I have finished Christopher Hitchens last book Mortality, it is a small slim volume encased in an elegant black dust cover. I read slowly as I contemplated that this will be the last time I read anything new by this brilliant man. The book is a miscellany of his writing on the subject of death, as he faced it down after being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.
A dragon slayer to the last Hitchens is not a convert to the sentimental notion that one is fighting the disease, but rather that it is fighting him. In the midst of this time of personal hardship, his self-assured rejection of the spurious prayers for his health or claims of just punishment by god from the religious is admirable. I am left to wonder is it in good taste to pray for a man who had repeatedly stated his contempt for such mawkish activity, or to attribute the arbitrary result of disease to an imagined God.
If god afflicted Christopher Hitchens with oesophageal cancer because he spoke against god, did god afflict Margaret Thatcher with Alzheimer’s so she would not remember her repugnant behaviour at the height of her power? The impudent mind state that allows the religious to behave in such a manner without any inkling of shame is interesting, the optical illusion of the mind that results in people believing in supernatural beings and which allows them to justify acting on behalf of these beings is the malady of mankind.
This optical illusion of the mind that allows the religious to see the hand of God in the function of nature, or the symmetry of science is the product of destructive indoctrination at the hands of their parents. I don’t say that this is done with any malice or intent as they the parents are also the product of this same system of mind training that prevails in the west. In Buddhist philosophy they refer to the three mind poisons or in Sanskrit the Kleshas, Greed, Jealousy (anger), and delusion (ignorance).
The root cause of all of them is delusion or ignorance, the most difficult to eradicate is delusion, in particular self-delusion. The mind patterning that is learned in childhood, becomes the manner of the minds functioning throughout life from then on. Rob Nairn refers to this as the subliminal reflex, the almost imperceptible functioning of the mind at the level of instinct.
It is through this that the concept of fear of God is introduced, cloaked in a blood soaked body of grisly stories and harsh maxims to be punished by dreadful consequence if disobeyed. As with the training of young elephants, if they learn as babies that they can’t escape the tether they are chained to, they as adults for all their life will stand tethered to a stake in the ground that does not have the strength to hold them.
When one confronts one’s own mortality, or the mortality of those you love is it excusable to fall into the false comfort of religion, surely if there was a god he would reveal himself to those who have great need, and not the dullards that claim this honour? Is it fear and dread of an imagined punishment that succour this intellectual Trompe-l'œil, that so afflicts the human experience? As I look at the book on my shelf, the small black spine to Mortality, rigidly lined up next to god is not Great and Arguably, with Hitch22 acting as a bookend, I’m prompted to ask would god have ignored a stellar mind like Christopher Hitchens in favour of say, David Koresh*, I don’t think so! Is God not just an optical illusion perpetrated by the mind like schiaparelli’s canals on Mars?**
“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!”
? Omar Khayyám
*David Koresh was an evangelical Christian that believed god spoke to him, principally telling him to have sex with 14 year old girls and accumulate large stock piles of illegal weapons. His inglorious reign over the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas ended in his death and that of most of his followers at the hands of the F.B.I.
**For a time in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was erroneously believed that there were canals on Mars. These were a network of long straight lines in the equatorial regions from 60° N. to 60° S. Lat. on the planetMars. They were first described by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelliduring the oppositionof 1877, and confirmed by later observers. Schiaparelli called these canali, which was translated into English as "canals"- It is ironic that the two moons of mars are named Deimos (Dread) and Phobos (Fear) the two intentional states that are used by the minds of the religious to perpetuate the illusion that God exists!