Author Christopher Hitchens discusses his book “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” as a part of the Authors@Google series. This event took place on August 16, 2007 at Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Here is the full transcript of the event…
Introducing Speaker: Hi everyone. Welcome to today’s Authors@Google event. After the talk, we’re going to have a Q&A session, and I’d like to remind everyone to please use the microphone in the middle of the room, if you have questions. It’s my pleasure to introduce Christopher Hitchens.
Mr. Hitchens was born in England, and educated at Oxford. In 1981, he migrated to the US, and recently, became a US citizen. He is the author of a number of notable books including Why Orwell Matters and Letters to a Young Contrarian. As one of our most notable public intellectuals, he has been a columnist at Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, The Nation, Slate and Free Inquiry, and taught at the New School, UC Berkeley, and the University of Pittsburgh. In his new book, God Is Not Great, he lines up the case against religion which he spent a lifetime developing with anger, humor and a formidable style of argument that defines all of Mr. Hitchens’s work.
About the book, Michael Kinsley wrote in the New York Times, “Hitchens has outfoxed the Hitchens watchers by writing a serious and deeply-thought book, totally consistent with his beliefs of the lifetime. And God should be flattered; unlike most of those clamoring for his attention, Hitchens treats him like an adult”. Ever contrarian, and always eloquent, he is here today to discuss the book, take your questions, and take on anyone who dares to challenge him to a debate. He’ll be signing books afterwards. And, with that, please join me in welcoming Christopher Hitchens to Google.
Christopher Hitchens – Author
Thank you, darling. Sweet. Well, thank you so much for that suspiciously grudging introduction. And thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for coming. I understand we’ve only got the balance of an hour together so, I’ll try and break the rule of a lifetime and be terse.
I think I’ll put it like this. It’s true that publishers sometimes want to put a catchy or suggestive or challenging title, subtitle on a book. And so, when we hit upon or they hit upon, well, how religion poisons and why religion poisons everything, I knew what would happen, people would come up to me, they’d say, you mean absolutely everything, you mean the whole thing? They’d take me literally.
I thought, well, all right. One of the things you have to do in life as an author is live up to your damn subtitle. So, today, I’d defend the subtitle because I think the title probably, when it came to me in the shower, I realized, it pretty much does speak for itself. Unlike that sign outside Little Rock airport, huge — we had a black sign that you see from the airport that says, just “Jesus,” a word I have used myself, and a name I know but putting it like that seems to say both too much and too little, you know what I mean?
Well, here’s how religion has this effect, in my opinion: It is derived from the childhood of our species, from the bawling, fearful period of infancy. It comes from the time when we did not know that we lived on an orb. We thought we lived on a disc. And we did not know that we went around the sun or that the sky was not a dome, when we didn’t know that there was a germ theory to explain disease, and innumerable theories for the explanation of things like famine. It comes from a time when we had no good answers, but because we are pattern-seeking animals, a good thing about us, and because we will prefer even a conspiracy theory or junk theory to no theory at all, a bad thing about us.
This is and was our first attempt of philosophy, just as in some ways, it was our first attempt at science, and it was all founded on and remains founded on a complete misapprehension about the origins, first of the universe, and, second, about human nature. We now know a great deal about the origins of the universe, and a great deal about our own nature. I just had my DNA sequenced by National Geographic. You should all by the way get this done. It’s incredibly important to find out how racism and creationism would be abolished by this extraordinary scientific breakthrough, how you can find out your kinship with all your fellow creatures originating in Africa; but also, your kinship with other forms of life including not just animal but plant, and you get an idea of how you are part of nature, and how that’s wonderful enough. And we know from Stephen Hawking and from any others, Steven Weinberg and many other great physicists, an enormous amount now about what Professor Weinberg’s brilliant book calls The First Three Minutes, the concept of the Big Bang.
And we can be assured as we could probably need be that neither this enormous explosion that set the universe in motion, which is still moving away from us in a great rate nor this amazingly complex billion dollar–billion year period of evolution– we can be pretty certain it was not designed so that you and I could be meeting in this room. We are not the objects of either of these plans. These plans don’t know we’re here. I’m sorry to say, wouldn’t know or care if we stopped being here. We have to face this alone with the equipment, intellectual and moral, that we’ve been given, or that we’ve acquired or that is innate to us.