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Is God Not Great: Reading and Critical Thinking Questions 1. What questions about and criticisms of religion does Hitchens pose to the reader in the first chapter? On YouTube, Hitchens debates Dinesh D'Souza, a social commentator who argues that America needs to reinstate its religious traditions. What are the major issues brought up in these debates, and where are the intersections of disagreement? 2. What does Lucretius mean when he states that religion is both a "mental delusion" and "a great moral evil"? In fact, Hitchens claims that "Religion Kills." How does he support this claim? Hitchens also has argued that religious fervor stems from a deep anxiety that the believer may not be right or that he or she needs this religious belief as a cover to some behavior that he or she finds deplorable, such as the homosexual behavior of evangelist Ted Haggard, a strong opponent of gay lifestyles. (Of course other reasons exist for extreme religious commitment.) Explain how Hitchens argues this idea. What happens when states are ruled by religion, according to Hitchens? 3. What evidence does Hitchens use to show how Christian religious stories are not unique? Look up this YouTube video "Should This Video Be Banned: You Decide," and then research the claims the video provides by looking them up in a book of mythology. For example, does the Egyptian myth parallel the Jesus story as the video claims? What would explain why a number of these stories bear strong resemblances? 4. How, according to Hitchens, has religion set back the war on disease and the advance of science and technology? Provide current examples of where religion stunts science. What are some of the current issues in science and technology that religion has trouble integrating into its belief system? (Think of the stem cell debates) 5. Hitchens argues that many racist and sexist policies result from religious belief as well as odd health practices and marital behaviors resulting from religious belief. What are these accepted policies and practices, and should a civilized society accept them? Now, research cases of polygamy, where underage girls are married, and faith healing, where children have died from their parents withholding medical treatment. How were these cases handled? Why do we accept some odd religious practices but condemn others? Should any religious practice be allowed under the first amendment's protection of religious freedom, and what would be the deciding factor in religious practices a society allows? Hitchens suggest that the reader should be able to three conclude points regarding religious belief. What are they, and why does Hitchens argue that these points undermine the importance of religious belief? 6. What is the essential religious position regarding how humans should think of themselves in relation to God? Hitchens argues that this position cannot produce welladjusted people. Explain what he means. In short, Hitchens argues that religious belief produces psychological problems in otherwise normal people. 7. What are Hitchens' criticisms of the Old Testament? Be specific. Listen to Bill Maher and Larry Charles, guests on NPR's Fresh Air and summarize the content of this program, focusing on major themes and issues and disagreements. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1ZDBmMiTsQ 8. What, in Hitchens' opinion, are the "evils" of the New Testament? Interview religious people to find out what important values they think the Old and New Testaments can offer us. Also, ask them whether these values could come from other sources, such as philosophy or other religions--even Atheism! Press them for details. 9. Hitchens' most controversial claim states that bringing up children with religious training borders on child abuse. Why would he make this claim? In addition, Richard Dawkins, a leading biologist, science writer and religious critic, makes the same argument. Would you agree that raising children with religion is or borders in child abuse? A number of articles in Skeptical Inquirer criticize both Dawkins and Hitchens for these claims. Find out why. In an earlier question, you found out about the use of faith healing leading to the deaths of children and how the courts seem to withhold harsh punishments for parents relying on faith cures. In addition, bring this question to your parents about whether religious upbringing qualifies as child abuse. Don't forget about how children are brought up with the idea of their being sinful and of their facing horrible punishments for offending god. In most cases, religion is used to scare children into obedience. 10. Summarize Hitchens' conclusion regarding "The Need for a New Enlightenment." Do you think that such a society can ever exist? Finally, depending on your position, make a defense of either an atheistic or theistic way of life. 11. Using Diane Keaton's video Heaven as your source, how does a belief in heaven demonstrate the prejudices, contradictions, values, hopes, dreams and desires of the believer? We will watch this video in class, but you can also view the film on Youtube, starting with (part 2). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGtkjAzVbGw ... View Full Document

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