I’ve found all too often, based on my own personal contact with highly religious people, and my observations of public figures who are highly religious, that they tend to be among the most closed-minded people around. They think that their way is the only way, and everybody else is wrong, and they’re going to Hell (I’d care about that if I actually believed in Hell).
Belief, especially radicalized belief, closes the mind to any other possibilities. The radical Muslim is convinced that if he martyrs himself, he will meet a whole bunch of virgins (I believe it’s 71) when he gets to Heaven (another place I don’t believe actually exists). I prefer to think if anything happened to Osama Bin Laden after he was unceremoniously dispatched by some United States special forces, that he actually met 71 Virginians, who will all beat the shit out of him for the rest of eternity. Radical Christians are not much different. They preach hate and intolerance, and pass laws that restrict women’s access to health care and birth control, and dictate whom one can choose to marry. Some of them would see the United States become a Christian theocracy: a Christian version of Iran or Saudi Arabia.
“Since it is inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”
Almost all religions claim to be right, and the only one that is right. Mormons posthumously convert their ancestors to Mormonism so they’ll meet them in Heaven in the afterlife. The Catholic Church claims to be the only true Christian Church. The Seventh Day Adventists (my great aunt and uncle were Seventh Day Adventists, and sadly lamented that they wouldn’t see my grandmother in Heaven) also claim to be the only ones who’ll make it to Heaven. The list goes on, but I think you get the idea. Christian Scientists claim that their faith was prophesied in the Bible, and that Mary Baker Eddy is the vaunted “woman from Revelation” and that Christian Science is the only true path, and that Jesus was, in fact a Christian Scientist. So, who is right? Is it the Mormon or the Adventist who gets to heaven? Using the logic of their faiths, only one of them does. Who is right? I think Mr. Hitchens is right, none of them are.
Religion closed my mind, as I think it closes many billions of others. It enslaves them to ignorance perpetuated by dogma. Freeing myself from religious shackles has opened my mind, and I’m able to feast at the buffet of this world. There are many philosophies out there, some are truly bat-shit crazy, but many others are wonderful and interesting. I feel at home with a faith path that says there are “many paths” and “no one right way”, but rather that we all have our own unique journeys. I strive to live my life in balance and harmony with the world around me, rather than to deny it or fight against it. There is good and bad in this world. That’s the way it is.