Opium of the People


‘Probably the most popular misquotation of modern times—certainly the most popular in this argument—is the assertion that Marx dismissed religion as “the opium of the people.” On the contrary, this son of a rabbinical line took belief very seriously and wrote, in his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, as follows:

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to
give up a condition that needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of woe, the halo of which is religion. Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chain, not so that man will wear the chain without any fantasy or consolation but so that he will shake off the chain and cull the living flower.

So the famous misquotation is not so much a “misquotation” but rather a very crude attempt to misrepresent the philosophical case against religion. Those who have believed what the priests and rabbis and imams tell them about what the unbelievers think and about how they think, will find further such surprises as we go along. They will perhaps come to distrust what they are told—or not to take it “on faith,” which is the problem to begin with.

Marx and Freud, it has to be conceded, were not doctors or exact scientists. It is better to think of them as great and fallible imaginative essayists. When the intellectual universe alters, in other words, I don’t feel arrogant enough to exempt myself from self-criticism. And I am content to think that some contradictions will remain contradictory, some problems will never be resolved by the mammalian equipment of the human cerebral cortex, and some things are indefinitely unknowable. If the universe was found to be finite or infinite, either discovery would be equally stupefying and impenetrable to me. And though I have met many people much wiser and more clever than myself, I know of nobody who could be wise or intelligent enough to say differently.’

Hitchens. C. 2007. God Is Not Great London, Great Britain: Atlantic Books (2008) p. 9-10

Trivialities of Gay Marriage


Why would people oppose something as trivial as gay marriage? The amount of time that is spent discussing this topic is staggering. The amount of energy that is spent opposing this civil right is equally astounding.

In the face of the actual problems that mankind faces at this moment: poverty, hunger, disease, pollution, ignorance, illiteracy, sexism, tyranny, warfare, et cetera, civilised society stands even more dumbstruck by the intolerance that is displayed in opposing this issue.

In order to get a better understanding of the objections that are made by the people who are opposed to two consenting adults expressing their love in front of their family, friends and society at large, let us consider the following questions:[1]

Why do people oppose gay marriage? –

Appeal To Tradition (“Sanctity of Marriage”)

Is it because of the assumption that only men and women can marry each other?
In 1967, less than fifty years ago, sixteen U.S. States still forbade interracial marriage on the grounds that the “sanctity of marriage” should not be violated. Nowadays, similar arguments are used to prevent gay people from getting married. This appeal to tradition has been recognised for the rhetorical fallacy it is for some time now.[2]

Is it because of the assumption that only one man and one woman can produce offspring by having sex?
Because of our advanced understanding of human procreation, it is possible for people to use a surrogate mother who carries an embryo created by in vitro fertilisation; it is also possible for people to use a sperm, egg or embryo donor. For some time now, procreation has not been necessarily about just one a man and one woman.

Is it because of the assumption that, regardless of sexual intercourse, only one man and one woman combined can produce offspring?
Thanks to our accomplishments in the field of genetics it is possible nowadays to create a human being out of the genetic material of one human as well as out of the combined genetic material of three humans.

Is it because of the assumption that only a marriage can produce offspring?
Currently, over 40% of the children born in the USA are born “out of wedlock”. And again, thanks to our extensive knowledge of biology, we know that a marriage certificate is not a prerequisite for the fertilisation of the ovum.

Is it because of the assumption that a marriage should produce offspring?
In that case, should the government not grant marriage licences to all people who are physically incapable of having children? And should this also apply to people who do not want children?

“I’m modern. I say ‘black’ instead of ‘coloured’. I think women are a good thing. I’ve got no problem with gays; most of them are very well turned out… especially the men.” – Peter Mannion The Thick Of It

Is it because of the assumption that gay marriage (and everything related to it) is unnatural?
At the time of writing, 642 species of animal have been observed having homosexual activity.[3] As for the narrower view that gay love would be “unnatural to human beings”, thanks to genetics, we know this is not true.

Is it because of the assumption that gay marriage is not a (civil) right?
In 1959, the philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote in her book Dissent “The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which ‘the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one’s skin or color or race’ are minor indeed.”

Is it because of the assumption that if society allows this civil right, society should allow a lot of other rights later?
“The assumption that a relatively small first step will inevitably lead to a chain of related (negative) events” is called the slippery slope fallacy. In this case, apparently, it is the notion that legalising gay marriage will eventually lead to people having turtle sex.[4] Please note that the slippery slope argument is not to be confused with the warped causality of statements such as: gay marriage leads to floods, et cetera.[5]

Is it because of the assumption that marriage is meant for raising children and two parents of the same sex cannot adequately raise children?
According to a major 2014 study conducted by researchers from the University of Melbourne, children raised by same-sex couples actually do a bit better than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion.

Is it because of the assumption that a man and a woman should be married?
Why should men and women be married?[6]

Is it the fact that some people are made uncomfortable by, for instance, two men making out?
If so, who cares?[7]

“Homosexuality is a form of love and it deserves our respect for that reason.” – Christopher Hitchens


[1] None of the objections mentioned in this article refer to metaphysical entities such as gods, angels, et cetera, nor does it refer to the Bible, Torah or similar mythological works mainly because of the Dennettian Lucille Argument. (With the Lucille Argument, the philosopher Daniel Dennett proved that any argument which is nonsensical, discredited, has a doubtful source, et cetera, can be countered by the equally weak argument “Well, my friend Lucille says otherwise.” Should the Lucille statement be questioned, Dennett was fond of replying “A friend of mine – Lucille. She’s always right.”)

[2] Words like “tradition”, “institution”, “sanctity” and “covenant” are the usual fuzzy nonsense indicators in such apologetic sentences.

[3] Even though homosexuality is common in nature, humanity is the only species that is capable of homophobia. Sure, we can spell “homophobia” but that does not tell the whole story.

[4] In 2003, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor expressed his concern that legalising gay marriage would eventually lead to bestial unions “But here you go, this is the slippery slope. You legalize gay marriage, gay sex and all of that, then anybody who wants to marry five people can do it, and commune people can do it. You can marry a turtle, …”

[5] In 2014, UKIP councillor David Silvester was suspended from the party when he said the serious floods in the UK were the direct result of the legalisation of gay marriage.

[6] Tedious and probably nonsensical though it would be, it would also be amazingly original to read an answer to this question that does not have the subtext “because my religion says so”.

[7] Please note the common ‘I-think-lesbian-sex-is-hot-though’ double standard.

Abortion, Mother Teresa and El Salvador


‘Mother Teresa is a perfect example of the way in which a good person, moved to help others, can have her moral intuitions deranged by religious faith. Christopher Hitchens put it with characteristic bluntness:

[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.

While I am in substantial agreement with Hitchens on this point, there is no denying that Mother Teresa was a great force for compassion. Clearly, she was moved by the suffering of her fellow human beings, and she did much to awaken others to the reality of that suffering. The problem, however, was that her compassion was channeled within the rather steep walls of her religious dogmatism. In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, she said:

The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion…. Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child—what is left for me to kill you and you kill me—there is nothing between.

As a diagnosis of the world’s problems, these remarks are astonishingly misguided. As a statement of morality they are no better. Mother Teresa’s compassion was very badly calibrated if the killing of first-trimester fetuses disturbed her more than all the other suffering she witnessed on this earth. While abortion is an ugly reality, and we should all hope for breakthroughs in contraception that reduce the need for it, one can reasonably wonder whether most aborted fetuses suffer their destruction on any level. One cannot reasonably wonder this about the millions of men, women, and children who must endure the torments of war, famine, political torture, or mental illness. At this very moment, millions of sentient people are suffering unimaginable physical and mental afflictions, in circumstances where the compassion of God is nowhere to be seen, and the compassion of human beings is often hobbled by preposterous ideas about sin and salvation. If you are worried about human suffering, abortion should rank very low on your list of concerns. While abortion remains a ludicrously divisive issue in the United States, the “moral” position of the Church on this matter is now fully and horribly incarnated in the country of El Salvador. In El Salvador, abortion is now illegal under all circumstances.

There are no exceptions for rape or incest. The moment a woman shows up at a hospital with a perforated uterus, indicating that she has had a back-alley abortion, she is shackled to her hospital bed and her body is treated as a crime scene. Forensic doctors soon arrive to examine her womb and cervix. There are women now serving prison sentences thirty years long for terminating their pregnancies. Imagine this, in a country that also stigmatizes the use of contraception as a sin against God. And yet this is precisely the sort of policy one would adopt if one agreed with Mother Teresa’s assessment of world suffering. Indeed, the Archbishop of San Salvador actively campaigned for it. His efforts were assisted by Pope John Paul II, who declared, on a visit to Mexico City in 1999, that “the church must proclaim the Gospel of life and speak out with prophetic force against the culture of death. May the continent of hope also be the continent of life!”

Of course, the Church’s position on abortion takes no more notice of the details of biology than it does of the reality of human suffering. It has been estimated that 50 percent of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortion, usually without a woman even realizing that she was pregnant. In fact, 20 percent of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. There is an obvious truth here that cries out for acknowledgement: if God exists, He is the most prolific abortionist of all.’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 13-14

On Overrated Things


“The four most overrated things in the world are lobsters, champagne, anal sex and picnics.”

– Christopher Hitchens

International Condom Day


International Condom Day seeks to promote the use of condoms as a means of preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

It is an informal observance celebrated in conjunction with Valentine’s Day. The holiday is also promoted by the AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV through safe sex practices.

The simple fact is that scientific research demonstrates that condoms are an effective and important tool in the worldwide fight against HIV/AIDS, as well as other sexually transmitted infections. Let’s consider some interesting nuggets of that large body of research:

  • When it comes to HIV, using a condom makes sex 10,000 times safer than not using a condom. – Carey, Ronald F., et al. (1992)
  • There is no medical reason why someone can’t use a condom. Even people with latex allergies can use them — there are latex-free condoms made of polyurethane and polyisoprene. – Hatcher, Robert A., et al. (2007)
  • Condoms have been around a long, long time. The earliest known illustration of a man using a condom is a 12,000–15,000-year-old painting on the wall of a cave in France. – Parisot, Jeannette (1985)

Who binds with chains the poet’s wit,
The navvy’s strength, the soldier’s pride,
And lays the sleek, estranging shield
Between the lover and his bride.”
― George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying

  • Condom availability in places of need around the world is increasing significantly, with 25.8 million female condoms provided through international and nongovernmental funding sources in 2009. Condom distribution increased by 10 million between 2008 and 2009. – UNAIDS (2010)
  • The condom is one of the most accessible and inexpensive forms of birth control available. The cost of condoms is as low as $0.04 per unit. – UNAIDS (2010)
  • Only 39 percent of American high school students are taught how to correctly use a condom in their health classes. Programs that teach young people about abstinence as well as contraception help youth to delay first sex and use condoms and other forms of contraception when they do have sex. – Kirby, Douglas. (2007)

“Staying in Africa, I think it will one day be admitted with shame that it might have been in error to say that AIDS is bad as a disease, very bad, but not quite as bad as condoms are bad, or not as immoral in the same way.” – Christopher Hitchens

And consider these other quite interesting facts about condoms:

  • An average condom can hold a gallon of liquid. (The average healthy man over 24 produces a tablespoonful of 15 millilitres of sperm in a single ejaculation.)
  • The oldest known condoms (that is to say, as in the oldest ones physically found) were discovered in a toilet in Dudley, England and were made from fish and animal intestine. They were dated around 1640.
  • The term used by medical professionals and safer sex educators to refer to the phenomenon of decreased condom use is condom fatigue.

“Use a condom. The world doesn’t need another you.”
― Carroll Bryant

  • 5 billion condoms are used every year, worldwide.
  • The Chinese hold the world record for creating the largest condom. During the celebration of the World population Day in 2003, the people of Guilin, China, made a 80 meter x 100 meter condom and placed it on top of a hotel.
  • The formal Danish word for condom is Svangerskabsforebyggendemiddel; whereas the Greeks employ the beautiful word προφυλακτικό.

“It’s the strange thing about this church, it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. Now, they will say we with our permissive society and our rude jokes, we are obsessed. No, we have a healthy attitude, we like it, it’s fun, it’s jolly, […] it’s a bit like food in that respect only even more exciting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese, and that in erotic terms is the Catholic Church in a nutshell.” – Stephen Fry

On “Why Can’t You Keep Your Atheism To Yourself?”


“Because the religious won’t allow me to. Because every time I open up the paper there’s another instance of theocratic encroachment on free society which I won’t put up with – up with which, I will not put!”

Christopher Hitchens

Intelligence, Liberalism and Atheism


A higher intelligence has a definite correlation with a liberal political ideology and atheism, or so new statistical research informs us. According to psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa, human beings with an above average intelligence are more likely to adapt themselves to evolutionary innovations and act according to superior values.

“General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions,” argues Kanazawa. “As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.”

Religion is a by-product of man’s tendency to constantly try to see patterns in the world around him, and to try to explain – however feebly – everything that world. “Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in [a] god because they are paranoid,” states Kanazawa.

Now, this paranoid behaviour was fine for our ancient ancestors. In fact, it probably helped them to remain vigilant and alert to dangers that could pose a threat to themselves, their family and their tribe. – Hardly behaviour that one likes to associate with modern mankind.

“What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition. […] The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” ― Christopher Hitchens

Kanazawa concludes “so, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in god, and they become atheists.”

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (2010) supports Kanazawa’s hypothesis. Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as ‘very liberal’ have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as ‘very conservative’ have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.

Similarly, young adults who identify themselves as ‘not at all religious’ have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as ‘very religious’ have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence.

On A Humanist State


“You find me a state or a society that threw off theocracy, and threw off religion. And said: ‘we adopt the teachings of Lucretius, and Democritus, and Galileo, and Spinoza, and Darwin, and Russell, and Jefferson, and Thomas Paine; and we make those what we teach our children. And we make that, scientific and rational humanism, our teaching.’ And you find me that state that did that and fell into tyranny, and slavery, and famine, and torture, and then we’ll be on a level playing field.”

– Christopher Hitchens