Religion – including Christianity and Judaism – is "violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children." At least that's according to the No. 1 New York Times bestseller "God is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything" by journalist Christopher Hitchens.
No question about it. America was founded by Christians. Its very purpose for being was the furtherance of biblical Christianity, according to the Pilgrims and succeeding generations. Our first school system was created expressly to propagate the Christian faith. Almost all the Founding Fathers who drafted and signed the Constitution were believers. Even Supreme Court Justice David Josiah Brewer, in the high court's 1892 "Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States" decision, proclaimed the obvious: "This is a Christian nation."
Today, however, many of us are infatuated with outright, outraged, full-bore atheism. Almost half of Americans – 45 percent according to a recent Gallup poll – say they'd be willing to vote for an atheist for president of the United States.
Dennis Prager, the brilliant Jewish radio talker and columnist, ferrets out some key reasons.
"First and most significant," he points out, "is the amount of evil coming from within Islam." He explains:
Whether Islamists (or jihadists, Islamo-fascists or whatever else Muslims who slaughter innocents in the name of Islam are called) represent a small sliver of Muslims or considerably more than that, they have brought religious faith into terrible disrepute.
How could they not? The one recognized genocide in the world today is being carried out by religious Muslims in Sudan; liberty is exceedingly rare in any of the dozens of nations with Muslim majorities; treatment of women is frequently awful; and tolerance of people with different religious beliefs is largely nonexistent when Muslims dominate a society.
If the same were true of vegetarians – if mass murder and violent intolerance were carried out by vegetarians – there would be a backlash against vegetarianism even among people who previously had no strong feelings about the doctrine.
Remember, to atheists, Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all pretty much the same – dangerous monotheistic fairy tales that induce people to oppress and kill each other – the only difference being the particular myths, superstitions and rules they impose on followers based on each religion's traditions and supposed "holy books."
Another major, if more long-term, factor contributing to the popularity of atheist books, Prager notes, is the "secular indoctrination of a generation," thanks to our de facto atheistic public school system:
Unless one receives a strong religious grounding in a religious school and/or religious home, the average young person in the Western world is immersed in a secular cocoon. From elementary school through graduate school, only one way of looking at the world – the secular – is presented. The typical individual in the Western world receives as secular an indoctrination as the typical European received a religious one in the Middle Ages. I have taught college students and have found that their ignorance not only of the Bible but of the most elementary religious arguments and concepts – such as the truism that if there is no God, morality is subjective – is total.
So the generation that has been secularly brainwashed is now buying books that reconfirm that brainwash – especially now, given the evil coming from religious people.
Finally, observes Prager, Christianity and Judaism have, with some notable exceptions, failed to effectively counter the ever-rising tide of atheistic secularism in the Western world. Pointing out that "it is virtually impossible to distinguish between a liberal Christian or Jew and a liberal secularist," he notes that all three "regard the human fetus as morally worthless; regard the man-woman definition of marriage as a form of bigotry; and come close to holding pacifist beliefs, to cite but a few examples."
Thus, with religious evil increasing in the world – thanks to Islam – and fewer and fewer people willing and able to confront it, Prager concludes "the case for atheism will seem even more compelling."
"Hitchens claims that some of his best friends are believers," says Post reviewer and confessed Hitchens fan Stephen Prothero. "If so, he doesn't know much about his best friends. He writes about religious people the way northern racists used to talk about 'Negroes' – with feigned knowing and a sneer. 'God Is Not Great' assumes a childish definition of religion and then criticizes religious people for believing such foolery."
So, why then is Hitchens' book so mesmerizing to so many?
Partly because he has a huge intellect, and most of us are impressed and frankly intimidated by superior intellect and knowledge – even if the bearer of those gifts is profoundly misguided. And partly because he's a superb writer, and inherent in skilled and passionate writing is the power to persuade, to shake up, even convert. It's a bit of magic, the way words strung together perfectly can play and dance on the brain, stimulating emotions and pulling on the strings of the mind in one direction or another.
And yet, upon close examination, what first appear to be powerfully logical atheist arguments turn out to be dust.
For instance, Hitchens boasts in Vanity Fair that on his nationwide book tour he says to his audiences: "My challenge: Name an ethical statement or action, made or performed by a person of faith, that could not have been made or performed by a nonbeliever. I have since asked this question at every stop and haven't had a reply yet."
A little child innately knows it's wrong to steal even though he's too young to have any knowledge or belief about God. For most people, their inborn sense of justice and injustice operates as intended – just as their arms and legs and heart and lungs do – even if they're not mindful of their Creator's existence. When atheists see an old woman fall down in the middle of a street, they stop to help her as readily as anyone else. It's called common decency.
Thus the very evidence of God – in the form of a mysterious moral sense of right and wrong that transcends time, place, culture and conditioning, a trait shared by no other animal – becomes for the atheist proof of just the opposite, that there is no God.
That's why the conflict between theism and atheism is not just a philosophical topic for polite debate over tea. It's a spiritual war of the worlds. That high anxiety I felt momentarily, as I tasted the "other dimension" that animates those who reject the very idea of God, was minor and passing. But I'm quite sure hard-core atheists feel agony when the opposite happens to them – that is, when they chance to experience a fleeting moment of realization that God exists, and that they are accountable ultimately to Him.
This would account for the near-explosive emotion that always seems to surround this "objective, scientific" subject. Underneath all the scientific pretension, it's all about man being master of his own destiny, about freedom from accountability to God, about being released from Judeo-Christian sexual morality, about making up your own rules, about sustaining the life of pride and individual will.
In a very real sense, it's about being your own god.
Read all of the column here.
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