I’m getting tired of hearing from Christopher Hitchens in the media, and his fervid and all-too-familiar religion-bashing. I happen to like the guy, and also very much appreciate such diverse opinions–he is brilliant, after all, and has some valid points, which is why I bother to read him–-but overall he goes way too far and keeps grinding the same ax ad nauseum. God Is Not Great is a fine book title but a weak thesis. Rest assured that I myself have plenty of similar criticism about religions, including my own; but doesn’t he know that there are hundreds of millions (and have been billions) of very spiritual people, as well as intensely religious ones, who need little or no deity in order to pursue a spiritual path and live and embody a beautiful, wise and loving spiritual life, both within and outside the formal traditional religious denominations? Moreover, there are plenty of theists who have a much more subtle and sophisticated understanding of the divine, of prayer, and of reality than that which he lumps all deists together with.
There is a difference that can be made between religion (organized, for the most part) and spirituality itself, which is the heart of it all; and moreover, spirituality has no Crusades, Inquisitions, book burnings, isms and schisms, and so forth. Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and their skeptical post-modern atheist ilk seem far too extreme to convert true believers or even to sway the moderate middle; their dogmatic arguments are more often than not one-sided monologues lacking in balance. Although their points of view and critical analyses and reflections are certainly not without merit, and deserving of serious consideration, one might also notice that scientific-minded ultra-rationalists are not without their presuppositions, blind spots, superstitions and beliefs, not unlike those very people of faith whom they roundly criticize. Hitchens himself seems to evince little or no expertise on the subject of Eastern spirituality and practice, although he did live in Rashneeshвs ashram for a little while–in order to write about it–an extreme example of a place to study in India, if there ever was one. I have read things about the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere from Hitchens that I personally know to be inaccurate.
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