This review was written in 2007, the year the book was published. It needs to be on our pages.
Christopher Hitchens has cancer and may not live much longer. He has expressed some opinions that chime well with those of The Atheist Conservative, and some that are decidedly different. As an atheist he has won our approbation; as a political commentator he has often earned our criticism. In agreement with him or not, we have always appreciated his eloquence and wit.
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens,Twelve, New York , 2007, 307 pages.
Religion cannot survive in our Age of Science. Until I read this book I thought that there was life in it yet, enough for it to continue as an important force in human affairs for another century or so. But I am persuaded by Hitchens that it is already dead, even though there are many millions who still believe in gods or God and even more who observe the rituals of worship, and even though some act politically and devastatingly in its name.
How then is it dead? Hitchens puts it this way, with characteristic elegance: ‘Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago … We shall have no more prophets or sages from the ancient quarter, which is why the devotions of today are only the echoing repetitions of yesterday.’
So – Hitchens encouragingly claims – although Islam has risen all over the globe to fight for its life with fire and tongue against scientific truth, against criticism, against freedom of body and mind, and continues successfully to rake in its converts by intimidation and even persuasion, it is doomed just as the other religions are doomed, being but the ritual perpetuation of a long-outdated belief, and will dwindle away to nothing as so many religions have done before it. Coming generations in an ever more closely communicating world will find it harder and harder to believe in the unbelievable.
We know that there are scientists who are religious. Amazingly, there are quite a few who find it possible to accept all that cosmology and physics tell us about the nature of the universe and yet still believe in a Creator God with mysterious purposes for His Creation. Of course – Hitchens says – you can do this, but ‘the theory works without that assumption’. God can be retained, but is not required. Believe in him if you will, but to questions of how the world has come to be as it is, God is irrelevant, superfluous, an added extra, an unnecessary decoration contributed by nostalgia and habit. Further knowledge of the stars will not come through prayer, and though an astronomer may pray for knowledge and go to church every seventh day to win the approval of his god, it is to his telescope he will go to find the truth.
Hitchens dismisses the argument for ‘intelligent design’ – part of religion’s last-gasp vocabulary of euphemism – with illustrations of how if nature were indeed the result of design, unintelligence would better characterize the designer who achieved such results: the ‘useless junk’ in our DNA string left over from lower creatures; our appendix; our vestigial tails; all of which are explained satisfactorily by evolution but make no sense at all as intelligent design. One could add many more. I like to cite the inability of bees to alight easily on a flat surface.
The presence among us of tormenting and life-destroying viruses does not say much for the designs of an intelligence that is also supposed to be beneficent to the human creature. Scientific discovery and skepticism have removed the need to justify horrors, to answer such questions as to ‘who inflicted the syphilis bacillus or mandated the leper or the idiot child’.
‘Intelligent design’ implies that intelligence existed before anything else. But we are aware that what we call intelligence requires human physiology – including most immediately a brain – which, of all things known, has taken longest to evolve. It has come at this – our – end of the process. An assertion that such a thing was already there at the very beginning is not rationally persuasive
I have long wondered why so many find it easier to conceive of there being an original Nothing then Something (the universe) and then again eventually Nothing, than to conceive of Something always having existed and forever to remain. We know Something exists. We know that matter is imperishable: it changes but does not dissolve into nothingness. Why, if we can accept the idea that it will have no ending, do we need to think of it as having had a beginning?
In the grip of the belief that there was ‘a beginning’ of existence, believers like to raise their favorite ‘logical’ argument that since everything must have a cause there must be a First Cause, Hitchens logically asks for the cause of the First Cause, or ‘Who designed the designer?’ No theologist or philosopher has ever satisfactorily answered that (Thomas Aquinas’s argument that God could set the cause-and-effect chain working in the universe because he is outside it does not abolish the question of how he came into existence) – or ever produced a sound argument for belief in a god of any sort.
The onus rests always on the believer to prove his case. It is not necessary for the unbeliever to prove that the object of others’ belief is not there. As Karl Popper expressed it: ‘Seeing no reason to believe is sufficient reason not to believe.’ It is an argument against belief most useful to be armed with. Another of course is David Hume’s, who asserted, in the light of the immense suffering that God coolly watches his creatures undergoing, that if he is omnipotent then he must be evil, or if good he cannot be omnipotent. (Hitchens mentions both philosophers but neither of these arguments which would have served him well.)
Hitchens does not accept the shop-worn argument that without religion there would be no morality. He is as certain as I am that religion is not the indispensable source of ethics or law. Reason and experience teach people, and have surely always taught them, that it is better and safer to live in a world where certain kinds of behavior are by and large avoided and certain rules by and large obeyed. I was interested to find, when I got round not long ago to reading the Hammurabi Code that it deals chiefly with what punishments should be imposed on those who disobey rules of conduct rather than in laying down or even reiterating the rules themselves. Rules against murder, adultery, lying, stealing pre-date all recorded codifications, any tablet of commandments. As Hitchens says, ‘Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.’
There surely cannot be any doubt that religion has been the cause of much human misery, cruelty, torture, oppression, and probably the majority of wars. It is fair to add that some religions have inspired good deeds as well as evil ones. But then, people have always done good and evil regardless of what they do it in the name of. And surely always will. As for great works of art which it has inspired, it is not unreasonable to suppose that if religion had not supplied the inspiration something else would have done for the same artists. There must be at least as many marvelous pictures of mortals and ordinary scenes as there are of angelic gatherings and Christians suffering; at least as many admirable buildings dedicated to secular as to religious uses; and many more great poems and plays without religious themes than with them. Hitchens points out that beautiful and valuable things that have grown out of religions can be and are as much enjoyed and valued by civilized non-believers, such as himself, as by the pious. (My own list of such things is long, including: the King James translation of the bible; La Chapelle; certain painted angels and saints of the Renaissance; Bach’s compositions dedicated to God.) Hitchens cites, among things that do not require faith to treasure and preserve them, and in this case would have lasted better without it, the Buddha statues blown up by the Taliban in Afghanistan in the name of their religion – a type of vandalism that atheists are very unlikely to commit, having no reason to.
The author confesses to once having had a faith of his own, the secular faith of Marxism. He is now recognizably conservative, even traces of his former leftism becoming almost imperceptible. We welcome him among us.
Is Qaddafi victorious against the combined forces of France, Britain, and the US (aka NATO)?
According to this report he is. We can’t vouch for its reliability, but from the look of things we think it may be right.
Neither the US nor Russia sees anyone in the Libyan rebel political or military leadership capable of taking over the reins of power in Tripoli. It is therefore assumed that a member of the Qaddafi clan will be chosen as Libya’s interim ruler.
Obama and Medvedev also quietly agreed, those sources say, that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, despite their excessive involvement in the Libyan war, were wasting their time because they had no chance of making Qaddafi leave.
According to the information the Russian president offered Obama, NATO attacks had not disabled a single one of Qaddafi’s five brigades. Obama confirmed this from his own sources.
Qaddafi might not, however, be able to hang on to power:
The same report claims that Medvedev and Obama “traded” Assad for Qaddafi – ie. they agreed that Bashar Assad, the tyrant of Syria, would stay in power as the Russian leadership wishes him to, and Qaddafi would go as the Obama administration desires.
Word [is] going round that President Barak Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev Friday, May 27, came to a reciprocal understanding on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Deauville about the fate of the Syrian and Libyan rulers.
Obama is reported to have promised Medvedev to let Assad finish off the uprising against him without too much pressure from the US and the West. In return, the Russian president undertook to help the US draw the Libyan war to a close by means of an effort to bring about Muammar Qaddafi’s exit from power – in a word, the two big powers traded Qaddafi for Assad.
What sort of man is it that Obama is protecting, if the report is true?
This story graphically confirms what the world should already know about Bashar Assad:
Hamza al Khateeb, a 13 years old boy … was detained among hundreds of Syrian during the massacre of Siada.
After weeks of absence Hamza was returned to his family as a dead body … with scars testifying to the torture … bruises, burns to the feet, elbows, face and knees and his genitals removed. … wounds consistent with those seen of victims of electric shock devices and cable whippings. The child’s eyes [were] swollen and black, and both arms showed identical bullet wounds. …
After receiving his body, Khatib’s family was visited by Syrian secret police, who arrested the boy’s father. The boy’s mother said officers ordered her husband to say the boy was killed by armed Salafists, or ultra-conservative Muslims, whom Assad has claimed as being behind the unrest.
She said the secret police had warned her not to speak to the press, threatening, “You know what would happen if we heard you had spoken to the media.”
What is more, Assad is a tool of Iran, and Obama knows it:
The paper also reported that this is in addition to special equipment the Iranians sent to the Syrian authorities to help them in identifying and tracking down the protesters that use Facebook and Twitter.
This means that the Syrian and Iranian regimes, far from being targeted as enemies of the US, are enjoying a form of protection by the Obama administration.
From Big Government, by Bob McCarty:
About six years ago, the Dollarhites wanted to teach their young teenage son responsibility and the value of the dollar. So they rescued a pair of rabbits — one male and one female — and those rabbits did what rabbits do; they reproduced. Before long, things were literally hopping on the three-acre homestead 30 miles south of Springfield, and Dollarvalue Rabbitry was launched as more of a hobby than a business.
“We’d sell ‘em for 10 or 15 dollars a piece,” John said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, comparing the venture to a kid running a lemonade stand. In addition, they set up a web site and posted a “Rabbits for Sale” sign in their front yard. Most customers, however, came via word of mouth.
In the early stages, some of the bunnies were raised and sold for their meat. Much further down the road, John said, they determined it more profitable to sell live bunnies at four weeks old than to feed bunnies for 12 weeks and then sell them as meat.
“We started becoming the go-to people” for rabbits in the Springfield area, John said. “If you wanted a rabbit, you’d go to Dollarvalue Rabbitry.” He added that the family even made the local television news just before Easter in 2008 for a report about the care and feeding of “Easter bunnies.”
Initially, the Dollarhites sold the large, white, pink-eyed variety of rabbits. Eventually, however, they switched to selling a couple of different varieties of miniature rabbits, the mating pairs of which were purchased from breeders across the state. Not only did their “show-quality” miniatures reproduce well, but they ate less and seemed to be more popular with theme park visitors and retail buyers.
During the summer of 2009, the Dollarhites bought the rabbitry from their son who had grown tired of managing it. They paid him what he asked for it, $200. Things kept growing, however, and the Dollarhite’s landed a pair of big accounts in 2009.
A well-known Branson theme park, Silver Dollar City, asked the Dollarhites to have them provide four-week-old bunnies per week to their petting zoo May through September. When the bunnies turned six weeks old, they were sold to park visitors. The Springfield location of a national pet store chain, Petland, purchased rabbits from the Dollarhites as well.
In the fall of 2009, the theme park deliveries ended for the year and the Dollarhites scaled back their operation. At about the same time, the folks at Petland asked the Dollarhites to raise guinea pigs that the store would purchase from them. No big deal.
By the year’s end, the Dollarhites had moved approximately 440 rabbits and grossed about $4,600 for a profit of approximately $200 — enough, John said, to provide the family “pocket money” to do things such as eat out at Red Lobster once in a while. That was better than the loss they experienced in 2008.
Then some unexpected matters began demanding their attention.
It’s an understatement to describe the Dollarhites as being “beyond surprised” when, in the fall of 2009, a female inspector from the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA] showed up at the front door of the family home, wanting to do a “spot inspection” of their rabbitry. She said she had come across Dollarhite Rabbitry invoices while inspecting the petting zoo at Silver Dollar City.
“She did not tell us that we were in violation of any laws, rules, anything whatsoever,” John said, explaining that the inspector said she just wanted to see what type of operation they had. Having nothing to hide or any reason to fear they were doing anything wrong, the Dollarhites allowed the inspection to proceed.
John said he had to go to work at the family’s computer store, so Judy took the inspector to the back of their property where the rabbits were raised. There, the inspector began running the width of her finger across the cage and told the Dollarhites they would need to replace the cage, because it was a quarter-inch too small and, therefore, did not meet federal regulations.
Such a requirement came as a shock to the Dollarhites, because they had just invested in new cages to ensure the bunnies had a healthy amount of space to develop, John explained. Though raising dwarf breed varieties of rabbits which require less space, they had opted to purchase cages designed for “large breed rabbits” so the dwarfs would have plenty of room. All for naught.
Not only was the cage too small, according to the inspector, but she noted a small rust spot on a feeder and cited it as being out of compliance. When the Dollarhites told the inspector that rabbit urine causes the cages to rust and that they worked hard to keep the rabbits cages in top shape, she told them it didn’t matter. The rust spot would count as an infraction.
The inspector then asked how the cages were sanitized, John said, and Judy explained how she moved the bunnies to travel carriers and powerwashed the cages, using bleach when necessary. Afterward, she allowed the cages to dry in the sun before putting the bunnies back inside them.
The Dollarhites’ practice was much safer than that used by some breeders who used blow torches to burn hair and manure from the cages — a practice that can lead to rusting metal and produce toxic fumes from burning metal.
During the course of the spot inspection, John said, the inspector asked his wife if she and John would like to have their operation certified by USDA. Judy said she wasn’t sure and asked what certification would entail and if it would help them sell more rabbits. The inspector responded, telling her it would involve monthly inspections and was completely voluntary. The inspection ended with the inspector telling Judy that the Dollarhites rabbits looked healthy and well-cared for.
After the inspection, the Dollarhites didn’t hear from the USDA again until January 2010, John said, when he received a phone call from a Kansas City-based investigator from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service [APHIS].
“He called us and said, ‘I need to have a meeting with you and your wife,’” John recalled.
After explaining that he asked the investigator to come after the workday at the computer store had ended, John said he asked the investigator about the purpose of the meeting,
“He said, ‘Well, it’s because you’re selling rabbits and you’ve exceeded more than $500 dollars in a year,’” John said, “and I went, ‘Okay, what does that have to do with anything?’”
John said the investigator refused to discuss details over the phone and made it clear that rejecting his request for a meeting would be a costly error in judgment.
When Judy asked if they should have an attorney present, the investigator responded, saying, “Well, that might be a good thing.”
“At that point, we kind of set back, (wondering) what in the world is going on,” John said. Then he found an attorney who is also a farmer.
“I didn’t want a ‘city slicker,’” said John, a farmer himself until 1996 when he sold his farm to build a home in Nixa. “I wanted someone that had been around the agriculture and farm business.”
John found a guy and they met for the first time a couple of days later — at the same time both met the APHIS investigator in person at John’s home.
“The first thing (the investigator) said was ‘My name is so and so, I’ve been in the USDA for 30-plus years, and I’ve never lost a case,’” John recalled, continuing. “He said, ‘I’m not here to debate the law, interpret the law or discuss the law, I’m here just to do an investigation.’”
John said the investigator went on to explain that he would ask questions, write a report based on the answers and send that report to his superiors at the USDA regional office in Colorado Springs, Colo. The entire process was suppose to take about a month, and John was told to contact the regional office if he had not heard anything in six weeks.
“At this point in time, we were still not knowing anything about the law he was talking about,” John explained, adding that his rabbitry had never had any issues with any animal welfare agencies.
Eight weeks passed, and John decided to call Colorado Springs. Immediately, he was given the number to a USDA office in the nation’s capitol. He called the new number, and the lady he reached there was blunt, John said.
“She said, ‘Well, Mr. Dollarhite, I’ve got the report on my desk, and I’m just gonna tell you that, once I review it, it’s our intent to prosecute you to the maximum that we can’ and that ‘we will make an example out of you’.”
When John once again tried to determine which law he and his wife had violated, he said the USDA lady replied, “We’ll forward you everything.”
“Ma’am, what law have we broken?” John said.
“Well, you sold more than $500 worth of rabbits in one calendar year,” she replied, according to John.
“Okay, what does that have to do with anything?” John countered.
The lady replied by saying there is a guideline which prohibits anyone from selling more than $500 worth of rabbits per year, John recalled, but she refused to cite any specific law and, instead, promised to send him the report containing details.
At that point, John said he called his attorney and was told not to worry about it, because he couldn’t find evidence of any law or regulation the Dollarhites had violated.
Soon after the meeting with the APHIS investigator and with the stress of the investigation hanging over their heads, John said he and his wife traded everything associated with the rabbit operation for other agricultural equipment. …
Recently, the Dollarhites received a “Certified Mail Return Receipt” letter (dated April 19, 2011) from the USDA informing them that they had broken the law and must pay USDA a fine of $90,643. Their crime? Violating 9 C.F.R. § 2.1 (a) (1): Selling more than $500 worth of rabbits in a calendar year. …
Based on an average price per rabbit sold being $10.45, the fine comes out to more than $206 per rabbit. In addition, the letter contains the following statement:
APHIS laws and regulations provide for administrative and criminal penalties to enforce these regulatory requirements, including civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each of the violations documented in our investigation.
If the threat contained in the letter is to be believed, the family could be fined as much as $10,000 per rabbit beyond the first 50 bunnies that netted the family its first $500. Do the math (390 rabbits x $10,000 each) and, if they don’t pay the initial fine, they could face additional fines totaling $3.9 million.
This is how prosperous nations become poor.
It is government-induced decline.
As President Reagan said: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem”.
John Hinderaker at PowerLine writes about this video:
[It] exposes the fiction that the Obama administration has been anything other than a disaster for America’s energy industry. There is no conceivable explanation–no rational explanation, anyway–for Obama’s encouragement of Brazil’s drilling for new oil in the Atlantic, and promising to be Brazil’s best customer, at the same time that he is condemning energy workers here in the United States to unemployment. … When a president favors Brazilian workers over American workers, and puts American taxpayers’ dollars behind that preference, what are we to conclude?
We concluded long ago that Barack Obama has every intention of doing as much harm as he can to the country he was so disastrously elected to lead.
But how did it ever come about that one man has the power to shut off America’s access to its own oil?
Obama even ignores court orders and gets away with it.
Obama imposed a moratorium on drilling, and a Federal District Court judge ordered it lifted. So Obama issued another “substantively identical” moratorium.
Obama was found in contempt of court.
The moratorium continues.
From The Foundry:
It is no small matter when… Federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman held the Obama Interior Department in contempt of court for dismissively ignoring his ruling to cease the job-killing drilling moratorium imposed by President Obama …
Feldman wrote: “Such dismissive conduct, viewed in tandem with the reimposition of a second blanket and substantively identical moratorium and in light of the national importance of this case, provide this Court with clear and convincing evidence of the government’s contempt of this Court’s preliminary injunction order.” …
Obama’s moratorium isn’t merely hurting a local economy, but the national economy of the United States. Gas prices are rising, jobs are being lost, service industries are suffering and the government is losing much-needed royalty revenue as a result of this capricious act. …
Defiantly ignoring binding judicial decisions seems to have become a matter of habit for this White House. … There is simply no excuse for President Obama’s open contempt for directly binding judicial rulings. Judge Feldman, in his original injunction said the Obama Administration “acted arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the moratorium.” Our economy can’t suffer much more of the president’s arbitrary and capricious behavior, and neither can the courts.
Obama acts like a monarch. He apparently considers himself to be above the law.
This is surely an intolerable state of affairs. Why is nothing being done to stop him?
Why are the “checks and balances” not working?
In a fervently, almost ecstatically, favorable review of Terrence Malick’s “mystical” movie The Tree of Life, John Boot writes:
Malick gorgeously imagines the creation of Earth and its development through periods of fire and mayhem. We see wonderfully done shots of the early days of the planet that include images of dinosaurs. At one point, one dinosaur lies stricken and perhaps dying on the ground while another dinosaur comes up and seems bent on killing it — but then apparently thinks better of this and walks away again. It’s as if Malick is illustrating the most rudimentary appearance of mercy.
He goes on to say:
Each of these [human] characters ultimately stands for the same idea: That we are all, in a sense [what sense? – JB], children of a great power that we can never hope to understand. … It’s entirely proper, and refreshingly unusual, for a filmmaker to try to use the majesty of cinema to make us feel the majesty of God.
We’d enjoy feeling awed, but how can we when we’re still laughing at the merciful dinosaur?
Typically, this Christian report of an attack by Muslims on Christians stupidly avoids mentioning the word “Muslim” or “Christian”.
Sudan was recently partitioned, following a referendum on independence in the largely Christian south.
Sudanese forces attacked Abyei town on Saturday at around 8pm. The whole town was completely set on fire and approximately 20,000 people fled towards the bush and towns in Warrap State. The situation on the ground is worsening. Displaced people and children are seriously affected living under trees in Agok. Civilians are down on streets and in bushes, no food, no shelter, no water and no medical assistance.
A local school has accommodated 2,800 displaced people despite the fact that there is very limited space for such a huge number of people. There is no other option, the deteriorating conditions force us to accept them in. The majority are still under trees with children, sick people and elderly people. People with communicable diseases are forced to sleep together with healthy people. … We [the Anglican Alliance] are left no choice but to raise the voice of the voiceless for relief assistance.
Implying?: We hate to complain, we know we should just thank Jesus for the martyrdom of the 2,800 people, but we feel somehow forced to ask for some help for them.
The humanitarian situation, already critical, was compounded last night by heavy rainfall and the cancellation of a planned food distribution due to lack of security.
Lack of security? So they’re afraid? But surely either Jesus will protect them or they’re missing another chance of martyrdom!
A fertile area claimed by both the North and the South, Abyei was due to vote on its future during a referendum on independence in the South earlier this year. The vote was postponed because of disagreements over eligibility and fears over increasing tension.
Which was not avoided by trying to avoid it:
Continuing ambiguity over the town’s final status has led to … ongoing friction and conflict.
No “conflict” actually – just Christians being victimized by Muslims. They say “conflict” to suggest that both sides are equally to blame, which is not the case. But they fear to offend Muslims. Christians the world over are afraid to offend Muslims. The Christian world has been thoroughly dhimmified – even outside of the Muslim-ruled countries.
Oh, Christians! Ye of little faith! You could be enjoying martyrdom at their hands!
Anglicans who would like to donate money to the relief efforts in this emergency are encouraged to do so through the Anglican aid agency where they live.
Anglicans are also asked to provide prayers of support and sympathy to those who need assistance.
That’ll do the trick of course – putting their hands together and mumbling some words. Works every time.
They shouldn’t bother to send money or food or medicine themselves. They should just ask God to do it. They know that God exists and is all good and merciful, and if he is only prayed to, he will surely do what he is asked.
From Bare Naked Islam:
58 Hindus were killed and 43 injured when Muslims attacked the Sabarmati Express and set afire four of its coaches at Godhra railway station in Gujarat on February 27th, 2002.
Hindu children killed by Muslims with machetes
Find more pictures of such atrocities committed by Muhammad’s faithful followers in the name of Allah the Merciful here – if you can bear to look at them.
Battle cry 16
My friends, we will stand together.
We will stand firm.
We will not submit. Never. Not in Israel, not in Europe, not in America. Nowhere.
We will survive.
We will stop islam.
We will defend our freedoms.
We will remain free.
(From Creeping Sharia)