I’ve been reading God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. It’s a beautifully written book that discusses philosophical, historical, and social implications of many of the world’s religions. Basically, I am of the opinion that anyone can believe and do anything they want as long as they don’t hurt others in the process. Religion is often a non-issue in my personal life because my religious friends are typically great people who don’t deny science, don’t prosthelytize me, and don’t systematically impose their beliefs on others to disastrous effect. Reading this book reminds me that there are many people in many places in the world who are not like my religious friends.
Some examples include prevalent propaganda against vaccines (polio and smallpox in particular), discouraging condoms and birth control, and speaking out against blasphemy in response to the murder and attempted murder of publishers of a fiction book rather than speaking out against such tyranny (Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses). And I’m only in the third chapter.
There are other shocking and disgusting events that would be unfair to attribute to mainstream religions, like Pat Robertson saying that God delivered 9/11 for our sinful homosexuality and secularity (and later saying that God delivered Haiti’s earthquake for their evil voodoo), 9/11 itself, the destruction of beautiful twin Buddhist statues by the Taliban, etc.
The book so far has been excellent and I look forward to reading more. For religious people, it offers a great new perspective that might help illustrate how certain lines of religious thought can be harmful. For non-religious people, Hitchens own friendships with religious people are an example to how to live amicably with people with different beliefs.