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Hitchens & American Theocracy

I never did really get around to saying anything more about God is Not Great.

I guess to summarize my feelings about the book would be to say that I can't really disagree with anything he says. Deeply held religious belief has proven throughout the history I've studied to be deeply dangerous to freethought and to women. And while we would like to believe that that was then, and this is now, that is really not the case. The world is getting smaller, and with Iran threatening to acquire nuclear weapons, it's important for us to face the real possibility that religious fanatics will soon be able to nuke their enemies (and we are one of them). While the India/Pakistan situation is more remote, since we are nominally friends with both countries, and they are not aiming their weapons toward us, we cannot pretend that religious conflicts are ever rational. Further destabilizing of the region certainly will do nothing to improve the situation. Reason flourishes in good times, and unfortunately, religion flourishes in bad ones.

While I'm not certain that I am ready to be quite and forthright as Hitchens--call it old habits from being raised as a theist (it sounds somehow very prejudiced even to think some of the things Hitchens says)--I can find little fault with his argument other than the obvious fact that blaming theists for the actions of past religionists invites them to blame atheists for actions of people like Stalin and the like... of course, who started that particular blame-game is beside the point now.

Since finishing that book, I've been listening to American Theocracy, and I have to admit that the discussion of religion, being sandwiched between a discussion of oil and indebtedness, does take a slog to get to if oil politics or economics are not really your thing (and I admit, they are not mine), but the cumulative effect for an American who, despite everything, still cares deeply about her country, is particularly disturbing. And that this indictment is coming from a former Republican strategist, even more so. As someone who is interested in history, the historical parallels are also particularly disturbing. While astute and courageous politicians might still be able to tackle the oil and debt situations in this country, it is difficult to see how this will effect the rise of theocratic movements. It is difficult to imagine, now that they have had a taste for power, how they might react to losing it again in (what I can only hope will be) an inevitable backlash.

I've got about a CD-and-a-half to listen to yet. And then it will be on to a book about the Koran/Qu'ran. I wasn't able to find an English translation on audiobook, and from everything I've heard, this is by design. Rather like the Biblical example from the middle ages, it's difficult to imagine how this can be an entirely good thing. While certainly, reading the Bible in the original language is to be preferred for an understanding of the original intentions of the authors, it limits access to those who want an introduction to the topic, but aren't willing to dedicate significant chunks of time to learning Arabic and being indoctrinated... a good way to limit outside criticism for sure (and even inside ones).

I ordered a couple more things, but if they don't come in before I'm ready for another one, I can always start my 60-CD Bible set. (YIKES!) Or something fun, like Star Wars. :)

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
andysocial
Jul. 24th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
According to my Arabic-speaking coworkers, the Koran is not the Koran unless it is written in Arabic. Anything else is at best a study guide. At worst, it's an abomination.

None of my Arabic-speaking coworkers and friends are Muslim, but they kind of have to understand the mindset.
inafoxhole
Jul. 25th, 2007 05:16 am (UTC)
Sure... I've heard this before, but my reaction is pretty much "can you say 'propaganda?'". Seriously, they used to say much the same thing about the Latin Bible. Rubbish, all of it.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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