“Is God Poison?” asks “Maclean’s,” a prominent Canadian magazine, on it’s April cover. I suspect that “clever” cover commanded the attention of believers, agnostics and atheists, alike — in other words, everyone that chanced to see it — while prompting a bunch of sales!
It was a long article worth discussing. Today, however, I’m only going to talk about a statement in the article’s opening page, which quotes someone named Christopher Hitchens. His new book discusses “…How Religion Poisons Everything.” Mr. Hitchens, while heartened by the world’s newfound interest in disputing God’s existence, tells us, “We atheists never thought religion would die out because it comes from fear of death….”
I agree, that’s one way to look at religion’s “origin and purpose.” But it certainly has never occurred to me, and I’ve been religious for ninety percent of my long life. If Mr. Hitchens seriously thinks that “fear of death” drove me to God, his reasoning is severely flawed from the “git-go.” I am one of the many people who go through life without giving death more than occasional thought, though I’ve had much to do with it in my family.
Of course, if Mr. Hitchens thinks that fear of death was what first prompted humans to conceive religious beliefs, that’s a plausible theory. But it is nothing more than an unproven, irrelevant theory, in company with numberless others.
As I see it, religion sets mankind apart from all living creatures on earth, as the only beings on earth (as far as we know) who can seek to identify their Ultimate Creator and contemplate why they exist. In daily life, however, religion helps us live far more peacefully with ourselves and our fellowmen than we could live without it — even though, as nations and as individuals, our “peaceful” relations with others are endlessly and violently interrupted! And all those violent interruptions happen, while a huge portion of the world’s population embraces the Ten Commandments! Imagine how we’d behave if we’d never been told “Thou shall not murder” ? And why does “Mr. Hitchens & Co.“ think we needed to be told that? It certainly wasn’t because humans seldom killed each other.
For our ancestors to need to be Divinely ordered to abstain from killing their fellowmen tells us that murder was even more commonplace than it is today, throughout the world. Humans want to be rid of anyone who really “bothers” them. And it’s common for us to severely “bother” each other! Learning how to turn our hearts to each other, as the Prophet Malachi said we must do (Mal, 3:24/4:6) is now the urgently needed “uncommon” factor in human history.
Thousands of years ago, societies worshiped more than 2,000 gods who, according to the tales concocted about them, often warred with each other — a direct reflection of human life. Yet, Abraham’s God told us not to murder, unless we were executing a person who had intentionally killed someone, “…having hated him in time past” (Deut. 4:42). To be sure, “unbelievers” describe Abraham’s God, introduced in the Hebrew Scriptures, as a bloodthirsty deity, akin to most of the other “gods” people worshiped. But the Israelites, the first people to believe in Abraham’s God, were told to war with heathens, only to claim the needed homeland God promised them; murdering their fellowmen for “personal reasons” was forbidden. And that was an UNCOMMON concept in human history, which Mr. Hitchens neglects to mention, while denouncing monotheism, in particular.
I, too, can conjecture about Hitchens as he does about me, a “believer.” So, perhaps Mr. Hitchens has suffered a fear of death since childhood and finds no solace in religion, which makes his unrelieved fear/dread/resentment of dying feed his argument against all the religious beliefs that have failed him. Or, he has convinced himself there is nothing to fear about death; our flesh decays and that’s the end of us, so he is trying to get multiple people to agree with him to convince himself he is “right.” Whatever his reasoning, he didn’t create our universe and he cannot destroy it, so he is “overpowered” by unknown forces beyond his control — and hating his helplessness. If true, that theory would simply prove that when we harbor “hatred,” we become destructive! But trying to destroy faith in God condemns Hitchens to fight a losing battle, which is a sad way to spend one’s life.
So, Christopher Hitchens, you appear to be a sad member of a species that is distinguished from all other creatures on earth by its ability to contemplate the Source of itself and all physical matter. You can “wait for science” to tell you how “the universe” happened, but the wait will exceed your lifetime. And that means you’ll go to your grave without ever “knowing faith” — a knowledge that appears to be exclusively “human.”