God is Not Great - an Appraisal  - Chapter 5


This is the Chapter 5  Page for the appraisal of the contents

of Christopher Hitchens' book, God is Not Great.

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Chapter 5: The Metaphysical Claims of Religion are False




Page Contents






Chapter Content


Use the links and drop down to the comments if you would like to see each comment applying to each paragraph here.


P.63-64 Religious writers were ignorant    Link below


P.64-66 Religion and science are irreconcilable   Link below


P.66,67 French scientist Laplace denied his need of God     Link below


P.67,68 Religion has lost its influence     Link below


P.68-70 William Ockham & Ockham's Razor      Link below


P.71 The inability to explain the First Cause   Link below




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General Comment


By contrast to the last chapter, this one is light-weight. Its essential claim is that religion only came about because people needed it, but now we have grown up, we no longer need it.


This claim, and I suggested this was a light-weight one, reveals a staggering ignorance of the origins of Christianity and of the evidences for it, but looking at the chapter headings I'm looking forward to seeing the next cloud puff being wafted up from the pipe of this amateur theologian!


The flow through this brief chapter is simple and straight forward as can be seen from the above contents. As science showed how the world works, so the need for God was squeezed out. It's as simple as that. Errors very often do appear very simple.



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Specific Comments


Again we look at the specific points we have observed in the ‘Content' part above


P.63-64 Religious writers were ignorant. The idea is that because they lived a long time ago they know so little in comparison with today, and so much of what they said was therefore wrong.

The fact that they lived a long time ago should not confuse us. I'm not going to bother to argue the details, you can work through them yourself if you are a Christian with knowledge. You may want to go to Appendix 2 - Church and History [CLICK HERE]. The clue to the error here comes in the simple phrase, “the founders of religion” which was used in respect of various writers of old.


I have commented various times already that I have no brief to answer for other world religions. My brief extends only to Christianity and because the comments in this chapter are mostly so general I take them to have been made in respect of Christianity.


The origins of Christianity go right back into the Old Testament, but the primary reasons for the Christian Faith rely entirely upon the advent of the historical person of Jesus Christ who, as many people have found, does bear ‘scientific' scrutiny.


What the various men were doing, who the author refers to, was trying to make sense in a philosophical way of the records found in the New Testament. These were not scientists and yes, as the author so rightly points out, their knowledge in comparison to ours, was tiny, speculative and often inaccurate as far as their understanding of the world was concerned. Please see Appendix 2 – Church and History by CLICKING HERE.


Their struggling with the truth in no way invalidates it and the author would do better to examine that (which I think he is probably going to do later) rather than snap thin reeds that no one else leans upon! Richard Dawkins did exactly the same thing in The God Delusion, and that wasn't convincing either!


P.64-66 Religion and science are irreconcilable. Yes, he says, some scientists have been religious but not of a very real kind; they compromised for the sake of the day, but now we've grown up.

Now this is an example of someone living in an ivory tower shut away in ignorant seclusion. If the author had read the welter of books coming out in answer to The God Delusion published in the previous year, or indeed would come to this site and read our appraisal of that book, he would know that there are, in fact, very many scientists who are genuine Christians, many of whom are very bright guys and who would no doubt be highly offended to be dismissed in such a cavalier way as seen in this chapter! Rather than repeat myself again and again, may I request you go to that appraisal on this site to see the truth of this. CLICK HERE


P.66,67 French scientist Laplace denied his need of God. In his discussion with Bonaparte when questioned about God in the equation, he replied, “I have no need of this hypothesis.”

Atheists seem to fall for this same error, again and again, this appealing to sceptics for their justification. The Laplace story is a good story but it proves nothing beyond the fact that God has made things so that we can find out how they work – well some things. It's a bit like a small boy playing with a train set and after having taken it apart saying, “I really know how this works. Now I know that I don't need to believe anyone made it.” Silly stuff!


P.67,68 Religion has lost its influence. The reliance of religion, he says, has given way to reliance on science and we now look back with embarrassment at past theologians and we also go back to pre-Christ for scientific beliefs.

This rather depends where you stand. I've already referred to the author's ivory tower but from where I stand, in respect of the religion side:

  •  I still see many very intelligent men and women who have no problem believing in a mechanical universe made by an all powerful and all-wise God, who still interacts with it as He wills,
  •  I still see many people turning from the emptiness of materialistic atheism to a meaningful, intelligent relationship with Almighty God,
  •  I still find a spiritual hunger that wants to operate outside the big religious organisations and new churches are still growing.(Perhaps God is putting aside these man-made institutions.)
  •  I still encounter people who have been miraculously healed, had their lives and circumstances wonderfully transformed!

In respect of the science side:

  •   I still see scientists with strong religious beliefs,
  •   I still see scientists questioning atheistic and naturalistic standpoints,
  •   I still see scientists who declare that science is raising more questions than it brings answers,
  •   I still see scientists who are concerned about where unrestrained science is leading us morally.


P.68-70 William Ockham & Ockham's Razor. Removing all that is unnecessary, he says, means we come to a place where we find the world works without God.

A world that works without God? The tricky bit about this is that science is not so confident as it would like us to believe. If you will read our appraisal of the aforementioned Dawkins book, [CLICK HERE] or simply go to our Apologetics pages [CLICK HERE], you will find that science is definitely not so sure of itself as many atheistic scientists would like to make out. In fact it is packed full of speculation and assertions that are not founded on fact.


Modern science moves more and more into the realm of philosophy and uncertainty. Instead of becoming more and more certain it is becoming more and more unsure, and even the big names bandied around by the author, make highly speculative noises. [See Article on 'Science or Philosophy' CLICK HERE]. Of course the media and anyone with an agenda that wants it, assumes that because they are ‘so great' their speculations must be the truth. Unfortunately for them, history shows that often isn't how it works!


P.71 The inability to explain the First Cause. We can't explain the Creator, who made Him, therefore we make constant leaps of faith, with weak explanations.

When we come to the first cause, scientists, philosophers and theologians are all in the same boat of unknowing – and that really annoys those who insist on knowing everything. It's funny the author speaks about religious people making leaps of faith, because that is my main accusation of people such as Richard Dawkins and the author, but you'll have to go to the previous appraisal to see that. I'm not repeating myself here. Evidences and proofs that are “feeble-minded inventions”?  We'll see.



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On this page we have:

  •  highlighted some of the key points he makes,
  •  identified the aim of this chapter as to show that we have grown up and no longer need religion, an aim that reveals ignorance both of origins and present needs,
  •  responded, point by point, to the points he makes.


The author, we suggest, has committed the following errors in this chapter:

  •  he misunderstood the origins of Christianity and the purpose and limitations of the various writers in history he referred to,
  •  he reveals his ignorance of the large numbers of very intelligent scientists and scholars who are also genuine Christians, who would be deeply offended by his comments about their lives,
  •  he appealed to a skeptical scientist to justify his stance, a scientist who did not understand the state of play of existence and God,
  •  he makes wish statements about religion losing its influence and is obviously completely unaware of the workings of God around the globe and the strong and growing faith communities,
  •  he doesn't realise that modern science itself is moving more and more into areas of uncertainty and speculation and is no more sure of itself than the religions he attacks,
  •  he doesn't realise that there are some questions that do seem beyond the human mind, and he comes from a camp which itself constantly has to make leaps of faith.


Some of his earlier chapters gave the sense of knowledge from travel and experience. This chapter unfortunately gives the impression of a man moving in waters that are unfamiliar.



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