The book which I am now reading is God is not great: How religion poisons everything by Christopher Hitchens. In the very first chapter the author says: “Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other. For this reason, I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could.” [emphasis in original]
The author is an atheist. His book is a serious philosophical critique of religion. Yet he is generous enough to let religions be. That is the spirit of all genuine atheists. All genuine atheists I have come across so far display similar generosity and tolerance. By genuine, I mean atheism chosen by an individual after due consideration, reflection and understanding.
Hitchens goes on to ask a question: But will the religious grant me the same indulgence?” A few lines later, he says that religion is incapable of leaving others alone. Religious people, he says, are always “in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments... Religion poisons everything.”
The attack on a publication in Paris is yet another tragic proof of what Hitchens is saying. Religions are by their very nature intolerant. We are witnessing the rise of such intolerance in India too.
I fail to understand, however much I think about it, why religious people can’t leave others alone. What makes the religious people think that their truth is the sole truth, absolute truth, nothing but the truth, when there are so many ways of disproving most of their claims? I would be thrilled if any religious person can answer this one question to my satisfaction.
PS: I admit that there are religious people who are very tolerant. A few of my close friends are very religious and they never question my lack of religious faith. May their tribe increase!