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Hitchens’ Razer:

That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

The Atheist Proposition:

  1. It may not be said that there is no god.
  2. It may be said that there is no evidence or reasons to think that there is one.

You can’t tell anything else about me

You can’t tell anything else about what I think, about what I believe, about what my politics are, or my other convictions. It’s just that I don’t believe in the existence of a supernatural dimension. I’ve never been shown any evidence that any process observable to us cannot be explained by more satisfactory and more convincing means.

Hitchens’ Compass: Religion makes us evil where we otherwise would not be

  1. There is no moral action a religious person can take, that they couldn’t take if they were not religious.
  2. There are an infinite amount of immoral actions that a person will take only because of the influence of religion.

We probably shouldn’t have a word for Atheism

The proposition that atheism is true is a misstatement of what I have to prove and what we believe. There’s an argument among some of us as to whether we need the word at all. In other words, I don’t have a special name for my unbelief in tooth fairies, witches, or Santa Claus. I just don’t think they’re there. I don’t have to prove ‘atoothfairyism,’ ‘asantaclausism,’ or ‘awitchism.’ I have to say that I think those who believe in these things have never been able to make a plausible or intelligible case for doing so. That’s not agnosticism because it seems to me that if you don’t think there is any evidence, you’re wrong to take refuge in saying you’re neutral. You ought to have the courage to answer the question which is regularly asked, ‘Are you an atheist or not?’ Yes, I will say, I am.

Hitchens’ Paradox: Belief in God is absurd

  1. Humans have been around for 100,000 years, many dying as infants, with a life expectancy of 25 only years, often dying of their teeth.
  2. For the first few hundred thousand years, infant mortality rates were rife, and diseases caused by microorganisms were terrifying. Additionally, there were natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes, as well as fights over resources, land, and tribalism.
  3. For 96, maybe 98,000 years, heaven (a figurative term) watched these events unfold with indifference and coldness.
  4. Around 3 to 4 thousand years ago, in parts of the Middle East that were barbaric and illiterate, it was decided that intervention was necessary to improve the situation. However, this intervention took the form of human sacrifices, plagues, and mass murder.
  5. If these violent methods did not make people behave morally, it was not clear what else could be done.

Anyone who believes this narrative would be considered very stupid and immoral.

Key Beliefs Summarized:

  1. The Atheist proposition is based on the idea that there is no reason to believe in a God, rather than a claim that there is no God. This means that while some people may believe in a deity, there is no objective or verifiable evidence to support this belief. I can appreciate this position because it allows me to remain open-minded and objective, while also acknowledging that the burden of proof lies with those making the claim that a god exists.
  2. Going from being a deist to a theist is difficult because it involves believing in a God who cares about you, answers your prayers, and has specific rules for your life. I find this point interesting because it highlights the distinction between deism and theism. While a deistic god may be seen as a “first cause” or “prime mover” of the universe, a theistic god is often portrayed as having a personal interest in human affairs. This idea is difficult for me to accept because it requires me to believe in a specific set of religious doctrines without any evidence to support them.
  3. Religion is a form of tyranny that seeks to own and control every aspect of your life. This is a strong statement, but I can see how religion can be used as a tool of control and oppression. When religious leaders claim to speak for a divine authority, it can be difficult for individuals to challenge their authority or question their teachings. This can lead to a situation where people are forced to live their lives according to someone else’s rules and beliefs.
  4. Religion insults us by suggesting that we cannot know right from wrong without divine permission. I find this point particularly troubling because it suggests that morality can only come from a divine source. This not only undermines our own sense of moral agency and autonomy, but it also implies that non-believers are somehow incapable of being moral or ethical.
  5. Religion is our first attempt at philosophy, morality, and healthcare, but it is also our worst attempt because it was created when we knew little about the world. I find this point to be both insightful and humbling. While religion may have served as an early attempt to understand the world and our place in it, it is important to acknowledge that our understanding of the world has evolved significantly since those early days. We now have better explanations for the natural world and more sophisticated ethical and philosophical frameworks that are not dependent on religious doctrine.
  6. The supernatural explanations offered by religion are not as beautiful or elegant as natural explanations offered by science. This point highlights the contrast between religious explanations for the world and the scientific explanations that have emerged over time. While religious explanations may have been seen as beautiful or poetic in the past, they are often seen as simplistic or naive in the face of scientific understanding. I find this contrast to be a reminder of the power of human curiosity and ingenuity in uncovering the mysteries of the world.
  7. The idea of divine intervention in human affairs is immoral and intellectually dishonest. This is a strong statement, but I can see the reasoning behind it. If we believe that a divine authority is directly responsible for our actions and outcomes, it can be easy to abdicate responsibility for our own choices and actions. It also implies that suffering and tragedy in the world are somehow part of a divine plan, which can be a difficult idea to accept. Instead, I prefer to focus on the power of human agency and the ways in which we can work together to make the world a better place.

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Read More from Christopher Hitchens

Full Transcript:

Okay, let me see. I don’t think it’s going to take ten minutes to disprove visions of God. The Atheist proposition is the following: most of the time, it may not be said that there is no God; it may be said that there is no reason to think that there is one. That was the situation after Lucretius and Democritus, and the original Ante-theistic thinkers began a critique of religion. And I would just ask you all, ladies and gentlemen, to bear in mind a mild distinction while we go on. You may wish to be a deist, as my heroes Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine were. And you may not wish to abandon the idea that there must be some sort of first or proximate cause or prime mover of the known observable world and universe. But even if you can get yourself to that position, which we unbelievers maintain is always subject to better and more perfect, and what elegant explanations, even if you can’t get yourself left in, all your work is still ahead of you. To go from being a deist to a theist, in other words, from someone who says God cares about you, knows who you are, minds what you do, answers your prayers, cares which bits of your penis or clitoris you saw away or have sawn away for you, minds who you go to bed with and in what way, minds what Holy Days you observe, minds what you eat, minds what positions you use for pleasure, all your work is still ahead of you. And lots of luck, because there’s nobody, nobody. Even Aquinas had to give it up. There’s no one who can move from the first position to the second. So, I could actually strongly tempted to leave it right there, but then it’s not in my nature to let off a captive audience so easily. So, I’ll add a couple of things. The reasons why I am glad this is not true would, I suppose, be the crux of my case. Some people I know who are atheists will say they wish they could believe it. Some people I know who are former believers say they wish they could have their old faith back; they miss it. I don’t understand this at all. I think it’s an excellent thing. There’s no reason to believe in the absurd propositions I just mentioned. The main reason for this, I think, is that it is a church-authoritarian belief. It is the wish to be a slave. It is the desire that there be an unalterable, unchallengeable, tyrannical authority who can convict you of thought crime while you are asleep, who can subject you – who must, indeed, subject you – to total surveillance around the clock, every waking and sleeping minute of your life, before you’re born and even worse (and where the real fun begins) after you’re dead. A celestial North Korea. Who wants this to be true? Who but a slave desires such a ghastly fate? I’ve been to North Korea; it has a dead man as its president. Kim Jong-il is only head of the party and head of the army; he’s not head of the government of the state – that office belongs to his deceased father, Kim Il-sung. It’s a necrocracy. An autocracy is one short of a trinity, I might add. The son is the reincarnation of the father. It is the most revolting and utter and absolute and heartless tyranny the human species has ever evolved. But at least you can die and leave North Korea. Does the Quran or the Bible offer you that liberty?

No, no, the tyranny, the misery, the utter ownership of your entire personality, the smashing of your individuality only begins at the point of death. This is evil, this is a wicked preachment. So that’s the first thing. Second, it attacks us in our deepest, in our deepest most essential integrity. It’s an insult to us. In other ways, it says that we, you and I, could not individually or collectively decide upon a right action or right thing without celestial divine permission. We would not know right from wrong if we did not have heaven’s permission to do so. Where else, how else could we know our human solidarity, our innate knowledge of right and wrong, our acute awareness of what is fair and what is unfair, what is just, not worthless to us? These come to us also as gifts from the greater unassailable dictator and throne. What, what, what could abolish our integrity, what could abolish our honesty, or our sincere, our dignity? More than that, the second third is a little more pragmatic. Religion is our first, that’s why I’m so fascinated with it. It’s our first version of the truth, it’s our first attempt as a species. It’s what we tried when we didn’t know anything. We didn’t know we lived on a spherical planet. We didn’t know that a planet revolved around the Sun. We didn’t know that there were microorganisms that explain disease. We thought diseases came from curses or witches or ill-wishing or devils of dust elves. We didn’t know anything from the childish, terrified, ignorant origins of our animal primate species. We come to regen. It’s also a first attempt of philosophy, our first attempt at morality, our first attempt at healthcare, actually. But because it was our first, it is our worst. We now have better explanations for all dreads, and we have cleared up all of these mysteries. Yet we still dwell and in some countries, in some societies, not just dwell, but live under a totalitarian regime that forbids us to think about the progress that has been made or denies us the knowledge that these advances have in fact occurred. So it has become where once it probably was an aid to our survival, a really great peril to our continued ability to live as a civilized species. Thus it seems to me that in point of its proposing of a totalitarian solution to what is after a real problem – its ghastly reliance upon the supernatural rather than the much more miraculous, much more beautiful, much more elegant, much more numinous, much more harmonious natural explanations. Think how much lovelier Einstein and Darwin are. Think how much more elegant and persuasive they are than the idea of the burning bush or the eye or the demand that without circumcision there can be no redemption. Let’s just picture it, and then I’ll give you one final thought experiment. This is what you have to believe now if you’re monotheistic. We, because we now know things we didn’t used to know, we know that the human species could be as not just two hundred thousand years ago did it become separate from the Cro-Magnons and the Bridal premiums which could be as little as a hundred. Richard Dawkins thinks two hundred thousand, Francis Collins, who did the human genome project, use by the way, C.S. Lewis, kind of Christian thinks a hundred thousand. Alright, I’ll take a hundred, I’ll take a hundred.

Here’s what you have to believe: for a hundred thousand years, humans were born as the primate species with an expectation of life of 25 years. For the first few hundred thousand years, and the first few tens of thousands, infant mortality was rife, microorganism disease was terrifying, and there were earthquakes, volcanoes, and fights over land, territory, food, women, and tribalism. For 96,000 years, heaven watched this with folded arms, with indifference and coldness. And then, around three to four thousand years ago, but only in really barbaric, illiterate parts of the Middle East, not in China, where people can read or think or do science, it was decided that we can’t let this go on. We better intervene, and what better way than by human sacrifices and plagues and mass murder? And if that doesn’t make them behave morally, we just don’t know what chance. If there is a single person in this room who can bring themselves to believe anything remotely like that, they convict themselves of being very stupid and very immoral. Thus, it seems to be that the case for divine intervention, for the supernatural, falls, and that we should be glad that it’s fallen. Thank you.