avoid dealing with Mr. Hitchens directly on the evidence. Prof. Stevens-Arroyo will only “dialog” with anyone on the subject of religion’s authenticity after one reads his 40 articles and 9 books, Mr. Tauber wants someone else to do his dirty work for him in a debate, and Rev. Cooper, well, bless his heart, seeing safety in numbers, i.e., if there are millions of believers, then they must be on to something, wants us to just get along. Mr. Hitchens poses too great a challenge to these panelists I’m afraid.

  • John

    I’ve been a agnostic strongly leaning toward atheism for 45 years or so. I’ve spent my entire adult life among highly intelligent, glib, secular academics. I am a professional scientist. I’ve heard and made every argument involving religion versus reason versus science versus whatever that you can imagine. I’ve also talked with fire-breathing fundamentalists, and frankly they remind me of no one quite so much as Mr Hitchens himself. The words are harsh, the ability to see the good or the accomplishments of the other side nil. Zealots are mostly the same, only their causes are different.Were there also jerks: absolutely.Meanwhile my academic friends clucked about what a terrible state society is in and how something should be done: to demonstrate their commitment to the cause they are determined (big surprise) to rectify things by voting for those caring Democrats in the next election. Meanwhile let’s sit, chat, drink the wine, eat the cheese, discuss the sad state of everyone else, and make a buck.I don’t find Mr Hitchens arguments persausive. What he describes is the human condition not unique in any way to the religious.So count me (and no I’m not really converted) in the pro religion camp for the simplest of reasons: I like them a hellava lot more than I like their detractors.

  • Joe Marcus

    Although I agree with almost everything in your above passages, I have a problem with:”Name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever.”Isn’t the narrow wording of your question the reason you have received no responses?If you substitute “would” for “could,” do you see how religion does matter?Thank you.

  • JDM

    Although I agree with almost everything in your above passages, I have a problem with:”Name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever.”Isn’t the narrow wording of your question the reason you have received no responses?If you substitute “would” for “could,” do you see how religion does matter?Thank you.

  • JDM

    Although I agree with almost everything in your above passages, I have a problem with:”Name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever.”Isn’t the narrow wording of your question the reason you have received no responses?If you substitute “would” for “could,” do you see how religion does matter?Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Hans, you said:”So yes, we non-believers can reason our way to the very moral conclusions that the believers do, but the argument on the other side is that the believers’ conclusions have a metaethical status that yours and mine don’t, and as such, have a much weightier pull on their conscience. They have moral beliefs; we have moral preferences”That is very candid of you. Upon what do you base your preferences? And by what means do you evaluate the preferences of others?Regards,

  • Mist

    Mr Mark,Your an insulting terd

  • Mist

    Mr Mark,Your an insulting terd

  • daniel

    Dear Mr. HitchensYou have made some errors in your thinking. While I appreciate your tack of asking believers to name moral actions, etc. etc. which unbelievers cannot accomplish etc. etc. (and in fact this is a much better line of attack than trying to logically grapple with whether or not God exists, saying things like “absence of evidence is evidence of absence”–because obviously we are far from being able to disprove the existence of God), you have made the colossal blunder of putting the burden on believers in especially this instance rather than on atheists.In this instance success for atheists depends on the burden being on themselves. It is one thing to put the burden for proof of God on believers and quite another when we enter questions of morality–especially as you have entered the problem.What you have done is essentially challenge the moral imagination of believers when precisely all of morality so far has been inextricable or at least concurrent with religious views of the world. It should not be believers having to name what atheists cannot do but rather atheists having to demonstrate a moral imagination that believers cannot demonstrate. What you are essentially doing is shirking the need for atheists to create morality beyond all which has existed so far. Your challenge makes me think of a student in class telling his teacher from whom he has learned everything to either think up something he, the student, cannot do or he the student must be considered the superior one.Or if you need another example, a counterfeiter specializing if fake Picassos telling Picasso that he the counterfeiter is the better painter.Why you even think in terms of a moral standard which is a concept impossible to consider unless morality is quite fixed, which is to say rooted in not the temporal, which is to say having originated in God!…If you do not believe in God then there are no moral absolutes…Or to put things in a different sense, if you believe in a moral standard then it makes no great difference between believing or disbelieving in God…But I suppose you do not believe morality is very fixed because you constantly point out the evil of religion…So…There is really very little logic in expecting believers to name moral actions, etc. etc. which nonbelievers cannot do…So really it is up to the nonbelievers to name moral actions, etc. which believers cannot do. The burden is on atheists to demonstrate moral imagination superior to believers.

  • Roy Oetting

    Christopher Hitchens, Have you ever thought of changing your name to Anti-Christopher Hitchens?

  • Daniel

    I think alot of what Christopher Hitchens says has to be said by somebody. Even relious people must admit, religion does alot of harm. Too much Bible-reading can make a man go crazy. Relgion is fine, but wild-eyed fanatacism, well that does not do anyone any good. I think a poorly founded fundamentalis belief, suddenly weakened, can devolve, weirdly, and rapidly, into nihilsm. We associate the relious with church, gentle music, pretty images, love, tenderness, mercy, nuns; but we also associate the reigious with insanity, psychosis, suicide, murder, torture, pedephilia, Jesus-paranoia, suicide-bombing. Religious people, should keep all this in mind, when going too far off the deep end.

  • Peter C. Davis

    Plastic Man is the only true god.

  • Peter C. Davis

    Plastic Man is the only true god.

  • Peter C. Davis

    Plastic Man is the only true god.

  • E Favorite

    Tampa, you say, “What matters to me is where we each end up, not the path taken to get there.”Are you saying both believers and atheists can be moral during their earthly life, but only believers can go to heaven?

  • Sean

    Your question is irrelevant. It proves nothing in particular. The problem is with your basic reasoning. Because an atheist can do a moral good says nothing about religion. If God created man to be rational like He is, then it is easy to see how a rational atheist can use his intellect to understand God’s laws. These laws are called “natural laws” because any sane person can understand them. These laws are written on our souls, but of course, since God gave us free will we don’t need to follow the natural law. I think that your question is childish and has nothing to do with your hatred of religion. God bless you,

  • Sean

    Dear Mr. Hitchens,God bless you,

  • JD

    Everyone has an executioner.

  • Trent

    Way to go, Hitch! You hit the nail on the head time after time.

  • ted

    to agnostic, that is not a moral statement or action, it is just a reason not to do some sort of immoral action.

  • David Felix

    I agree with you on just about everything!! First, with all due respect,please STOP MUMBLING during your interviews. I love to listen to your ideas about religion…but half the time I CANT UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.

  • David Felix

    I agree with you on just about everything!! First, with all due respect,please STOP MUMBLING during your interviews. I love to listen to your ideas about religion…but half the time I CANT UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.

  • David Felix

    I agree with you on just about everything!! First, with all due respect,please STOP MUMBLING during your interviews. I love to listen to your ideas about religion…but half the time I CANT UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.

  • Idealist

    John and Daniel,

  • David Felix

    I agree with you on just about everything!! First, with all due respect,please STOP MUMBLING during your interviews. I love to listen to your ideas about religion…but half the time I CANT UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.Keep up the good work . These religious nuts of the world are all ignorant, and evil, SHEEP that cant think for themselves

  • David Felix

    I agree with you on just about everything!! First, with all due respect,please STOP MUMBLING during your interviews. I love to listen to your ideas about religion…but half the time I CANT UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING.Keep up the good work . These religious nuts of the world are all ignorant, and evil, SHEEP that cant think for themselves

  • LanceThruster

    Very good points Christopher. The tendency of religionists is to take credit for the ‘good’, and none of the blame for the ‘bad.’Faith is definitely used to both cover and justify ignorance and irrationalism.It should be the default position to openly declare “my god says so” is not an argument, and and argument *plus* “my god says so” is not a better argument.

  • Anonymous

    Felix mumbles: “These religious nuts of the world are all ignorant, and evil, SHEEP that cant think for themselves”All evil sheep, eh?Ha! Thanks for proving the simple-minded nature of the atheist argument….If anyone is biased and ignorant it is the hard headed/hearted, war-loving, communist-worshiping Christopher Hitchens…..

  • W. Kulls

    Mr. Hitchens- Your incessant diatribes against religion in any form makes, one wonder who or what do you fear? I detect hate in all your texts.William Kulls

  • W. Kulls

    Mr. Hitchens- Your incessant diatribes against religion in any form makes, one wonder who or what do you fear? I detect hate in all your texts.William Kulls

  • Dr Fill

    Mr. Kulls, Aren’t we seeing the results of a society made up of 90% believers of which 80% are christians? Are the non-believers causing all the problems?

  • Arminius

    Sully,Although this ‘discussion’ has degenerated into mudslinging, I would like to thank you for your post here about what good religion really does, and how this is never addressed by its detractors. Very well put.Also – you said: “God’s existence can be proven by his continual meddling in the last 2 minutes of every Redskins game.”Hmmm. My take on that is that Gods existence was proved in October of 2004, when Boston came back from being 3 under in the AL pennant race and utterly defeated the Evil Empire by winning the next 4!Religion in baseball? Well, here is what Hammerin’ Hank Aaron said: “When I walk into a ball park, I feel like I am surrounded by angels and God’s hand is on my shoulder.”Love that quotation. As far as I am concerned, his 755 still stands. Bond’s ‘record breaking’ baseball, by the way, will be branded by an asterisk.

  • yehudi webster

    What I cannot understand is Mr. Hitchens’ support for the violence unleashed on Iraq by a moralising. self-characterizized, born again Christian who justifies his mass homicide in terms of the immorality of “Islamo-fascists.” Mr. Hitchens wants to have it both ways–denying that religion is a force for good, but supporting a war allegedly being waged for Christian civilization.

  • Maurie Beck

    I’m rather amazed at all the invective hurled to and fro from this little essay by Hitchens, which seems rather benign compared to his book and other essays. His conjectures and questions are reasonable, such as the view that we are born bad (of sin) and only through religion can humans be moral. Poppycock! There are moral people of no faith and of faith, just as there are actions by religious and nonbelievers that we might all agree are depraved. Unfortunately, fundamentalists who seem so concerned with morality, often appear to to have wandered into the the equivalent of a moral Bermuda Triangle, where their compass of right and wrong spins wildly. Finally, on another point. People are just as likely to give up their religious beliefs as they are to give up the idea of true love. If one were to ask Hitchens or Harris or Dawkins or Dennett to stop believing in and practicing love because both love and religion are not real unto themselves, but rely on biology, they would probably look at you like you are crazy. I know Dawkins in madly in love with wife. He would no more give up his love for his wife (because his love is no more than biological chemistry) than many religious people would give up their love for god. I think it is foolish to think otherwise. Nonetheless, when people espouse ideas of idiocy and mad lunacy, they must be countered, whether those ideas are by religious people or NONBELIEVERS. We should respect the rights of people to believe or not to believe. However, their ideas are another matter. If ideas stand on their merits (without reference to some infallible text), then fine. If the idea is just crazy, that is a different matter.

  • Richard Harris

    100% correct in all conclusions. Religion is and always has been both totally irrational and dogmatic. The pursuit of various ” faiths ” has caused more death and destruction throughout human history then all the diseases of mankind put together.

  • Christian Blackwelder

    Name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever:”I believe.”

  • htoontin

    Yoo Hoo, re: Hitchens, from a nobody. I am amazed at how a person can make such a statement, and yet the (presumptuously) educated audience are all agog about what this man is saying. Clearly, Mr. Hitchens does not know about Buddhism, or perhaps he does not think of Buddhism as a religion. However, as a Buddhist (although a not so devout one at that), I truly wish that these authors and commentators, and whoever these people are who have the ability to have their voices heard, would really try to at least inform themselves before claiming the authority to inform others. The majority of Buddhists are people who have adopted a philosophy as religion, and live by it. Buddhism is religion without a GOD (oh, that cumbersome being at times, and a very convenient one at others, who is quoted or whose authority is called upon, to evoke the reaction desired) that is required in most other religions. We don’t have a GOD that would poison our world, we don’t believe in one. We don’t have a GOD that urges us to go to war with other religions like the crusaders and the Jihadists, nor do we have monks (rabbis in the case of Jews) who command us to go ahead and make sombody else’s life as miserable as can be. Now, does that make us evil, satanic, or what-will-you? Well, it doesn’t matter to us what anyone else thinks of us, anyway, because we know that in our hearts that we are all right (mind the words, I am not saying that we are RIGHT, most Buddhists would never do that) – we are comfortable in our skins knowing that we are living the lives that we have at present, to the fullest. And that keeps us happy and smiling. We wish we could also make all or some of you in the media and the press (supposedly knowlegeable, and, I assume, among the best educated creme de la creme public figures) happy and smiling too, and believe me, we do try. I hope I will see a smile on Mr. Hitchen’s face the next time he appears in public, because he does seem oh, so miserable!

  • Gail Busse

    Hi, read your reference. The sad thing is that these so called Christians believe that Jesus is God. He isn’t…he said he was God’s son. He said he was never equal to God, plus he died. God cannot die. These people are christians in name only. There actions prove they are not true Christians. They believe in traditions of men and church doctrines, not Bible principles. All things written and said in the Bible were for all mankind to read and understand. So non-believers as well as those with faith can adhere to the Bibles message and theme. So therefore your question cannot be answered. All utterances given to men from God are for all, not just Christians.

  • James inside the Beltway

    The greatest demonstration of faith that I’ve ever seen is the belief of those who continue to post to this comment board that anyone will actually take the time to read their comments. That alone should suggest the presence of god, and were I a less rational man I’d fall to my knees right now in awe of his power and tolerance for blather.

  • Richard Dey

    Religions which promote eternity as a product can’t even offer life-time guarantees. Religions are as temporal as mankind.Notwithstanding, few religions have actually died because hope springs eternal, and that’s all any religion can hope for.Religions seek to become universal because it is the universe they want to control. Religions prefer all-powerful gods because they want to become all-powerful. But beware! Don’t be fooled by any religion that only bans things that are tempting.Matritheism was reduced to a cult millennia ago but is reborn in every infant. The sins of the fathers are revisited upon the sons because mothers are tempted to forget them. Mexican women will climb hundreds of thousands of stone steps on their bare knees before they are rendered obsolete.There is only one god, the god of reason; and reason dictates that he doesn’t exist because we can’t conjure up a reasonable god. When we do, god shall exist; but until we do, we have only the poisonous politics and demented distractions of religions pushing products that don’t work.No reasonable, no sensible, no godly god would choose religion as a medium for any message he might have to give.But don’t give up hope!SPECIAL THIS WEEK ONLY! Some slightly used gods for sale, some of them golden (some gold-plated), some of them antiques, provenances supplied on request, sure to brighten up the post-modernist home or office.Also, numerous out-of-print prayer books, 17th-century Puritan tracts (some malsey stains), God Comix, prayer beads and prayer wheels (not guaranteed to work anymore), St Paul crucifixes (plastic, good for vertigo, fainting spells, lack of faith, spasms, etc.), boiled, bleached relics (some slightly scortched), vintage nuns’ habits (some stains), 1-oz vials of holy water direct from the Ganges, Gideon Bibles (guaranteed never stolen), forfeit indulgences (half price!), copis of Playgirl seen by the Pope from his popemobile (only 3 left), and a large collection of plaster saints requiring some minor supernatural repairs.Also: Mary Baker Eddy Telephones $59.95 (plus shipping) — exact replicas of the actual telephone with which the founder of Christian Science was buried, apparently not alive.Revive Your Faith! Buy DIRECT! Buy NOW! while the religion market is bottoming out. Major credit cards accepted. Hell, even minor credit cards accepted! We accept your money, just your religion does: no questions asked!

  • Richard Dey

    Religions which promote eternity as a product can’t even offer life-time guarantees. Religions are as temporal as mankind.Notwithstanding, few religions have actually died because hope springs eternal, and that’s all any religion can hope for.Religions seek to become universal because it is the universe they want to control. Religions prefer all-powerful gods because they want to become all-powerful. But beware! Don’t be fooled by any religion that only bans things that are tempting.Matritheism was reduced to a cult millennia ago but is reborn in every infant. The sins of the fathers are revisited upon the sons because mothers are tempted to forget them. Mexican women will climb hundreds of thousands of stone steps on their bare knees before they are rendered obsolete.There is only one god, the god of reason; and reason dictates that he doesn’t exist because we can’t conjure up a reasonable god. When we do, god shall exist; but until we do, we have only the poisonous politics and demented distractions of religions pushing products that don’t work.No reasonable, no sensible, no godly god would choose religion as a medium for any message he might have to give.But don’t give up hope!SPECIAL THIS WEEK ONLY! Some slightly used gods for sale, some of them golden (some gold-plated), some of them antiques, provenances supplied on request, sure to brighten up the post-modernist home or office.Also, numerous out-of-print prayer books, 17th-century Puritan tracts (some malsey stains), God Comix, prayer beads and prayer wheels (not guaranteed to work anymore), St Paul crucifixes (plastic, good for vertigo, fainting spells, lack of faith, spasms, etc.), boiled, bleached relics (some slightly scortched), vintage nuns’ habits (some stains), 1-oz vials of holy water direct from the Ganges, Gideon Bibles (guaranteed never stolen), forfeit indulgences (half price!), copis of Playgirl seen by the Pope from his popemobile (only 3 left), and a large collection of plaster saints requiring some minor supernatural repairs.Also: Mary Baker Eddy Telephones $59.95 (plus shipping) — exact replicas of the actual telephone with which the founder of Christian Science was buried, apparently not alive.Revive Your Faith! Buy DIRECT! Buy NOW! while the religion market is bottoming out. Major credit cards accepted. Hell, even minor credit cards accepted! We accept your money, just your religion does: no questions asked!

  • Dr. Daniel Shawn

    Elizabeth Renant:You are uninformed. Exactly ZERO Christians perpetrated the Holocaust. Evidently you are no student of history, or you would know that Hitler infamously asserted, “You can be a Christian or a Nazi, but not both.” You are evidently oblivious to the fact that many of the victims of the Holocaust were Christians. You will no doubt be impressed to learn that Dachau was known as “the largest monastery in the world” because of the thousands of ordained Catholic clergy who were imprisoned and slaughtered there (e.g. St. Maximilian Kohlbe). As for your tiresome reference to the Inquisition, I could point out to you that it was the secular arm of the Spanish law which actually tortured and executed heretics and not the Church… but what good would it do? You are one of those savants who wraps her arguments around convenient buzzwords like “Inquisition” because it saves you the trouble of thinking. The Inquisition and other episodes of its ilk do not in any way reflect upon religion; they are merely examples of religion being misused. If everyone truly lived according to the teachings of Christ then the world would be heavenly. Instead we have hatred, greed, adultery, mendacity, and uneducated polemics against organized religion (like Hitchens’, and yours).As for Phil C and his vitriol about the Sacrament of Holy Communion: “cannibalism” refers to the consumption of a member of one species by a member of the same species. When a Christian partakes of the Eucharist s/he is experiencing divine union with Christ, and all other communing Christians. Go ahead and mock that too. It won’t change a thing.And as for abortion-promoting Charles… it’s a good thing your mother didn’t feel the same way you do or you wouldn’t be alive to spread your bigotry on the Internet.

  • Scotty Zilinsky

    I find the evolutionary roots of morality to be one of the most fascinating topics I’ve ever delved into. The fact that most of my neighbors are Fundamentalist Christians who love to tell me that morality began with Jesus; and the Godless atheists, homosexuals, woman’s libbers, scientists, liberals, etc, can’t possibly be moral…is almost beyond contempt. At a minimum, they are in for one hell of a tongue lashing if they presume to persist at such nonsense.

  • SCKershaw

    What can you appeal to in an attacker to dissuade the assault when you are defenseless? People are not going to become paragons of virtue by becoming faithless. Afterall, why should you engage in activities that do not give you satisfaction if sacrifice for the benefit of others does not bring a heavenly reward. I believe all governments should be completely secular and I believe in God. This might be incongruous to some and self-delusional to others but I do not think that Mr. Harris or Mr. Hitchens would like to live in an atheistic society.

  • Civic Humanist

    A non-essentialist & non-reductivist but nonetheless historically informative definition of ‘religion’ would have been helpful – - – X is a religion if X has at least a majority of the following characteristics: . . . . . . . . . Otherwise claims about the vices or virtues of religion-as-such or a particular religion are worthless and only invite self-serving defensiveness from the so-called “faithful” of all “faiths”, religious & non-religious, naturalist & non-naturalist, X & non-X!As it was once well put, all of us live by “the substance of things unseen, the evidence of things hoped for”, that is, that part of each person’s web of beliefs in which we each, respectively, put our ultimate trust, only to vindicated or not by living by those beliefs.

  • Phil C

    Dr Daniel Shawn – Regarding the Eucharist – Jesus is God made man, right? God incarnate. God doesn’t have body and blood, does he? It’s not mentioned anywhere that I know of. That was the whole point of Jesus, wasn’t it, to be one of us. To suffer and die like a human. That makes eating his body and blood cannibalism. I’m not mocking it at all. Those are the grisly facts – but only if you believe that Jesus was the son of God.

  • Matthew

    Q. “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”A. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.Blessed are those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

  • Matthew

    Q. “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”A. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.Blessed are those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

  • Matthew

    Q. “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”A. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.Blessed are those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

  • Matthew

    I apologize for the triple post…

  • E Favorite

    John: “So count me (and no I’m not really converted) in the pro religion camp”You say you’re a professional scientist, but you’ve drawn conclusions based on a very small sample – your set of colleagues and one church group. Please consider that neither may be very representative. Many atheists are very involved in volunteer work – they just don’t label themselves – nor do they proselytize. and many churches promote fear and hate — not to mention that they teach myth as truth.

  • flaco

    Below is a saying attributed to Jesus in the gospel account attriuted to John:”When the unbelieving Jews and the agents of the Sanhedrin who had gathered about by this time heard these words, they raised a tumult, shouting: “You are not fifty years of age, and yet you talk about seeing Abraham; you are a child of the devil!” Jesus was unable to continue the discourse. He only said as he departed, “Verily, verily, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Many of the unbelievers rushed forth for stones to cast at him, and the agents of the Sanhedrin sought to place him under arrest, but the Master quickly made his way through the temple corridors and escaped to a secret meeting place near Bethany where Martha, Mary, and Lazarus awaited him.”I doubt an unbeliever could have uttered or performed Jesus’ statement from the excerpt above, “Before Abraham was, I am.”

  • E. O’Neal

    There are so many faith-based charities that have done so much good in the world. Where are their atheist or secular humanist counterparts? Also, why do religious people make about twice the charitable contributions as non-churchgoers? And why do nonbelievers have so few children? They don’t even replace themselves. And why do nonbelievers get duped so easily into ersatz religions like Marxism or radical environmentalism?

  • warpimps

    Gerry…Want to hear about the holocaust of Christians? The one hollywood/liberal elites do not like to talk about?Look at the millions starved in eastern europe at the hands of a jewish bolshevik general, or the revolt in hungary or Trotsky’s control of the Red army during the revolution and their deliberate destruction of the Russian church and their followers… – This toll was many millions more than the jewish holocaust shown in on tv and on movie after movie.Even read the Talmud? This is the only text you need to justify the whole sale slaughter of Christians in Russian and eastern Europe.Enough with your holocaust…..and why not start by recognizing the Armenian genocide? (thats right, because the jewish leadership does not want to offend turkey….too bad for those millions killed)

  • Jon

    “Religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.”Hmmmm, Chris – sounds like the Republican party, particularly circa the W era! God is not the problem – people’s interpretation and co-opting of Him is.

  • John Coelho

    Dear Christopher:Did you read the copy of Saharasia that I gave you? The Reichian analysis of society based on character structure is the deepest way to understand fascism.Although you are a living embodiment of evolved man’s lack of need for religion, I suggest you look at the lumpenproletariat’s amoral tendency to break into your house, get your daughter strung out on meth and other wondrous works. Don’t tell me that religion does them no good. I’ve, over and over again, seen religion get them on a more positve track, problematic as it is. The problem is when religion goes beyond the role that it should take in society. Sam Harris may call himself an atheist and then sit down and do Vipassana meditation. By so doing he’s showing that spirituality is separate from religion. Spirituality is a form of awareness compatible with rationality and due a place senior to religion. I have enjoyed the integrity you have displayed in attacking all forms of sophistry and moral pretension, especially the Chomsky Left’s morally bankrupt position on Bosnia. I hope to hear you speak again in Seattle.

  • John Coelho

    Dear Christopher:Did you read the copy of Saharasia that I gave you? The Reichian analysis of society based on character structure is the deepest way to understand fascism.Although you are a living embodiment of evolved man’s lack of need for religion, I suggest you look at the lumpenproletariat’s amoral tendency to break into your house, get your daughter strung out on meth and other wondrous works. Don’t tell me that religion does them no good. I’ve, over and over again, seen religion get them on a more positve track, problematic as it is. The problem is when religion goes beyond the role that it should take in society. Sam Harris may call himself an atheist and then sit down and do Vipassana meditation. By so doing he’s showing that spirituality is separate from religion. Spirituality is a form of awareness compatible with rationality and due a place senior to religion. I have enjoyed the integrity you have displayed in attacking all forms of sophistry and moral pretension, especially the Chomsky Left’s morally bankrupt position on Bosnia. I hope to hear you speak again in Seattle.

  • Gerry

    Warpimps,you are bolstering my stance on religion(s), thank you. That’s what we are talking about here.

  • Warpimps

    Ger,Iraq is a secular war created by neo conservative intellectals (liberal scholars from univ of chicago) ………..lots of damage/death/destruction based on secular ideas/hubris and Amercian secular imperalism (promoted by trotskyite, Chris H)Cant blame this one one religion …… nor the 100 million killed by the rational, instrumentalist commumist regimes.Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Gerry.This is what you refuse to think about here…..you people are narrow ideologues! And hypocrites….

  • Mike L

    A commenter above, by the name of Ellen O’Neill, wrote the following comment:Mr. Hitchins,I am on my library’s waiting list for your latest book; many people are ahead of me, so I might not get my hands on a copy before then. At any rate I look forward to reading your thoughts on the subject of god.Sincerely,Ellen, my heart goes out to you. I wish I could just snap my fingers and free you from religion’s tyranny of mind and spirit. Or just empty my mind into your own and you would instantly see how utterly baseless and absurd religious beliefs and practices are, and how believing in and practicing religion is akin to going through life in a kind of straitjacket. Catholicism is especially oppressive because of the huge role that guilt plays in it and the century upon century of ritual and doctrine that it has accumulated. It kills me to think of people going through life with that mountain of tradition weighing upon their every thought and decision, and to think of their wasted time and futile effort devoted to prayer, ritual, study of religious texts, etc. My heart goes out to them just as it does to the people I sometimes see on TV kneeling five times a day, groveling in fear of Allah. Or when I see Mormons on their bikes, or Jehovah’s witnesses going door to door, ad infinitum. “The tolling of the iron bell calls the faithful to their knees, to hear the softly spoken magic spells.” I was a devout, Bible-believing Christian from the time I was just a few years old until my early twenties. I swallowed the whole thing, hook, line and sinker: I believed the Bible was the word of God, that Jesus was God’s son, that he died for our sins, and that I had to ask Him “into my heart” to be saved. I had “religious experiences,” went to church, took communion, was baptized, believed that I had a personal relationship with God/Jesus, and could communicate with him through prayer, etc., etc. In my late teens I started reading Christian apologetics (so-called rational defenses of Christian beliefs) by C.S. Lewis and many lesser-known Christian writers like Ravi Zaccharius, Norman Geisler, and Josh McDowell, and I thought I had everything figured out and that everyone who didn’t believe what I believed was wrong and would go to hell if they didn’t accept the same beliefs as I before they died. But all the while, I kept reading… and thinking… and I started to take some college classes that occasionally challenged various aspects of my rigid belief system. And slowly I began to realize I didn’t really KNOW what I thought I did, and that there were many people past and present who were much smarter/more knowledgeable/wiser/more experienced than I was (and every bit as intellectually honest and sincere) and who were perfectly familiar with Christianity and my particular version of it. And yet, somehow, for some unfathomable reason, they didn’t believe in it. There were even towering figures in the history of western culture who started out as Christians but after years of reading and reflection, gave it up (David Hume, Nietzsche, George Eliot, etc.). It also really sank in for the first time that there are (and have been) billions upon billions of people who have (or had) hundreds, maybe thousands, of different religious belief systems, which they are every bit as sure of as I was of mine, and some of those belief systems, like Judaism and Islam, even have a rich tradition of apologetics – just like Christianity. And yet, despite their unshakable certainty, all or most of these billions of people have to be wrong since every belief system contradicted all the others, at least in some respect. And I kept reading, and thinking, and questioning, and taking courses – philosophy, ancient history, anthropology, logic. And finally, sometime in my early to mid twenties, the scales fell from my eyes – and I was FREE! I could see religion for the wholly human creation that it is. I could poke holes in all the religious arguments. I no longer had to tote the line of some inscrutable ancient text. I no longer had to feel like some sort of societal outcast, part of a heaven-bound minority that could be “in the world but not OF the world.” I no longer had to feel the weight of the lost souls of certain of my “unsaved” relatives and friends or try to get them to believe in some ancient myth that would save them from never ending suffering in the afterlife. I no longer had to give allegiance to irrational doctrines – like the doctrine that one person committed a minor “sin,” and therefore an unconditionally loving, perfectly just being considered ALL human beings guilty and deserving of eternal torture (like the sadistic gym coach who makes the entire class run laps if one kid screws up); or the doctrine that even though this being is perfectly loving and as spiritually and morally mature as a being could possibly get, he nonetheless required the most primitive, horrific type of atonement for human shortcomings imaginable, an atonement which in any other context we “moderns” think is as ugly and irrational an act as the human race can commit: human sacrifice; before this being of light and love and mercy could forgive his beloved peoples’ faults, someone had to die; or how about the doctrine that states that at some point in human history, an unchanging, morally perfect God changed the rules that the human race had to live by, and therefore we no longer had to stone to death adulteresses and disobedient children, and we could now enjoy a ham sandwich with impunity. And on and on and on… and on… the irrationality goes. And I’m free of it all. And I truly hope you will be soon, if you’re not already. Just keep reading, widely: analytic philosophy, anthropology, ancient history, textual criticism,…. Take courses in these subjects if you can. Read Sam Harris, Robert M. Price, Bart Ehrman, Michael Martin, William Rowe (if you’ve never read any philosophy of religion, his intro. to it is the place to start). If you’ve ever read any of C.S. Lewis’s defenses of Christianity and thought there might be something to his arguments, read John Beversluis’s “C.S. Lewis and the Search For Rational Religion.” Work your way through a book on formal logic. Read some of Sam Harris’s articles and watch some of his debates on his website, SamHarris.org. (He has a discussion board on his site, too, but the hateful, belittling tone of some of Harris’s fans will probably be a turn-off to you.) You might also check out the site WhyDoesGodHateAmputees.com. Or listen to some of the many in-depth interviews with secular writers and thinkers at PointOfInquiry.org, including Hitchens, Dawkins, and Sam Harris.In the end, there is probably no one argument that somehow “disproves” religion; you will simply come to see how utterly baseless, absurd, and undignified the whole thing is, and how religious believers torture logic and common sense to hold on to their particular set of beliefs. And please know this: whenever someone seems to have come up with a sound argument justifying belief in religion, no matter how novel the argument seems – whether it’s an evidential-type argument [like the cosmological argument, or intelligent design], an argument from religious experience, a prudential argument [like Pascal’s Wager], an argument based on divine revelation, an argument based on miracles, the argument that it’s not a question of “argument” at all but of “faith” [which is a type of argument in itself] – no matter what the argument is or how sound it may seem, it has been refuted by someone, somewhere, at some point. Just keep reading.If I could, I would buy Hitchens’ book for you, so you didn’t have to wait for a library copy. If the editors of this site want to facilitate the private exchange of e-mail addresses between Ellen and me, I would be willing to get a mailing address (maybe just a post office box) and send Hitchens’ book to you using Amazon.com. Carpe Diem.

  • Josiah Marineau

    Hello Mr. Hitchens,How can we overcome religion without deifying whatever takes it place?Josiah Marineau

  • Gerry

    As a German boy many years ago, I would have thought that anybody who was against Hitler would be completely crazy, demented. Later, after the war, I felt the same of anybody who would be in favor of Hitler and against religion.I am way, way beyond puberty. My point is not only the wonderful possibility of an evolving process of a person (in which “I firmly believe”, lol!), but more important: I am referring to the feeling of complete persuasion of a creed, be it ideological or religious. Persuasion is a feeling, an emotion. People want emotions, not thoughts.Persuasion, as we see so much in these posts, means absolutely nothing as to truth. It is an element of religion. The fact that someone is persuaded about something can never be an argument and means nothing but the information that this person is persuaded.Now, somebody certainly comes up with the argument that “that is true of course also for your atheism”. Yes, of course, unless you can produce some evidence instead of persuasion.Nobody, over the course of millenia and billions of desperate attempts ever produced any evidence as to the existence of any god (or of the spaghetti monster). Luther condemned reason as the arch-enemy of faith, as the favorite tool of Satan! In other words, he admitted implicitly that religion is based on lie. Tertullian: Credo quia absurdum. It is a mental exercise which I remember trying (with mixed results, lol!), when I was a religious child. (“If you don’t become like children…!”).I derive my personal human dignity from honest reason, not from make-belief faith. Faith erases reason, because if you can prove something you don’t have to have faith in it anymore. You just simply know it. Knowing and believing are mutually exclusive, logically (unless, of course, you follow Luther’s argument… lol! There are people around here who say that god invented logic, so faith beats logic – a nice example of circular reasoning!).

  • Gerry

    Warpimps,didn’t Bush brag about asking god for advice before invading Iraq?You should get yourself a better smelling tobacco!

  • George Grindlay

    THE ‘DON’T TAKE IT SO LITERALLY’ PARABLEIn the course of my work I have cause to visit a school for the children of unusually rich people.I once asked the religious studies teacher how he got around teaching the ‘easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’ sermon to these fantastically wealthy children. The response was masterly. Apparently the ‘eye of a needle’ refers to a small, but not too small you understand, door!So there we have it. What Jesus really meant was ‘it’s a bit of a struggle’ or ‘weeell, it’s not so hard really mate’. I’m satisfied with that!

  • Robert

    Mr. Hitchens, of course I will readily—even eagerly—admit that there is nothing the religious person can assert that cannot be easily affirmed as well by the atheist. But I will go on to say the same of a parrot. Moreover, when the atheist makes his affirmation on the subject of morality and ethics he does so with a moral significance equal to that of the parrot squawking back the Commandment or the stricture of the Sermon on the Mount to the Christian. Both the parrot and the atheist are able to say such things, but neither have a basis to do so, and having no basis, their respective allocutions carry an equal moral weight.Firstly, what was Right was also self-evident to actors like Stalin and Hitler and Mao and Pol Pot, whose calculus of what is morallly self-evident still left millions murdered. On what basis does Hitch dispute their understanding of what is self-evidently right? Secondly, what is actually self-evident is that if (as atheists assert) mankind is an evolutionary accident, who comes from Void and goes to Void, who is merely matter in motion, and whose emotions of love and hate (and the actions that flow from them) are random mixtures of chemicals in grey matter, then mass murder has no more moral significance than a life and death struggle between bacteria in a bit of standing water. Thirdly, if the morals adhered to by the atheist are (alternatively) self-generated and self-authenticating and self-referencing, Mr. Hitchens can conclude, with equal moral weight, that rape and murder are immoral on Monday and yet adopt the very opposite moral conclusion on Tuesday, all the while affirming that to him it is self-evidently true on either day. If Hitch says on Tueday that rape and murder are self-evidently moral, what universal is about to stop him? If his will or sense of right and wrong are the reference point, such is nothing more than a recipe for moral schizophrenia. A man that affirms that his morality begins and ends with the will of the actor is not sensibly defined as a moral man, but as a sociopath. Hitch’s only hope in making his “self-evident” morality objectively real and of a nature of a universal, is to hoodwink you into believing that somehow, the Crab Nebulae is the source of your self-evident morality, or that what chimpanzees do is the basis for condemning Hitler, or that Matter tells us what is right and wrong and bindingly so. Which of these sources of self-evident morality will bind the next generation when they ask our enlightened tinkerers WHY they ought not rape and murder and steal if they can get away with it? None will because none can. All this generation of atheists can resort to then are arguments from expediency—in the final analysis—and when morals are reduced to the expedient, all is lost.For the time being, civil society is still possible, but only due to the happy inconsistency that Hitch and his ilk manage to both reject Christianity and yet adhere to most of its morality. When the next generation of unbelievers comes along, they will sensibly discard with the latter as having no basis without the former, and will have lost their grounds for condemning people like the Virginia Tech shooter who, they will correctly conclude, was only carrying Hitch’s presuppositions to their logical conclusion. It’s clear that we are rushing headlong into the abyss as a civilization, and Hitchens and his sheep are slapping one another on the backs as we go over the edge.

  • Civic Humanist

    A non-essentialist & non-reductivist but nonetheless historically informative definition of ‘religion’ would have been helpful – - – X is a religion if X has at least a majority of the following characteristics: . . . . . . . . . Otherwise claims about the vices or virtues of religion-as-such or a particular religion are worthless and only invite self-serving defensiveness from the so-called “faithful” of all “faiths”, religious & non-religious, naturalist & non-naturalist, X & non-X! As it was once well put, all of us live by “the substance of things unseen, the evidence of things hoped for”, that is, that part of each person’s web of beliefs in which we each, respectively, put our ultimate trust, only to be vindicated or not by living by those beliefs.

  • Rodger

    All I can say is that I wish I was that eloquent in print. Please keep it up, as people like you and Sam Harris represent our only hope against the coming dark ages of religious militarism.

  • Rob Azarcon

    In the field of moral action(s), the unbelievers are suspiciously absent. Talk is one thing and genuine, constant action another. While your arguments that religion is poison are valid, I think it’s also valid to say that religion is the one humanizing and civilizing factor in society. Yes, a lot of atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. But the way I see it, it’s not poison per se, but rather poisonous. In the way a (medicinal) drug can be poisonous, but in the proper amounts can be curative.

  • Rob

    In the field of moral action(s), the unbelievers are suspiciously absent. Talk is one thing and genuine, constant action another. While your arguments that religion is poison are valid, I think it’s also valid to say that religion is the one humanizing and civilizing factor in society. Yes, a lot of atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. But the way I see it, it’s not poison per se, but rather poisonous. In the way a (medicinal) drug can be poisonous, but in the proper amounts can be curative.

  • Rob Azarcon

    In the field of moral action(s), the unbelievers are suspiciously absent. Talk is one thing and genuine, constant action another. While your arguments that religion is poison are valid, I think it’s also valid to say that religion is the one humanizing and civilizing factor in society. Yes, a lot of atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. But the way I see it, it’s not poison per se, but rather poisonous. In the way a (medicinal) drug can be poisonous, but in the proper amounts can be curative.

  • Ravi Zacharias

    How little Hitchens understands his own question and lacks philsophical sophistication is revealed by his purported challenge. The issue has never been whether an atheist can make an equally moral statement. The admission by a host of atheists is that there is no rationally compelling basis for it and there is no rational compelling basis to challenge an alternative. As Chesterton said, “The tragedy of disbelieving in God is not that one ends up believing in nothing. Alas! one may end up believing in anything.” That is the moral hedonism and anarchy to which they will move us.”

  • Ravi Zacharias

    How little Hitchens understands his own question and lacks philsophical sophistication is revealed by his purported challenge. The issue has never been whether an atheist can make an equally moral statement. The admission by a host of atheists is that there is no rationally compelling basis for it and there is no rational compelling basis to challenge an alternative. As Chesterton said, “The tragedy of disbelieving in God is not that one ends up believing in nothing. Alas! one may end up believing in anything.” That is the moral hedonism and anarchy to which they will move us.”

  • Ravi Zacharias

    How little Hitchens understands his own question and lacks philsophical sophistication is revealed by his purported challenge. The issue has never been whether an atheist can make an equally moral statement. The admission by a host of atheists is that there is no rationally compelling basis for it and there is no rational compelling basis to challenge an alternative. As Chesterton said, “The tragedy of disbelieving in God is not that one ends up believing in nothing. Alas! one may end up believing in anything.” That is the moral hedonism and anarchy to which they will move us.”

  • Bill Teal

    Christopher,In the blessed Name above all Names, Jesus Christ, I am

  • Remy Ilona

    Its important to distinguish the religiuos traditions like Judaism, Hinduism, Shintoism, etc, from the religious movements, which are more or less concoctions by ‘clever’ dupes. While religious traditions hardly cause trouble because they hardly proselytise, religious movements are trouble-makers because they want everybody to believe the ‘revelations’ they got. Its important for you to have this in mind so that you do not throw the child away with the bath water.

  • Remy Ilona

    Its important to distinguish the religious traditions like Judaism, Hinduism, Shintoism, etc, from the religious movements, which are more or less concoctions by ‘clever’ dupes. While religious traditions hardly cause trouble because they hardly proselytise, religious movements are trouble-makers because they want everybody to believe the ‘revelations’ they got. Its important for you to have this in mind so that you do not throw the child away with the bath water.

  • Remy Ilona

    Its important to distinguish the religious traditions like Judaism, Hinduism, Shintoism, etc, from the religious movements, which are more or less concoctions by ‘clever’ dupes. While religious traditions hardly cause trouble because they hardly proselytise, religious movements are trouble-makers because they want everybody to believe the ‘revelations’ they got. Its important for you to have this in mind so that you do not throw the child away with the bath water.

  • Remy Ilona

    Its important to distinguish the religious traditions like Judaism, Hinduism, Shintoism, etc, from the religious movements, which are more or less concoctions by ‘clever’ dupes. While religious traditions hardly cause trouble because they hardly proselytise, religious movements are trouble-makers because they want everybody to believe the ‘revelations’ they got. Its important for you to have this in mind so that you do not throw the child away with the bath water.

  • SCKershaw

    I think the question that Mr. Hitchens should answer is whether he thinks that if the rise of Christianity had been the rise of atheism, would the world have been less violent? If he does, then he should present the evidence. I cannot say that I have ever witnessed the broad based spontaneous development of self-restraint unaccompanied by religious commitment. Even should it happen now, its occurrence would still be inseparable from the ethic that currently prevails, an ethic that has been acutely informed by the Christian religions.

  • Bries Murphy

    First of all, this is improperly titled. It should say the subtle, lethal poison of Christianity. There are several other beliefs that don’t believe in a singular “God”. Also, there are many that ddon’t believe in any “God”. Aside from this, your questions are not fair. “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?” Of course not, everyone is capable of good. What you are not taking into account are the millions of people who would not do good if it was not for their faith. Your other question, “I have also asked large and divergent audiences if they can think of a wicked action or statement that derived directly from religious faith”. This is also completly unfair. Let me ask you, can you think of an immoral incident that derived from a government? I’m sure you would find no shortage to the answers from that question as well. Should we do away with government, as well? Can you think of any incident where an unbeliever did something immoral? Again, no shortage of answers. Naturally, religion will look poisonous to those that list all the things wrong with it and none of the good and never compare it to anything else. Ultimately, a very narrow-minded point of view.

  • warpimps

    Gerry, Bush is an idiot; however, he did not come up with the neo conservative political philosophy that justified the Iraq war and changes in the Mid east.Your point is?PS – Luther does not equal Christianity…he is just one thinker (that some Christians dont even recognize)

  • John Matthew Bostock

    Christopher, why are there not more like you? I know that your brother is a god-botherer how come you both had the same up-bringing but you turned out fine and he didn’t?

  • Mr Mark

    SCKERSHAW writes:You ask Mr Hitchens to prove a hypothetical. Why not ask him to “prove” what type of life forms would have evolved on Earth had its orbit been closer to Mars?You then write:”I cannot say that I have ever witnessed the broad based spontaneous development of self-restraint unaccompanied by religious commitment.”Really? Perhaps you would like to compare the living, education and health standards of the Bible-thumping USA to the increasingly atheistic Europe? Just because you haven’t witnessed it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. You need to get out more.

  • Mr Mark

    RAVI ZACHARIAS writes:Who lacks sophistication?Long before religion reared its ugly head, mankind evolved simple social structures to stay alive and to preserve the tribe. Strength in numbers, protecting one’s own, etc. Archaeological evidence traces mankind’s development of “morals,” including the time when man started to bury his dead to the earliest trappings of religion born of ignorance.Many of these same traits can be seen in the “lower” species of primates. Would you suggest that “god” is teaching the apes their “morals?” If so, what book do they consult?Contrary to your assertion, there IS a sound and rational alternative to the question of where our morality comes from, and it is, “from ourselves.” Religion is, in fact, the outright theft of our own evolved better selves, assigning to a non-existent supernatural being the source of morals that are wholly the creation of ourselves. Truth be told, morals are our birthright as an evolved species, and I’ll take our morals over those of the god of the OT any day of the week.I suggest that you’re hanging out with the wrong “host of atheists.”

  • Anne Millard

    While listening to some ditsy person on TV talking about World Peace, it came to me—-we just might be able to achieve it if we could find a way to rid the entire world of organized religion!

  • C. J. Godwin

    Christians are fine as long as you’re not threatened by them.

  • C. J. Godwin

    Christians are fine as long as you’re not threatened by them.

  • C. J. Godwin

    Christians are fine as long as you’re not threatened by them.

  • Tom Nealon

    Where is the atheist Mother Theresa? Your rejection of original sin begs the question of why people are so selfish and often act so wickedly. I get the atheist position, that it isn’t fair that I punished for a sin I didn’t commit, but even if there is no God, people suffer all the time for the sins of their parents, friends, countrymen and leaders. We’re all connected.If I were an atheist, I think I would be haunted by the goodness of a Mother Theresa or a Mother Seton. I hope you find peace and meaning, they await you in Christ Jesus.

  • Mike Lautermilch

    Christopher, did you notice the comment above by Ellen O’Neill? She wrote the following comment:Mr. Hitchins,I recently read The God Delusion and it has made me very skeptical about the existence of god. I was raised a Roman Catholic and have routinely prayed to god, lit candles, blessed myself with holy water, and so forth. Now I am reluctant to perform these actions. I have forced myself to follow these rituals out of indoctrination and guilt, not divine faith. Therefore, I feel that I have been a hypocrite.I am on my library’s waiting list for your latest book; many people are ahead of me, so I might not get my hands on a copy before then. At any rate I look forward to reading your thoughts on the subject of god.Sincerely,Christopher, if one of the reasons for your anti-religion diatribes is to help people throw off the irrational fetters of religion, then here is a golden opportunity! This woman is beginning to doubt her Catholic beliefs. Help her! Offer to send her a book, or get my and Ellen’s e-mail addresses from the owners of this website and help coordinate my sending a book to Ellen. If your intention is to help humanity throw off religious superstition, and not just belittle people with your superior intellect, then let’s help a budding doubter out in her moment of transition.And, Ellen, for what it’s worth, above I posted a much lengthier response to your comment. I posted it at September 28, 2007 3:23 AM

  • sarah

    “. . . name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever?”I am no writer or theological expert. I am, however, a person of religious belief who believes it makes me a better, more grounded and yet more hopeful person. Belief – to me – is similar to food, too much or too little are both damaging (one creating laziness and one leading to starvation) but the correct balance of nutrition is vital to life.To answer your challenge I would submit one who has recently been in the news – Mother Theresa. Her much talked about diaries reveal the long dark night of the soul she endured, but yet she continued to fight for Calcutta’s poor and downtrodden because she believed that is what her (absent and unfelt) Lord would have her do.A person without this guiding principle would have long ago been crushed under the weight of the task and given up or burnt out. You see this is charity work all the time. Yes, anyone can do good works irrespective of their motivation but it is (in my experience) the belief in something higher that causes this one act to become the path of an entire life.

  • Matthew Zobian

    Mr. Hitchens,The horrors committed in the name of God point to the fallibility of man, not necessarily to his supposed Creator. Certainly, religious intolerance is an absurdity. But do we not show an intolerance of our own by labeling all believers fools or tyrants?Matt Zobian

  • WarPimps

    Three words can debunk the “rational” humanist philosophy of Hitchens:THE IRAQ WARA war created on the blue prints of a secular political philosophy: neo conservatism This was not a “religious evil”, it was a humanist evil, a humanist blunder (supported by a warmongering, drunk egoist named Chris)(neo conservatism was as started by three liberal scholars at the university of chicago – strauss, podhoretz, and kristol)

  • Mr Mark

    TOM NEALON:If recent reports are to be believed, MT was an atheist herself.That said, considering what MT actually did (as opposed to what the PR would have you believe), the religionists can have her. She was a friend of poverty, not of the poor who caused pain and suffering on an immense scale.

  • Edgar

    As a Buddhist I find the debate about religion to be quite interesting. Most critics of religion such as Hitchens and Sam Harris seem to be careful not to lump Buddhism in with other “religions of faith” and certainly trying to pin historical calumny on Buddhism is a heavy task. The Buddhist perspective on sin, evil, morality, etc. centers around an understanding of the human condition, the causes of suffering, and the path to removing the causes of suffering. This begins with the understanding of the emptiness of concepts such as ego, I, etc., which lead to “sins”, bad behavior, etc. In the Buddhist world view, there is no need for a God, a prime mover, and the responsibility for morality belongs to the individual. Because of the understanding of reincarnation and the continuity of the mindstream, directly experienced rather than believed in, a lot of issues that crop up in discussions of religion and morality, are seen as illusions. Energy spent either in anger, whether it is denouncing religion or defending it, would be better spent in quiet meditation. Samsara cannot be fixed…..

  • Steve Cross

    Sometime, I’d like to hear Mr. Hitchens say whether his argument is with “god” or, rather, with “organized religion.” I’ve read his new book as well as the article here. It seems to me that his real argument is that all organized religions do an awful job of representing god. It’s sort of like, “with friends like this, you don’t need enemys.” Ultimately, I’d like to see Mr. Hitchens apply his intellect to what god REALLY wants — contrary to what is presented by organized religion.

  • Pedro Paulo Netto

    WASAN’t one thing that superstitions of faith can do that an Atheist could do better for the simple reason that We Atheists are Responsable, Actives and know why the World is getting worse every day because of the acts of the superstitions and the religions.

  • Sander Fredman

    If Professor Hitchens is right, that is “God doesn’t exist” then each of us is responsible for our acts of commission as well as omission. If God exists (Chris has too much integrity to take Pascal’s Wager) then we are still not off the hook. The issue becomes relevant, as Hannah Arendt indicates in “Reflections on Little Rock”, when we move from the private to the public space.

  • Robert

    ON WHY THEISM IS NECESSARY AS A STARTING POINT FOR MORAL ARGUMENT-If he affirms it, he is left assigning the role of Universal, of moral authority, to unthinking and impersonal Matter, which is patently ridiculous (for how can unthinking, impersonal stardust or dark matter or whatever reasonably be held to have the moral authority to bind rational, sentient humans on questions of whether to steal or kill?). If he denies it, he falls into a different hole. Here then the atheist must assert that there is no objective morality, and that it is merely a social construct, and that it is up to each person, or each group, to establish his or its own morality. On the group level, this involves a number of moral impossibilities: first, that whatever a group decides is in fact moral (a group of men to rape a woman, a group of Germans to perpetrate a Holocaust, etc etc). This involves the pitfall of deriving an “ought” from an “is,” and, second it affirms moral relativism, which is the contrary of objective morality and a license to define barbarity as morality. It is to define as “moral” what is held to be individually or socially expedient, leaving one required to affirm that the Germans, being a group, were moral in deciding it was expedient to eradicate a minority and take their property.On an individual level, this implies that personal morality is self-referencing, and that therefore the will of the individual being the standard, the actor can never do something objectively or even subjectively immoral: the former is obvious, but the latter is implied too, in that if the starting and ending point of moral reasoning is the actor’s own will, he can engage in charity on Monday and murder on Tuesday and never violate his own principles, given that the principle is acting on his own immediate moral sense. This is poison for civil society, and it also involves moral schizophrenia for the individual. Moreover, such is the definition, not of the moral man as he has always been understood, but the identification of the sociopath as the moral man.Therefore, moral argument is beyond the ken of those adhering to atheistic presuppositions. Unless and until one can have a sufficient cause, an adequate Universal (one that is personal and rational and authoritative and so can intelligibly bind rational, personal Particular actors) as a source for moral standards, one cannot discuss morality intelligently.ON THE PUTATIVE ‘AD HOMINEM ATTACKS’ OF CHRISTIANS IN RESPONDING TO HITCH-ON THE PUTATIVE “LOGIC AND REASON” OF ATHEISM AS OPPOSED TO THE CONTRARY OF THEISM-IDEAS HAVE CONSEQUENCES-For the atheist then to refrain from such things, he must live inconsistently with his own presuppositions, and at best can parrot the fixed moral standards of the theist, who posits a credible Universal for the standards which bind all Particulars.The Christians, however, are in a different boat. We posit a Personal, Intelligent, Rational, Moral Creator Who created man righteous, but whose creatures through free will fell into a state of sin and rebellion and death (and its allies, disease, hunger, war, etc). Both our fallenness and the reality of lost perfection is tacitly confirmed by everyone who has ever said “nobody is perfect” (which is theologically profound in that it not only correctly appraises our current state, but also necessarily implies a standard from which we have all fallen and can never attain to again by our own efforts). God, knowing this, has made provision Himself for our salvation, by coming to earth in the Person of the Son, being born of a woman, living a perfect, sinless life, being cruficied, dying, and rising again, all so that He could save and grant eternal life to those who would believe. Accept this gift of God’s free grace. If you believe in Christ, and embrace God’s only plan for your salvation, He will impute Christ’s righteous life to you, and impute your sins to Christ on the Cross, thereby justifying you before His lawful requirements and all by His own grace.”For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ro. 6:23.Robert

  • Faithless in US

    A moral prescription unlikely to be uttered from unbelievers:”I [claim|rule|destroy] this land in the name of [deity or prophet or fearless leader], for it is the manifest destiny of the favored people”GodYou get the picture.I might quibble with religion as origin of totalitarianism. But I am unread and ignorant on that subject as I am on the doctrine of manifest destiny. All I really know is that contemplation of divine justice caused Jefferson to quake a little, but not really alter his course.Poison is a word often heard with religion these days, no doubt to bring the imagery of Jonestown to the fore of our consciousness and equate faith with the kool-aid. It may or may not be true, but it doesn’t help the discourse much. Ayn Rand had much the same gift (and concomitant problems) for pronouncing absolutes in language designed to roust the sheep from their drowsy browse. Of course it didn’t help that she had social skills, similar to Hitchens (and myself), near absolute zero. ;) Not having read Hitchens on Orwell yet, I don’t know how Orwell would frame religion or if it had any impact on the Hitchens Perspective. But Orwell’s essays on language and politics and his thoughtful balance between left and right would seem a better strategy with which to win the battle for secularism in our hearts and minds–notwithstanding the entertainment value ofI guess we’ll just have to see how the Harris/Hitchens/Dawking/ Gambit plays out or if it’s just a blip.I prefer the Feynman Proposition: What do you care what other people think?Or Sagan, or Asimov, or Russell, or even James “woo-woo” Randi.–FIUS

  • Gerry

    Robert,bible quotations point to nothing but themselves. People who ask for obedience to the irrational (“revealed”) bible and in the same vein think they can bolster their belief with “reason” show that their thinking, however opulent, is blurred completely.Faith excludes reason, if words have any meaning: I don’t have to believe something which I know. Circular reasoning wherever you look. Since the bible is “revealed”, it proves that it is revealed. Thank you. I have more “faith” into the “god-given” human brain.

  • Robert

    ADDENDUM-I should add, however, something important I omitted to include in my last post.None of my arguments were intended to suggest that atheists have no moral sense of right and wrong. They do. But they do not (and as I showed in my last post CANNOT have) come about in any way that they are inclined to suggest: social convention, individual fiat, or evolutionary processes. My whole argument, being a modus tollens, depends on the fact that the logical conclusions implied by atheistic presuppositions will BOTH offend the innate moral sense of the atheist AND illustrate the impossibility of their attribution of that moral sense to inadequate sources/insufficient causes.Atheists are in tension; their philosophies about their origins, and their ontology and anthropology(“presuppositions”) are all in conflict with “What they know” about Right and Wrong. My goal was to illustrate–to those atheists who have ears to hear–that what they know (“Q”) cannot follow from what they have chosen to believe (“P”), and that therefore they must reexamine what they have chosen to believe. I’ve used a modus tollens syllogism, If P then Q, not Q, therefore not P, to this end. Their beliefs cannot account for what they know. Christianity, however, can account for this phenomenon. For in the New Testament I am told why it is that unbelievers can still have a sense of morality within them, despite their unbelief in God, and that is discussed in the Epistle to the Romans, and is known as the “conscience” (Lat. ‘with knowledge’), given by God to all mankind to accuse them of wrongdoing whatever beliefs they adopt or course they pursue.So while Christianity can accound for the reality of the moral sense within the heart of an atheist, the atheist cannot account for it, either in himself or in anyone else.

  • Robert

    To Gerry-Thanks for the encyclical, but I’m afraid your dogmatic utterance about ‘faith and reason’ doesn’t really address any of my points. Show were the conclusions don’t follow from the premises, don’t just say they’re ‘blurred,’ for that’s much more easily stated than demonstrated, as your silence upon their substance tends to prove.But, sir, I beg to differ, ‘faith and reason’ are not in conflict; faith and secular assumptions are. Faith, rather, makes logic and reason possible; and moreover only by faith can we account for logic, or for something called ‘argument’, or for the objective meaning of language, or for validity, or for objective truth, which is presupposed in all the foregoing; this was ably argued by Douglas Wilson in his online debate with Hitch (who regrettably either misunderstood or shamelessly misrepresents Wilson’s arguments and the intent behind them). [I could attempt to articulate how, through the use of a disjunctive syllogism, that in turn uses a modus tollens to prove its minor premise, but that would be involved (I just started typing it out and it looked really hairy for such a forum)].Let me just say that Faith presupposes both a rational God/Logos, and objective truth and logical principles governing all. This is what makes it possible for us to argue something and believe we have accomplished something other than just utter nonsense (which is what is presupposed, whether you acknowledge it or not, by atheism, which ludicrously posits both that the universe is random and yet logical). If I make perfect arguments, or if I just say “fizzle-blip” and declare victory, why would one be more meaningful or ‘true’ in a universe as represented by the atheists? Both would have equal meaning because neither have any meaning, they’re just (as Wilson pointed out) matter in motion. Logic is the way the Divine Logos thinks (A and non-A, antithesis). If all we are (as atheists suppose) is a randomly occurring event in an accidentally occurring universe, which comes from nothing and goes to nothing, and our “thoughts” are random combinations of chemicals in grey matter, then you would be hard put to say that one random utterance from our lips is any more ‘truthful’ or in accord with ‘objective reality’ than another, and therefore it is unbelief, and not Faith, that is the foe–albeit a poorly armed foe–of logic and reason. Keep thinking about it. I’ve got to get back to my Attic Greek.

  • Gerry

    Robert,You say: “Logic is the way the Divine Logos thinks”. A statement which presupposes what it tries to prove: The existence of a divine, supernatural. Nature, as the sum of all existing possibilities, is quite enough for me to create “religious” feelings. I don’t need additional layers of Super*n – natural divinities.By the way, nobody in his sane mind says we are “randomly occurring”. We are the outcome of immense chains of very strict natural necessities (to avoid the word “law” with its double, mutually exclusive, meanings). That holds already true for my personal life since my conception, let alone for the course of evolution. The “random” part of us is actually the free will part. (That may be another discussion). This senselessly repeated accusation against our attitude to be the result of “random” is the general more or less friendly willful twisting of atheist arguments by more or less sophisticated theists. I don’t think that I attribute any bit less meaning and value to my life than you attribute to yours. That is an opinion, of course, which you don’t have to believe but one which certainly you cannot disprove. May I suggest you just “believe” it? Since I am an atheist, your arguments would “prove” that I am unable to use any reason, any mathematical argument, even any language, that all I can ever utter is complete nonsense. Thank you. Since you allowed yourself to answer my post, thereby generously acknowledging that you understand the language I used to pronounce this nonsense, part of your assertions must be revised.

  • Norman Singfield

    Metapysically speaking, the explanation of the origin of consciousness is faced with a paradox – intellect doesn’t operate in the direct perception of being. Religion is not spirituality (necessarily) nor is it intinsically good – au contraire I would say it is simply a vehicle for the projection of ego and ethno centristic bias. What “is” sources from spirit with no need for filtering through man created religions because every being is a direct connection.

  • Gerry

    Robert,as to the “ludicrous” atheists to whom you foist some funny ideas of yours’ ( about random and logic): In your attic greek class (wow!) you certainly have learned this line:Γελά δ’ο μωρος κ’εάν τι μή γελοιον ή!(I couldn’t find all the correct accents on the computer)

  • Jason

    I believe the challenge is improperly stated. Identify an act or statement that one human being can make that another can not. In the end, whether we are believers or not, we are still human beings with skills and with flaws. For some, like me, religion is the motivation to try to overcome my flaws. Unfortunately, for others, religion is the excuse they cite to get their way, which diminishes us all.I personally believe that a selfless person who does all those things people respect (volunteers time, donates money to charity, helps old ladies across the street, etc.) is a good person regardless of whether or not they do it in the name of a religion or just do it to be a good person.So if my “fantasy”, as some of you have called it, makes me do things that benefit society beyond the bare minimum of not committing crime and paying my taxes, who cares?

  • Jason Stegall

    I believe the challenge is improperly stated. Identify an act or statement that one human being can make that another can not. In the end, whether we are believers or not, we are still human beings with skills and with flaws. For some, like me, religion is the motivation to try to overcome my flaws. Unfortunately, for others, religion is the excuse they cite to get their way, which diminishes us all.I personally believe that a selfless person who does all those things people respect (volunteers time, donates money to charity, helps old ladies across the street, etc.) is a good person regardless of whether or not they do it in the name of a religion or just do it to be a good person.So if my “fantasy”, as some of you have called it, makes me do things that benefit society beyond the bare minimum of not committing crime and paying my taxes, who cares?

  • John Coelho

    Dear Christopher:The ultimate distinction is between belief and knowledge. Knowledge will always be a threat to secular or religious belief.The more a society evolves the less it believes and the more it knows. To the degree that someone is a truth seeker they are not a believer and to the degree they are a believer they are not a truth seeker.I respect you as a truth seeker but so far your truth seeking has taken you out of the barren landscape of religion by following intellectual knowledge.There is another realm of knowledge: the intuitive or spiritual is at least as important. By meditating and doing other spiritual practices people are not dulling or crippling the intellect. In fact, their intellect may become stronger. Most of what you see as bad in Eastern Religion is, precisely, the religious side of it not the spiritual side: the belief systems and neuroticly based support for them. Religion is deductive. It says something is true because it’s true. If you’re good you believe it. If you’re bad you don’t believe it. Spirituality is similar to science in that it feels that a theory only has value if it can be proved. For example there is a theory that if you sit quietly and watch your thoughts without censoring them they will tend to subside and you will come closer to the core of your being and the joy and peace that lies there. Either this proves to be true or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then chuck the theory. Nothing more clearly destroys the the dualistic God delusion as effectively as the pantheistic realization that everything is part of God. This is not a self- induced illusion; it is stripping bare all the projections of the mind and revealing what is behind it.

  • John Coelho

    Dear Christopher:The ultimate distinction is between belief and knowledge. Knowledge will always be a threat to secular or religious belief.The more a society evolves the less it believes and the more it knows. To the degree that someone is a truth seeker they are not a believer and to the degree they are a believer they are not a truth seeker.I respect you as a truth seeker but so far your truth seeking has taken you out of the barren landscape of religion by following intellectual knowledge.There is another realm of knowledge: the intuitive or spiritual is at least as important. By meditating and doing other spiritual practices people are not dulling or crippling the intellect. In fact, their intellect may become stronger. Most of what you see as bad in Eastern Religion is, precisely, the religious side of it not the spiritual side: the belief systems and neuroticly based support for them. Religion is deductive. It says something is true because it’s true. If you’re good you believe it. If you’re bad you don’t believe it. Spirituality is similar to science in that it feels that a theory only has value if it can be proved. For example there is a theory that if you sit quietly and watch your thoughts without censoring them they will tend to subside and you will come closer to the core of your being and the joy and peace that lies there. Either this proves to be true or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then chuck the theory. Nothing more clearly destroys the the dualistic God delusion as effectively as the pantheistic realization that everything is part of God. This is not a self- induced illusion; it is stripping bare all the projections of the mind and revealing what is behind it.

  • John Coelho

    Dear Christopher:The ultimate distinction is between belief and knowledge. Knowledge will always be a threat to secular or religious belief.The more a society evolves the less it believes and the more it knows. To the degree that someone is a truth seeker they are not a believer and to the degree they are a believer they are not a truth seeker.I respect you as a truth seeker but so far your truth seeking has taken you out of the barren landscape of religion by following intellectual knowledge.There is another realm of knowledge: the intuitive or spiritual is at least as important. By meditating and doing other spiritual practices people are not dulling or crippling the intellect. In fact, their intellect may become stronger. Most of what you see as bad in Eastern Religion is, precisely, the religious side of it not the spiritual side: the belief systems and neuroticly based support for them. Religion is deductive. It says something is true because it’s true. If you’re good you believe it. If you’re bad you don’t believe it. Spirituality is similar to science in that it feels that a theory only has value if it can be proved. For example there is a theory that if you sit quietly and watch your thoughts without censoring them they will tend to subside and you will come closer to the core of your being and the joy and peace that lies there. Either this proves to be true or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then chuck the theory. Nothing more clearly destroys the the dualistic God delusion as effectively as the pantheistic realization that everything is part of God. This is not a self- induced illusion; it is stripping bare all the projections of the mind and revealing what is behind it.

  • Anne

    Hitchens is a disgrace to atheists. How can a devoted neocon like himself, who has fawningly hailed the hyper-religious GW Bush as “a secular hero” and who has doggedly supported every step of the faith-based War on Terra stand in judgment of the religious? If he thinks religion poisons everything, why does he hang out with the most toxic religionists of all, as shown in this photo where he is cuddling up to the Jesoids at the Family Access Network?

  • Wontack Hong

    In human history there seem to have been two types of religious traditions. Through believing or awakening, one may be able to realize heaven or nirvana on earth and die expecting to enjoy a blissful eternal life beyond. The teleological tradition has sought redemption by believing in the existence of an almighty God, and finding positive meaning in the specifically defined nature of the Creator. In this tradition, the reconciliation of religious concepts with new scientific concepts becomes a real challenge. On the other hand, the inanimate tradition has sought, without assuming design, intension or purpose in nature, salvation in the awakening to the divine dispensations of Nature. At least in the purest versions of the inanimate tradition, there seems to be no fundamental conflict with modern science. On the contrary, advances in modern science seem to facilitate the understanding of the divine dispensations of Nature.

  • Mike Lautermilch

    This is all such a waste of time, and yet I just can’t resist putting my two cents in.Theists, I don’t know whether there is or isn’t some kind of god(s) (although I strongly suspect there isn’t, and there is no good reason to think there is), and I’m sure you’re all decent people, but your “arguments” are exercises in self-deception. There are so many problems with the arguments theists have posted in the comments section of Sam Harris’s, Christopher Hitchens’s, and Susan Jacoby’s essays, I don’t know where to begin.The reason for doing what one considers good is because ONE CONSIDERS IT GOOD. This is reason enough for most people. Whatever the origins of morality are (God, mindless evolution, a big rock) doesn’t matter in the least to me nor, I would guess, to Hitchens, Harris, or Jacoby. If I am morally outraged by government corruption, and someone comes along and demonstrates to me how my moral outrage is the result of a long, mindless process of evolution, how does that change the fact that I’m morally outraged? That moral outrage is a part of who I am. You might as well tell me to stop loving my nieces because that love is the result of evolution. I. DON’T. CARE. The fact remains that I love my nieces, whether or not God exists, and whether or not I have his stamp of approval. Theists claim that if morals come from God then they are somehow more legitimate (for lack of a better word) than if they are the result of a mindless natural process. How does that follow? It doesn’t. Not in a logical sense, anyway; maybe it does in a PERSONAL sense to YOU, but in no other sense does it “follow” that if morals come from a person-like entity who is not the result of a mindless process, only then can they be “legitimate.” If fact, from my perspective, if there is a God, his moral sensibilities are no less subjective and random than my own or anyone else’s. And, of course, there’s the whole question that goes back to Socrates: does God will things because they are good, or are things good because God wills them? If God wills things BECAUSE THEY ARE GOOD, then morality does not come from God and he is not the “basis” (whatever that means) for morality as you claim. Morality in this case is independent of God, and he simply follows it. On the other hand, if things are “good” merely because God wills them, then all normative terms (moral, immoral, good, bad, ought, ought not, etc.) simply mean “God wills” or “God wills not,” and there would be no reason to be “moral” (i.e. to do what God wills) except pure self interest — that is, because God happens to be more powerful than you and can dish out reward or punishment if he is so inclined. And in this case, God could say that rape and child porn and child abuse were “good” and, presto, these things would automatically, by definition, be “good.” And to say that God is “good” would mean ONLY that God acts according to his will, nothing more; it would be to say “God wills what he wills.” There would be none of the evaluative/normative appraisal that people normally imply when they call God “good” or terrorists “evil.” And to say that God was “morally perfect” would mean ONLY that God follows his will perfectly, nothing more. Here’s something else theists never consider. If we are the result of godless evolution, there might still be a realm of moral truth that is not merely the creation of human beings. It’s possible that the realm of moral truth is similar to the realm of mathematical and logical truths, and billions of years of evolution simply produced minds that are advanced enough to apprehend this realm of moral truth. Who the f knows?! Who knows anything?And even if what Hitchens and Harris consider “objective” moral truths are merely their own subjective moral sentiments, so what? So they are merely expressing their own subjective moral sentiments, and according to those moral sentiments, the Bible and the God of the three major monotheistic faiths are morally reprehensible in many respects. If you were honest with yourselves, you would admit that your own moral sentiments agree with Hitchens’ and Harris’s, and that certain parts of the Bible and certain aspects of the traditional concept of God are reprehensible to you, too. But instead of using Hitchens’ and Harris’s criticisms to rethink your own dogmatic beliefs, you dodge the issues they raise. For example, according to the Bible, slavery is acceptable to God. Is it acceptable to you? If not, you either have to disagree with the biblical God or deny that the Bible is the word of God and admit that the biblical God doesn’t exist. The Bible condones the stoning of adulteresses and disobedient children. (And Jesus apparently has no problem with these things either, since he believed the Old Testament was the word of God and said he did not come to abolish it and that not one bit of it shall perish.) Hitchens and Harris find such behavior morally repugnant. If you were honest, you would admit that you do, too, and that therefore the God of the Bible is either morally repugnant, or he doesn’t exist and these rules were simply the expressions of a primitive, morally backwards people.And lastly, there is the biggest moral problem with traditional theism of all — a contradiction at the very heart of Christianity (and Islam, as far as I can tell). God is morally perfect; absolutely, 100% flawless; he is pure love; his love is unconditional and never failing; he is merciful and loves humankind, who is the centerpiece of his creation. And yet this same God is going to torture the MAJORITY of humankind for eternity because of their moral shortcomings and because they don’t believe the right things about him. If Christians (and Muslims) were intellectually honest, they would admit two things about this: 1) This is contradictory. Period. There is no hair-splitting it away. If God is morally perfect, loving, and perfectly just and merciful, then there is simply no way he could EVER consign anyone to eternal torture for their flaws, certainly not the MAJORITY of the billions of people who have lived. If he is just, the punishment would HAVE to match the “crime.” If he is loving and merciful, he would lessen that deserved punishment or waive it altogether. And because this is contradictory, then such a God cannot – CANNOT, with mathematical certainty – exist and the Bible (and the Koran) cannot be the word of God since it contradicts itself in this way. And 2) If there is a God who is going to send the majority of humankind to hell for their moral shortcomings and errant beliefs about him, there is no way that normal, sentient human beings could ever worship, praise, or love him. He would be a moral monster that you would hate more, WAY MORE, than any Hitler, Stalin, or terrorist. Hitler, Stalin, and terrorists at least eventually killed their opponents; but according to traditional Christian doctrine (Protestant and Catholic) and, as far as I know, Islam, God is going to keep people who reject him alive just to torture them for not going along with his program. If you just stop and think honestly and vividly about that for one second without your dogmatic blinders and knee-jerk theological defenses, you would see that any being that would do this is beyond psychopathic, and you could never – NEVER – love, follow, or worship such a being.And if you finally see that the Bible is not the word of God, then what possible basis could there be for believing in a God with the attributes ascribed to him in the Bible? Once you see that the Bible cannot be the word of God, for the above reasons and many others, then all we have to go on when we try to figure out the possible existence and nature of god(s) is what we can surmise from the natural world, reason, and our own moral sentiments. How far does that get you? Once you get rid of written revelation, there is no good reason left to believe in the traditional concept of God. There is no basis for thinking that whatever god(s) there might be out there is ALL-knowing, ALL-powerful, omni-present (what a ludicrous concept that is), can listen to and perfectly respond to the billions of prayers offered up to him around the world each day, knows the number of hairs on your head, has a special plan for each of us, etc., etc. etc. And there’s no basis for believing in the narratives of the Bible: Adam and Eve, the fall, the incarnation, salvation, etc.

  • Roy E Oetting

    OK folks this is a religious website so you have to expect that it is a little biased. I would like to try to explain some things to the religious in hopes I can break through your blinders. The religious really like the word “Faith.” They use this word when logic tells them that what they believe in is a myth. They say “I don’t need proof, I have faith.” “The Bible says the world is just over 6000 years old so it must be, I have faith.“ ”Noah took a bunch of animals onto the ark but I’m not sure if it was just pairs or sevens because the Bible is a little confusing about that. I guess he took all 30 million species too. I don’t need proof, I have faith.“ ”The Jews are God’s chosen people and he helped murder all the other people that lived in Israel including infants. He must have been right and loving because he is God and I have faith.“ So much for faith. Ask yourself what was man’s first god? Do you think it might have been the sun? You bet your bippy it was the sun. Is the sun god? How many gods came before the god of the Bible? Is it logical to now all of a sudden believe that the Jews’s god is the right one? How is it the people of European or African stock would assume that the God of the Bible would care about them? That is not logical. Christians don’t know how to be honest, if they were they would take a good hard look at the book they worship. They could start by reading it. They then could investigate what historians have discovered about the book they worship. I know the religious experts don’t really believe. They are like my first pastor, he didn’t believe, he was far to intelligent and knowledgeable for that. That is why your minister says “Have faith.” He is certainly not going to say “Have Proof’ or ”Have truth.“ This was probably to much for you to grasp, but I did try to keep the words simple.

  • michael wickham

    There are no responses here because your arguements so utterly filled with half truths as to be labeled irresponsible. No-one desires to enter into dialogue based on conclusions derived from half truths. There are simply too many other worthwhile things to do than engage in empty debate.

  • michael wickham

    There are no responses here because your arguements so utterly filled with half truths as to be labeled irresponsible. No-one desires to enter into dialogue based on conclusions derived from half truths. There are simply too many other worthwhile things to do than engage in empty debate.

  • Roy E Oetting

    Michael Wickham, who are you talking to? If it was me, what half truths? Be specific. I hope you don’t try to make a living communicating.

  • aengus

    “Question: has Putin ever been seen wearing that crucifix again, or did his cynical advisers tell him that the Leader of the Free World was such a pushover for the “faith-based” that he would never check?”Yes. He was wearing it while on holiday in Siberia a few weeks ago.

  • Rick

    Mr. Hitchens,Are you Atheist or Agnostic? If Atheist, why do you take the position that there is no God, as opposed to the Agnostic position: ‘I don’t know’?

  • Anonymous

    Daniel,You say: ‘I assume Hitchens is honest enough to not quibble and to declare as a proper atheist that existence is accident if there is no God. But if existence is accident then it becomes ridiculous to speak of morality let alone moral improvement.’1. Why do you assume that eternal god is required to create universe? If god is not eternal, then who created it?2. Why not make simpler (and hence more likely) assumption that universe is eternal requiring no creator?3. Why do you assume that it is required of honest atheists to say that the existence of the eternal universe is an accident, any more than it would be be required of honest believers to say that the existence of the eternal god is an accident?4. If existence of the eternal god is an accident, is it not ‘ridiculous to speak of morality let alone moral improvement’?

  • Rick

    Sorry, anon was Rick.

  • ja’net

    I was born a jew, became a christian, became a mormon and then read Christopher Hitchens new book. Wow!I just threw away my crosses and bibles and my brainwashing, and practical ruination of my life and mind, is now on the healing trend!Thank you CH!!!

  • ja’net

    I was born a jew, became a christian, became a mormon and then read Christopher Hitchens new book. Wow!I just threw away my crosses and bibles and my brainwashing, and practical ruination of my life and mind, is now on the healing trend!Thank you CH!!!

  • Susan Cogan

    Someone said (predictably): Although a small handful of brutal dictatorships have been secular, ALL religious governments have been brutal dictatorships. If you want a free, democratic society with respect for fundamental human rights, you must have a secular government. Bin Laden, the Taliban and the Saudi government cannot be distinguished from the rule of Pope Innocent III, Torquemada and John Calvin. Imagine the bloodshed and devastation those three could have caused with Hitler or Stalin’s technology. No more Mr. Nice Guy!If you want to live in peace and freedom you’d better pray for a secular humanist government.

  • A. Martin

    You are a danger to the Republic, Mr Hitchens.And what of reincarnation? Supposing you were born next time into a Roman Catholic (or, God forbid – oops – a Muslim) family without your I.Q. and your gift of the gab (both of which reduce me to a delirious shade of green). Could you guarantee that sheer common sense would straighten you out? Hold that option open, I am dying to see how your talent would cope with being Pope (or another missionary?, sorry, couldn’t resist).And what of Jesus, aka, in some versions, as Saint Paul.So, are we the great ones?Posted by Tongue in Cheek

  • Ken Selch

    I can see your logic and it is reminiscent of the question “which came first the chicken or the egg”. The evolutionist would argue that the egg came first as part of a process that occured over millions of years. The religios Judeo-Christrian based person would contend that the chicken was placed on the Earth along with all the other living creatures (including man)by a supreme creator. If god does exist,then morality is established by His/Her/Its communication to humanity what the rules are. For without rules or guidelines, there can be no “right or wrong”. Without “devine Intervention”, man is left to his own invention or intellect to determine what is right or wrong based on the results or outcome of each action.For example, is it wrong to kill? Yes, because God said so in the Ten Commandments. Or yes, because it causes sadness, heartache and infringes on a human’s inalienable right to exist. So who established man’s inalienable right to exist God or man in the first place? If rules are left to the ‘trials and errors’ of human experience then there is the probability that the outcome of man’s behavior and intellect may determine that it is an inalienable right to kill an other human. (As in the case of capital punishment, the end justifies the means). Or the phylosophy may have been derived differently: That it doesn’t matter how you play the game; it matters whether you when or loose). I agree with your antithesis that loving God and fearing God is an oxymoron. Perhaps the concept of fearing God is a mistranslation (by humans) of the verb ‘respect’. Fear in a sense is involuntarily forced upon people: wereas, respect is earned and not always guaranteed. Several historical examples exist of Kings or rulers who were loved and were mutually respected by their subjects. Likewise, one would think that if there is a God; that entity, in whatever form He/She/It exists, would realize that fear only invokes a short-term allegiance; whereas, respect requires an ongoing positive interaction by both parties involved. Your essay presents an interesting dilemma. Many relgions proport that all truth comes from a god that is real and aware of man’s affairs. As creatures made by God or placed on this planet by God, God has the inalienable right to place in the minds of all human beings the concept or seed of morality (whether or not that individual makes claim to believe in God). So whether the chicken or the egg came first; or whether the moral thought is conjured by man or placed in the mind of man by the Omniscient Creator, that is the question.The religious man supports his or her belief through the existence of writings such as the Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon or other scripts of antiquity that claim to document or witness the communications of God to men. So if God had the power to reveal the “Word” (or rules of morality) to man in olden times; what prevents God from revealing His/Her/Its mind to the conscientiousness of any and all men or women on this Earth in modern times? Thank you for your very stimulating remarks!

  • Ken Selch

    I can see your logic and it is reminiscent of the question “which came first the chicken or the egg”. The evolutionist would argue that the egg came first as part of a process that occured over millions of years. The religios Judeo-Christrian based person would contend that the chicken was placed on the Earth along with all the other living creatures (including man)by a supreme creator. If god does exist,then morality is established by His/Her/Its communication to humanity what the rules are. For without rules or guidelines, there can be no “right or wrong”. Without “devine Intervention”, man is left to his own invention or intellect to determine what is right or wrong based on the results or outcome of each action.For example, is it wrong to kill? Yes, because God said so in the Ten Commandments. Or yes, because it causes sadness, heartache and infringes on a human’s inalienable right to exist. So who established man’s inalienable right to exist God or man in the first place? If rules are left to the ‘trials and errors’ of human experience then there is the probability that the outcome of man’s behavior and intellect may determine that it is an inalienable right to kill an other human. (As in the case of capital punishment, the end justifies the means). Or the phylosophy may have been derived differently: That it doesn’t matter how you play the game; it matters whether you when or loose). I agree with your antithesis that loving God and fearing God is an oxymoron. Perhaps the concept of fearing God is a mistranslation (by humans) of the verb ‘respect’. Fear in a sense is involuntarily forced upon people: wereas, respect is earned and not always guaranteed. Several historical examples exist of Kings or rulers who were loved and were mutually respected by their subjects. Likewise, one would think that if there is a God; that entity, in whatever form He/She/It exists, would realize that fear only invokes a short-term allegiance; whereas, respect requires an ongoing positive interaction by both parties involved. Your essay presents an interesting dilemma. Many relgions proport that all truth comes from a god that is real and aware of man’s affairs. As creatures made by God or placed on this planet by God, God has the inalienable right to place in the minds of all human beings the concept or seed of morality (whether or not that individual makes claim to believe in God). So whether the chicken or the egg came first; or whether the moral thought is conjured by man or placed in the mind of man by the Omniscient Creator, that is the question.The religious man supports his or her belief through the existence of writings such as the Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon or other scripts of antiquity that claim to document or witness the communications of God to men. So if God had the power to reveal the “Word” (or rules of morality) to man in olden times; what prevents God from revealing His/Her/Its mind to the conscientiousness of any and all men or women on this Earth in modern times? Thank you for your very stimulating remarks!

  • Peter Arnold

    Is the supposed resurgence of religion caused by anything more than fear that the supernatural may not exist?

  • Maria

    “Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever? I am still waiting, after several months, for a response to this.”Someone may have said this already but if not, here is a response: a believer could become a martyr; an unbeliever may die while protecting loved ones or defending his/her country but would not die defending a faith he/she doesn’t have.

  • Larry Petrus

    Religion merely confirms what natural law proscibes, based on witness and centuries of human experience.Obviously, you don’tknow what religion is. You are thoroughly confused as you make no sense at all. Take the Ten Commandments for example. Taken together in historical context, you have a prescription for survival of a wandering nomadic tribe. It was sanctified to inspire awe and respect citing the authorship of God.

  • Larry Petrus

    Religion merely confirms what natural law proscibes, based on witness and centuries of human experience.Obviously, you don’tknow what religion is. You are thoroughly confused as you make no sense at all. Take the Ten Commandments for example. Taken together in historical context, you have a prescription for survival of a wandering nomadic tribe. It was sanctified to inspire awe and respect citing the authorship of God.

  • Larry Petrus

    Religion merely confirms what natural law proscibes, based on witness and centuries of human experience.Obviously, you don’tknow what religion is. You are thoroughly confused as you make no sense at all. Take the Ten Commandments for example. Taken together in historical context, you have a prescription for survival of a wandering nomadic tribe. It was sanctified to inspire awe and respect citing the authorship of God.

  • Susan Cogan

    Maria quoted Hitchens:”Can they name a moral statement or action, uttered or performed by a religious person, that could not have been uttered or performed by an unbeliever? I am still waiting, after several months, for a response to this.”Maria Replied:I reply to Maria:

  • concepts are not reality

    God is a concept. The only way to experience true reality is to experience life without concepts. Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream,Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void,That you may see the meaning of withinLove is all and love is everyoneLet ignorance and hate claim all the deadBut listen to the colour of your dreamsOr play the game “Existence” to the end

  • Don Mullican

    Every year people in this country get fatter and dumber. Religion has been a anchor on humanity from the beginning. I am 61 now and have very little doubt that religion will destroy humankind. I often wonder how people can be that stupid.

  • VICTORIA

    Ms. Cogan, Which ideal or idea in particular have thousands of atheists died defending?

  • Tony Bollen

    Chris, as a religious person (of the Christian persuasion) I find your challenge interesting. The problem is that it is relatively pointless. Are nonreligious people capable of good? Of course…and religious people are capable of hideous abuses of the tenets of their own faith. I suspect no one will rise to offer an answer, because you’ve asked the wrong question. Anyone can utter a statement or perform an act. The only statement I can think of that comes close to answering your challenge is, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Saying it is one thing; truly believing it and basing your life on it is something far different.(On a related note, you make two erroneous assumptions — first, that love of God is compulsory, and second that redemption must be earned. Neither is true. But that’s a discussion for another day.)Thanks for the stimulating words. Everyone, religious and otherwise, needs to be forced to think now and then!

  • Tony Bollen

    Chris, as a religious person (of the Christian persuasion) I find your challenge interesting. The problem is that it is relatively pointless. Are nonreligious people capable of good? Of course…and religious people are capable of hideous abuses of the tenets of their own faith. I suspect no one will rise to offer an answer, because you’ve asked the wrong question. Anyone can utter a statement or perform an act. The only statement I can think of that comes close to answering your challenge is, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Saying it is one thing; truly believing it and basing your life on it is something far different.(On a related note, you make two erroneous assumptions — first, that love of God is compulsory, and second that redemption must be earned. Neither is true. But that’s a discussion for another day.)Thanks for the stimulating words. Everyone, religious and otherwise, needs to be forced to think now and then!

  • Rick

    I come down on the Atheist/Agnostic side. The odds are 50/50. Either an infinite and eternal god exists, who creates and destroys universes to pass the time; or the universe itself is infinite and eternal, having always been here and always will be here, no creator required. Yea verily!What do you think?

  • Prof. Stone

    I would also ask believers this question: “if someone did prove to you today that God did not exist, would you behave any differently? Would you start to mug old ladies in the street? Would you walk along the corridor and shoot the colleague you have hated for the last 10 years? Would you begin a string of affairs with other men/women?” I think the answer would be no. There is something in the human psyche that gives us all a limit on what is reasonable behaviour, and what is excessive or inappropriate. And it does not depend on reward or fear.

  • Prof. Stone

    I would also ask believers this question: “if someone did prove to you today that God did not exist, would you behave any differently? Would you start to mug old ladies in the street? Would you walk along the corridor and shoot the colleague you have hated for the last 10 years? Would you begin a string of affairs with other men/women?” I think the answer would be no. There is something in the human psyche that gives us all a limit on what is reasonable behaviour, and what is excessive or inappropriate. And it does not depend on reward or fear.

  • Rick

    Bravo Prof. Stone,Well done. Of course the believers will say that ‘something in the human psyche that gives us all a limit on what is reasonable behavior, and what is excessive or inappropriate’ was placed there by God and is proof of God. Atheists (like me) will say that it was placed there by evolution.I believe that the Golden Rule is the driving force of evolution’s law of natural selection at the higher levels of development that is responsible for that ‘something in the human psyche’. The cave man learned early on that if he did harm to his neighbor, his neighbor was likely to do harm to him in return.

  • Rick

    From another thread:Hi Victoria,You said:‘actually im not even one tiny bit interested in a definition of atheism- that seems elementary- but what do atheists believe in a more existential sense.’Not speaking for all atheists of course, just for myself, existentially, I don’t have a clue what we are doing here if that’s what you mean, and neither does anyone else. Kind of scary isn’t it. I just want to get up in the morning, go to work, have three squares a day, enjoy life with my loved ones, etc, etc, etc…

  • Rick

    From another thread:Daniel: RickAs a Christian, I have to say that I agree alot with you. You may be suprised, because many people assoicate “Christianity” with right-wing-born-again-Christian-evangelicals. They have very big and loud mouths and get all the press. But I am not one of them; I am just a “plain” Christian. As far as my faith and belief go, I have more in common with Mother Teresa than with them.I agree with you, it is kinda scary. I also have a tip for you: most religious fantatics have a great deal of doubt, which they work feverishly to suppress, instead of allowing themselves to experience. That is what makes them so testy. So, don’t think too bad of them.October 3, 2007 10:13 AM | Report Offensive Comments Posted on October 3, 2007 10:13 Good Daniel,I’m glad that we are able to reach a sort of meeting of the minds. I find that quite rare on these boards.October 3, 2007 10:31 AM | Report Offensive Comments

  • Rick

    From another thread:Victoria said,‘to me it beggars the question, well, if atheism is so intellectually superior, what alternatives, social solutions etc have they come up with?’Speaking for myself, I don’t claim to be intellectually superior, and don’t think others have said that either.As for social solutions, atheists are no better at this than anyone else. But I will offer a few suggestions at the risk of setting myself up for attack:1. Get serious about energy independence from Mid East oil. This is the root cause of our disastrous invasions and occupations of Palestine and Iraq.2. Get the Neo-Con Israeli lobbyists’ hands off the strings of power in our government. This is the 2nd root cause of our disastrous invasions and occupations of Palestine and Iraq.3. Can you imagine how much better would be our economy and national security, if we had spent the trillion dollars squandered on Palestine and Iraq on infrastructure and alternate energy sources instead?4. Get control of our worldwide population growth (I can hear the howls already). We are already overpopulated by about a factor of two.

  • Rick

    Mr. Hitchens,I take it that you do not believe that god exists. But, can you say that the likelihood that the universe spontaneously sprang into existence from nothing is greater than the likelihood that there’s a god?Or, can you say that the likelihood that the universe has always existed on an infinite timeline from negative infinity to the present time is greater than the likelihood that there’s a god?

  • Lee

    Great…Every cigarette Hitchens consumes depletes the rest of humanities intellectual capacity.

  • Rick

    Here is a question that I just posed to WP. Maybe you can help me with the answer; we have already lain some of the initial groundwork:Atheists/agnostics believe that god does not exist, although they are very careful to leave open the possibility that it does exist. Most atheists put the likelihood of existence at near 0, or vanishingly small as they say. Agnostics (like myself) may tend to rate the likelihood of existence higher, say 50/50. Actually this is a fine distinction, and many consider there to be no difference between atheists and agnostics. Thus I say that I am atheist/agnostic.If you are an atheist, please explain why you rate the likelihood of god’s existence as vanishingly small. Keep in mind that the only two alternatives are also not compelling: either (1) that the universe that we can all see around us sprang into existence from nothing, or (2) that it has existed forever, from negative infinity to the present. The negative infinity point on the timeline is also hard to get ones mind around. And if infinite time exists, the other dimensions of the space-time fabric are also probably infinite. These assertions of an eternal and infinite universe seem to be no more likely than the existence of god.

  • Lou Wms

    I am concerned about the Christian Right because a 2nd abuse scandal is brewing. This one isn’t sexual. It is about hate and its harm. Its activity parallels and might easily exceed that of the sexual abuse scandal. It was difficult enough when the Catholic sexual abuse scandal came out. People who were supposed to be the most trusted took sexual advantage of children. To made matters worse parishioners knowingly covered it up. Lou Wms

  • Rick

    Lou Wms,Thanks for the great post! I agree 100%. I’m sure that my good friend Victoria will also agree?

  • Anonymous

    Rick said “Get control of our worldwide population growth (I can hear the howls already). We are already overpopulated by about a factor of two.” I say give the christians their heart’s desire, crucify them. Jesus loves you, are you not his disciples. “Then Jesus beholding him, loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

  • Marilyn Martin

    It seems to me that your questions and the answers they elicit can be used to argue that goodness is the province of God. Certainly an unbeliever can do good. God, who is perfect, created goodness along with everything else, and it is free to everyone, believer or not. But man, who is imperfect, created religion based on sometimes accurate, sometimes flawed views of God. If his faith is based on flawed views of God, he can do great evil. If his faith is based on a true notion of God, he is more likely to do good. In my opinion. But I have no doubt that you’ll pick what I’ve said to pieces. That’s what good people with flawed views of God often do.

  • Ed

    Christopher Hitchens is a fool. The definition of “God” is, among other things, supreme intelligence. Without supreme intelligence, how can a person explain the existence of God, or the methods of God?But Christopher Hitchens thinks he can. Because he doesn’t understand how evil or misfortune can exist in a world created by God, he believes God doesn’t exist. This is foolishness. Hitchens can no more prove his own damn religion, atheism, than he can disprove mine! And in answer to Hitchen’s challenge on naming a moral statement or action uttered by a religious person that could not have been uttered by a non-religios person, how about this?When Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees on whether one should pay taxes to Rome, he said “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render unto God the things that are God’s”.That answer could not have been “made up” by anyone in a million years!And if Hitchens thinks his writing can beat that, he’s a bigger fool than I thought he was.

  • lena

    Thank you Christopher Hitchins first for your book”God is not Great”, and for your continued efforts to appeal to the “intelligence” of the human race. Your lucid arguments should have convinced people that man created god and not the other way round. Clearly, we have a long way to go. All of this should be commonsense to anyone with average intelligence yet it eludes most of humanity. The people who surprise me the most are the so called “educated” people. I think of them as the degree collectors because truly they are completely innocent of knowledge and haven’t the slightest curiosity or desire to know the truth. Keep it up! Religion has singlehandedly done more harm than all other evils of the world put together.

  • Jeff Horne

    All people are capable of good or evil no matter their particular belief system. I am not sure exactly what that proves.

  • Ed

    Lena: the intelligence of the human race is useless in proving or disproving the existence of God.

  • Tibor

    “Because people he created crucified him”

  • limewire

    Yhanks you

  • Jon Matthew

    The Lord Christ is good because he saved my life from ruin and blessed me with a wonderful family full of hope, love and joy. Words cannot express the gratitude that I have for the Father. I’m sad that Christopher has so much animosity towards Christ; if he only knew the power and the truth he wouldn’t say such things about the Prince of Peace.I hope the Prince of Peace one day will make known his love to you Christopher. All of heaven will rejoice. Luke 15:32. Good day my friends.

  • Robert Mckenzie

    The interesting point will be when Israel is forced to appeal to Jesus whom they deny. By then their military will be removed from power. Unlike the nightime thief, most will slumber and loose their wealth but for those who prize Jesus’ return the wealth of this life means nothing, having put their faith in him and daily look for his coming.

  • Allison

    I think it’s sad how this forum and the rest of the mainstream media give bigots like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris (who said if he had to choose between getting rid of rape or religion, he’d get rid of religion and who is okay with torture) a platform from which to spew their hatred. As Brian Mclaren stated elsewhere on this site, the New Atheists are making things worse: we end up with more reactive religious people and more arrogant non-religious people. What should happen is that moderate secular humanists and moderate religious people should find common ground and work together on issues like separation of church and state. Moderate believers and non-believers could also join forces against the religious zealots that pose a danger to us all.

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    Not applicable, to, say, Buddhism or religious ideas bottomed on PanDeism, is it? If the hypothesized God is not creating an ingroup and an outgroup then religion causes no harm.

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  • Chuck Frazier

    Hi,I felt this way until one night I was prayed for by a blind man and his wife. I was about to be married and my Mom insisted I have someone “bless it”. As this man prayed over me, I was mentally preoccupied with the worry of “Happy Hour” soon expiring at my favorite bar. The couple finished their prayer and I insincerely thanked them and rushed to my car to make the last 30 minutes of half-priced alcohol.Enroute to the bar and about 2 blocks from their home, I suddenly felt something odd happening. Even today, I still can’t explain it. All I know is within a few seconds, I hollered out “Oh my gosh, there IS a God!”. I couldn’t believe my own ears as I involuntarily shouted that. From that moment on, the feeling I had grew stronger and stronger. By the time I made it to the bar, I was in a sort of daze (no alcohol ingested at all). I started playing billiards because I had no desire for alcohol or even cigarettes even though I smoked heavily.As I was playing billiards alone, I began to observe other people in a totally different light. I heard a loud voice in my head that said “Chuck, that’s not who they really are. THIS is who they really are!” And with that, I suddenly saw the purest, whitest light I’d ever seen in my life near the navel of everyone in the room. The next feeling I experienced really shocked me. I was suddenly drawn to that light and began to feel an avalanche of LOVE coming out of me and directed to each person I focused on. COnsidering my brawling past, that as quite unlike my normal personality. Expecially since this was a motorcycle bar with a Texas version of Hell’s Angels (they were the Banditos).This gush of love kept getting stronger until I felt totally overwhelmed. I threw my cue down and began to rush for the exit. As I looked into someone’s eyes, they’d stare defiantly back (direct eye contact in that bar was usually interpreted as a challenge for a fight). But as they stared back into my eyes for more than 2 – 3 seconds, their hardened features suddenly softened as though they were feeling something they’d never felt before. I now know it was Unconditional Love they were feeling, but at the time I had no idea what was happening. So I continued to rush for the door and got to my car. I sat there for over an hour just blown away. I never said a word to anyone, not even my closest friends or fiance.About 3 years later, a little sawed-off fireplug looking co-worker appeared in my life and constantly badgered me about “this Jesus guy”. I threatened him with bodily harm and meant it. He kept at for a couple of weeks until I evening while preaching away, I finally decided to shut him up for good. So I said “Larry, I’m going to tell you a true story and when I’d done, I don’t EVER want to hear another word about Jesus or anything else you’re selling”. As I concluded telling the story I just shared with you (including more graphic detail), Larry suddenly slapped his knee and yelled “Brother! That’s exactly what I’ve been telling you about all this time! You had an encounter with God”. Mr. Hitchens, I totally respect your view and wouldn’t attempt to argue with you. There’s nothing I can say that will probably ever convince you. I might be able to “sway you”, but that’s not the same as convincing you so there’s really no point in trying. But I hope you one day have the same experience I was fortunate enough to have that fateful night. Sincerely,

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  • Chuck Hagler

    The issue is not whether good or bad exists in believer or nonbeliever. The issue is if one follows the tenets of any religion does it make them a more moral and ethical person. Certainly one could argue that one does not need religion to act moral or ethical but my premise is if one does follow their religious tenets religiously if you will(not just lip service), the results will demonstrate a moral and ethical person. And the reason for that is because religion by its very nature offers morality and ethics as guidlines.

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  • steve

    god gave us free will.Mr. hitches wave your hand in the air any direction you desire. Your are free Mr hitches to love man hate man love god hate god. it is your choice.you sholuld thank god.

  • Julia Baptiste

    I would like to comment on just one thing from the above, because I have to go out in ten minutes,The answer from any self-respecting religious entity must be a resounding ‘No!’. I’m surprised you’re still waiting for an answer, you should have asked me! Funnily enough the answer can be found in the telling of ‘The Good Samaritan.’ Anyone who helps another intuitively does so due to the understanding of the necessity of the act. The quality of character of a helping person will be seen by the level of empathy and compassion they have for the one they help. The religion, or set of beliefs of the helper is neither relevant nor helpful in satisfying the necessity to act. Nor is it appropriate to evangelise as you dress the wounds of an injured traveller. I’m sure this is what Jesus meant to convey. This is called ‘behaving yourself’ where I’m coming from and should be practiced by everyone, especially those confused within the belief that the words and forms of religion come before ‘religious acts’. My definition of a truly religious act is one exampled above with no mention of religion at all. Atheists, agnostics, non-conformists and cat worshippers can all perform ‘religious’ acts, although they’d prefer another term no doubt. The quality of the goodness given by an atheist to someone suffering is to great degree down to it’s necessity and appropriateness, the quality of the giver I have already described and these are in no way inferior to those adherents of my religion who behave in the same manner. I have always admired and enjoyed your well written articles and essays . If I don’t agree with everything you write, something you wouldn’t expect or demand I expect, what you say makes one think, or better -makes one examine your own ideas for rust and dust . That’s a compliment that is and there is no ‘but’ hanging around the corner in ambush. However, (damn, that’s another form of ‘but’ isn’t it?) I would like to know what your opinion of Scientology is. I can’t seem to find any reference to it in your writings anywhere though I shall continue looking. Maybe you have dismissed them as a religion and therefore naturally as bad as the rest of them. But it isn’t you know -a religion I mean, although it’s worse than any religion I can think of by a long shot. And there are very few people un-distracted by film star PR articulate enough to dissect the animal efficiently in order to expose it’s entrails to public view.Will you have a shot at it if you havn’t already?

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