The following, actually, are only the excerpts I originally typed up for yesterday's dispatch but ultimately excised for being a little digressive. All the remaining really good bits that I never even considered for yesterday and haven't yet transcribed will appear in Round 3: The God v. Hitchens No-Holds-Barred Iron-Cage Texas Death Match.
One knew, of course, that the whole racket of American evangelism was just that: a heartless con run by the second-string characters from Chaucer's "Pardoner's Tale." (You saps keep the faith. We'll just keep the money.) And this is what it must have been like when indulgences were openly sold in Rome, and when a nail or splinter from the Crucifixion could fetch a nice price in any flea market in Christendom.
Nothing optional from homosexuality to adultery is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishments) have a repressed desire to participate.
One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms had the smallest idea what was going on. Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion, and one would like to think though the connection is not a fully demonstrable one that this is why they seem so uninterested in sending fellow humans to hell.
Parents professing to believe the nonsensical claims of "Christian Science" have been accused, but not always convicted, of denying urgent medical care to their offspring. Parents who imagine themselves to be "Jehovah's Witnesses" have refused permission for their children to receive blood transfusions. Parents who imagine that a man named Joseph Smith was led to a set of buried golden tablets have married their under-age "Mormon" daughters to favored uncles and brothers-in-law, who sometimes have older wives already. The Shia fundamentalists in Iran lowered the age of "consent" to nine, perhaps in admiring emulation of the age of the youngest "wife" of the "Prophet" Muhammad. Hindu child brides in India are flogged, and sometimes burned alive, if the pathetic dowry they bring is judged to be too small. The Vatican, and its vast network of dioceses, has in the past decade alone been forced to admit complicity in a huge racket of child rape and child torture, mainly but by no means exclusively homosexual, in which known pederasts and sadists were shielded from the law and reassigned to parishes where the pickings of the innocent and defenseless were often richer.
By all means let an observant Jewish adult male have his raw-cut penis placed in the mouth of a rabbi. (That would be legal, at least in New York.) By all means let grown women who distrust their clitoris or their labia have them sawn away by some other wretched adult female. By all means let Abraham offer to commit suicide to prove his devotion to the Lord or his belief in the voices he was hearing in his head. By all means let devout parents deny themselves the succor of medicine when in acute pain and distress. By all means for all I care let a priest sworn to celibacy be a promiscuous homosexual. By all means let a congregation that believes in whipping out the devil choose a new grown-up sinner each week and lash him until he or she bleeds. By all means let anyone who believes in creationism instruct his fellows during lunch breaks. But the conscription of the unprotected child for these purposes is something that even the most dedicated secularist can safely describe as sin.
I do not set myself up as a moral exemplar, and would be swiftly knocked down if I did, but if I was suspected of raping a child, or torturing a child, or infecting a child with venereal disease, or selling a child into sexual or any other kind of slavery, I might consider committing suicide whether I was guilty or not. If I had actually committed the offense, I would welcome death in any form that it might take. This revulsion is innate in any healthy person, and does not need to be taught. Since religion has proved itself uniquely delinquent on the one subject where moral and ethical authority might be counted as universal and absolute, I think we are entitled to at least three provisional conclusions. The first is that religion and the churches are manufactured, and that this salient fact is too obvious to ignore. The second is that ethics and morality are quite independent of faith, and cannot be derived from it. The third is that religion because it claims a special divine exemption for its practices and beliefs is not just amoral but immoral. The ignorant psychopath or brute who mistreats his children must be punished but can be understood. Those who claim a heavenly warrant for their cruelty have been tainted by evil, and also constitute far more of a danger.
As far as I am aware, there is no country in the world today where slavery is still practiced where the justification of it is not derived from the Koran.
That there are and always have been sanguinary feuds between different schools of Islam, resulting in strictly inter-Muslim accusations of heresy and profanity and in terrible acts of violence, naturally goes without saying.
The cobbled-together ancient Jewish books had an ill-tempered and implacable and bloody and provincial god, who was probably more frightening when he was in a good mood (the classic attribute of the dictator). Whereas the cobbled-together books of the last two thousand years contained handholds for the hopeful, and references to meekness, forgiveness, lambs and sheep and so forth. This distinction is more apparent than real, since it is only in the reported observations of Jesus that we find any mention of hell and eternal punishment. The god of Moses would brusquely call for other tribes, including his favorite one, to suffer massacre and plague and even extirpation, but when the grave closed over his victims he was essentially finished with them unless he remembered to curse their succeeding progeny. Not until the advent of the Prince of Peace do we hear of the ghastly idea of further punishing and torturing the dead. First presaged by the rantings of John the Baptist, the son of god is revealed as one who, if his milder words are not accepted straightaway, will condemn the inattentive to everlasting fire. This has provided texts for clerical sadists ever since, and features very lip-smackingly in the tirades of Islam.
Then there is the very salient question of what the commandments do not say. Is it too modern to notice that there is nothing about the protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide?
We have first to transcend our prehistory, and escape the gnarled hands which reach out to drag us back to the catacombs and the reeking altars and the guilty pleasures of subjection and abjection. "Know yourself," said the Greeks, gently suggesting the consolations of philosophy. To clear the mind for this project, it has become necessary to know the enemy, and to prepare to fight it.