Guest blogger Rabbi Jennifer Krause is the author of The Answer: Making Sense of Life, One Question at a Time.
Dear Mr. Hitchens,
Mazal tov! Youâ€™ve been nominated for The National Book Award for God is Not Great, and I, for one, am kvelling. I know some people may be shocked to know that Iâ€™m a fan, but believe Me (and that is in no way a command, just a turn of phrase), you have to have a pretty thick skin to be God, so I take none of your book personally. Even though you invoke my name in the title, as with most people who do so (a stunning majority of whom happen to be politicians), what you say has rather little to do with Me at all.
Your subtitle is the give-away, and, if I may be so bold, probably should have been the title (even though it might not have been quite as good for sales): â€œHow Religion Poisons Everything.â€?
The fact is youâ€™re My best defender. All youâ€™re saying is that people who claim to know a fundamentally unknowable entity and, more specifically, go so far as to speak exclusively on behalf of said fundamentally unknowable entity have a whole lot of chutzpah. No one person or group can ever express, possess, or corral that which is infinite. When that happens, religion can get poisonous, and has. No argument from Me on that one.
But being the intelligent, worldly man that you are, surely you must know that not all religious people claim to possess the one-and-only key to the mysteries of My mind, nor do they all believe in the perfect truth of each verse of every sacred text ever written; they donâ€™t all live without struggle or contradiction, or fail to admit when life calls the most precious things they thought to be true into question.
Many, if not most, people of faith look reality just as squarely and courageously in the eye as any person who thinks religion or faith is primitive, childish, or intellectually barren, if not because they choose to, then because the complex facts of living simply wonâ€™t let them hide that easily.
You see, Mr. Hitchens, I donâ€™t need for you or anyone else to think that Iâ€™m great. But it would be great if smart people of universal good will would, from time to time, grant one another the benefit of their beliefs along with the contradictions therein without having to turn them all into one big lump of stupid to make some fairly obvious points and â€œwin.â€?
God and religion are not synonymous. Religion and poison arenâ€™t, either. Just look how good itâ€™s been to you.