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In God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by the brilliant Christopher Hitchens, whose recent politics I find repulsive yet oddly logical, there is very little mention of animals. Hitchens conducts the requisite examination of the ridiculousness of the world’s great monotheistic religions deeming certain animals/foods filthy (focusing, of course, with a discussion about pigs), but he doesn’t at all delve into what we should or shouldn’t be eating and why.

I mention this book because as a person who was raised by a devout Roman Catholic and a freewheeling student of all the world’s religions (with a penchant for Buddhism but a rejection of organized practice of, well, anything), I have come to my own conclusions based on my own organic exploration of theology that emerged as my life unfolded. And here’s my conclusion, which will no doubt disappoint if not shock newer readers:

  • I do not believe in a personal God (meaning, one who is attending to my needs or my fate or who could/would ever intervene in my life)
  • I cannot know (nor can anyone else) whether there is a creator (and if there were, how would that affect the decisions I make or the way I behave?)
  • I agree with Hitchens that religion is poisonous (for all of his oodles of reasons, and I highly recommend exploring them on your own using his references).

As I’ve previously mentioned, I receive frequent e-mails from people claiming that all of my logic and moral concern are futile and beside the point, as God made animals for us to use. The Bible, after all, tells us that (despite the Dominion debate, which doesn’t really address whether we should use animals at all but whether we should be better stewards).

I find it perplexing that, in 2007, intelligent individuals would use an ancient book of forever-questionable (multiple) authorship and veracity as the basis for their moral decisions. What is the purpose of education if not to develop an individual’s own ability to reason, to appreciate beauty, to think critically, and to understand the vital role science and its advances play in our lives (assuming we acknowledge science)?

Science has recently (relatively speaking) told us that, contrary to Descartes, nonhuman animals are not like clocks or machines. They have the same capacity to feel pleasure and pain, and they also have a level of self-awareness and certainly an interest in NOT being used by anyone as commodities (they have an interest, in other words, in NOT being made the property of another). Shouldn’t we use the facts we have learned, which are far different from those of the men-of-limited-knowledge-of-the-universe who allegedly penned the Bible?

When I say it doesn’t matter to me if there is a god, I do not mean to disrespect any believer. What I do mean is that if there is a god, that doesn’t alter my reasoning or my ethics. And likewise if there isn’t. I don’t do what I do in the hope of getting into heaven or getting the opportunity for a more favorable rebirth. I do what I do because it is right: it is just.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Having read Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" and Sam Harris' "The End of Faith", I think that "God is Not Great" will be an interesting read. Thanks for your piece about the book.

    May 10, 2007
  2. Dustin #


    May 10, 2007
  3. Mike Grieco #


    May 11, 2007

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