Wednesday, May 6, 2009

god is not Great Chapter 17: The "Case" Against Secularism

As the title makes clear, in chapter 17 Hitchens will go into the only major argument that the religious use against secularists which Hitchens has yet to address in the text: The old argument of how bad regimes like Hitler and Stalin et al. were, while claiming that the very problem stemmed from Atheism.

I think anyone reading this can think of a hundred reasons why this is a ridiculous argument, form the fact that Hitler and the Nazis under him were a pseudo-religion of german superiority, or Hitler being a Roman Catholic, to Stalin creating a similar cult of personality. These of course are the most common counters which are espoused by those such as Richard Dawkins use in their writings.

While Hitler notes things of this manner in passing, when he discusses Hitler he focuses not on the religion of Hitler himself, but of the relation of religions with hitler. Most notably he goes into the early, somewhat uneasy, relationship between the Nazi government and the Vatican which later become much more mutually supportive. It think it was a good tactic to use as it gives Hitchens a clear direction away from the Dawkins approach, but it also puts things back to the religious. If religions prevent this kind of thing, why didn't they here? Hitchens even goes into some of the fabricated stories of the great resistance of the clergy and religious and why they were obviously fraudulent.

He goes on to discuss other rulers' pseudoreligious regimes like Kim Jong Il, as well as the ancient God-Kings of the middle east. Overall Hitchens tears apart the argument, showing our morality to be a human trait again, not a religious one.

It was an interesting chapter, but not entirely necessary for the argument, and in part it feels tacked on because of it. Worth reading nonetheless.

Chapter 18 & 19 tie into each other, and I will be reviewing them together, hopefully on Friday.

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