Hitchens: What would religion have to do to be a good thing?
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So, now what would [...] now, so religion could be a good thing after all, sometimes, we think. It's another proposition. What would religion have to do to get far? Well, I think it would have to give up all supernatural claims. It would have to say -- (Applause) It would have to say: No, you are not to do this under the threat of reward -- heaven, or the terror of punishment -- hell. No, we can't offer you miracles. Find me the church that will say: Forget all that. Faith healing, no. It would have to give that up. It would have to give up the idea of an eternal, unalterable authority figure, who is judge, jury and executioner against whom there could be no appeal and who wasn't finished with you even when you died. (Laughter) That's quite a lot for religion to give up, don't you think? (Laughter) But who would not say we are better off without it ? If it was, what Tony Blair would like it to be? An aspect of humanism, an aspect of compassion, an aspect of the realization of human solidarity, the knowledge that we are in fact all bound up one with another, that we have responsibilities one to another, and that, as I do when I give blood partly 'cause I don't lose the pint forever, I always get it back, but there's actually a sense of pleasure to be had in helping a fellow creature. I think that should be enough. Thank you. You need something like UNICEF to get major work done if you want to alleviate poverty and misery and disease. And for me my money will always go to organizations like Médecins-Sans-Frontières -- (Applause) -- like Oxfam and many of these, who strange enough go out into the world doing good for the fellow creatures for its own sake. They don't take -- (Applause) They don't take the bible along as people do to Haiti all the time. We keep catching them doing it. They are there, the money is being spent flat out on proselytization. It's a function of the old thing that was hand in hand with imperialism. It's the missionary tradition. They can call it charity if they will but it doesn't stand a second look.
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