Category Archives: Religion

Christopher Hitchens’ Finest Moments

christopher-hitchens
Christopher Hitchens. Pic: The Montreal Gazette

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was one of the greatest English-language commentators of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  His style was avuncular but this disguised a razor-sharp intellect and an incredibly wide base of knowledge.

Hitchens was a true man for all seasons; he could be funny, eloquent and incredibly gracious. But at the same time he was erudite and staggeringly well-read, with a brilliant mind. Enraged, as he often was by religious hypocrisy, he could focus a righteous anger on his adversary  that was truly spectacular to watch.

Hitchens, throughout his life, was a passionate atheist. Not just convinced or committed, but passionate. He saw religion as fundamentally anti-human. His low opinion of it was fairly universal but he reserved his most scathing attacks for the Abrahamic cults of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, sparing or favouring none. They were, as far as Hitchens was concerned, offensive to the conditions of being human in general and to being a thinking individual in particular.

Christopher Hitchens was never cursed with false intellectual modesty and he suffered fools very badly indeed. He made no attempt to hide his own intellect or grasp of the subject to hand, in order to entrap his opponent. On the contrary, he adopted a thoroughly Nelsonic approach to debating which, like the great admiral’s view of the duty of a naval officer, was ‘to seek out the enemy and destroy him.’ Occasionally, you do have to love the English and producing a man like Hitchens is a good reason to. We shall but rarely see his like again.

So to celebrate the great man, journalist, raconteur, bon viveur and atheist, I give you Part One of a collection of his finest rapier-thrusts, posted on YouTube by Agatan Fnd. Part Two will surely follow.

 

 

Why Islam Cannot Change

islam-cannot-be-softenedIslam cannot change because of an internal quirk that prevents it.

Why does Islam resist change and always revert to its barbaric, bloody, violent nature? The answer is because it has no choice.

Other faiths

Jews do not read the Bible as if it were literally true and in any case, the Bible is only one part of the foundation of their faith. The Torah, the body of literature at its centre, contains many other documents and traditions that inform Judaism. It is quite possible to be a Jew and at the same time an atheist. Many great Jewish thinkers and scientists, notably Albert Einstein, have been exactly that.

Practising Jews are expected to read the Bible but to make their own peace with God; and furthermore there is no promise of extra-terrestrial reward or punishment in Judaism. The reward for a life lived well is the return of the Promised Land — Israel.

This, together with their tiny numbers and the historic and ongoing persecution they have suffered, has tended to make them very tolerant, except in matters of the land of Israel itself. For example, while lapidation remains a punishment specified in the Jewish Bible, the Christian Old Testament, it has not been carried out for over 2000 years, as far as we know.

Israel, is a democratic secular state famously friendly towards its gay and transgender populations, despite the scriptural injunctions placed against them. Women — though still reviled by Orthodox Jews — are respected by mainstream Judaism and are regarded as fully equal to men within the State of Israel.

One of the reasons

Judaism is reasonable because there are contradictions in Scripture. It is impossible to equally believe everything this says when it directly contradicts itself, as well as observable reality. How could Jahweh possibly have created the sun three days after the Earth? Surely a day is a measure of solar time? Oy vey, it makes no sense.

The result of this is that most mainstream Jews see Scripture as a guide rather than as a rigid rule-book. This has tended to soften their attitudes. Although there are extremist fundamentalists who do not take this view, they are a minority and have no real power. Mainstream Judaism is inclusive, tolerant and receptive to new ideas.

Let’s look at Christianity now before considering Islam. Continue reading Why Islam Cannot Change

Evolution observed in trout

evolution-trout-salmo-truttaYou have to be brain-dead to deny the fact of Evolution these days. Well, these last 150 years actually… Apparently though, at least 40% of USians (other Americans are smarter), are indeed just so cerebrally demised. Hopped the neurological twig as it were. Zombified the gray matter. Deceased the thinking apparatus.

Now why would we worry? These are sister-shagging Bible belt rednecks who still think the South actually won the Civil War, aren’t they? ‘Oh no man we just kinda took a time out for a mint juleps n some grits n shit them gaddamn Yankees done called time on us!’ So who cares what they think?

Well the trouble is, they get to elect the Preseedunt of the Yewnited States (of America, not Mexico), and unfortunately, given the performance of some of the incumbents, that is the most powerful office in the world. I mean they elected Dubbya. (Well they didn’t really, but he still got the job.) And there is a risk they might elect another scion of the Terminally Religionard House of Bush next year.

‘Howdee do Jebby boy! Done shot any coons lately? I do mean raccoons now, y’all. Maybe one o them Afreecan Geeraffes? Or a Liahn?’ Continue reading Evolution observed in trout

Why Islam must embrace Secularism

word-cloud-secularismThe only way for the Muslim community, insofar as it can be referred to by such a homogeneous term, to resolve the problems caused by the rise of Islamic extremism and the predictable reaction to it, is at once to accept secularism and to reject shari’aa and the primacy of Islam over other cults.

The issue is not between a Christian majority and a Muslim minority, it is between a society founded on democratic principles and reason, an arch crowned by the keystone that we can change the laws that govern us by electoral mandate, and a religious minority that refuses to accept this, and instead insists that no part of the law, as expressed through shari’aa — because it is ‘god’s’ law — can ever be altered, even in one word.

As a lifelong liberal, inclusionist, respecter and promoter of minority and other human rights, I am thoroughly weary of the complaint of those who consider that our secular democracy does not do enough for them, while themselves refusing to recognise that all religions, whatever their individual merits and demerits, within a multicultural environment, must defer to secular democracy and secular law. Continue reading Why Islam must embrace Secularism

We live in a world of terror.

world-of-terrorTerror comes in many forms. There is state terror; organised terror which is not state-promoted (NGO terror if you like); and individual acts of terror which are nevertheless encouraged by religion. All of these have one end: to reinforce the patriarchy’s grip on society and they are almost all sanctioned by religion. While a half-century ago, Communist terror was a problem, with the collapse of the Soviet Union that died away: nearly all terror, in every form, present in the world today, is inspired by religion.

Individual acts of terror are where one or a small number of individuals, usually from a majority of some kind, kill, maim, beat, insult, deny service to or otherwise harm persons of another group in order to intimidate them. A good example would be violence against LGBT people. This is frequently a spontaneous act of terror by private individuals with little or no coordination. Yet it causes the deaths of hundreds of transgender women every year. We see the same in beatings of minority races, persons of colour and those who dare to speak out for freedom.

Most of this terror is encouraged by the rantings of deluded religious demagogues preaching hate against gays, trans people, blacks, Jews, women, you name it. What are the recent atrocities carried out in France but religious terror designed to suppress legitimate criticism of Islam? We saw it in Charleston but lately. We see it in the killings of doctors assisting women to assert their rights over their bodies. It is pervasive and religion is the cause of it. Continue reading We live in a world of terror.