Larry Mullins

February 6, 2010

Is Christopher Hitchens Right? Does Religion Really Poison Everything?

With many preconceptions and reservations, I recently sat down to read Christopher Hitchens’s book: god is not Great … How Religion Poisons Everything. (He deliberately did not capitalize God.) What a provocative, nasty title, I thought. Obviously this was yet another mean-spirited rant by an atheist.

I did not find what I expected. In fact, after reading his introduction to the book, I actually acquired some affection for Hitchens. Unfortunately, he did fail to define religion. (My dictionary offers six different definitions.) He thus was able to lump numerous straw men (formal religious dogma that few people really believe) together with a few serious questions that are asked and investigated by religionists. This shotgun approach permitted him to lament a host of religious evils and excesses that no sane mortal supports, while attempting a mass annihilation of every aspect of human belief in a higher power.
The bottom line seems to be that Hitchens does not believe that religion is a legitimate discipline. Much as did Ayn Rand, he seems to hold that the questions asked by theologians and philosophers can be more effectively answered by science.
Were it not for one endearing passage in the introduction to his book, these logic-tight barriers would render hopeless the rational joining of an issue about higher universe realities with Hitchens. When all seemed beyond redemption, he embraced MetaValues. He did so in a profound and moving way. Hitchens told the story of the funeral of his father. It took place in a historic chapel in England, overlooking Portsmouth. Hitchens spoke from the pulpit and gave a reading from the Bible. Quoting Paul, he said:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Then Hitchens explained why he selected this passage:
“I chose this because of its haunting and elusive character, which will be with me at the last hour, for its essentially secular injunction, and because it shone out from the wasteland of rant and complaint and nonsense and bullying which surrounds it.”
For precisely the same reasons, I chose this passage from Hitchens’s own wasteland of rant, etc. Yet perhaps the most important questions to answer are these: Why does this passage shine out for both an atheist and a believer? How is it that people of radically different persuasions and cultures share the same MetaValues of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness? Wrapped up in the answer to these questions is perhaps the twentieth century’s most important scientific discovery about the nature of human beings.
Abraham Maslow believed that values should not be the exclusive domain of religionists. He advocated a science of values. Yet he also grasped that MetaValues transcend the disciplines of science, theology, and philosophy. Unlike Rand or Hitchens, Maslow understood that science does not have all the answers. Science can tell us much about material reality, or what is. Science can even suggest possibilities, what could be. But the poet or the religionist offers a vision for us of what ought to be. And science without values builds bigger bombs and more efficient gas chambers. Dr. Maslow fought hard to break down the barriers between science and religion:
“I [have] pointed out that both orthodox science and orthodox religion have been institutionalized and frozen into a mutually excluding dichotomy. This separation into Aristotelian a and not-a has been almost perfect … Every question, every answer, every method, every jurisdiction, every task has been assigned to either one or the other, with practically no overlaps. One consequence is that they are both pathologized, split into sickness, ripped apart into a crippled half-science and a crippled half-religion.”
Unfortunately, Maslow was never able to distill his ideas for mainstream readers; he wrote almost exclusively for his peers. The world is the poorer for this, because Maslow uncovered truths about the human condition that are tremendously uplifting and inspiring—and are easily within the understanding of nearly every person on the planet. With the publication of The MetaValues Breakthrough, nearly four decades after Maslow’s death, individuals at last have a program that shows them how to put these truths to work in their lives.
The MetaValues Breakthrough provides tested and proven techniques for capturing inspiring visions of things that ought to be and actualizing them into realities. True stories illustrate how ordinary people connected with Truth, Beauty, and Goodness and transformed their unfinished lives from meaningless—or even tragic—to magnificent and unforgettable. Regardless of your age or circumstances, you too can use MetaValues to elevate your life and the lives of those around you to another level.
Larry Mullins