Even Christopher Hitchens, I fear, will one day – like the rest of us – be forgotten. Normal enough, as far as we nobodies are concerned, but Hitch and his permanently pertinent pearls deserve to be quoted more than the Bible he abhorred. Luckily, for the time being, “scripta manent” : Hitchens’ masterpiece, “God is Not Great. How Religion Poisons Everything”, is still being bought and read, and his videos still attract a large audience. He is, of course, irreplaceable. No one ever ridiculed religion, demolished dogma, condemned credulity or blasted belief to Kingdom Come the way Hitch did.
It is hard to choose, in Hitchens’ oeuvre, the pearl of great price. My choice has long been his response in the video in which he replies to a Redneck who asked him, somewhat illogically : “God, you say, does not exist, so why do you spend your life repeating that He doesn’t ?” (The questioner must have thought not only that he was being clever but that he would destablilize this arrogant atheist.) After pointing out that his whole life has not been limited to promoting atheism, Hitch rather clumsily introduced his reply by a too-long detailing of the age of Homo Sapiens, ending with : “200,000 years. Dawkins says 100,000. Let’s settle for 100,000”. He needed to do this to put into historical perspective what I consider the most telling argument ever told ridiculing the totally improbable supposed origin of Divine Revelation and the imagined existence of God. (It doesn’t matter a ratz that recently paleontologists have discovered that Homo Sapiens is in fact at least 300,000 years old.)
What Hitchens said, more or less, was this (check the video for the verbatim version; you’ll find that mine is somewhat … enriched ) :
God, we are told, having, billions of years before, created the Universe, finally got around – just 100,000 years ago – to creating Man. For almost one hundred millennia He had left Man alone to survive as best he could, keeping out of harm’s way and not too close to the ferocious animals that could devour him, until he learned to hunt and devour them himself. In time he learned to cook their meat, which made him bigger, stronger and smarter.
Human life went on like this for about 96,000 years (according to Hitchens/Dawkins, but in fact another 200,000), during which time God uttered not a word, though had He existed, He would have been perhaps amused by the fantasies His creature invented to explain why things happened and by the multiple gods and evil spirits Man’s imagination created. Then one day, out of the blue – after millenia of silence, remember – He spoke ! He revealed Himself to an ignorant dude called Abraham, and told him he was to be the patriarch of His Chosen People, thereby creating the first monotheism and its ridiculous beliefs, rules and rituals.
To Hitch, this was clearly the most preposterous claim humans have ever made. To him it was patently absurd to imagine the belated intervention of a God who had been around forever, who, unknown to Abraham and his ilk, had preformed a Big Bang nearly 14 billion years previously, and kept His divine, non-existent lips sealed all those hundreds of thousands of years since the birth of Homo Sapiens.
You may not share my admiration for Hitchens’ reductio ad absurdum. But like him I consider the supposed ultra-recent origin of the true religion – at least as it became 2000 years later when Judaism morphed into (Catholic) Christianity (!) – the most outrageous and poisonous myth mankind has ever swallowed. If the “creation” of Man – which we know did NOT happen “at the beginning” – is, in historical fact, after millions of millennia, almost an … afterthought, even more incredible is the myth that God decided, in astronomical terms just a minute or so ago, to reveal Himself to His one and only rational creature – who had been around for almost 100,000 years (300,000 in fact) – whose naïve credulity continues to do no credit to his intelligence.