“Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely soley upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.”
“I am not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief is positively harmful. Reviewing the false claims of religion, I do not wish, as some sentimental materialists affect to wish, that they were true. I do not envy believers their faith. I am relieved to think that the whole story is a sinister fairy tale; life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually the case.”
— Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian, 2001
“Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.”
“[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”
“We don’t know exactly how long homo-sapiens have existed as a species. Richard Dawkins thinks it might be as much as 250,000 years; Francis Collins, the man responsible for the Human Genome Project thinks it may be as little as 100,000 years. Either way it’s a flash of a second in evolutionary time. I’ll take the lower estimate that our species has been around on the planet for 100,000 years. As a monotheist, or at least someone who believes in an Abrahamic religion, you have to believe something like this: for about the first 96,000 years, homo-sapiens were born, a great number dying in child birth, often taking the mother with them, not living more than 25 or 30 years at the most and then probably dying of their teeth (if they were lucky) or the other needless mammalian things that show us that we bare the stamp, as Darwin put it, of our lowly origin, where we were designed to live on the Savanna where we escaped from: the appendix we don’t need any more and innumerable other short comings in our design; terrible disease, suffering, misery, malnutrition, and fear. Where do the earthquakes come from? Why is there an eclipse? What are the shooting stars doing? And awful cults of sacrifice to try and ward off what are, in fact, natural events. And war, and rape, and the kidnap or other peoples and the enslavement of them. All of this goes on and on, gradually inching up to the point where they can brew beer - a breakthrough in my view - domesticate animals, seperate one kind of corn from another so they can farm etc. Slow progress but terrible struggle, sacrifice, pain, misery, and above all fear and ignorance. So, for the first 96,000 or so years, heaven watches this with complete indifference. “Oh there they go again! That whole civilisation has just died out.” “They’re raping each other again.” “They think that the other tribe has poisoned their wells and so they’re going to kill all their children.” Then 4,000 years ago, at the most, heaven decides it’s time to intervene. And the revelation must be personal and so we’ll pick the most barbaric, illiterate, superstitious people we can find, in the most stoney area of bronze-age Palestine. We won’t appear to the Chinese where they can already read. We won’t appear in the Indus Valley where they are already well civilised and far advanced, no! We’ll appear to this brutal, enslaved, hopeless, superstitious crowd and we will force them to cut their way through all of their neighbours with slaughter and genocide and racism and settle in the only part of the middle east where there is no oil. Oh, and all subsquent revelations must appear in the same district.”
“I notice that Christians will often refer to the biblical miracles as a source of ‘evidence’ for the existence of god. The philosopher and historian David Hume wrote about “The problem of miracles” in “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” and I think his logic is irrefutable.
A miracle is defined as not part of the natural order but a suspension of the natural order. If you meet your grandmother in the street who you yesterday saw cremated, you can say either an extraordinary miracle has occured or you are under a very grave misaprehension or suffering from a delusion.
The likelihood of the second must be weighted against the likelihood of the first. If you only hear a report of the miracle from a second or third party, the odds must be adjusted accordingly before you can decide to credit a witness who claims to have seen something you did not see. And, if you are separated from the “sighting” by many generations, as in the biblical miracles, and have no independant corroboration, the odds must be adjusted more drastically.
So you must ask yourself: is it more more likely that the laws of nature have been suspended in your favour or that you have made a mistake or that you are relying on extremely dubious sources?
Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.”