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Philosophical Essay: Hitchens the Fundamentalist

Philosophical Essay: Hitchens the Fundamentalist

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Published by Thomas Whitley

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Published by: Thomas Whitley on Nov 26, 2008
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11/25/2012

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 M. CHRISTOPHER WHITE SCHOOL OF DIVINITYPHILOSOPHICAL ESSAY: HITCHENS THE FUNDAMENTALISTSUBMITTED TO DR. PERRY HILDRETHIN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFRELI650 PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION SEMINARBYTHOMAS J. WHITLEY1 DECEMBER 2008
 
1
PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAY: HITCHENS THE FUNDAMENTALIST
“Religion poisons everything.
1
These are the words with which Christopher Hitchensconcludes the first chapter of his book
god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
, whichis titled
“Putting it Mildly.” Hitchens, actually, does not put things mildly at all. These three
words are pointed and unambiguous and they are designed to be a heavy, if not fatal, blow toreligion. The entirety of 
god is not Great 
is devoted to the task of proving his thesis, that
“religion poisons everything.”
Hitchens, however, is not alone. Karl Marx decried religion as the
“opium of the people.”
2
 
Friedrich Nietzsche comments, “The greatest haters in history were, atall times, priests.”
3
There is much negative sentiment toward religion and, as a result, itsvarious adherents and practitioners. In this paper, however, I will argue that religion does not,in fact, poison everything, as Hitchens would have all believe. Moreover, I will show how
Hitchens’ argument is foundationally weak and fundamentally flawed by identifying examplesof Hitchens’ practices of over
-generalization and of avoiding direct critiques. Finally, I will argue
that Hitchens’ entire argument is in effect hum
anistic fundamentalism.
Hitchens’ argument is really quite simple. He believes that religion is detestable and he
supplies as many examples as he can scrounge up where religion can be cast in a negative light.Beyond this, though, Hitchens does offer his four irreducible objections to religious faith:
1
Christopher Hitchens,
god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
(New York: Twelve, 2007), 13.
2
 
Karl Marx, “The Opium of the Masses” in Kelly James Clark,
Readings in the Philosophy of Religion
(2
nd
 ed.; Ontario: Broadview Press, 2008), 263.
3
 
Friedrich Nietzsche, “Religion as Resentment” in Kelly James Clark,
Readings in the Philosophy of Religion
 (2
nd
ed.; Ontario: Broadview Press, 2008), 267.
 
2
1)
 
It wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos2)
 
Because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility withthe maximum of solipsism3)
 
It is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression4)
 
It is ultimately grounded on wishful thinking
4
 
As can likely be deduced from these four objections, Hitchens’ argument
is based almost solelyin personal opinion. This opinion, though, is supported by a collection of negative examplesfrom various religions. This is an area where Hitchens does not come up short in the least.Hitchens also makes the point that secular humanists believe that humans do not need
religion to be moral or ethical. Of secular humanists, Hitchens says, “We speculate that it is at
least possible that, once people accepted the fact of their short and struggling lives, they mightbehave better toward each other and not worse. We believe with certainty that an ethical life
can be lived without religion.”
5
 
In addition, Hitchens makes the point that religion “
must 
seek to
interfere” in the lives of those who are not believers.
6
As support for this point, Hitchens offersan example from the life of Mother Teresa. He recounts her flying from Calcutta to protest achange in the state constitution of the Irish Republic that would permit divorce. Hitchens
 
thoughts on this are clear: “In other words, an Irish w
oman married to a wife-beating andincestuous drunk should never expect anything better, and might endanger her soul if she
begged for a fresh start.”
7
 
4
Hitchens, 4.
5
 
Ibid 
., 6.
6
 
Ibid 
., 17.
7
 
Ibid.
 

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