Check out this wonderful debate between former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens on the subject of religion.
In part 6, Hitchens sends a remarkable warning about the dangers of religion. I’ve attached a transcript of it below.
A visitor goes to the Western wall, sees a man tearing at his beard, banging his head on the wall, shoving messages in at a rate of knots, watching with fascination… when the guy finally breaks off he says “I couldn’t help noticing you were being unusually devout in your addresses to the wall, to the divine, do you mind if I ask you what you’re praying for?” He said, “I was praying that there should be peace, that there should be mutual love and respect for peoples in this area” And I said “What d’you think?” …and he said “ah, it’s like talking to the wall”.
But there are people who think talking to walls is actually a form of divine worship, and it’s another instance, not that I didn’t bring it up laboriously myself, but I don’t mind it again, of the difference between Tony and myself, when he uses his giveaway phrase “in the name of religion“, rather than “as a direct consequence of scriptural authority“, which is what I mean when I talk about this.
No one is going to deny, are they, that there are awards of real estate made in the bible, by none other than Jehovah himself. That land is promised to human primates over other human primates, in response to a divine covenant.
When David Ben-Gurion was Prime Minister of what he still called a secular state he called in Israeli archaeologists, professional guys, and said: ‘go out into the desert and dig up the title deeds to our state. You’ll find our legitimate…’ – that was instruction to the department of archaeology. They went, after they conquered Sinai and west bank, even further afield looking for some evidence Moses had ever been there… they didn’t find any – because there never has been and there never will be any – but you cannot say that the foundational cause, causus belli in this region, the idea that God intervenes in real estate and territorial disputes, isn’t inscribed in the text itself.
And Not only in the Jewish text but thanks to a foolish decision taken in the early Christian centuries where it was decided not to dump the new testament, and start again just with the Nazarene story, great Christian theologians like Marcian were in favour of that: ‘why do we want to bring the darkness, tyranny and terror and death and blood and cultism of the first books along with us – surely we should start again?’ No? No… we’re saddling ourselves with all that. So this is a responsibility for the Christian world too.
And need I add, that there is no good Muslim who does not say that Allah tells us we can never give up an inch of Muslim land and that once our mosques are built, that there can be no retreat, it would be a betrayal, it would lead you straight to hell. In other words, yes, yes, they gibber and jabber, all of them, the three religions, yes, God awards land, it’s just you’ve got the wrong title. No.
This is what I mean when I say religion is a real danger to the survival of civilisation, and it makes this banal regional, national dispute . . .which if reduced to its real proportions is a nothingness, if it makes that, not just lethally insoluble, but is drawing in other contending parties, who really wish, openly wish, for an apocalyptic conclusion to it, as also bodied forth in the same scriptural texts, in other words that it will be the death of us all, the end of humanity, the end of the world, end of the whole suffering veil of tears, which is what they secretly want.