Hitchens on religion


I have commented before on the Templeton Foundation's online forum on the question of the compatibility of science and religion, but Liberal Pastor in Burnsville calls attention to something that Christopher Hitchens wrote in response to the question that I had missed. Hitchens stated:

Religion, remember, is theism not deism. Faith cannot rest itself on the argument that there might or might not be a prime mover. Faith must believe in answered prayers, divinely ordained morality, heavenly warrant for circumcision, the occurrence of miracles or what you will.
Hitchens, of course, presumes here that any religion that doesn't posit "the occurrence of miracles" must be a form of Deism. He has managed to reduce the entire range of religious inquiry to two paradigms--namely, that which he condemns as being unscientific, and Deism. Where panentheism, process theology, Tillich, or Spong--not to mention nontheistic religions like Buddhism--fit into his rather limited categorization is anybody's guess. But it does go to show how little he understands about a subject that he invests so much effort in attacking.


The Progressive Deist said...

It all depends on the definition one uses for religion. Personally, I prefer to the one used by Karen Armstrong in which she states that religion is:

"the search for Transcendence"

This was from an interview posted on your blog from Salon. If one uses this definition then Deism is a religion.

Of course, the term being used by Hitchens is one that is a Westernized version based on many years of a human like God as the dominant belief.

We Deists tend to believe that Deism is not a religion and when defined as Hitchens does it is not. Of course, getting two Deists to agree on how to define Deism is almost impossible.

However, as you pointed out, there are many religions that would not be defined as a religion based on his limited definition.

I prefer to use Armstrongs definition as I believe that all theological belief systems are after the same thing but we humans have the tendency that we must be right and in turn we make everyone else wrong.

Apparently, more education regarding religion is needed nowadays.

Kay said...

But it does go to show how little he understands about a subject that he invests so much effort in attacking.

I have "God is Not Great" on CD. Hitchens reads it himself. I've tried three times now to get through it, but keep failing for two reasons:

1) He reads terribly. Mumble mumble mumble.

2) What you said above. :)

Jaume de Marcos Andreu said...

"The search for Transcendence" is very ambiguous. What does "Transcendence" stand for? If it is a sort of synonym for "metaphysical reality", then a parapsychologist or a "ghost hunter" would be a religious person (which may or may not be).

Mystical Seeker said...


Perhaps there is a better term than "transcendence" for what I am describing.