I obviously had to buy Christopher Hitchens’s god is not Great and while I am only partway through it, I am happy to report that so far it is by far the best anti-religious tract of the recent spate. He elevates the genre to literature. And he is one of us! I obviously went looking for any mention of Spinoza in the index, and sure enough, he gets a couple of pages of glowing praise, along these lines:
This derided heretic is now credited with the most original philosophical work ever done on the mind/body distinction, and his meditations on the human condition have provided more real consolation to thoughtful people than has any religion.
Christopher, all is forgiven. You have redeemed yourself. Welcome back into the fold.
Not welcome is his brother, who Does Not Get It At All, and makes this clear in an embarrassing, cringeworthy essay in the Daily Mail. Seriously, these are arguments??
For all I know, Christopher is absolutely right – my prayers are pointless and a meaningless oblivion awaits. But if he is right, what a dispiriting, lowering truth it is.
But why should atheists care, or use such terms as “good” and “virtue” anyway?
If we are weak and poor, we can all summon up self-interested decency, behaving in a kind way, in public, towards those from whom we hope for decency in return.
But as soon as we have the power to do evil, we generally do. What is to stop us, unobserved, doing and planning acts of selfish unkindness against others, as so many of us do – for example – in office politics?
So, if religion didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it. Stunning. Are we sure these two are related?