Archive for April 14, 2013



Cover of "Letters to a Young Contrarian"

I find something repulsive in the idea of vicarious redemption. I would not throw my numberless sins onto a scapegoat and expect them to pass from me; we rightly sneer at the barbaric societies that practice this unpleasantness in its literal form. There’s no moral value in the vicarious gesture anyway. As Thomas Pain pointed out, you may if you wish take on another man’s debt, or even offer to take his place in prison. That would be self-sacrificing. But you may not assume his actual crimes as if they were your own; for one thing you did not commit them and might have died rather than do so; for another this impossible action would rob him of individual responsibility. So the whole apparatus of absolution and forgiveness strikes me as positively immoral, while the concept of revealed truth degrades the whole concept of the free intelligence by purportedly relieving us of the hard task of working out ethical principles ourselves.

– Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian, p34

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This argument occurred to me last night and it isn’t well fleshed out — it’s merely a skeleton of an idea. It is a reason why religion doesn’t make sense which I have never heard — though, no doubt, someone has come up with this idea or something very similar.

So, this is where you come in. Since this idea is not completely formed, I’d like some criticism or additions to the idea to make it more understandable and sensible. Or, reassurance that it already makes sense 🙂

So here it is:

I’ve often heard the same response from a believer, when someone says, “Isn’t it a coincidence that most people believe in the same God as their parents?” The response: “You don’t realize that a lot of people actually change their religions as they come to understand the world better.”

Ok, leaving aside the questionable reference to “a lot of people,” this statement still seems to actually be evidence against God, not for God.

Why? Because if there were an absolutely correct religion, why would finding that religion be up to the capricious nature of humans?

There are many much less important things in the world that are not left to capricious thinking. We all know that humans normally have two arms. We all know that eating certain things can kill us. There is no wiggle room on these mundane things. If someone isn’t born with two arms we consider that a genetic or developmental error. If someone thinks that eating cyanide is healthy, that is a judgement error.

Yet, if someone changes their mind from believing that Christianity is the one true religion to believing that Hinduism is the one true religion — or, more importantly vice versa, which thereby nullifies the possibility of either change being correct — it is not considered an error.

Again, I’m not sure if this is a fully formed argument or if I’m just restating an argument made by someone else in different words. Any criticism appreciated 🙂

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