Opinion: Religion Is a Poison

Writer challenges religion, says it "attacks the very heart of our integrity."


July 18, 2007 — -- The following essay is part of Tuesday's "World News Webcast." We want your response to Hitchens' opinions. After you've read the piece, post comments in the right column of this page.

I'm a writer by trade, and my most recent book is called "God is Not Great." The subtitle, in case people don't get the point from the title itself, is how religion poisons everything.

I describe religion as a poison because I think it attacks the very heart of our integrity. It says that we wouldn't have any knowledge of right or wrong, any ability to distinguish between good and evil if we were not afraid of a celestial dictatorship

God did not make man. Precisely the contrary. Man made God. That's why there are so many gods. Always have been -- always will be.

I wouldn't say it's wrong for people to believe in God, but I would say those who believe in a God are very seriously mistaken. But you can believe in a god if you must, or if you will, without having to be religious.

A religious person is someone who goes further than believing the religious process is true.

People who say they know what God wants, they claim to know him in person -- that's more than anyone could possibly claim. Therefore, it's an unsound claim. And because it's a large claim on a very major subject, it is likely to lead to fanaticism.

Well it would be idle for me to say that a Quaker is as bad as say a member of the Mahdi army … but I do think that all religions make the same mistake in that they surrender reason, which is our most precious faculty, to faith, which is very vague and abstract.

The reception to the book has actually, on the whole, been fairly generous. I've had a lot of reviews in the religious press say, 'Look, we can't laugh off criticism like this. We have to take you seriously.'

I've been accepted in most of my challenges to debate: Rabbis, Baptist ministers, in one case a Buddhist nun … professors of theology and others are generally willing to take me up on it … I've been very gratified by the way the religious believe I've made a case that has to be answered.

And of course, I've been told I'm going to hell a few times, but I get that all the time.

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