One - Putting It Mildly Two - Religion Kills Three - A Short Digression on the Pig; or, Why Heaven Hates Ham Four - A Note on Health, to Which Religion Can Be Hazardous Five - The Metaphysical Claims of Religion Are False Six - Arguments from Design Seven - Revelation: The Nightmare of the "Old" Testament Eight - The "New"Testament Exceeds the Evil of the "Old" One Nine - The Koran Is Borrowed from Both Jewish and Christian Myths Ten - The Tawdriness of the Miraculous and the Decline of Hell Eleven - "The Lowly Stamp of Their Origin": Religion's Corrupt Beginnings Twelve - A Coda: How Religions End Thirteen - Does Religion Make People Behave Better? Fourteen - There Is No "Eastern" Solution Fifteen - Religion as anOriginal Sin Sixteen - Is Religion Child Abuse? Seventeen - An Objection Anticipated: The Last-Ditch "Case" Against Secularism Eighteen - A Finer Tradition: The Resistance of the Rational Nineteen - In Conclusion: The Need for a New Enlightenment Acknowledgments References
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Oh, wearisome condition of humanity, Born under one law,to another bound; Vainly begot, and yet forbidden vanity, Created sick, commanded to be sound. —FULKE GREVILLE, Mustapha
And do you think that unto such as you A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew God gave a secret, and denied it me? Well, well—what matters it? Believe that, too! —THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM (RICHARD LE GALLIENNE TRANSLATION)
Peacefully they will die, peacefully they willexpire in your name, and beyond the grave they will find only death. But we will keep the secret, and for their own happiness we will entice them with a heavenly and eternal reward. —THE GRAND INQUISITOR TO HIS "SAVIOR" in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Chapter One Putting It Mildly If the intended reader of this book should want to go beyond disagreement with its author and try to identify thesins and deformities that animated him to write it (and I have certainly noticed that those who publicly affirm charity and compassion and forgiveness are often inclined to take this course), then he or she will not just be quarreling with the unknowable and ineffable creator who—presumably—opted to make me this way. They will be defiling the memory of a good, sincere, simple woman, of stable anddecent faith, named Mrs. Jean Watts. It was Mrs. Watts's task, when I was a boy of about nine and attending a school on the edge of Dartmoor, in southwestern England, to instruct me in lessons about nature, and also about scripture. She would take me and my fellows on walks, in an especially lovely part of my beautiful country of birth, and teach us to tell the different birds, trees, and plants fromone another. The amazing variety to be found in a hedgerow; the wonder of a clutch of eggs found in an intricate nest; the way that if the nettles stung your legs (we had to wear shorts) there would be a soothing dock leaf planted near to hand: all this has stayed in my mind, just like the "gamekeeper's museum," where the local peasantry would display the corpses of rats, weasels, and othervermin and predators, presumably supplied by some less kindly deity. If you read John Clare's imperishable rural poems you will catch the music of what I mean to convey. At later lessons we would be given a printed slip of paper entitled "Search the Scriptures," which was sent to the school by whatever national authority supervised the teaching of religion. (This, along with daily prayer services, wascompulsory and enforced by the state.) The slip would contain a single verse from the Old or New Testament, and the assignment was to look up the verse and then to tell the class or the teacher, orally or in writing, what the story and the moral was. I used to love this exercise, and even to excel at it so that (like Bertie Wooster) I frequently passed "top" in scripture class. It was my first...