Christopher Hitchens dies and anti religious/God views?

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By T, Staffer of De Birhan Media

17-12-2011


Christopher Eric Hitchens


“Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. Blaise Pascal

One of the few things that foreigners/Westerners recollect about us whenever they go back home is the happiness of the people. They said amidst the abject and deplorable poverty that Ethiopians live in they are so happy. Is that true? Forbes Magazine does not think so. It says Ethiopians are the 3rd saddest people in this planet.  



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Christopher Hitchens



Hitchens has been one of the most revered journalists and ‘intellectuals’ of the contemporary West. He has been voted as one of the most popular public intellectuals of the century. He died two days ago.  His biography reads “Christopher Eric Hitchens (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011) was an Englishauthor and journalistwhose books, essays, and journalistic career spanned more than four decades. He was a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs,The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the Hoover Institution in September 2008. He was a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits and in 2005 was voted the world’s fifth top public intellectual in a Prospect/Foreign Policy poll.

Hitchens shot into eminence after the publication of his 2007 book “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” that sold over millions of copies.

In this book , Hitchens concludes that religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children” and sectarian, and that accordingly it “ought to have a great deal on its conscience.” According to his Book’s profile on various online resources, Hitchens forwards his thought basing it on his personal stories, documented historical anecdotes, and analysis of religious texts.

He says that religion will remain entrenched in the human consciousness as long as human beings cannot overcome their primitive fears, particularly that of their own mortality. He concludes religions are also hostile to treating diseases.  Hitchens writes that Abrahamic religions are used to make people feel like lowly sinners, encouraging low self-esteem, while at the same time leading them to believe that their creator genuinely cares for them, thus inflating their sense of self-importance.

He is against to the notion of miracles too and claims that no supernatural miracles occur, nor have occurred in history and concludes that corrupt, immoral individuals found most religions. 

I, for one, did not exhaustively read the book meself. The above treat is a snapshot of book reviews written about him. His book has been criticised by many from all corners of the world; Hindu, Buddhist, Moslem, and Christian scholars all alike disregarded his analysis and labelled his conclusions “less informed and unaware of the facts”. He even has stern supporters and admirers in Ethiopia. I find his conclusions offensively hasty. I doubt if he did enough research on religions and exhausted books and pragmatically dug out evidences. Had I the time, energy, and knowledge to study his book against most organised religions that he criticised, I would have edged his ideas. Indeed, it is not wonderful that in this age of materialism, scientificity, reason, decays of religious admins and faithlessness, his book and ideas found popularity and followers. Let me give a few cases why his conclusions cannot hold true. However, he has wonderfully served the value of truth. He fought dictatorial thoughts, repressive and manipulative ideas. He is an icon and model for many. 


Bahá’í


One of my few and good friends here in my new domicile, are followers of the Bahá’í faith. Their community is quite small but they have a blissfully decent bunch. Good symbols of good humanity. Although not their member so far, I attend their devotional prayers now and again.

According to the international website of the Baha’I of the world, the Bahá’í Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religions. Its founder, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá’ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.

Other chronicles about the religion state that the Bahá’í Faith  is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá’u’lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá’ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories. In Ethiopia as well, this religion is one of the most growing ones.

Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá’í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humankind.  Hitchens’ anti religion and God ideas and conclusions find no home and are critically disproved by the Bahá’í faith. Firstly, Hitchens’ conclusion that “organised religion is allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry,” becomes null when one studies one of the main principles of the Bahá’í faith. The central theme of Bahá’u’lláh’s message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society.

“The Bahá’í writings emphasize the essential equality of human beings, and the abolition of prejudice. Humanity is seen as essentially one, though highly varied; its diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance. Doctrines of racism, nationalism, caste, social class and gender-based hierarchy are seen as artificial impediments to unity. The Bahá’í teachings state that the unification of humankind is the paramount issue in the religious and political conditions of the present world.”

In my practical interaction and knowledge of these few Bahá’í’s, I have observed first hand this unity, equality, and inter-racial integration of people of varied backgrounds. Inter-racial marriages are encouraged. I have been amazed by the openness, friendliness, and affirmativeness of the faithful that I came to know. I will not be exaggerating if I conclude that the Bahá’í faith is anti-racism religion. One conclusion of Hitchen’s disproved.

The other main principle of the religion that most of the faithful profoundly uphold is is the abhorrence to backbiting and gossip. Backbiting and gossip are prohibited and denounced. Hitchen’s conclusions about organised religions role in serving as spheres of hatred, negativity and cruelty find no room here. There have been many times that I was advised by these Bahá’í friends of mine when I started to gossip cruel chatters about others or backbite. Their complete action against backbiting and gossip thought me a lot and made be a better person. What good can any organised religion/ institution can do that this. Hitechens’ should have cross-referenced a bit more. Not only in these two cases, I have found Hitechens’ baseless when argued against the principles, teachings and practicalities of Bahá’í’s.


Depression


Depression is a disease of the brain. Experts believe that certain brain chemicals go out of balance to cause the disease. No one thing causes this. Many things, including your genes, stressful events, illness, and medicines, can cause the imbalance, according to the online medicine blog. Today, one of the world’s most pressingly hard to cure diseases is depression. Last week, in my place of work we had a speaker, a senior psychotherapist, and counsellor who has an experience of many years in teaching, counselling and researching. He spoke well. He advised us that one of the best things to say whenever we meet depressed persons who share us their pain is “I understand”. However, he was frank enough to admit, though he counselled and helped many- he has been suffering from depression himself.


Back home, I remember going to Ethiopian Orthodox churches with my mom and at times with my peers to attend mass, liturgy and for baptism. The baptism part is the most unforgettable. Early in the morning, we headed to baptismal places located in the midst of the forest where only the Holy water, the faithful and clergy reside. After a group prayer and chant, we underwent baptism. Pure Holy water used to be poured over my bared body. It felt cold, frightening, BUT importantly healing both biologically and psychologically.  After the baptisms, we sat in groups in the evergreen land near the Church and socialised. We discussed our reasons for coming, how we found it, our pains, and experiences and so on. Wow. I always had said if I leave Ethiopia, these would be the only things that I would miss. Surely, I did. Five years ago, when visiting the amazing architectures of Barcelona with my friends, I was able to see their surprises and amazements in their eyes. One of them asked me, “Hey man I see you ain’t amazed why?” I said to him “My wonders have ended in Ethiopia; nothing would stun me than that”. I was serious, I would never say anything would surprise me in my life than the miracles I have seen in the Ethiopian churches. Nothing will!! There are miracles Hicthens’, there are. God exists, he does, Hitchens!

Let me finish by giving you another example of the positive role of religion, Ethiopian Orthodox Church baptisms. Before he wrapped his talk, the psychotherapist asked us what we would do if we were depressed. I answered this “Unluckily, I am outside my country, Ethiopia. Had I been there, I would have gone and spent weeks in one of our Baptismal places in retreat. I would be cured in weeks.”

“How?” He asked.

“You know when you go there you find people who have major, serious diseases, pains and agonies than yours. Listening to their agonies and stories alone cures you. You say ‘Thank you God, mine is a minute’ and then you return back. Plus, the teachings of the preachers, comfort and company of the sick makes you alright even if you are not biologically cured,” I said.

Unlike Forbes, poor Ethiopians are happy and find a free, soul and body enriching solution to  their depression and sadness. We have a saddening regime but we have  strong faiths that keep us  resilient and HAPPPPPPYYYYYYY!

Hitchens’ should have seen the baptism places in Ethiopia before he reached his conclusions, died. The points I made wherefore are fractions of the major academic, empirical and religious arguments that could be made against the ideas of Hitchens.

So does it mean there is no problem with organised religion?

Well yes, most religions are good and ok. They promote fully or fairly the 10 commandments. I would say most religions are fine. The problem lies in the prophets, preachers, and scholars. They are the ones that have added clauses and phrases or misinterpreted  or inflated religions to suit their interests and understandings. They are the ones that tarnished religions.  The problem lies with these so-called religious scholars in every faith who initiate radical and extreme agendas.

If all religious scholars were moderate, centred and impartial; Hitchens would have concluded otherwise and all religions of the world would have united. 


The next video shows Hitchens’ last public appearance,