Science, Atheism, and Religion
The case of Hitches and that of Barbara depict experiences of people living in different environments and circumstances that ultimately shape their personal views about religion and its role in solving day to day life challenges and questions. Both individuals have what we would call tragic adolescent experiences that shift their thinking paradigms to accommodate atheism and reason and be repulsive to religion that has been handed down from generations. They do not deny the existence of religion or a god but rather uphold their reasoning’s as superior and satisfactory in answering what they believe religion has failed to answer (Hitches 282). To the atheist, religion is viewed as being inferior. The following study demystifies the all-powerful nature of God and religion as both individuals transitioned after discovering the world in their views and that perhaps someone else was influencing their thoughts.
As pointed out, Hitchens’ period of sincerity and innocence occurs he was around nine years of age. He alludes to his childhood experience with the teacher, Mrs. Jean Watts, who taught him nature and religion. His love and excellence at scriptural analysis in which he could even become top of the class list further illustrates his appreciation of religion and simplicity to believe what he is taught (Hitchens 12). The teacher’s only mistake, that broke everything loose, was when she spoke about the alternative creation of having tees in varied strange colors instead of the common green. This opens a flood of thoughts. This is also one of the turning points in Barbara‘s life too. Her encounter with the tree, which drew the curtain aside, forever, changed the future as though she had been in a vision like Paul of the bible. She identifies her change in perception of the world to his adolescent development such getting to know the world or possible impacts of adolescent hormones.
Hitchens gets absorbed in science, Darwinism, genomic discoveries, and visit other lands with different natural scenes. He begins to develop problems with his religious life and questions the need of praising God who is the creator. He argues that instead of Jesus solving a single problem, healing one blind man, he should have healed the entire blindness menace and helped every other single blind man. He compares miracles like the casting out of demons to dark magic. He questions the point of repeated prayers and public confessions of sin and the darkness that covered the subject of sex (Hitchens 17). Therefore, religion lost its place in Barbara’s life when she became enlightened and no longer considered it as a condition for satisfaction.
Another turning point in his personal view of God was after the long influence of his headmaster who was a sadist and homosexual who insisted that the value of the despised religion would only be discovered at the loss of a loved one. The headmaster’s point that the faith was not significant until later to him suggested that the faith he held to was probably an illusion he is led to believe (Hitchens 24). This is also observed that in Barbara’s experience when she recounts that subjecting oneself to the whims of some supernatural beings only make the person be lonelier than they really deserve.
He terms all this handling by Mrs. Watt and the headmaster as a form of indoctrination and child abuse (Rollins 33). It should be recalled that this was not his position as a child. He embraced the teachers and we wonder what has changed about him. We also note this in Barbara’s experience when she tells us that the word tree formed a large part of her vocabulary from the time she learned to speak. The word tree lost meaning to her world leaving room for a new channel of thoughts. He holds that religion does not give reliable information on the origin of the universe, that it fostered the spirit of overly serving others and self as results of wish-full thinking (Rollins 13).
Hitchens himself is in a dilemma. He notes that he and his cohorts do not rely fully on science and reason but stand opposed to anything that undermines science and reason. In saying that theirs is not a faith, that they don’t hold their faith as dogmas nor excommunicate dissenters he is contrasting his position as being open to exercise of free will and mind as opposed to religion that requires faith and faith alone. He notes that there is no difference between them and the religionists; no statistics can prove that their sin magnitude is higher than those of religionists. He insinuates that ethical life and good behavior can be exercised without religion (Hitchens 64). Barbara applies the symbol of light to denote this ability to think in any direction and one is free to stare and develop their ideas. This view casts off the restraint imposed by religion on the exercise of will.
Subsequently, he refers to the persecution of unbelievers in the ages of inquisitions as horrible scenes performed by the pious. He praises reason and scientific discoveries as capable of presenting a successful case where religion had failed a long time ago with the discovery of science and reason (Hitchens 72). The conclusion of this argument is that religion is serving no purpose but is like a leisure activity. He compares Christianity and its prophets and other forms of religion, scientific study of celestial bodies, biological discoveries of the genome sequencing to atheism and concludes that his atheistic principles are better and direct humans to the reverence of the true deity which is a mutation (Rollins 133). To Hitchens, religion cannot give evidence as science does. Barbara also alludes to biblical subjects like the case of Saul of Tarsus as he also does to elaborate that religion serves as a “safe haven for the unaccountable and uncanny”. This proposal by Barbara further augments the inferiority of religion to science and reason as it can only be a safe haven to unsolvable problems while science and reason are making advances to solve human problems.
Lastly, he claims that religion is manmade and has served to obstruct or deny or failed to explain discoveries. Finally, he asserts that people of religion are planning to destroy everything that has been worked on by those who uphold reason and science. To him, religion poisons everything. Barbara’s comparison of his father to religious figures like Shiva and even noting that his father was self-destructive like the Shiva god further illustrates that she shares the same views about religion as Hitchens.
However, the arguments presented by these authors I would say are biased. Hitchens personal views about religion changed while he was in his youthful stage (Ehrenreich 15). This stage is dependent upon the teachers to influence his perception may have altered his ability to argue independently on the question of religion without being biased by the deep-rooted animosity towards Mrs. Watt and the headmaster. According to Barbara, this age is engulfed with exhilaration and hormonal fluctuations that may have influenced him to reconsider his stand with religion. Moreover, her position against religion cannot be conclusive since she has no personal connection with the God of the Religion; she has not experienced what it is to be a religionist being born an unbeliever herself.
Seeing that the catalyst factor to the development of atheistic principles was due to influence by instructors, I would agree with Hitchens in the sense that if religion has potential to destroy that which has been constructed by tireless research and discoveries. Religion turned him into the self-proclaimed atheist because of the biased relation of information by the instructors. If the information would have been relayed fairly to obtain a particular balance, Hitchens would have appreciated religion and become molded as a religionist.
Overall, religion, science, and reason continue to battle each other in the quest for supremacy. An imbalance of these important life aspects that shape a person may lead to taking extremist positions. It is therefore important to take precautionary measures to ensure a judicious exercise of all the aspects at least in equal measures taking not to exercise temperament in all of them. Each of the aspects has its proper bearing on a person’s life and serves to satisfy those needs that are most important to humanity. Hitchens has elaborated sufficiently that the adolescent stage is critical to determine a person’s future orientation in this three factors. Barbara’s account is another compelling account of a youth faced with formidable youthful challenges. It is at this time that they both take a major shift to embrace atheism fully and openly. It is true that religion can tend to destruction and even indicate that God is absent but this is only so when religion is conveyed in a biased manner.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything. Grand Central Publishing, 2014.
Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. McClelland & Stewart, 2007.
Rollins, Peter. Insurrection: To Believe is Human, To Doubt, Divine. Simon and Schuster, 2011.