James Bloodworth, Hitchens, God

James Bloodworth profiled at Normblog:

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Utopian ideas which seek to radically overhaul human nature and create a ‘new man’. When their ideas bump up against reality, as they inevitably do, the people espousing them don’t usually drop the theory, but rather burn a large proportion of those they are experimenting on.

I couldn’t agree with this more.

Reading Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great, I couldn’t help thinking that his main target should have been those Utopian attempts to perfect humanity, whose attitude is:  hang the cost in lives and misery. Religions certainly don’t have a monopoly on that tendency: a fact semi-acknowledged by one of the weakest sections of Hitchens’ book, where he considers the near-worship of totalitarian heads of state in Stalinist and Fascist countries, observes that there is something of the religious about officially mandated attitudes to them, and identifies priests who blessed the horrors of their rule.

But religion most certainly isn’t the only form of Utopianism that seeks to perfect human nature. Religion might teach that we are imperfect and naturally fail, and that although we should strive to be better – with God’s help – it is ultimately presumptuous to believe that we can succeed on our own. In other words, religion might encourage us to see the folly and even the danger of attempts to create a perfect world, whatever the price.