Samain Moon of the Winter Solstice
Christopher Hitchens died. An honest man, Diogenes would have stopped searching. He faced death as a non-believer, a man whose God Is Not Great made him a name in the theist–anti-theist debates of this millenia’s early days.
His angry anti-religious bias fit in well with the Richard Dawkin and Sam Harris crowd, agreeing with their totalizing, methinks-they-protest-too-much screed. If religion is so bad, why has it persisted for so long? A scathing atheist has backed himself into a metaphysical box, one much like the box he insists all religionists occupy.
To adamantly claim God’s non-existence is just as silly and unwarranted as the claim of God’s existence. Neither can have, by definition, empirical validation, so, in each case we enter the realm of faith, of conjecture believed because it feels right, true.
Faith in its purest forms is a beautiful aspect of human culture, allowing us to transcend the often bleak realities of the day-to-day, finding a blissful reality where others see only pain and boredom. Marriage, for example, requires faith in another human being, another human being as wonderful and amazing as yourself and as awful and horrible.
Monotheism as practiced in the dominant Western religious traditions is only one item on the menu of faith as offered by human culture and even it comes in three flavors: Christian, Jewish and Muslim. The ancient traditions of the West synch up better with the pluralist pantheons of India, Nepal, Tibet, Africa and the indigenous Americas.
Monotheism, rather than religion per se, seems the better target, since it makes definitive and often absolute claims, claims which sometimes pose as divine law, unbreachable and final. The nature of monotheism’s claims rather than its actual content or institutional form are the problem.
With one deity and one book the temptation to sure knowledge, certain dogma too often overwhelms these believers, though in all three traditions there are, too, the more measured, more humble ways. In fact, strange as it may seem given the all too charged dialogues of the past twenty years, the liberal orientation–former mainline Christianity, reform Judaism and the Sunni/Sufi mainstream Islam–is numerically dominant.